Montana-based David Steele spends winter days (and spring, late-summer and even some autumn days) skinning up and skiing down some of the more remote terrain in the west. A Montana native who attended college in Washington, he has carved the glaciers of the North Cascades and the snowfields of Glacier National Park. He skis where few others tread, other than the occasional grizzly bear, hence the name of his personal adventure blog, SkinningWithBearSpray.com.
“Often,” he said, “I’ll find myself ski touring in the late spring or early winter over day-old bear tracks.” For that reason, a can of bear spray stays firmly attached to his pack from April through November. We recently asked this athlete—sponsored by Mountain Equipment, ON3P skis, Klymit, and Osprey among others—what else lives in his pack.
Gear Institute: What are you up to these days?
Steele: I’m playing around with summer climbs that have skiffs of snow on them. Soon enough, it’ll be winter. This season, I’d really like to do more snow camping and three day touring trips. Done in a day can be nice, but it’s fun to build a camp and enjoy yourself really tracking out a more remote spot. Once spring arrives, it’ll be time to get back into the bigger mountains. Rainier is high on my list for this spring.
Gear Institute: What items—other than sponsor’s gear—do you carry on your adventures?
Steele: First and foremost, Counter Assault Bear Spray. I have never had to use it, but I’ve been really close, and it’s a nice thing to feel even a little bit prepared when potentially dealing with 600 pound animals.
I always store my extra dry layers in a Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil View stuff sack inside my pack. That way, I always know that my dry layers are actually dry even if it starts raining, spindrift gets in, or a water bottle leaks.
There is there nothing better for expeditions or backpacking than my GSI Fairshare Mug. It works as a mug, or bowl and it is indestructible. I use a Forty Below neoprene mug boot on mine to keep things cozier.
Finally, I rely on my Black Diamond Mohair Mix Skins. These are standard for touring folk everywhere, and even when covered in pine needles, they just plain work.
Gear Institute: As a sponsored athlete, you have a lot of gear at your disposal. What items of your sponsor’s gear do you always carry?
Steele: I can’t do without my Mountain Equipment Eclipse Hooded Zip-T. In the summer, this is my backup layer and insulation. In colder times, it’s the perfect base layer, with a hood that goes over or under helmets. The integrated face gaiter cuts spindrift or super sun and works far better than any tube style face thing. Overall, the Eclipse is the best waffle grid fleece base going.
I love the backcountry performance of the ON3P Steeple 112/102 Skis skis. The shape and overall design make great use of the powerful bamboo and carbon fiber architecture created by ON3P. These are the perfect skis for touring the Rockies with no compromise on the down.
When it comes to my pack, I’ve found the Osprey Variant 37 is the ideal fit for ski touring. Whether out on a day of cragging, ski touring overnight, or heading up a big alpine day hike, the Variant comfortably carries everything I need or want with me. I want one pack for all my day trips, and the Variant is totally there.
Finally, I always have a Klymit Static V sleeping pad stashed in that Variant. The Static V rolls up tiny, weighs just 16 ounces, and provides great comfort and modest insulation when you need a place to rest. Fortunately, the Static V’s fabric is tough enough to deal with my typical rock-lined bivy locations.
Gear Institute: Are there any special packing or gear-protecting techniques you use?
Steele: Stuff sacks are key to effective packing. I use green for medical, blue for essentials, and purple for layers. When loading my pack, I put the stuff I want to use least at the bottom of my pack. That includes the med kit and rain pants. Lunch goes near the top—but not too near. I’ve found sandwiches always taste better when they’ve been disfigured in a tightly-packed backpack.
When rigging skis in an A-frame carry on an approach, I use my helmet’s chin strap to hold the skis together. I simply slide it down until it holds the A-frame, and bingo, skis are locked together and the helmet is secure too.
Gear Institute: What is one trend you are especially excited about in your sport(s)?
Steele: Most outdoor folks are interested in doing well by the planet and people. Working on sustainability and care in how we manufacture gear is crucial if we’re to walk the talk that saves the places that matter to us. Mountain Equipment’s Down Codex, Patagonia’s new wetsuit rubber, monitored conditions in sewing factories—these things matter.
Gear Institute: Anything else you want to share?
Steele: Let us not confuse the lust for gear with the joy that we get from the activities in which we use that gear. And folks that like mountains or skiing or being goofy—or better yet, all three—they may enjoy following me on Instagram at @davidpowdersteele.