Whether you’re running the lifts at a ski resort, leading hiking or camping tours for out-of-towners, digging trench lines to stop the progress of forest fires, collecting seed pods for the government seed bank, or tagging animals to track the movements of species in a particular area, there are plenty of jobs that could have you working high in the mountains. And no matter what has you positioned several thousand feet above sea level, there are a few things you’ll need when you head for the hills (and beyond) in pursuit of a paycheck. So here are some essentials that everyone working in mountainous country should keep on hand.

  1. Pepper spray. Close encounters with wildlife are not uncommon in largely uninhabited mountain areas, so unless you want to become lunch for a cougar (and not of the Courtney Cox variety) or you like the idea of tangling with an angry black bear protecting her cubs, it behooves you to keep this dispersible deterrent handy. While your best bet is probably to avoid getting up close and personal with the wildlife in the first place, you’re bound to have your run-ins with the local denizens. This proven tactic will allow you to escape without doing any real or lasting damage to the predator you’ve disturbed with your presence.
  2. Sat phone and signal booster. Forget about getting cell service in the mountains, where you can blame a lack of towers and numerous peaks for interrupting your signal. Instead, consider purchasing a satellite phone (the first choice of government workers in such areas) and possibly even a signal booster if your handset is still getting spotty reception. Anyone stationed in the middle of a mountain range will certainly enjoy the enhanced communication opportunities provided by these devices.
  3. Flint and steel. These two items are at the top of every survivalist checklist (probably followed by water and a plant guidebook to identify edible versus poisonous flora and fauna). The ability to make fire is essential in most survival situations (like if you get lost in the mountains) and flint and steel will ensure that you have the ability to create a fire anywhere. This could keep you warm, cook food and water, and act as a signal for search parties. Strike-anywhere matches in a weatherproof case are also an option, but flint and steel will never run out.
  4. Hiking boots. If you never paid attention to your shoes before, there’s nothing like hiking steep grades all day to make you aware of the importance of proper footwear. You’ll be sorry if you cheap out here, especially if you do a fair bit of walking, so go for a brand like Asolo or Vasque that is designed for maximum comfort and durability (pay special attention to fit and support). They’re spendy but worth every dollar if you use them a lot.
  5. 4WD. Anyone who thinks they can get away with tooling around the mountains in a 4-cylinder compact car has another thing coming. So start comparing Toyota, Ford, and Chevy trucks the minute you know you’ll be moving to a mountainous region. With dirt roads and snowstorms aplenty you’ll be glad you’ve got 4-wheel drive on your side.