Valentine’s Day Gift Guide 2022 – Thoughtful Backcountry Gift Ideas

Wil Rickards


Love Languages and Valentine Gifts for the Backcountry Skier in your Life:

We all have our love languages or ways of communicating love. For me, there are two big ones. The first is working and evolving/growing to improve both parties’ lives. However, I might argue that nothing communicates your love more than a gift that ensures the recipient comes home to you; if they want to.

If they don’t, it’s probably time to exit or dream up their ultimate humiliation. Who thought a set of winter tires could be sexy? Yet what is more likely to guarantee your loved one parks up safely in the garage after a snowy nightmare drive “aprés-ski”?

So here are some gift ideas for your backcountry skiing loved one, and, more importantly, what those gifts are saying.


Avalanche Beacon: 

I’ve found you once, and I never want to lose you again.

If something does go awry and you end up buried in the snow, having a working beacon and friends with working beacons is your best chance of coming home. There are many suitable devices out there. Finding the right balance of simplicity, range, and durability is vital. I have always been a fan of the Mammut Barryvox transceiver ($385) and its more complex sibling Mammut Barryvox S ($550). The Arva transceivers shown at Outdoor Retailer are worth checking out too.

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Let’s dig ourselves out of any mess we find.

A backcountry shovel is the Swiss army knife of folks who play in winter:

Building a shelter ✓

Crafting a snow inspection pit ✓ 

Creating a kicker to launch yourself skyward ✓

Digging your partner out of an avalanche ✓

A good shovel balances weight and size so that it is never left behind and can quickly throw a lot of snow. Make sure it has a metal blade and fulfills UIAA certification standards. A few additional features worth adding include:

1. A hoe mode for shifting snow when working in tandem,

2. A D-shaped handle for increasing throwing capability,

3. An extending shaft to make it suitably long or short, depending on the job at hand.

A couple of my favorites include:

The BCA B-1 EXT ($50) fits the bill nicely if I am going simple. It is light, well balanced, has a great blade, and does not take much room in your pack.

Mammut Alugator Pro-Lite Hoe Snow Shovel ($110) weighs a few ounces heavier. It includes hoe mode and a D-shaped handle.

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I will always find you. I want to locate you and dig you out if you are buried.

Probes facilitate the accurate and quick location of someone who is buried. They are also valuable tools when digging snow inspection pits.

I am particularly attached to the BCA Stealth 300 Probe  ($70) for $30 more the carbon version is lighter. Also, the locking system on this probe is brilliant.

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Let’s have the best most exciting time together by balancing the risks of loss and gain and mitigating unnecessary risks.

Some slopes can avalanche, and some slopes will not. The simplest way to avoid avalanches is to keep the pitch angle below 30º. So how do you figure it out? By planning with slope angle shading on a digital map and more accurately on the ground with the cheapest gift in this collection.

Backcountry Access’ Slope Meter will set you back $25 or less. If you are willing to do a little work, you can add a poleclinometer to your ski pole for $15 or less. These two tools will keep you out of harm’s way when used correctly.

While we are at it,

Navigation Tools:

I love the way you navigate our relationship.

Navigation is taking a representation of what you think is going to happen and cross-referencing it with what is happening. Can you hear the relationship metaphors screaming?

Subscriptions to On-X ($30 per year) or CalTopo ($50 per year), both allow you to create/view digital maps that include slope angle information?


I love the way you think; let’s protect that brain of yours.

Backcountry helmets need to be light and to breathe well. So I usually carry the BCA BC Air Touring Helmet ($150). Ridiculously lightweight and airy, it is a no-brainer (pardon the pun) regarding packing and wearing it, even on the up. Another one to look at is Sweet Protections Ascender Mips ($220) – if your honey is a charger, the addition of Mips is probably worth the additional weight and cash.

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Emergency Shelter: 

We have made a perfect home together; I want you always to find shelter in hostile places.

Hands down, my favorite shelter to carry in the backcountry is the Rab 4 Person Superlight shelter ($125). Why? Because this puppy will accommodate four people and heat them quicker than a Finnish Sauna. If two people had to spend the night out, it would not be the most horrible experience if you pack one of these.

If you have to do First Aid on someone, this will make the difference between the experience being bearable or not. It is the most foolproof outdoor tool ever, weighs almost nothing, and takes up very little space. Quite frankly, it does not need to be reserved for emergencies either. Fancy a cozy snack on a day that would make a polar bear shiver? Then channel your inner British Mountain Instructor and crack open your “bothy bag.” Trust me, your partner and up to three friends will marvel at this mountain magic.

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You shine a light in my dark; I always want to light your way.

My preferred headlamps are probably ones you have never heard of, although they manufactured some of the originals. Silva (better known for compasses, as in – I will be your true North) also make a mean headlamp.

The Silva Trail Runner Free Ultra ($140) is my go-to for most activities, 400 lumens, featherweight, rechargeable; this is about as good as it gets, unless I know I will be going fast in the dark – full moon ski excursion anyone? For my bike commute, I use the Silva Trail Speed 5R ($170), which kicks out an impressive 1200 lumens and has handlebar attachments as well as headlamp fittings.

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Good Communication is the foundation of good relationships; let’s keep the channels open.

BCA has the well-proven Link 2 Two Way Radio ($190), a favorite among guides. New kids on the block Rocky Talkie Backcountry Radio ($95.00), are another great choice. My original review gives several reasons why your loved one would benefit from improved communication in the mountains. Who knows you may find you move to the next level in your relationship as well.

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Avalanche Airbag:

If you ever get caught out I want you to rise above it all.

In certain circumstances, these bags definitely improve your odds if caught in an avalanche. If you do get one for your partner, encourage them to learn to use it and practice. I have been using the BCA Float 32 ($585). Bang for the buck it is a solid, and well-sized pack.

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Emergency Sled:

I will never leave you behind.


Why not buy the one a majority of AMGA guides promote. Alpine Threadworks Or be even more invested in their favorite pursuit (before you say anything, am I wrong?) and create one for your loved one. Here is an Instagram post and an article that will point you in the right direction for the time being.

Finally, if you want to buy your special someone an experience, here are a few more ideas.

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1st Aid Course:

A healthy honey makes my day.

Certified WFA (Wilderness First Aid – long weekend) or WFR (Wilderness First Responder – week) are what you need to be looking for.

Avalanche Rescue Course:

I’m a pragmatic partner. What good is all this gear if you don’t know what to do with it?

If you want your partner equipped with tangible tools for when things go wrong, this is THE gift. Practice-based, your sweetie will not be able to play the part of a shrinking violet. Instead, this long weekend will turn them into a valuable member of a backcountry group.

A Few Days at BlueBird backcountry:

I want to do this with you. So let’s remove the overwhelm and learn to do it right together.

This is a good one to share if you want to explore the outdoors and your relationship together. Backcountry skiing is a big topic with a lot to know. However, learning in a place where the risks are both mitigated, explained, and put into context will set you up for success.

Find out more about Bluebird Backcountry.

I hope you have a great Valentine’s Day with your sweetie and remember, a gift that helps access fun in a safe way is a symbol of support. It says I know you. I love you. I want you around. Besides unless they really want that new vacuum cleaner or yard work power tool you may be sending a message that you do not mean. 

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