Ultimate backcountry kit list for 2024

a selection of backcountry ski gear including probe, shovel, radio

Safety first, folks.

Before we launch into the best 2024 backcountry kit, first a few basic principles, which always hold true, in the buyer’s guide.

Always. By all means seek out a deal, but don’t go for cheap and nasty imitations when it comes to safety kit. Stick to well-known, good-quality brands.

Tech tips
Be savvy about ‘wear able tech’. While we’re all enjoying the benefits, we’re also waking up to the reality of transceiver interference from other devices. Suffice to say, a cloud of Bluetooth gadgets around your persona is a very bad plan in the backcountry.

Built to last
Shop for shovels, axes, probes and the like in the same way you would shop for tools, because that’s exactly what they are. Cheap and light usually doesn’t last and may well fail in extremis. Solid and dependable may be heavier, but burly is better than bust.

Zero compromise
For ‘combination’ read ‘compromise’. Beware those gadgets and gizmos that claim to transform into something else (like ski poles that become probes). They are usually gimmicks, Jacks of no trades and masters of nowt.

Girth, stiffness and reliable locking mechanisms trump every other feature. Every time. End of.

Teething tech
I hate to play bad backcountry cop, but it’s worth being wary of any swanky new tech launches, because they invariably always end up having teething problems. Be patient and wait a season until the second generation becomes available. You won’t regret it.

No to the pro
Do you really need those super-expensive, pro-level features and gizmos? Be honest now. It’s unlikely, right? Stick to the basics, buy gear with features that you’re actually going to use, and in doing so you’ll be saving cash and keeping things stripped back to the essentials; exactly how you should be travelling in the backcountry.

The 2024 must-have backcountry kit

  1. BCA Dozer 1T Ultralight shovel

Weighing in at 435g, this shovel is BCA’s lightest in the fleet, pitched at the weight-conscious tourer looking to shave grams from their backcountry rig. The innovative, cored-out, thinner-walled aluminium blade is lightweight and perfect for slicing through debris. Combined with the 76cm working length and T-grip handle, you’ve got plenty to work with so you can shovel like the demon you’ll need to be.

2. BCA BC Link Two-Way Radio 2.0 EU Edition

Weighing just 312g, this EU-specific group communication system won’t add much weight toy our pack and will enable you to communicate plans, find your buddies and share observations in the backcountry. More durable, powerful and weather-resistant than its predecessor, the Smart Mic user interface is located at your fingertips, so there’s no need to dig it out of your pack when changing settings. It’s approved and licensed for use in the European Union, UK and Norway.

3. BCA Stealth 300 Carbon probe

This 290g probe is perfect for pros and recreational backcountry users alike. Super light and long enough for deep snowpacks, it comes with laser-etched markings and a 50cm collapsed length, making it easy to fit into most packs.

4. Black Diamond Distance 1500 head torch

If you want to go touring at night, you want a decent amount of light. With a max short blast output of 1,500 lumens, this goes to another level, allowing you to check out terrain and obstacles from a far greater distance than most head lamps. Weighing just 213g without the top strap, which you don’t really need for ski touring, it’s light enough to carry in your pack in case of late descents, not just for obligatory dawn raid illumination. IP67 waterproof rated, it has a swift-change, magnetic, rechargeable battery pack, so you can illuminate at 600 lumens for eight hours if you have two batteries.

5. Black Diamond Neve Pro crampon

Weighing in at 394g per pair, these great green über-light 10-point aluminium crampons come with a cable construction that not only shaves grams, it makes them more packable too. Easily adjustable on the fly, they come with steel wire bails at the front and aluminium in the rear.

6. Black Diamond Quick Draw Pro Probe 320

We may have said ‘No to the Pro’ in the Buyer’s Beta, but with probes, the ‘Pro’ version is often the strongest. The Quick Draw system is designed for fast, efficient deployment, and the stainless steel cable is tough. The stuff sac, often ditched to avoid having to fumble with it, is designed so when you pull the probe’s deployment handle, the sac opens and the pole comes straight out, into deployment mode. It’s a nice touch. At 316g, it’s still light for such a burly piece of kit, and it’s longer than many.

7. Black Diamond Transfer LT shovel

This lean green shovelling machine weighs in at just 408g, making it the lightest UIAA-certified shovel on the market. Despite its feathery profile, it’s very much built to do the backcountry business. The innovative riveted blade is light and thin for slicing through debris, and the large blade ensures you’ll be moving substantial amounts of snow with each haul.

8. Black Diamond Venom LT Classic ice axe

This 240g, 45cm ice axe has the potential to double up as a shovel handle if you pair it with Black Diamond’s Transfer shovel blade. Clever. It also comes with a grippy grooved aluminium shaft, ergonomic-forged aluminium head, and a replaceable hot-forged MTN Classic pick, making it ideal for both ski mountaineering and alpine objectives. Also available with a more technical pick, hammer attachment and finger rest as the Venom LT Tech Piolet for £140.

9. Fatmap Explore Membership
£55 per year, including Strava subscription

The Fatmap app is an absolutely wicked digital tool for planning, tracking and sharing your mountain adventures in glorious 3D goodness. With offline topo maps, custom terrain analysis (avalanche, gradient, altitude, elevation and aspect layers) and real-time data, including snow conditions, it’s rapidly becoming the go-to app for adventurers worldwide. Fatmap is now part of the Strava family, and the £54.99 subscription for Fatmap Explore includes Strava, as well as discounts with some of the biggest outdoor brands.

10. Ortovox Bivy Pro

If the weather changes or one of your team gets injured in a remote environment you could be in fora long, frostbite-inducing wait, which is where this windproof and weather-resistant bivy bag comes in. Suitable for one to two people, it weighs 680g and comes in a compressible stowaway bag. Protection from the elements and a potentially life-saving bit of kit.

11. Ortovox First Aid Waterproof Mini

Compact, lightweight and equipped with all the essentials for dealing with an emergency on the mountain, this 150g waterproof first aid kit is a fundamental addition to a backcountry rig. It’s well designed and thought out. We particularly like the emergency card that serves as a reference point to help you keep a clear head in a crisis.

12. Petzl Fly harness

Weighing just 130g (with comfort foam), the buckle-less Fly is Petzl’s lightest harness. Easy to put on and remove standing up, it comes with multiple gear loops, ice screw retainers and removable comfort foam. It packs down super-small, too.

13. Petzl RAD System

Whether you’re abseiling into a couloir or conducting an emergency crevasse rescue, the RAD (Rescue & Descent) system has got your back. Weighing 1,000g, it comes with a Micro Traxion pulley, Tibloc ascender, sling, three locking carabiners, 30m of RAD Line 6mm static rope and a storage bag. There’s also an ice screw holder on the outside of the bag.

14. Pomoca Free Pro 2.0 skins

Light up the backcountry with these pink freeride-specific skins. Lighter and more packable than the Climb Pro S-Glide, but just as grippy, they come in a cool box with Pomoca’s hydrophobic PFC-free Ever Dry 3.0 treatment, Click Lop tip attachments and tail hooks for max durability. Also available for splitboarders.

15. Zoleo Satellite Communicator
£199 plus subscription plan (£18 per month Basic)

This lightweight, durable device is ideal for folks regularly exploring in areas without mobile phone coverage. It pairs to your phone via Bluetooth to send and receive messages over the Iridium satellite network, allows you to check Dark Sky weather forecasts and send SOS, check-ins or location sharing should you run out of charge. A well-thought-out, rugged device that will work well for folks looking for a less-expensive alternative to the Garmin InReach.