An often overlooked, but critical piece of your backcountry safety gear is your ski touring repair kit. We are all so dependent upon our gear and the places we backcountry ski are usually well off the beaten path, demanding self-sufficiency. It just takes one broken binding and several kilometers of waist deep post-holing in the dark to gain a deeper appreciation of this fact.
As with all human-powered activities, what we carry is governed by what we’re willing to lug uphill. We need a ski touring repair kit that is multipurpose, light and streamlined so that, if nothing else, we’re actually willing to pack it along with us. The following is a very basic repair kit that you can work off of to tailor to your specific needs.
Ski Touring Repair Kit Essentials
Probably the single most important item in your kit and you should consider carrying two in addition to the ones used for your skis in transport. The uses for these are too numerous to list fully but they can be used for major repairs to boot and binding systems, provide temporary solutions to skin glue issues or in the construction of rescue sleds. I’ve also found them to be extremely useful in improvised splinting of injuries.
Small Roll of Tape
Everyone will recommend duct tape as the universal solution for anything that is moving and shouldn’t be. But the reality is that duct tape can’t really fix any of the serious problems you encounter in the backcountry. It’s effectiveness is diminished in cold weather and it also loses its adhesive strength over time, requiring regular replacement. I do carry a small roll and supplement that with medical tape from my first aid kit. Many people wrap a few meters around their water bottle or ski pole. For clothing repair I bring a small plastic pouch containing a few pre-cut strips of Tenacious Tape, which I find holds up better in high flex areas of garments.
This is essentially two pieces of curved aluminum, either purchased or salvaged with a hacksaw from an old pole. The splint is placed over the broken pole and secured above and below with small hose clamps. It isn’t impossible to ski without a pole but difficult terrain, deep snow or with a heavy pack, it sure isn’t fun.
A pole basket is one of the toughest things to improvise in the field and the pain-in-the-ass factor of skinning without one warrants it’s inclusion. Be sure it fits your pole, as most brands use a different attachment method, but you can secure one with tape in a pinch.
Skin Tail Attachment
As it is not unusual for these to fail, consider carrying at least one. You can make a lot of them work between brands but it is best to be compatible, particularly if your skis require special attachments like the G3 Twin Tip. If you’re on a longer trip, consider carrying two.
These are much less likely to fail, but if you have weak glue on your skins or find yourself in a range of variable conditions it is not impossible. Because they’re harder to repair you may just want to fix this with a ski strap but longer tours may justify bringing a spare and the tools to swap them out.
Whether you choose a Binding Buddy, a small bit driver or full sized screw drivers, it is important to have tools to adjust or repair components of your bindings and boots. Dynafit bindings require a couple of different tools including Torx bits and the common #3 Pozi-drive. Because the G3 Ions only require the Pozi-drive, I limit my tools to a mini keychain driver from them for day trips. On longer trips I’ll bring along a bit driver with a few bits for redundancy and to help out anyone else in my party. The Binding Buddy from Black Diamond includes most of the common sizes but I find the tool to be cumbersome in small spaces and heavy for what it offers.
If your ski boots have special screws, its good to have the tools to prevent a loose piece from becoming a lost piece. Scarpa has a neat little tool that adjusts pretty much anything you would require on your Gea/Mastrale boots that doesn’t add a lot of weight.
For day trips a small multitool like a Leatherman Squirt saves weight but for real repairs it simply doesn’t handle the torque. For longer, more committing tours there simply isn’t a substitute for a heavyduty, full sized multitool. Ideally this will include a bit-driver, a file and a wire cutter.
To prevent wet snow from saturating your skins, keeping the weight down from sticky snow and keep your glide up. This is really noticeable in spring touring or during temperature inversions with a wet snowpack. Black Diamond Glob Stopper is great and you only need a small chuck of the large bar.
Used mostly to strip icy build up off your skins or top sheets, either a plastic or metal edged scraper will work. These should cost no more than $8 and you can also use the edge of your other ski or some ski poles handles like the BCA Specter if you’re trying to carry one less item.
Binding Repair and Blowout Kit
The likelihood of ripping out a modern binding from a modern ski is quite low. The quality has improved substantially, even over the last few years. Nevertheless, should you be more than a few days walk from civilization a lightweight blowout repair kit may allow you to limp home. For this I would include a few spare screws that are compatible with both your bindings and also the tools you’ve brought along. It is unlikely that you’ll ever blow a binding right off and lose all screws, so four of varying lengths should suffice. A few pinches of steel wool are first inserted into the ripped out hole, filling the space torn out by the screw threads and then filled with a fast setting two part epoxy. A “double-bubble” packet like this one from Tognar handle cold weather well and aren’t huge like most plunger style epoxies. I store all of this in a small film canister and the steel wool does an excellent job of preventing a rattle. Unless you’re weeks away from help, you don’t need to carry a spare toe piece.
When used with a ski strap or two, this can solve almost any binding or boot emergency. A couple feet of stiff wire (approximately 16 gauge), coiled up nice and small will work.
Used for reattaching a broken skin strap or refastening a boot buckle, these weight next to nothing. Look for the bigger, beefier ones as the little guys are prone to breaking.
The whole kit should fit nicely in a slim pouch or bag, ideally weighing under a pound or two. There is really no need to carry more than one of these repair kits per group.
There are a number of items not included in this minimalist kit that you may want to consider, including spare batteries for headlamps or beacons, sewing kits, extra spare parts or tools. It should be noted that this selection is really intended to provide a supplement to your own creative ingenuity to limp back to the trail head, not fully repair catastrophic damage. A few of the items listed may already be included in your pack, whether in your first aid kit, glacier travel equipment or otherwise. Make sure you customize your own repair kit as needed, ensuring it is comprehensive for your unique needs without becoming excessively heavy or bulky. Most of these items can be sourced from a hardware store and all of the ski-specific gear can be found at Vertical Addiction online or in the Bow Valley
Is there anything not listed that you would consider to be an essential piece of your ski touring repair kit? If so, I’d love to hear what it is and your reason for including it. Please message me or comment below.