6 Items You Must Have Before Going to the Backcountry

If you are a landscape photographer or nature lover, you may be tempted to go into backcountry areas on your own at times. You will be in a big trouble in you get stuck in a remote place where you see no other humans at all. It is particularly risky in winter, you have more chances of getting stuck in snowy environments and lower temperature can cause problems, too So I recommend you to prepare the following items before you actually venturing into the backcountry.

1. Jump Starter

In the winter of 2017, I parked my car in the parking lot at the entrance of a mountain trail, I captured beautiful scenes at the mountain top at sunset and during the magic hour, and then, I came down to the parking lot in pitch darkness using a headlight.

Then, I noticed that I left the side lights on. I could see the car battery was already low because the lights were dimmer than usual. The car engine wouldn’t start no matter how many times I tried. The sound of the starter motor just reverberated in deep mountains and valleys. I shouted “Move! Move! Move!” but to no avail. Not to mention that my car was the only one in the parking lot. It would take at least 5 hours on foot to get to the nearest house. There was a very slim hope left for me to see someone else at the spot by the sunrise. The temperature was well below minus Celsius, and I had no signal.

What can I do? I muttered and took a sigh. Just when the despair crossed my mind, I remembered that I had a jump starter and kept it in the container under the passenger seat. I bought it back in 2014 but had never used it until then so I completely forgot about it.

I’d definitely recommend you to get one especially if you drive into remote places in winter. It can also serve as a USB mobile battery or a flashlight.

Be sure to recharge it every year and check that it works properly before winter comes. Recently mine became unable to output any electricity although it still can be charged. I replaced it with a new one.

2. Tire Grip Aids/Recovery Track Mat

There is more chance of getting stuck in winter. I could get my car unstuck from frozen grounds a couple of times thanks to this product. I also lend them to someone and he got his car unstuck, too.

If you’re in a desperate situation, that is, the majority part of your tires are under the snow surface or mud, this product may not be very helpful. But the product works quite well if the situation isn’t that bad.

One thing to mind is that you should never press the accelerator quickly. Be sure to press it slowly and gradually otherwise your car will kick them out and they’re gonna fly away. It comes as a pair. So, if you drive 4×4, you need to buy two pairs. If you drive on sand beaches, this product comes in handy in summer, too.

The above product may not be robust enough for bigger vehicles. If you drive a big car, you might want to use something with a heavier payload.

3. Shovel

Use a shovel together with the tire grip aids shown above. Dig snow in front of the tires to make the surface flat. Then fully insert the tire grip aids beneath the tires. The larger the area comes in contact with the tire, the better the result is.

4.Quick Tyre Repair/Tire Inflator

I keep it in the container beneath the passenger seat together with the jump starter and a pair of wheel chocks . It may not be necessary if you have a spare tire. Anyway, it is cheap and doesn’t occupy too much space, not a bad idea to have one even if you also have a spare tire.

This product is easy to use. You can just ejaculate the content into the tire but this is a temporary solution. You can use the fixed tire just momentarily and you are gonna have to replace it with a new tire when you get to town.

5. Portable Air Compressor

If the tire in question is slowly loosing air, you can use this product to fill the tire with air so that you can drive your car again for some minutes without damaging the wheel. By repeating this procedure a couple of times, you can probably retrieve yours signal and call a tow car, and then, get your tire repaired at a shop. This type of compressor is also necessary when you inflate a tire after using a repair kit shown below.

Some cars are not equipped with a spare tire but they usually come with a compressor and tire repair inflator. They’re typically located under the rear luggage space. Check it out in advance.

6. Tire Repair Kit

If you can visibly see a nail or similar sharp object piercing a tire, this type of repair kit is better than the tire repair inflator shown above, because you can continue to use the tire after repairing.

But the procedure is a little more complicated. If you’re not very good at this sort of tasks, use the inflator instead.

Additional Notes

Although recent compact cars are often equipped with no spare tire and don’t have a dedicated space for it, you’d want to have one before going into the backcountry. But a spare tire occupies quite a bit of space and so you may be hesitant to buy it.

If your car wears snow tires, you can put one of your all-weather tires (that is, summer tires or normal tires) in your car only when you go to backcountry areas. I’ve tested this and concluded that there is no problem as long as the driving distance is short.

I would get an auto parts shop to swap out my all-weather tires for snow tires and vice versa two times every year. But I lately do it myself to get used to the task.

When you have to replace a tire in the backcountry, you usually have to do it in a very unfavorable environment. It’s difficult to work effectively if you’re not used to doing it yourself.

In Japan insurance companies often provide roadside assistance services and some credit cards such as an ENEOS Card also provide similar services. Check out the situation in your country in advance.

Some mobile carriers are better than the others in remote areas. For example, docomo is best in Japan, and Telstra is best in Australia. Check out the situation in your country and get a prepaid SIM card or something before going to remote places.

Be sure to wear snow tires when you go to cold places in winter.


  1. Bruce says:

    Great advice! The weight of the extra tire will also give you more traction. Leather work gloves in your tool kit are useful – essential in sub-zero weather. Wool and nylon are slippery. A basic survival kit can and really should be in your car 24/7/360.