8 Ugly Backcountry Skiing Gear Items that Rock — Can You Make it 10?

Post by WildSnow.com blogger | July 17, 2015      

(From the archives, this post deserves more reader contributions! Can’t believe I missed duct tape, added at the end.)

Fire Starter

Fire starter made from petroleum jelly and dryer lint.

Fire starter made from petroleum jelly and dryer lint.

Why it’s ugly: Petroleum jelly is ugly. It is the definition of ugly. Mixed with dryer lint, it is beyond ugly.
Why it rocks: Add a few shavings from your fire starter stick, strike a spark, and you’ll ignite anything but floating driftwood.

Paper Towels

Paper towels in the bushes.

They work, but pack out what you pack in.

Why they’re ugly: Because you will imagine what they look like after use.
Why they rock: A classic multiple purpose item, unlike toilet paper will continue to function when moist. Also doubles as fire starter when twisted up with wax or PU ski strap shavings.

CPR Mask

CPR mask

CPR mask

Why it’s ugly:A CPR mask represents stuff we don’t like to think about.
Why it rocks: Save your buddy’s life.



We couldn't face publishing an ugly sunscreen shot. Use your imagination. You've been there.

Why it’s ugly: Because spring skiers slather it on their faces till they look they’re dying of face fungus.
Why it rocks: Because melanoma is worse than imaginary face fungus.

Custom Footbeds

Footbeds for backcountry skiing.

Footbeds for backcountry skiing. Some define gross but we luv 'em.

Why they’re ugly: Anything your feet stood on for ten hours a day would eventually be defined as the last word in grossness.
Why they rock: They prevent blisters, make you ski better — and some chiropractors claim they even cure rabies.

Energy Gel

Energy gel might take the prize. Even so, we like the stuff.

Energy gel might take the prize. Even so, we like the stuff.

Why it’s ugly: Wow, that is a complex question we are not qualified to answer.
Why it rocks: The stuff works like rocket fuel. Use it and big days are yours. We prefer the GU brand variety, but it all works to one degree or another. Main thing is to test and see what agrees with your stomach. Beware of caffeine versions if you limit your buzz bean intake.

Old Skins (that still rock, and carry small rocks.)

Old climbing skin glue.

Yuck. Old climbing skin glue.

Why they’re ugly: They look like something from a pathology lab. And it gets on your fingers.
Why they rock: You made them that way, because you did so many laps your skins finally gave up. And they include rocks.

Duct Tape

Duct tape, is it alive?

Duct tape, is it alive?

Dean shared the details in his comment:
Why it is ugly: “It’s always wrapped haphazardly around something else essential. And by the time you make it home, it’s peeling a bit in an attempt to imitate your old skins.”
Why they rock: “Because of the age old tool box rule: if it moves and it’s not supposed to…”


37 Responses to “8 Ugly Backcountry Skiing Gear Items that Rock — Can You Make it 10?”

  1. steve September 20th, 2011 10:21 am

    JB Weld, because it’ll fix practically anything in the woods!

  2. Lou September 20th, 2011 10:25 am

    Steve, but why is it ugly? Or, is JB just inherently ugly and needs no explanation?

  3. Kate September 20th, 2011 10:46 am

    Smashed up energy bars from sometime in the last decade. Ugly, yet surprisingly still tasty!

  4. Luke Burgess September 20th, 2011 10:57 am

    My ski partner is surprisingly ugly

  5. Lou September 20th, 2011 10:59 am

    Luke, LOL

  6. Nik September 20th, 2011 11:05 am

    8. Compressor with my wet socks in it
    9. bear barrel in select AK parks’ low lands

  7. Ptor September 20th, 2011 1:19 pm

    Brazil nuts. Super friggin ugly but you can eat them and light them as a candle.

  8. Dean September 20th, 2011 2:17 pm

    duct tape

    Why it’s ugly: Cause you never carry a full roll. It’s always wrapped haphazardly around something else essential. And by the time you make it home, it’s peeling a bit in an attempt to imitate your old skins.

    Why it rocks: Because of the age old tool box rule: if it moves and it’s not supposed to…

  9. Larry September 20th, 2011 8:00 pm

    A banana that’s ridden 5000 vertical in my pack. Ugly because it doesn’t look anything like it did when I put it in there this morning.

  10. Mark September 20th, 2011 8:36 pm

    foam earplugs. they’re ugly because you found them in the lid of your pack and they have earwax on them from the last hut trip – maybe yours. They rock because they help you pretend the ugly cavemen you chose to spend time with in a small hut instead of staying home with your polite, hygenic, loving family aren’t there shaking the rafters with their deviated-septum log-sawing.

  11. Matt Kinney September 20th, 2011 9:25 pm

    Untangling the earplugs of my Nanopod on a cold ski day as I pull them from my pocket. This can be made worse if in the same pocket as an old, folded and used GU pack.

  12. Lou September 21st, 2011 5:50 am

    So far, Mark has the best addition. Not sure I want to add a photo to the post, however (grin).

