The gear list for X-Country builds on the bushwalking gear list by adding additional items required to deal with much colder and harsher conditions. As the weather in the Snowy Mountains can change rapidly it is essential that your gear is able to withstand winter conditions including heavy snow and winds plus temperatures that can go as low as -15C.
This means you will need to carry a proper snow tent, heavy sleeping bag, waterproof clothes etc.
Your packed weight will be a lot heavier than your bushwalking pack weight.
When choosing clothes - try to select modern wool blends or modern synthetics such as polypropylene which remain warm when wet and will wick moisture away from your skin to keep you warm. Nylon or cotton clothing is not appropriate.
Personal Gear to wear
Skis, Stocks and Boots: These can be hired at either Rhythm Snow sports in Cooma or at Wilderness Sports in Jindabyne.
Pack: Your pack is to carry everything in, of course, with a minimum of discomfort. A modern framed pack is ideal. It is essential that a pack fits properly, packed properly, and fits properly on your back. It should have wide shoulder straps and a firm, padded hip belt.
An ideal pack size for a weekend or 3 day X-C trip is 55 - 65 litres. Whilst a 45 litre pack is perfect for lighweight bushwalking a larger pack is needed for X-C skiing as you will be carrying additional equipment.
Pack Liner: Put everything inside a pack liner. A heavy duty orange garbage bag works best.
Thermals: Long sleeve lightweight thermal tops and bottoms. Modern thermals will wick moisture away from your skin to help you maintain body temperature.
Socks: Thick wool socks are needed to absorb moisture and to cushion the feet. You may also want to wear a thin pair of woollen socks underneath. Avoid cheap synthetic or cotton socks.
Pants: Woollen or Fleece Pants.
Shirt: Your shirt should have long sleeves and a collar for both warmth in cold weather and protection from sunburn. Choose a modern Merino Wool composite or synthetic such as Polypropylene.
200+ Fleece: If you don't have a Fleece a good woollen long sleeved jumper can be used as an alternative but will be heavier. If you can afford it a lightweight down jacket is perfect but be aware that if down gets wet it no longer retains any warmth.
Waterproof Jacket: A waterproof jacket is your main protection against wind, rain and snow. Goretex jackets or other Waterproof Breathable Jackets are great but can be heavy and expensive - a good quality nylon jacket is also good. Padded ski and sailing jackets, ponchos or lightweight nylon jackets are not suitable.
Overpants: A must have. You will be sitting in the snow or wearing the overpants if it starts raining or if building an Igloo or digging a snow cave. PVC overpants are fine.
Beanie: A beanie must be worn for sun protection. Your beanie is your best friend.
Sunglasses or Goggles: Another must have unless you want to get snow blindness. You will also need them to protect your eyes if the weather gets bad - snow blown into your face by gale force winds is really painful. If you're using Sunglasses make sure they wrap right around your eyes with a minimal gap between the glasses and your eyes. Safety glasses from Bunnings are a pretty good and inexpensive choice.
Whistle: A whistle is essential. Despite best endeavours, people do sometimes get separated or lost - especially when it whites out or gets dark, and the noise of a whistle to attract attention is far superior to that made by a human voice. Just get a cheap plastic one - Bias marine sell good ones at a low cost, theres no need to get a 2000 decibel whistle for $15.
Gloves: It gets cold at night. Thin woollen gloves or thermal gloves are good for skiing.
Gaiters: To keep the snow out of your boots. If your pants have built in gaiters - lucky you.
String: You will need about 10m of good quality nylon string - it needs to be thick enough not to break if pulled by two people. 2mm thick nylon is perfect. This is needed in the event of a whiteout and is used to tie people together so that no one gets lost. Yes, the visibility can get that bad.
To Wear at Camp and Spare Clothes
Thick Gloves: To keep you warm when not moving. You can also use Mitts.
Over Gloves: These are for use when building an Igloo or Snow Cave. A large pair of heavy duty washing up gloves to fit over your thin gloves work quite well. Or you can buy a range of expensive waterproof Goretex gloves.
Spare Socks: A thick pair in case you get wet.
200+ weight fleece: You'll cool down quickly once you stop moving and the sun goes down so extra insulation is necessary. A down jacket or Woollen jumper can also be used.
Pack Towel: A micro fleece towel about the size of a hand towel is perfect.
