Here’s what an avalanche safety professional carries in his bag



When I ask Jake Urban how many avalanche instructors he has trained over the years, he replies, “Hundreds, sure, but I’ve lost count. I follow a few ski lengths behind him on Wyoming’s Teton Pass, watching him put on a skin track and peppering him with questions about turns, layering, and his journey into the outdoor industry.

Urban knows off-piste skiing as well as anyone. With 25 years of backcountry skiing experience, 12 years developing programs for the American Institute of Avalanche Research, and nine years training search and rescue teams around the Tetons (not to mention practicing in as a licensed guide with the American Mountain Guides Association), he has dedicated his life to learning and teaching others how to mitigate and manage risk in snowy environments. Three years ago, Urban founded the Jackson Hole Outdoor Leadership Institute, an avalanche education and emergency medicine organization.

Between rounds, Urban and I stop to look in his bag. The first thing that stands out is how methodically it’s organized: the equipment most likely to be used has been placed up top, where it’s easy to reach, with less necessary supplies pushed to the bottom. The following is a list of the equipment he carries.

(Photo: Courtesy of BCA)

Radio BCA Link 2.0: Before opening his bag, Urban shows me his radio, which is attached to a shoulder strap. A good radio helps you communicate with your group and, if necessary, the emergency services. This version of the Link has a longer range and longer battery than previous iterations, and it withstands the elements better than most radios on the market.

A cell phone with Gaia app: Unzipping his shell, Urban pulls his cell phone out of a bib pocket. He suggests downloading offline maps to an app like Gaia before heading into the backcountry, even if you know the area well. He doesn’t use Gaia on every tour but says it’s always good to have a pinch if something goes wrong. (Keeping it inside its case helps prevent the battery from dying prematurely in the cold.)

“Possible” bag: Next comes a small water-resistant stuff sack filled with items he might need on a tour. This includes snacks, wipes for a bathroom break, sunscreen and a Garmin InReach Mini satellite device for backing up communications.

the Mammut Rock Rider Helmet and Smith Skyline Goggles: The first thing out of Urban’s pack is this lightweight helmet, ideal for fast alpine missions. Underneath are a pair of Skyline goggles, which provide a wide field of vision and easy integration with helmets.

DVA Ortovox Diract Voice
(Photo: Courtesy of Ortovox)

Tools avy Ortovox: In a separate tool pocket, Urban stows his shovel, probe, snow saw and lanyard, which he uses to test the snowpack and make observations. It also attaches a Ortovox Direct Beacon to his body; This transceiver is a breeze to use, lightweight and equipped with a long battery life, but its most outstanding feature is that it offers voice prompts when searching for a signal.

The water: Urban carries at least a liter of water, depending on the length of the tour. He often uses a Nalgene, because it’s simple and durable. He says staying hydrated during tours, especially longer ones, is essential for safety, so you don’t crash if you have to stay longer than planned.

Additional clothing: Most people aren’t prepared for the worst, says Urban, noting that even a crash in the backcountry of a resort can mean an hour in the snow before the ski patrol gets to you. He usually packs heavy mitts, a spare hat and a buff, plus the Flylow General down jacket, and Flylow Malone Gore-Tex Shell.

A hot beverage : Urban always carries an insulated bottle filled with a hot beverage, such as tea. He suggests that you save this for the second half of your visit, to help warm you up if needed. Even for short tours, he will bring it just in case.

Jake Urban Opening Pack
(Photo: Andy Cochrane)

First aid kit: A well-stocked kit with tape, bandages, medication, a splint, scissors, and other tools is a given. Of course, proper first aid training is helpful to ensure you know how to use the kit correctly.

Repair kit: Urban The kit includes a variety of tools, such as a multi-tool, skin wax, ski wax, spare tail clip, ski straps, and quick-set epoxy, to keep your hands off your hair. to name a few. He says it’s important that you know how to fix your bindings, boots and skis in the field, so you can always get back to your car.

Apocalypse Gear Guide Tarp: A small tarp is extremely useful in emergency situations. It can be used to help insulate someone from the cold, wrap up a wound, create a bivouac or shelter, or even serve as an improvised sled. Urban prefers the Apocalypse tarp because it is durable, lightweight and packable.


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