Gear Review: Brooks Range Field Kit

An excellent avalanche resource in the field and on the couch.

Three years ago in North Conway, NH, I took an AAIRE (American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education) Level 1 avalanche course. (I highly suggest that anyone interested or already involved in the backcountry do this.) The first thing that the instructor said was that upon completion of the course we would statistically be more likely to be caught in an avalanche, since upwards of 75% of avalanche victims have some level of proper training. That was pretty sobering and instilled in me a healthy fear of meeting God via snow burial.

The course is packed with tons of great info, but the problem is unless you're on snow in the backcountry every weekend putting it to use, it starts to fade from memory. That's where the Brooks Range Professional Guide Kit comes in: This kit, which combines several of their smaller backcountry resources, has everything I need to jog my memory and recall most if not all of the Level 1 curriculum, and then some.

The All-in-One Map Tool Pro has ten slope indexes and ten scales in both kilometers and Miles for topographic maps, a UTM grid, a compass rose which can also be used as an inclinometer. It's a great help for detailed orienteering by map and compass.

The Ski Guide Cards are are a packet of 13 double-sided, water-resistant info cards. They're invaluable: The cards cover avalanche and weather observation, snow stability and profile info, beacon search tactics, crevasse rescue and mechanical advantage systems, SOS, morse code and other rescue symbols and signals, helicopter landing zone prep, a decision making framework (DMF), and much more.

Of those, the DMF is the most helpful, and it's pulled directly out of the AAIRE curriculum. Most avalanche incidents are a result of poor decisions, not lack of information and data or lack of field testing and knowledge. So AAIRE created the DMF to help crunch all the data, tests, and info into a form that helps you make decisions that keep you and others alive.

You also get an all-weather journal, which is an important part of tracking and predicting the progression of snow stability and weather, and also helps you record accurate reports for friends and the backcountry community at large when you finish you trip. This all fits into a tidy nylon Field Organizer, making this incredibly handy, ready-to-go kit a must-have in your backcountry pack.

Granted, when the gnar that you just shredded is following you down the mountain, it's not the time to pull out your Professional Guide Kit and see what to do. Same thing for when someone is already buried, since after 15 minutes of burial survival percentages drop rapidly. However, many of the tools included are very useful in realtime situations, like for navigation, travel techniques, and prevention. The kit as a whole is a great resource to study in the tent at night or on the couch at home, so that if you ever need these skills, you've got them memorized.

The kit does not replace the need for receiving professional avalanche training, and most certainly does not reduce the importance of a beacon, shovel, and probe when traveling in the backcountry. But if you are already own those, then the Brooks Range Professional Guide Kit is an excellent resource for creating a safer experience on your next powder adventure—in the field and on your couch.