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Byte by Byte

Miceala ShockleeMiceala Shocklee
A Caltech graduate, is our editorial assistant and a monthly columnist.

Essential Winter Tech
(Continued from Monthly Columns)

1. GPS and backup battery: Whether you’re just a little bit off piste or entirely off track, being able to figure out where you are and how you can get back to where you want to be is an essential skill. Especially when you’re running low on energy and heat reserves, being certain you can find your way back to the food and fire can be the difference between hours of panic and minutes of re-routing.

Navigational skills and knowing how to deal with white-out are best learnt from a professional course, but a GPS can help you speed up your pathfinding when you’re out on your own. Smartphones host a plethora of GPS tools, from downloadable, offline Google maps to apps like Open Street Maps. Outside of smartphones, brands like Garmin and Casio offer GPS tech in the forms from pocket satnavs to wristwatches.

A headlamp to help with navigating should conditions turn dark (or stormy) is always a good provision. Of course, technology only works as far as it can turn on, so back up batteries are a smart addition if adventures are slated to take more than a couple hours. A dedicated dry bag or even a low-tech plastic bag can also help ensure the elements don’t get to the technology first.

2. Avalanche beacons: Also called “transceivers,” avalanche beacons are a vital addition to your winter kit. Beacons can mean the difference between life and death in the event of an emergency. When a skier or snowboarder sets off down a slope, the transceiver is activated and sets to transmit mode, sending out pulses via radio frequency.

When the winter adventurer safely reaches the bottom of the slope, he/she can then switch the beacon back to receive mode, which allows them to pick up any transmitting pulses from others who have become trapped.

Some ski suits have transponders incorporated into their design already, but there are more than enough options out there for those still needing to add a beacon to their kit. While safety can seem a tedious chore, in the end it’s what’s behind every successful slope story.

Miceala Shocklee, a Caltech graduate, is our editorial assistant and a monthly columnist.



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