For those of us in the northern reaches, winter is a time to go outside and play just as much as summer is. Snowmobiles provide transportation and recreation for many venturing out across the snow-covered lands. To be safe and get the most enjoyment out of the ride, there are a few essential items every snowmobiler should have along for the ride.

A properly running sled

Before you take off down the trail, making sure your sled is running like it is supposed to is vital. A trailside breakdown, especially in the cold of winter, can prove to be lethal. Make sure your spark plug is clean and free of fouling. Excess black soot on the end of the plug is a sure sign that it should be replaced. Check the belt, too. Make sure it isn’t frayed and is at the proper tension. For sleds with electric start, make sure the battery is charged and working. If it’s time to replace it, check out an Interstate Battery. I have used them as replacement batteries for years and have been extremely happy. I like coming home at the end of the day–having the right battery helps with that.

Bring spare parts and tools

Always have extra spark plugs along in case you foul a plug on the trail. Along with spare plugs, make sure you have the wrench to replace them with. A spare belt is also a necessity. I knew a guy that had a repair shop located near a major trail system. During the winter months, he’d spend most of his time going out on to the trails to do trailside belt replacements. Nothing like a $50 belt costing an extra $200 to get it replaced “in the field.” It’s always a good idea to have some duct tape and zip ties, too–just in case.

Portable power

Should you run into a situation in which your sled’s battery goes dead or your cell phone runs low, powering things back up is a lot easier than it used to be. I used to haul a lunchbox-sized battery pack around whenever I was off-road, just in case I had a dead battery. While it was handy for the few times I needed it, the size was not. Now, portable power systems are much more compact. Interstate’s Micro Start Personal Power Supply slips into your pocket. It’s only six inches long and not even three inches thick, yet it has enough juice to restart a sled, ATV, or even your truck. It’ll also recharge most laptops, cell phones, and more. It is that one product everyone should own.

An emergency kit

If you do have a trailside breakdown or are involved in an accident, it’s best to be like the Boy Scouts and be prepared. A basic first aid kit should always be with you. One of those emergency “space blankets” can be a life-saver. A good tow strap is something you should have too. If you’re out riding with buddies and one of you breaks down, it can help get you towed back safely. Another important piece of gear to have is a flare. If something happens at night, you could be left sitting in a cold and perilous spot. Snowmobiles today are very fast and many riders are hauling the mail when they are riding. In winter, riding often occurs at night. Most sleds can go faster than their headlights can “reach.” A flare can help alert someone coming that you’re there, and there is an emergency situation. Even better than a standard flare is an electronic “flare,” like Interstate Batteries’ Emergency LED Safety Flare. Being an LED, there is no chance of injury or an accidental fire.

Light it up

Flashlights are a must-have item, so much so that it gets its own listing. There are so many good reasons to carry flashlights with you on the trail. Checking a map, fixing a belt or a plug, or tending to, um, the call of nature are all good reasons to cast a little extra light on a dark and snowy evening. Modern flashlights use LED bulbs and are smaller and brighter than ever before. A good, sturdy aluminum flashlight with a rechargeable battery ensures you’ve always got a bright, handy light ready for the times you need it.

I also like to carry a small spotlight with me if I have room. Ever have that one buddy that rides off the trail and down into a ditch? A spotlight helps illuminate the situation, even if you’re just going to take a picture and spread it all over on Facebook. On a side note, if you have colored filters for your lights, it can prove handy. Red and blue filters make reading maps easier and won’t mess up your night vision.

Get the shovel

Ever see those pictures of the guys riding in deep mountain powder? They usually are wearing backpacks with shovels. Good call. I always carry a shovel because I figure I’m going to have to dig out the track at least once on a ride (that may be because I don’t often ride groomed trails). The fact of the matter is that you need to carry a shovel along on every trail ride.

Proper attire

Good boots, pants, bibs, a windproof coat, gloves, and a helmet are required riding gear. Hypothermia can set in ridiculously quick when you’re riding. If it was 10 degrees Fahrenheit, and you were riding 55mph, the resulting windchill would be -18 degrees. At that temperature, frostbite occurs in less than 15 minutes. Make sure every part of you is covered and protected.

That thing above your shoulders

Use your head when you’re out riding. Don’t ride faster than you can handle and for goodness’ sake, slow down at night–especially if you’re riding in an area you’ve never been in before. Carry a cell phone and let people know where you’re going. I know I may sound like an old party pooper here, but I’ve seen way too many accidents to not at least say something.

Snowmobiling is amazingly fun and something I highly recommend to everyone who enjoys the great outdoors. Now if you’ll excuse me, I feel the need to go for a ride.

This article was produced in partnership with Interstate Batteries.

Image courtesy Arctic Cat

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