  13. Pablo September 21st, 2011 7:07 am

    Hydration bag (i.e.Camelbak)
    Why it`s ugly? Because it seems that you’re drinking from Grandpa’s pee-bag.
    Why it rocks? Because I can maintain a good hydration during a long journey due to small drinks (If I have a bottle I can drink it all in just one drink…)

  14. slave.to.turns September 21st, 2011 10:36 am

    Duct tape, my feet and my ski partner Andy’s skiing style. All ugly.

  15. Jack September 21st, 2011 11:26 am

    the bottom of my cooking pot after a few winter days in the Adirondacks, not much cleaning going on at 20 below….

  16. YuppieAndy September 21st, 2011 3:26 pm

    Crushed large-batch beer cans, old “emergency beef jerky” and a slave.to.turns childhood family portrait (*shiver*).

  17. Caleb Wray September 22nd, 2011 12:28 pm

    Ugly: red dusted CO spring snow.

    Rocks: because it still beats working.

  18. Mark W September 22nd, 2011 9:26 pm

    My first ski pants. Hand me downs. In-the-boot stretch pants. Any questions?

  19. Drew September 22nd, 2011 9:30 pm

    The lid to my tin of Dermatone z-coat. Where does all that dirt come from? Ugly no doubt.

    And beautiful because painting your lips white like a clown is super photogenic.

  20. TobyG September 25th, 2011 9:18 am

    “The Pee Bottle” – ranks high on my ugly list – not sure it needs much more explanation. One of those things that just is…

  21. Lou September 25th, 2011 12:13 pm

    Toby, good point. The P-bot slipped my mind for some reason (grin).

  22. jasper July 17th, 2015 9:40 am

    My wool long underwear.

    Ugly because I only have two pairs. Need I say more?

    Rocks because it smells, feels, and works better than synthetic alternatives.

  23. nick July 17th, 2015 9:42 am


  24. Josh July 17th, 2015 9:57 am

    Lou Dawson,

    I have been looking all over for places in Colorado that do front tech toe conversion (for the cast si system), I know CAST offers it, but I was looking for another option more local. Do YOU know of any other operations that offer this service besides CAST Touring in Colorado? I just need the front toe tech converted on an alpine boot, thank you!

    – Josh

  25. swissiphic July 17th, 2015 10:33 am

    The sopping wet ski socks you stuffed into your ski boots in the parking lot after the last hot day of skiing in the spring….and when you reach into the boots and find them there for the first day of skiing the following fall…and your fingertips tell you they’re still moist….

  26. Sedgesprite July 17th, 2015 10:37 am

    Zip-ties. More awkward than ugly, Cheap, light and strong. Wait, maybe zip ties are beautiful? No, they look like trash.

  27. AJ July 17th, 2015 11:55 am

    It’s ugly. It’s never used as intended. It probably doesn’t rock. It can be used as a fire starter. Or a conversation starter. The nose plug you get with a BD Avalung.

  28. Jim Lamb July 17th, 2015 12:06 pm

    Lime green fleece ski hat from 1989 ish. A few burn holes in it from camp fires and the green is faded. My ski buddies have been trying for years to snag it from me and burn it! They are sick of looking at it. I have lots of other hats but it is always funny for me to pull it out on a backcountry adventure and flaunt it. It’s got all the fashion, functionality and patina you could ask for- UL, warm and highly breathable. Some day it will make a good firestarter, I’m not ready to let go just yet.

  29. Lou Dawson 2 July 17th, 2015 12:40 pm

    AJ, perfect! That’ll be my next addition to the post — if I can find it!

  30. Drew Tabke July 17th, 2015 1:30 pm

    Excellent post. Lots of lolz.

    OR-style (Seattle Sombrero) sunhats.

  31. Rob S. July 17th, 2015 2:19 pm

    leatherman multi tools are super heavy (mine is) but super useful

    Those Voile straps are pretty ugly as well

  32. Lou Dawson 2 July 17th, 2015 2:47 pm

    I thought this would be some summer fun, good on you guys!

  33. Mark Worley July 18th, 2015 6:48 am

    Ski crampons. They clink together as they hang from the back of my pack, and their toothy form is strange even to many backcountry skiers as they have yet to avail themselves of their usefulness.

  34. Zachary Winters July 26th, 2015 10:09 am

    Snowmobiles! The smelly noisy break-downy machines that make skiing possible for some of us!

  35. Dillon July 26th, 2015 12:30 pm

    Nicely done Zach Winters. I agree.

  36. Wookie July 27th, 2015 4:18 am

    Wands: a giant bundle of wands with plastic flapping around is a pain to make, carry and use and you look like some kind of weirdo tour guide – but oh-so-so-useful when the weather hits.

    Unless EVERYBODY has been using the same kinds of flags for 5 years and nobody cleans em up. Then I direct your attention to the first half of my statement. Ugly. Really ugly.

  37. Walt August 29th, 2015 10:19 pm

    Like the fire starter idea. Already carry most of the rest. But custom footbeds? Had them once…the worst garbage I ever had for the money. Totally unnessary. The ones that come with your boots are usually good enough. If not, Downunders or Superfeet are way cheaper. Who gets blisters anyway with today’s thermal mold liners? Those who bought the wrong size boot and those with fairy feet, period.

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