A skier’s first backcountry hut trip is equal parts excitement and anxiety. Skiing untracked powder for days and living the simple life in a remote chalet is a dream that most skiers have indulged in at some point. But it’s hard to know what to bring and what to leave home if you’ve never done it before. After all, you can’t just run to the shop and grab that key item you forgot.
Most huts have a packing list on their website or in their welcome package to help you out. You should always check it because each lodge has its own unique setup and needs. There are posh heliski lodges where guests are pampered, rustic ski touring huts that are self-guided and self-catered, or cozy commercial touring lodges with down duvets and custodians. There are also barebones ACC huts where you’ll need to be entirely self-sufficient. Some are near enough to the road that you can haul in kegs in. Others are so remote you need to shave every gram from your pack just to make it to them under your own steam.
These tips should help you pack for any backcountry hut, but we’ll focus on the middle of the road ski touring lodges where you can afford to bring a few comfort items but need to keep your luggage small enough and light enough to fly in by helicopter.
Let’s start with a standard gear list and then add some pro tips:
That’s a lot, we know! Backcountry perfection does not come easily, so let’s get some pro tips:
2 Ski straps: Most places want you to bundle your skis and poles for the flight. Line the poles up nicely down your bindings and snug the straps up. Having poles and skis come loose while loading a helicopter is frustrating and dangerous - so make it tight.
Ready for the flight. Small duffels, day packs, bundled skis.
Less clothing than you probably think: Two base layers and two pairs of socks are sufficient for a weeklong trip. Some people will want three or just different options, but you don’t a new set each day. The same goes for lodge clothing. Most people just bring one T-shirt, sweater, and pair of casual pants for the week.
Eric Hjorleifson Pro Tip: “Most people bring too much clothing. For hut clothes, you really only need one outfit.” Note, he was at Sentry Lodge for a month when he said this.
Chris Rubens Pro Trip: Two headlamps: One will get the job done, but if you are going to a hut where you need a lamp to read or go to the bathroom at night, it’s nice to have a separate one in your ski pack. That way you don’t forget it every day.
Reading material. You’re going to a quiet backcountry hut to escape - plan at least some time to cozy up to the fire and sink into a book.
Reading material depends on the length of trip. Moby Dick? Better be up there a while.
Eric Hjorleifson Pro Trip: Second towel for sauna (or bathing suit). There are different shower systems at different lodges. Huts without running water will usually have a sauna that you can relax in after skiing and it will somehow warm up water for you to shower with. Depending on the group you are with, and your level of modesty, you’ll want a swimsuit or towel to wear. You’ll also want a dry towel to use after.
Outdoor boots. This depends on the hut you are going to. Most commercial lodges provide outdoor boots so that guests don’t take up room in the helicopter with their own and they don’t have to wear their ski boots to get to the sauna or outhouse. If you are going light, you can use your ski boots by taking your liners out and stepping into the shell with your hut booties or even super thick socks. Which brings us to hut booties!
Hut booties. You’ll want something to wear around the lodge at night. Down booties are nice if you have cold feet. For many people they are too hot though, so they bring wool slippers or even sandals. This year’s hottest lodge footwear is the Full Tilt Apres Bootie!
Thermos. Warm tea, hot chocolate, or other warm drinks are very nice in the backcountry. You'll also want some sort of lunch bag and water bottle.
water bottle, lunch bag (old skins bag), thermos
Earplugs!!!!!!!If you’ve never slept with them before, you’ll learn and you’ll be thankful you brought them. In a lodge of 12 or more skiers, there will always be someone moving around.
Eric Hjorleifson Pro Tip: Toenail clippers. Walking in ski boots all week, anything you can do to take care of your feet is a good idea.
Do not bring a huge duffel/hockey bag. It’s just too tough to stuff into a helicopter. A small duffel bag, your ski touring day pack, and if needed, another small bag is a better way to travel. Keep it all tight. Attach nothing to the outside of your bags. Helmets should just stay on your head for the flight because they are tough to pack. Beer should be in unopened boxes, wine the same. If you use a fabric grocery bag, make sure it is tied up and closed tight.
Someone remembered beer, right?
If you are heading for a more rustic hut, make sure you have all the essentials for survival like food, sleeping bag, stove, and anything else the hut does not provide. When in doubt, double check what you need when you book.
Now get out there and enjoy the backcountry!
Jen Ashton at Sentry Lodge