Being a snowshoer, you are often rewarded with beautiful winter scenery. But sometimes you may encounter danger, or get stuck overnight when you planned to go just for the day. If you are prepared for what can happen you will encounter no problem. Here is a list of items that you absolutely need to bring with you anytime you snowshoe out into the frozen wilderness. These tools will get through a cold winter night in the woods not just alive but also in pretty good shape.
Multi-purpose tool - Multi-purpose tool such as a Swiss Army knife or a Leatherman tool. You will need this to fix broken equipment, cut branches for a shelter, cut wood for a fire. This item will always be used and you need at least a knife.
Steel wire - You will need steel wire to suspend firewood in the air to have a fire to keep you warm. If the snow is deep you cannot make a fire directly on the snow. Bring at least 10 feet (or 3 meters) of wire, preferably stainless but regular will do fine too. If you are snowshoeing in an area that never has very deep snow you can skip this item. Make a screen with the wire and make sure it is anchored well on the snow or to nearby vegetation or rocks and make you fire on top of it.
Duct tape - Duct tape is perfect for fixing a broken snowshoe or to fix supports around a broken leg. Even if you do not break your legs or your snowshoes, duct tape will still come in handy for fixing pretty much anything.
Rice - Rice is the perfect emergency food. Very light weight and full of energy. In an emergency you just need lots of energy, do not worry so much about vitamins. Bring about three cups of rice per person per day you think you will spend in worst case.
Cooking pot - Bring a small cooking pot with lid to boil water to keep you warm and to cook rice to eat. If your pot has a lid it will heat water more efficiently.
Wood stove - You need to bring a stove, no question about it. It is your best source of heat. You will be drinking plenty of hot water and you need a stove to boil all that water. What ever you do, do not bring a propane stove or any type of stove that runs on gas or liquid fuel. Gas and liquid stoves work fast and efficiently but they have a number of problems that only show up in cold temperatures (propane stoves sometimes simply do not ignite if it gets too cold). They also have moving parts and complex nozzles that can get jammed or clogged by ice. You need a very simple wood stove with absolutely no moving parts such as the Trailstove (www.trailstove.com/winter). These types of stoves are slower to cook on than propane stoves but they always work. The Trailstove is also a perfect heat beacon in case you need to be located by a rescue aircraft. Rescuers use infrared goggles to look for people from airplanes or helicopters. They look for heat emitting objects such as human bodies. If you have a burning trailstove they will see it much easier than a human body and you will have a better chance of getting rescued.
Lighters and matches - Bring plenty of lighters and matches. Lighters are very small and light, so bringing extra ones in case one does not work is a very good idea. Without means to make fire you will freeze. You can try to make fire like a caveman by spinning a stick against a piece of wood but that is a skill that takes practice to learn.
Run The Planet thanks All About Snowshoeing (www.pikpuk.com/members/snowshoeing) for the permission to reprint the article "Winter Survival Items". Text and illustrations copyright © by All About Snowshoeing.