First Ride of the Season

Taking Inventory and Gathering Riding Gear

January 2024 Feature Steve Janes Web Exclusive

At the start of each riding season, it’s important to do an inventory of your riding gear to make certain you have everything you need in your backpack and/or tunnel bag before you head out into the backcountry. There are some items you always want to keep on your snowmobile. Other items you need to keep in your backpack. Here’s how I try to pack before I hit the snow.

First, I do like to use both a tank bag and a backpack. But I am very much aware of the tendency to pack too much. Just because you have the room for everything but the kitchen sink, it doesn’t mean you should.

If you use multiple storage bags, you need to look at it in this light: What do I want to have on my body in case I get separated from my sled or I want quick access. (If you wear an avi bag, you really don’t want to be removing it during the ride, so perhaps the items for quick access should remain on your sled.)

For me, I prefer using the backpack as my primary storage and leave my tunnel pack free for the bulky items. So on most rides I want to have the basic avi gear—shovel and probe—on my body. I also carry a radio, small saw, food, water, gloves, goggles first-aid kit and a beanie. I like to pack most of these items in zip-lock bags to keep them dry and compartmentalized.

On my tunnel bag, I carry a very limited tool case that can help me fix minor problems on the trail … not an entire engine overhaul. Every wrench, socket and hex bit actually fits my sled. By selecting specific sizes, I don’t need to carry a lot of extra weight that sits idle and rusts.

I keep additional gloves and emergency supplies like FireStarters and hand warmer pouches in my bag. But I want to leave enough room so I can easily stash mid-layer jackets and riding shirts that I remove from my body as the day warms up.

On some rides I will shift more things from my backpack to my tunnel bag. It just depends on the terrain and type of riding we will be doing that day.

The key items to make certain you have on every ride are extra gloves and goggles. These are things that will get wet and need to be traded out during a ride. After each ride, unload both the backpack and tunnel bag. If your snowmobile sits outside in the cold or remains in the trailer, take your tunnel bag inside so it can thaw out and dry.

The better you take care of things, the better those same things can take care of you when you really need them

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