Lightweight Stove (shared between 2-4): A liquid fuel stove such as an MSR Whisperlite is great but can be heavy. An inverted Gas Stove designed for Snow use is perfect but hard to come by. Upright Gas hiking stoves are not a good choice as the fuel does not vapourise correctly in cold temperatures and require a bunch of tricks and vigilance to operate properly. If you like Trangias, go for it but keep in mind that Alcohol Stoves are not very efficient in the snow and will use a huge amount of fuel when melting snow. The best choice is an inverted gas stove followed by an MSR.
Fuel: Sufficient fuel for the trip.
Wooden Board: To put the stove on so that it doesn't sink into the snow.
Flint or matches (shared between 2-4): To light your stove of course!
Billy (shared between 2): A 2 litre aluminium is perfect.
Eating Irons: One plastic bowl and a plastic mug. A knife (sharp pocket knife is good) and spoon are necessary - you don't need a fork. You can also get a combined plastic fork/spoon from shops like Kathmandu. If you're hard core, then you can use your billy to eat out of saving some weight.
Water Bottle: Plastic PET bottles are perfect. A minimum of 1.25l is required, possibly up to 3 or more litres will be required depending on water sources. If using a Camelbak or similar make sure your pack has an external pouch - don't use a Camelbak inside your pack in case of leaks - also keep in mind that a PET bottle is a lot lighter than a Camelbak.
Shelter and Sleeping Gear
Two man snow tent (shared between 1-2): A tunnel tent is perfect as it can support the weight of heavy snow and severe weather that can occur in the Snowies. A three season tent is definately not suitable.
Sleeping Bag and Liner: A high quality down bag rated to at least -10C is essential. Ideally as compact as possible to help with the weight and size loading in your pack. A lightweight silk inner sheet will keep you warmer in winter and also help keep your sleeping bag clean.
Sleeping Mat: You'll need a mat with a minimum R3.0 value. The original Thermarest is good but heavy and there are lighter options available these days.
Lightweight Groundsheet (Optional): You'll need a lightweight groundsheet if you choose to build an Igloo or Snowcave.
Pillow: You don't need a pillow. Stuff the inside of your sleeping bag cover with clothes or use your pack under your sleeping mat.
Headlamp: A small headlamp should be carried and unless you're planning on a week long trip you shouldn't need a spare set of batteries - just make sure you insert fresh batteries before your trip. A headlamp is preferred rather than a torch as a headlamp can be used hands free.
Toilet Gear: Should be carried by each person. The usual stuff - toothbrush, small toothpaste (or a blob of toothpaste in a zip lock bag), small soap bar and a small micro-fibre towel (hint - Bunnings sells packets of micro-fibre towels for a few bucks). Do not bring deodorant or other unnecessary toiletries.
First Aid Kit: You need to carry a suitable First Aid Kit. A kit put together in double ziplock bags is often more suitable and versatile than a commercially packed kit. Its a really good idea to buy a packet of blister band-aids.
Group Gear - to be shared
EPIRB (one for the entire party): An emergency beacon will be carried in case of well, Emergencies. The beacon will only be activated in the case of life threatening situation or serious injury. Cuts, bruises, sore feet, minor burns, getting misplaced or running late do not constitute an emergency.
Compass and Maps (shared between 2-4): Don't leave home without them.
GPS (One is enough, but if you have one bring it along): I like my GPS to record the route and for quick checks. Otherwise map and compass are your primary navigation aids.
Gaffa tape (Shared between all): A small amount is sufficient for the entire party
You want high energy food with a small moisture content to keep weight to a minimum - in general remove all food from it's original packaging, measure out exact quantities for each meal and place in a ziplock bag.
Cereal for breakfast with milk powder mixed in beforehand and sealed in a ziplock bag is the way to go - some hard men simply add water to the bag and eat straight out of the bag to save carrying a bowl and washing up! Don't even think about bringing UHT milk or other breakfast substitutes such as "Up and Go".
Trail mix for lunch or grazing on the trail is perfect - this way you don't need to stop for lunch.
Dinner - the list is endless. Pasta, rice, freeze dried meals, dehydrated meals ... Whatever it is, keep it light - avoid tinned food or food with a high moisture content. As nice as fresh fruit and vegetables are, remember that they're heavy and you can do without them for a weekend.