April 01, 2016 5 min read

Efficient backcountry skiing begins with mindful packing.   

By: Tess Weaver Strokes

Pete Gaston on summitPete, deep in the Elks. Photo by Ian Fohrman
Pete Gaston hikingPete in Telluride. Photo by Fred Marmstater

Strafe co-founder Pete Gaston is as skilled at packing as he is at ski mountaineering. For each, he’s perfected the art of efficiency. We striped his apparel and dissected his pack to find out what he wears and packs to keep moving quickly and safety in the mountains. Gaston sports this kit four to five days a week throughout the spring.



  1. Strafe Cham Jacket and Pant – Neoshell was game changing for my ski touring comfort. I wear light baselayers and keep my shell on most of the day. I rely on big vents to dump heat and it makes for less changing of layers.
  2. Strafe Basecamp Hoody baselayer– I pair our Polartec midlayer with super lightweight synthetic bottoms. I run hot.
  3. Knee pads – I don’t like to whack my knees on rocks while breaking trail on ridgelines.
  4. Hat - something with a visor for sun protection and it needs to be breathable and packable.
  5. Buff – For protection from sun, wind and cold. From October 1st until June 1st, it's almost always around my neck.
  6. CAMP G Comp Warm Gloves – uphill gloves with Primaloft overmitts. Total rando dork glove, but super versatile.


  1. Salomon X-Alp 20 – This 20-liter pack mountaineering specific pack is almost as light as a rando race pack and is just big enough to carry everything I need. Features include a zippered crampon pocket, a real waist strap and a quick carry ski system so you don’t have to take your pack off to carry your skis.
  2. MTN Labs boots – I moved the buckles from the side to the top of the foot so they don’t snag on rocks. I use an Intuition touring specific liner. It’s the only liner I’ve found that has plastic for stiffness but still has flex points on the ankles and heel.
  3. Salomon MTN Explore 95 Skis - Light enough to run around mountains on but still skis pow well. It’s stiff enough and damp enough to ski fast.
  4. Salomon tech bindings – These beefed up rando race bindings are coming out next year. They’ve been tested to be as strong as Dynafit Radicals.
  5. Salomon MTN Patrol helmet – The first ski helmet on the market that’s climbing and ski certified. It’s absurdly light for a ski helmet (300g) and it doesn’t inhibit your hearing.
  6. Arva Plume shovel – The lightest full-strength shovel I can find. It has a carbon handle and an aluminum blade.
  7. Black Diamond probe – I keep it together with a ski strap.
  8. Mammut Pulse Barryvox beacon – I like the ability to use both analog and digital and you can pro tune it. When I turn it on, it says “hello Pete” and shows a smiley face. It also has the initials of AF and AD for gone but not forgotten friends. Lives in the thigh pocket of my pants.  
  9. Ice axe – I cut a light aluminum axe cut down to 43cms. For Colorado, it works well and it easily fits inside my pack so I can carry it more often. It’s in my pack. Outside of Colorado I use the Petzl Sum'Tec 43—its steel pick is T rated and it fits in a pack.
  10. Crampons - for Colorado, these very light aluminum crampons work for me. I usually change out the straps to longer ones I can loop through the toe bail to make them safer.
  11. Rope - I've started carrying this on most days, even when I have no plans to use it. People don’t talk about 6mm rope, but it’s essential in a minimalist guide pack. You can do a lot with 6mm powercord (plus another 5m's or so of 6mm cord for anchor building) 20m's of sterling, one locker and a double length sling. When I plan to use a rope or I am on a glacier, I carry a Petzl RAD System, a lightweight, compact kit that includes specific cordage designed for skiers doing crevasse rescue, rappelling or roping up on a glacier.
  12. Oakley Wind Jacket 2.0. with Prizm lens - An Instagram filter for your eyes.
  13. Oakley Line Miner with Prizm lens – By far the best optics I’ve ever used in a variety of conditions. It’s the most packable goggle with a Prizm lens.
  14. ATK ski crampons - I appreciate them and take them. ATK makes some of the lightest and simplest ones.
  15. Map - I love maps. When I travel I try not to even go to the bar without one in my back pocket. The Swiss make the best maps. Latitude 40s are great options for Colorado.
  16. Puffy - I always have an insulation layer. I’ve been experimenting with synthetic and synthetic down blends. Here is a FW16 Strafe piece that uses 100g Primaloft Gold.
  17. Salomon Soft Flask - mostly and sometimes normal bike water bottles. Mid winter, I take a half-liter of water with a mentality of starting over hydrated and ending thirsty. During the spring, I carry 1-1.5 liters many days.
  18. Fleece hat - Fleece is totally underrated. This one is special to me because it was made by Tahoe skier Emily Turner and I wore it on the first trip I did with the late Dave Rosenbarger.
  19. Extra gloves - warmer gloves for skiing, bootpacking and digging snow pits.
  20. Stuff sack - with emergency kit, headlight, tools, communications etc.
  21. Food – I always carry a bit extra—food keeps partners motivated and they’re more likely to be up for one more peak if food is involved. I'm a big fan of cheese—usually smuggled in from France—apples, dried meat and tortilla rolls with Nutella, peanut butter and honeycomb. I always have honey stinger chews and chunks of Swiss chocolate for digging deep.

Emergency Kit

  1. Petzl Tikka RXP Headlamp – Compact, rechargeable, multi-beam headlamp with reactive lighting that automatically adjusts the brightness and beam pattern.
  2. Space blanket
  3. Multitool – I need pliers and knife. Also a long Torx T20 and Posi3 driver bit for bindings. Your tool should be specific to you and your partners bindings.
  4. Blister kit - Duct tape, Leuko tape and body glide
  5. Quick clot - As a just-in-case. I've been told to never get it anywhere near the eyes and that it scars. It also saves live.
  6. Five ski straps -  Chris Rubens told me you need five to attach a boot to a ski. I trust him.
  7. Lighter
  8. Advil
  9. Sunscreen
  10. Delorme InReach - I have a nifty way of getting WX and Avi reports off this when I’m on hut trips. I can reliably send messages, and it's easy to setup tracking so loved ones know where I'm at.
  11. Extra AAA batterys (or whatever your beacon needs).