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The Best Ski Backpacks of 2024

From small ski packs for lift-accessed runs to behemoths for serious backcountry ventures, we found the best ski backpacks for every use and budget.
Ski backpacks are an essential piece of gear in the backcountry; (photo/Eric Phillips)
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For skiers, snowmobilers, and splitboarders, backpacks carry avalanche rescue tools that can save lives. Other times, they just carry a few energy bars and a water bottle or an extra pair of mittens. Picking the right pack for your day on the slopes depends a lot on the mission at hand.

While most packs have a lot in common — namely, shoulder straps and a central zippered compartment — they differ wildly in size, weight, and how much they’ll comfortably carry. Packs these days are incredibly well-made. Materials are built to last, seams are heat-welded or bar-tacked, and buckles only break if they’re abused.

Across many winter seasons, we have tested dozens and dozens of ski packs that are available now. Testers have racked up hundreds of ski days (at resorts, in the backcountry, and on ski hut trips) in Canada, the U.S., Japan, and Europe.

To find the best ski backpacks, we ascended and skied Oregon’s Mt. Hood and Washington’s Mt. Adams, ski and splitboard mountaineered in the Rocky Mountains, and scrambled up snow-covered peaks in the Dolomites. We’ve steered backcountry snowmobiles to reach the base of peaks and couloirs and joined skimo races, too.

While not every top-notch ski and snowboard pack made our list, we can assure you this guide includes excellent designs across a range of volumes and styles. These packs serve a spectrum of objectives for various types of skiers, riders, and sledders.

For more help choosing the best ski backpack for the season, check out the details behind pack designs in our buyer’s guide at the bottom of this article, as well as our comparison chart. If you still have questions, take a look at our list of frequently asked questions.

Otherwise, you can scroll through to see all of our recommended buys for 2024.

Editor’s Note: We updated our Ski Backpacks guide on November 9, 2023, to include freshly tested and newly launched products.

The Best Ski Backpacks of 2024

Best Overall Ski Backpack

BCA Stash 30


  • Best use Backcountry tours, ski, and splitboard mountaineering
  • Weight 3 lbs., 5 oz.
  • Capacity 30 L
  • Carry A-frame and diagonal ski (or splitboard ski) carry or vertical snowboard carry
Product Badge The Best Ski Backpacks of 2024


  • Excellent organization and comfort
  • Stowable helmet sling


  • Small goggle pocket
Best Budget Ski Backpack

CamelBak SnoBlast 22 Hydration Pack


  • Best use Resort days, hike-to terrain with skis
  • Weight 2 lbs., 4 oz.
  • Capacity 22 L
  • Carry Skis
The Best Ski Backpacks of 2024


  • Quick-release loops at the bottom of each shoulder strap let you swiftly loosen the pack and swing it around while getting on the lift
  • Insulated hydration sleeve and designated reservoir compartment


  • No snowboard carry
  • Helmet loops keep helmet loose on back of pack
Best Ski Backpack for Organization

Gregory Targhee 45


  • Best use Backcountry tours, overnight and hut trips, guiding
  • Weight 3 lbs., 11 oz.
  • Capacity 45 L
  • Carry Skis or snowboard
The Best Ski Backpacks of 2024


  • Great ski and snowboard carry
  • Both top and back panel access
  • Hydration sleeve has insulated hose cover
  • Two ice axe holders that can be stashed away


  • Slightly heavy for its size
Best Durability in a Ski Backpack

Mystery Ranch Gallatin Peak 40


  • Best use Backcountry tours, overnight and hut trips
  • Weight 3 lbs., 13 oz.
  • Capacity 40 L
  • Carry Diagonal or A-frame for skis or split-skis or vertical carry for snowboard
The Best Ski Backpacks of 2024


  • Excellent suspension
  • Exterior stashable helmet carry


  • Great feature set adds weight
Best Heavy Load-Carrier Ski Backpack

Eddie Bauer Alpine Sisu 50


  • Best use Backcountry tours, ski and splitboard mountaineering
  • Weight 3 lbs., 14 oz.
  • Capacity 50 L
  • Carry A-frame for skis or splitboard skis
The Best Ski Backpacks of 2024


  • Roomy snow safety compartment
  • Exterior zip pocket for skins
  • Extendable top makes the pack adaptable
  • Full back zipper access


  • Lots of straps make the exterior a bit fussy
  • No hip belt pocket to tote cellphone
  • Only one size available
Best Women's-Specific Ski Backpack

Deuter Freerider 28 SL Ski Tour Backpack


  • Best use Backcountry tours
  • Weight 2 lbs., 3 oz.
  • Capacity 18 L ($145), 28 L, Pro 32 L+ ($190)
  • Carry Diagonal or A-frame carry for skis or splitboard skis and vertical option snowboard
The Best Ski Backpacks of 2024


