Technical Rescue Gear


Have the right pack for the environment & job. Sometimes a small 30-40 liter bag is enough for rescues and day trips. Overnights or equipment heavy operations call for larger packs (50+ liters). Things to look for in a good pack: it fits well with your helmet & harness on; how it carries your skis, ropes, axes; does it have an airbag rescue system?; it fits you well and fits your gear well. 

24 Hour Pack


Your 24-hour pack is your SAR pack.  It contains everything you need to survive a night out in the mountains and pull off a successful wilderness rescue.  It is you being prepared, as a wilderness rescuer, to get the job done safely and efficiently.  No list off the internet can fully depict what you should carry for your mission profiles, but I can certainly get you started.


This superlightweight class II harness is great for alpine and mountain rescue where you hopefully won’t be hanging in your harness for a long time.  This thin, relatively unpadded harness would be very painful for prolonged rope work where you would be sitting in your harness.




Most mountain rescuers prefer a lightweight climbing sit harness (Class II) with gear loops & adjustable leg loops. If more stability is needed for high angle operations many harness manufacturers sell lightweight chest harnesses that can connect to the sit harness (combo harnesses) to help keep the body upright, increase comfort and improve ascending technique.

An improvised harness can be constructed with 15’ of 1” tubular webbing in an emergency. If you will be carrying a heavy pack in glacial terrain with crevasses, you may decide to don a chest harness. 

PMI Avatar Harness (Class III harness) Credit:  PMI

A full-body harness (class III) is more common (industry standard) in fire rescue, industrial rescue, and rope access.  These harnesses have multiple attachment points in both the front and rear allowing the rescuer/worker to choose the best (safest) attachment point for the particular situation (tower rescuer, confined space rescue, etc).



This helmet just may have saved the life of a skier vs boulder. Brian Taylor Gallery.

Helmets should be UIAA approved for climbing or mountaineering. Be sure that your helmet fits with your clothing system (lightweight balaclava, hoody or hat underneath and storm jacket, and belay parker over top). Some climbers will put reflective tape on their helmets to make them more visible in stormy conditions. Also, make sure your helmet comes with straps to securely hold a headlamp. Avoid placing stickers more than 1″ above the rim of your helmet as they may hide cracks.

Ice Axe 

A glacier axe (70cm or so) works fine for non-technical climbs. Leashes are a personal preference, just don’t drop your axe if you don’t use a leash! Technical ice tools may be required for water ice & steep terrain. Usually, ice screws would also be carried for anchors in steep, icy terrain. Hammerheads may be useful for hammering in pickets on glaciated terrain. 

Ice axes are rated by the UIAA: Type B = Basic type, with lower strength, for use in general circumstances as on glaciers for snow hiking, for ski mountaineering, etc. Type T = Technical type, with higher strength, for use in all circumstances, especially for ice climbing, dry tooling, etc. 


Glaciers, summer ice, water ice & frozen snow require the use of crampons. Crampons come in two styles; a rigid plate designed for steep, water ice & mixed climbing; & a flexible, hinged crampon more suitable for moderate terrain & softer boots. Be sure that your crampons fit your boots properly and won’t fall off while climbing. 

Avalanche Transceiver  

Traveling in avalanche terrain requires that all party members wear avalanche transceivers (beacons). Beacons should be the digital, multi-antennae style and be less than 5 years old. Always conduct a dual-mode beacon check (checking the transmitting and receiving function) with your partner at the trailhead. Remember a beacon is not necessarily going to save your life if you get caught in an avalanche. 50% of buried subjects die! 


A metal expandable avalanche shovel is a mandatory piece of survival gear in an alpine environment. The shovel is used for excavating avalanche burial subjects, digging snow pits, building snow shelters & anchors. A shovel can even be used for a splint & making emergency fires on the spade. A solid, sturdy shovel that won’t break when you need it is worth the extra ounces (compared to ultra-light flimsy models). 


A probe pole has many more functions than just pinpointing an avalanche victim. Use it to probe cornices, snow caves & igloo spots, an emergency splint, as a ridgepole on a tent, etc…Most lightweight probes & probes that come inside a shovel shaft are not strong enough or long enough to work as a functioning probe for alpine rescuers. Many of the ultra-lightweight probes will bend during practice sessions. I have been on 1 avalanche course where I saw 3 probes break!