By Melissa Wynn, Photo: Joel Rathje

Many of us call NorCal home for the amazing outdoor adventures that the winter season offers. We love to trek through the back countryon snowmobiles, snowshoes, snowboards, and skis.

Nature has a special beauty frosted in snow but it also has an increased level of danger.

[media-credit name=”Joel Rathje” align=”alignnone” width=”300″][/media-credit]

Safety is possibly the best gift you can give yourself or a loved one. You never know when that one minute of forethought might save a life. Every outdoor enthusiast, whether alone or with friends, should always carry a well stocked survival kit in case of emergency. Being lost or, worse yet, injured in the wilderness can quickly turn an adventure into a tragedy if you are ill prepared.

Fortunately, technology offers several tools to keep you safe and aware of your location. When traveling off the beaten path, carry your GPS and make sure it is fully charged. Turn the locator ON in your cell phone settings to make it easier for rescuers to find you. When shredding the slopes in the back country, carry an avalanche beacon; under the snow every second counts. Those seconds can now be greatly reduced by the newest, must-have for the survival kit, the avalanche airbag pack. If caught in a slide of snow, you pull a handle attached to the shoulder strap of the airbag pack, and a pressurized air cartridgeor electric fan inflates the airbag, keeping you closer to the surface of the flowing snow and debris. The brightly colored airbag also helps make you more visible to rescuers.

Along with the standard basics for avalanche rescue, a small portable shovel and a strong long probe, if something does go wrong you will be ready.

A few extra minutes to put your backpack in order makes for a worry free adventure in our beautiful NorCal backyard. Pack the things below before you go to be dry, warm, safe and sound.

• GPS – fully charged

• Cell phone – Fully charged and locator on

• First Aid Kit

• Hand Warmer packs

• Flashlight

• Lighters

• Extra pair of dry gloves and socks

• Emergency blanket

• Water bottle or thermos

• Sunglasses or goggles

• Water and snacks