  • Adjustable sternum strap
  • Load adjustment straps
  • Ice axe attachment


  • Only one hip belt pocket
  • Helmet carry accessory is not included or directly integrated in the 28L or 18L pack
  • No enclosed shoulder strap protection for hydration hose or radio line
Best Snowmobile Sled-Ski Backpack

BCA Float MtnPro Vest Avalanche Airbag 2.0


  • Best use Backcountry sled-skiing
  • Weight 7 lbs., 4.8 oz
  • Capacity 15 L (S), 20 L (M/L and XL/XXL)
  • Carry External shovel carry
The Best Ski Backpacks of 2024


  • Full stability with no pack-swing
  • Full front, side, and back protection against rocks, handlebars, and trees
  • Integrated airbag for additional safety


  • Premium cost
  • Stuffing the pack too full can lead to the airbag compartment zipper prying open
  • Takes an extra minute to get suited up compared to a regular pack
Best of the Rest

Mammut Pro 45 Removable Airbag 3.0


  • Best Use Big and remote tours, overnighters
  • Weight 3.6 lbs. without airbag; 5.8 lbs. with airbag
  • Capacity 45L
  • Carry Diagonal, front snowboard carry, A-frame carry (sans airbag and cartridge)
The Best Ski Backpacks of 2024


  • High volume
  • Airbag compatible


  • Not the most comfortable lumbar support and shoulder straps

Gregory Women’s Targhee 30


  • Best Use Backcountry days and quick laps at the resort
  • Weight 3.18 lbs.
  • Capacity 30 L, 24 L
  • Carry Diagonal, A-frame, front snowboard carry
The Best Ski Backpacks of 2024


  • Extremely comfortable lumbar support
  • Super deep, spacious top pocket – like a well-integrated backpack brain
  • Pack design utilizes 45% recycled nylon in pack body and 40% recycled polyester in liner


  • The lock levers on the two upper side buckles are annoying and not durable

Dakine Women’s Poacher R.A.S. 32 L & Dakine Men’s Poacher R.A.S. 36 L


  • Best use Full days backcountry skiing and splitboarding
  • Weight 3 lbs., 14.4 oz.
  • Capacity 32 L
  • Carry A-frame or diagonal ski or split-ski carry, front snowboard carry
The Best Ski Backpacks of 2024


  • Optional airbag system
  • Rescue whistle integrated on chest strap


  • Would like if we could access the huge compartment through the front and back of the pack
  • Metal hip belt clasp (versus a buckle) takes some getting used to but is arguably more durable

Osprey Kresta 30 & Kamber 30


  • Best use Backcountry and side-country skiing, splitboarding, and snowboarding
  • Weight 3 lbs., 3.2 oz.
  • Capacity 30 L
  • Carry Diagonal and A-frame ski carry, vertical snowboard carry
The Best Ski Backpacks of 2024


  • Bluesign approved recycled materials
  • PFC-free DWR coating to shed moisture
  • Ice tool carry loop
  • Sternum strap has integrated safety whistle


  • It’d be even better if we could access the primary compartment through the front in addition to the back panel
  • Goggle stash pocket isn’t fleece-lined

BCA Float 42 Avalanche Airbag 2.0


  • Best use Airbag, backcountry tours, overnight and hut trips, ski and splitboard mountaineering
  • Weight 7.1 lbs. (with full cylinder)
  • Capacity 12 L, 22 L, 32 L, 42 L
  • Carry Diagonal carry for skis or splitboard skis, vertical carry for snowboard
The Best Ski Backpacks of 2024


  • Height-adjustable hip belt
  • Removable helmet carry
  • Internal and external ice axe carry options


  • A bigger investment
  • Additional weight with the airbag setup
  • Canister sold separately

Thule Upslope 35L


  • Best use Backcountry tours
  • Weight 3 lbs., 8 oz.
  • Capacity 35 L
  • Carry Diagonal ski carry or vertical snowboard carry
The Best Ski Backpacks of 2024


  • Sleek lines
  • Insulated drinking tube sleeve
  • Giant hip belt pockets


  • Back-panel access only to main pack bag

Mountain Hardwear Snoskiwoski 40


  • Best use Ski mountaineering, backcountry hut trips
  • Weight 2 lbs., 8.7 oz.
  • Capacity 40 L (size S/M), 42 L (size M/L)
  • Carry A-frame or diagonal ski carry (or split-ski carry)
The Best Ski Backpacks of 2024


  • Super lightweight
  • Roomy, convenient side pocket for skins or other goods


  • No back panel entry so pack access is limited while loaded in the A-frame carry
  • Detachable helmet carry poses the risk of blowing away or getting misplaced
  • Straps on front are not secure and we lost our ski crampons on a snowmobile approach

