MagazineDecember 2014What's In Your Pack: Trail Guide Author and Backcountry Skiier Randy Johnson

What’s In Your Pack: Trail Guide Author and Backcountry Skiier Randy Johnson

You may know Randy Johnson as the author of best-selling trail guides Hiking North Carolina and Hiking the Blue Ridge Parkway, but his real love is cross-country skiing.

He pioneered the Nordic ski scene at Roan Mountain in the 1980s days of the state park cross-country ski center and wrote Southern Snow: The Winter Guide to Dixie (considered a cult classic and due out again in a few years). He’s a former Nordic ski instructor and ski patroller who takes his Southern summits seriously.

Here’s what this Eastern ski legend carries in his pack while skiing or snowshoeing on Roan, Rogers, Grandfather, or the like:

1. Leki Aergon 3 Pole

“No touring poles for me. When I ski, I often take snowshoes for the crazy places. A great adjustable ski pole can handle striding, stomping, and occasional duty as an almost ice ax, and I like the ease and strength of the newer SpeedLock adjustment on Leki’s Aergon 3 pole.”

2. Darn Tough Boot Sock

“The best boots can be cold in thin socks, so I use the Darn Tough Boot Sock Full Cushion. These mostly Merino wool socks aren’t cheap, but they’re warm, cushy, antimicrobial, and made in the USA.”

3. Ibex Zephyr Base Layer

“Like socks, like base layer. I’ve used synthetics but I’m old-school enough to welcome wool back to the fold. The Ibex Zephyr is another USA-made Merino item that’s really warm and soft. It’s got a high-ish zip neck with bound thumbholes to keep the sleeves where you want them.“

4. SOL Thermal Bivvy

“There’s always survival stuff in my pack. Carry a serious bivvy bag if you want, but the SOL Thermal Bivvy (no, it means Survive Outdoors Longer) is a 9-oz., affordable, heat-reflective emergency sleep sack that vents to handle condensation.”

5. Swix Nordic Easy Glide

“Icy ski bases ruin countless ski tours. If you’re skiing the lighter waxless backcountry or touring skis, get this glide prep on your skis early. You can hot wax the tips and tails, then coat everything, especially the waxless pattern, with Easy Glide to seal out water and smooth your stride.”

6. Mophie Powerstations

“Cold kills batteries. If your smartphone is also your camera, GPS unit, or you’re using topo maps downloaded from Backcountry Navigator, a Mophie Powerstation XL or a Mini is worth the weight (16 oz. / 3 oz.). You can even charge your GoPro.”

7. Black Diamond Revolt Headlamp

“Dark comes early in winter. With the rechargeable Revolt, you’ll always leave the trailhead with maximum light to cope with a late return. It’s bright, charges with your car’s USB port, has a variety of brightness modes to minimize battery use, and lets you monitor the remaining charge.”

–Johnson’s latest book, Grandfather Mountain: Appalachian Icon—A History and Guide, is due out in 2015 from the University of North Carolina Press. Visit for more info.

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