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The Ultimate Guide to Ski Backpacks

Ski backpacks

Do you like to have a water bottle with you while you hit the ski resort? Are you a new backcountry skier? Do you send it up Mt. Adams on the reg? Then you’ve probably come to the realization that ski backpacks are not like other backpacks. They contain features and compartments that are specifically designed to make your ski day as seamless as possible, whether you are wrapping up your last run at noon to hit up an early happy hour, or getting up at 2 a.m. to summit a peak. Since not all ski backpacks are created equal, we have created this guide to help you figure out which one is right for you.

 

The Components of a Ski Backpack

What makes a ski backpack different from a backpacking backpack, a hiking backpack, a book backpack, or any other type of bag you can conjure up? The following aspects distinguish a ski backpack, making it special.

 

Avalanche Gear “Mudroom”

The most important three things you need in the backcountry are–no, not sunscreen, sunscreen, sunscreen, mom!– your beacon, shovel, and probe. (If you don’t know what this is, please don’t go out into the backcountry. Take an Avi 1 class, first.) Of course, your beacon is stored on your person, on top of your base layer of clothing, but where to put the other two items? Ski backpacks contain a front compartment that is specifically for your avi gear, and good ski backpacks will have small, accessible slots for the shovel and probe within the compartment, not to mention an easy access zipper system so that no time is wasted in an emergency situation.

 

Snowboard/Ski Carrying Options

If you don’t have a backcountry set up or you are looking to get into mountaineering, you will need a backpack that has options to securely strap your board and skis to the outside. No one wants to trek up a mountain, only to look behind them and see their ski sliding down the slope behind them because it wasn’t properly attached to their pack.

 

Hip Straps

You are going to be putting a lot of gear in this bag (think: water, food, layers, sunscreen, helmet, goggles, gloves, etc), so you’re going to want hips straps that are sturdy enough to transfer the weight from your shoulders to your hips. This will keep you balanced and reduce back pain.

 

Dry Pocket

It’s OK to admit it- even the best skiers have forgotten to zip up their backpack, only to find it filled with fluffy flakes 30 minutes later. If you’re lucky, your body heat won’t have begun to melt the snow, causing your belongings to get wet. If you’re not so lucky, you better hope that your pack at least has a waterproof/resistant  pocket to protect your valuables, like your phone, keys, and anything else you don’t want the snow to affect.

 

The Helmet Holder

Are you a smart backcountry skier or rider? Then you know that they should bring a helmet into the backcountry. No, there aren’t Jerrys zooming down the hill at 90 MPH, threatening to crash into you at any moment. However, there are still those big obstacles we call trees, steep slopes, variable conditions, and not to mention hidden rocks and fallen trees. Therefore, you should plan on wearing your helmet. The only problem is that helmets are pretty big (due to their substantial padding to protect your noggin), and they don’t normally fit well in a standard backpack when all of your other gear is packed in there. Therefore, most ski backpacks will have a helmet holder–sort of a mesh cover that you can attach to the outside of your pack– in order to secure your helmet on the uphill so you aren’t sweating bullets. It’s secure, easy, and leaves a lot of extra room in your pack.

 

Ski backpack 

Fun Extras

  • Insulated Hose Sleeve so you can drink on the go without your water freezing
  • Technical Gear Loops for those more intense mountaineer trips. Glacading? Yes please.
  • Radio Integration so you can communicate with your friends if you get separated (or if you just want to joke around with your buddy… “over and out, flying eagle!”)
  • Moisture Drain Holes… did you leave your pack open again, Dave?! But seriously, heat from your body can lead to serious meltage in your pack, so these holes can keep your gear nice and dry.
  • Removable Top Lid just in case you need to pack extra.
  • Rope Strap for those that are taking it to the next level, and keeping people out of crevasses.
  • Front and Rear Zipper so you can access all your goods without having to pull anything out onto the snow.
  • Fleece Goggle Pocket so you can demand respect and authority by keeping those Pit Vipers protected in a soft goggle pocket. ‘Nuff said.

 

Find the Right Pack for You

Many people may not realize this, but there are lots of different types of skiers, and therefore there are lots of different types of backpacks. If you don’t know what type of skier you are, figure it out and then use these guidelines to find the right backpack for you. (You can even use the checklist to make sure the pack your checking out has all of the necessary components).

 

A Frontcountry Skier

  • 15-20 Liters
  • Hip straps

 

A Backcountry Skier with a Set-Up

  • 20-30 Liters
  • Avalanche Gear “Mudroom”
  • Hip Straps
  • Dry Pocket
  • Helmet Holder
  • Insulated Hose Sleeve
  • Radio Integration
  • Moisture Drain Holes
  • Front and Rear Zipper
  • Fleece Goggle Pocket

 

A Backcountry Skier without a Set-Up

  • 20-30 Liters
  • Avalanche Gear “Mudroom”
  • Hip Straps
  • Dry Pocket
  • Helmet Holder
  • Insulated Hose Sleeve
  • Radio Integration
  • Moisture Drain Holes
  • Front and Rear Zipper
  • Fleece Goggle Pocket
  • Snowboard/ Ski Carrying Options

 

A Hut Tripper

  • 40-50 Liters (unless you are pulling a sled, then you can get away with 30)
  • Avalanche Gear “Mudroom”
  • Hip Straps
  • Dry Pocket
  • Helmet Holder
  • Insulated Hose Sleeve
  • Radio Integration
  • Moisture Drain Holes
  • Front and Rear Zipper
  • Fleece Goggle Pocket
  • Removable Top Lid

 

A Mountaineer Skier

  • 30-40 Liters
  • Avalanche Gear “Mudroom”
  • Hip Straps
  • Dry Pocket
  • Helmet Holder
  • Insulated Hose Sleeve
  • Radio Integration
  • Moisture Drain Holes
  • Front and Rear Zipper
  • Fleece Goggle Pocket
  • Snowboard/ Ski Carrying Options
  • Technical Gear Loops
  • Rope Strap