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Five Must-Haves for the Backcountry

February 26, 2020

Backcountry is a term that refers to sparsely inhabited rural areas and the wilderness, uncharted paths and remote locations. The backcountry can be a fun place to ski, camp, hike, and climb and explore – but it is not recommended for the inexperienced.
It’s important for even the most advanced outdoorsperson to be prepared when recreating in the backcountry for any length of time. The backcountry poses many risks, and should not be ventured into alone, and without appropriate training. Travelers should go with a guide, or ensure they have the appropriate avalanche safety and First Aid training.


The glacier-fresh water in the rivers, lakes and streams in Crowsnest Pass is clean, but not officially potable – so a water purification kit is recommended. Those heading out into the backcountry may not always have access to water sources – especially in an emergency. The backcountry is not for the inexperienced, and the minimum recommendation is that each person bring at least 2 litres of potable water with them, and a water purification kit for overnight stays.

First Aid Kit

An essential for every outdoor adventure, a First Aid kit is an absolute must. Compact, and pre-made kits can be found at local outdoor supply stores, and start at around $10 each.

Layers of Clothing

The weather in the river valley is general dry, sunny and breezy, but conditions can change rapidly and without notice. The Pass can get cold at night, even in the summer. Be prepared for any condition by dressing in appropriate layers for the season. Always wear, breathable (cotton) clothing and be sure to have a windproof jacket and/or pants. Outdoor adventurers should visit a supply shop to ensure they have the appropriate clothing for the season and area they wish to visit.

Bear Deterrents

Bear sightings are rare, and mostly bears mind their own business. That said, stay alert when hiking, and be prepared for bears and cougars that might be on the path. Make lots of noise when moving about (play music or talk loudly) to alert wildlife of your presence, and keep bear spray or noisemakers on a holster for easy access – just in case. Any bear sightings should be reported to the local Alberta Fish and Wildlife Office at 1-403-562-3289. Visit the Alberta Environment and Parks’ Albert BearSmart website for the most up-to-date information on authorized bear deterrents in Alberta.

Communication Tool (Non-Cellular)

Ensure all vital phone numbers are programmed into the phone, or kept in a safe place. If heading out of conventional cell range for more than a few hours, a satellite phone is a good way to communicate in the event of an emergency. Frequent backcountry visitors may want to invest in their own, but these phones can also be rented from major outdoor rental outlets in Calgary, Lethbridge and Edmonton.

Numbers to have on-hand include:

Emergency personnel: 911
Alberta Fish and Wildlife Office: 1-403-562-3289

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