A couple weeks ago we talked about avalanche safety and what type of gear to have with you in avalanche country, however we didn’t talk about other dangers that lurk around each bend when snowmobiling. No, we’re not talking about sasquatches or snow monsters. We’re talking about things like machine failure in sub zero temperatures, running out of gas, getting lost, getting super stuck, etc. We’ve made a Snowmobile Survival Guide (by no means comprehensive) with some tips to keep in mind when packing for your next outing and ideas of what gear to bring. You will want to customize these depending on the type of ride you’re going on (extended back country ride vs short trail ride etc.). The most important way to stay safe is to never ride alone, but you never know what can happen while out on a ride. Should you get separated from your group and run into problems, these tips may help save your bacon.
The last thing you want is an inoperable sled in the back country. Routinely inspect your machine paying particular attention to the track condition (cleats, wear, lugs, tension, etc.), battery, starter pull cord, condition of spark plugs, drive belt, and check the oil and gas levels. Make sure you have a spare drive belt and spark plugs and the tools necessary to change them if needed. Many a snowmobile has been saved from an overnight stay in the woods by having an extra belt or spark plugs handy.
Should you get stranded or hurt in the woods or trail with no help nearby, you’ll be glad you brought a few survival items to help you through until help arrives. We recommend tossing these extra items into your pack before heading out: First Aid Kit, energy bars/high energy food, water, whistle, flashlight and extra batteries, emergency blanket, lighter/fire starter, toilet paper, insulated jacket, and GPS. All of these items will fit easily in a backpack and could mean surviving a night in the wilderness and not. You may not be comfortable, or extremely warm, but these items will allow you to survive if used right. Depending on you group and where you will be riding you may want to add more to this list for your specific riding plan and area.
You will also want to bring an emergency kit for your snowmobile as well that includes a spare drive belt, extra spark plugs, extra oil, extra gasoline, tie-down, tow strap or snow bunje, saw, shovel, zip ties, and of course duct tape. It may sound like a lot of stuff to haul around but most of these items can be stowed on your machine or in a small tunnel or under seat bag except for the shovel and gasoline and they will be invaluable in the event that you are stuck or have mechanical issues with your machine.
You’ve probably heard the phrase, “an ounce of prevention is equal to a pound of cure”. That phrase rings true with snowmobiling and we hope these tips help you and your riding buddies have a safe and enjoyable time on the snow this season.
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