An adventure to Yellowstone in winter is one of the most exciting things I can think of. That same trip also has the potential to be one of the most dangerous trips of your life. As rangers, we are required to carry an emergency survival kit when we venture out on snowmobiles.
By looking at what we carry, you can develop your own emergency kit. You will be required to explore Yellowstone’s winter landscape with a guide, but you never know what these mountains have in store.
One of the most important items I carry is a space blanket. I actually carry 2. These can be used to build an emergency shelter to protect you from the elements. They usually have a reflective side and a colored side that could be used to attract the attention of rescuers.
A fire building kit is a must. Mine has wax paper that is easy to light. I also carry cotton balls and petroleum jelly or fire sticks. Aluminum foil can be used as sort of a fire pan to elevate your fire from the snow if you can’t dig to the ground. You will also need waterproof matches.
Gathering wood and building a fire can be strenuous so you will need some dry clothes. Extra gloves, socks, a hat and some good long underwear can help you keep your fingers and toes. If you have the room, carry a good down sleeping bag and maybe a tent.
Heat packs are essential. They can be used to warm your feet and hands, even if you are not stranded. Water, high calorie food and tea or hot chocolate are great to have. Foods that are high in sugar can help you fight off hypothermia. I also carry a small backpacking stove.
A flashlight or headlamp can make life much easier and could be the difference between getting home tonight instead of tomorrow. Don’t forget batteries. A good knife and maybe an adjustable wrench can come in very handy.
I personalize my kit with a skier’s snow shovel, a sleeping pad, some toilet paper, ski goggles and extra rope or bungee cords. I also carry a first-aid kit. You should add any items you feel will help you survive the unexpected.
If you want to make sure your stuff stays dry, try using a dry bag like the ones boaters use. You can get those almost anywhere. As rangers, we also have park radios. We hope your adventure is one to remember for all the right reasons.