Black Diamond Cirque 30 Pack


  • Best use Ski and splitboard mountaineering
  • Weight 1 lb., 11 oz.
  • Capacity 30 L, 35 L, 45 L
  • Carry Tuck-away diagonal ski carry (or split skis) and A-frame carry
The Best Ski Backpacks of 2024


  • Extremely lightweight
  • Thoughtful design for organization


  • Only provides top access to goods
  • Not much padding or support for heavy loads
The more equipment you need to carry, the larger volume pack you’ll need; (photo/Eric Phillips)

Ski Backpack Comparison Chart

Scroll right to view all of the columns: Price, Best Use, Weight, Capacity, Carry.

Ski BackpackPriceBest UseWeightCapacityCarry
BCA Stash 30$180Backcountry tours, ski and splitboard mountaineering3 lbs., 5 oz.30 LA-frame, diagonal ski (or splitboard ski) carry, vertical snowboard carry
CamelBak SnoBlast 22
Hydration Pack
$120Resort days, hike-to terrain with skis2 lbs., 4 oz.22 LSkis
Gregory Targhee 45$220Backcountry tours, overnight, hut trips, guiding3 lbs., 11 oz.45 LSkis, snowboard
Mystery Ranch Gallatin
Peak 40
$265Backcountry tours, overnight, hut trips3 lbs., 13 oz.40 LDiagonal, A-frame for skis, split-skis, vertical carry for snowboard
Eddie Bauer Alpine
Sisu 50
$299Backcountry tours, ski, splitboard mountaineering3 lbs., 14 oz.50 LA-frame for skis, splitboard skis
Deuter Freerider 28
SL Snow Pack
$165Backcountry tours2 lbs., 3 oz.18 L, 28 L, Pro 32 L+Diagonal, A-frame carry for skis, splitboard skis, vertical option snowboard
BCA Float MtnPro Vest
Avalanche Airbag 2.0
$800Backcountry sled-skiing7 lbs., 4.8 oz.15 L, 20 LExternal shovel carry
Dakine Women’s Poacher
R.A.S. 32 L
Dakine Men’s Poacher
R.A.S. 36 L
$265-270Full days backcountry skiing and splitboarding3 lbs., 14.4 oz.32 LA-frame or diagonal ski or split-ski carry, front snowboard carry
Osprey Kresta 30 &
Kamber 30
$210Backcountry and side-country skiing, splitboarding, and snowboarding3 lbs., 3.2 oz.30 LDiagonal and A-frame ski carry, vertical snowboard carry
Thule Upslope 35L$280Backcountry tours3 lbs., 8 oz.35 LDiagonal ski carry, vertical snowboard carry
BCA Float 42 Avalanche
Airbag 2.0
$750Airbag, backcountry tours, overnight, hut trips, ski, splitboard mountaineering7.1 lbs.12 L, 22 L, 32 L, 42 LDiagonal carry for skis, splitboard skis, vertical carry for snowboard
Mammut Pro 45 Removable Airbag 3.0
$800Big and remote tours, overnighters3.6 lbs. without airbag; 5.8 lbs. with airbag45LDiagonal, front snowboard carry, A-frame carry
Gregory Women’s Targhee 30
$200Backcountry days and quick laps at the resort3.18 lbs.30 L, 24 LDiagonal, A-frame, front snowboard carry
Mountain Hardwear
Snoskiwoski 40
$220Ski mountaineering, backcountry hut trips2 lbs., 8.7 oz.40 L, 42 LA-frame or diagonal ski carry
Black Diamond Cirque
30 Pack
$180Ski, splitboard mountaineering1 lb., 11 oz.30 L, 35 L, 45 LTuck-away diagonal ski carry (or split skis), A-frame carry
Skiers opt for low to mid-volume packs for inbounds days when they want to carry necessities; (photo/Jason Hummel)

How We Tested Ski Packs

Our GearJunkie gear testing team includes a range of skiers and splitboarders from intermediate to expert who explore inbounds ski areas across the United States — from the West to East Coast and around the Rocky Mountains. Our testers also travel around the U.S. and overseas, venture into the backcountry, hike uphill at the resort, and use off-trail snowmobiles to play in and access out-there terrain.

Among our testers, Snowsports Senior Editor Morgan Tilton started alpine skiing in her backyard at Telluride Ski Resort at age 4, followed closely by learning to snowboard. Thirteen years ago, she completed her first AIARE 1 course and continues to pursue backcountry certifications and exploration today by splitboard, off-trail snowmobile, and skis. She’s thankful the industry now makes stellar splitboards, breaking the need to snowshoe with a solid board on her back. While Tilton works with testers, she also gets field time. To date in 2023, she’s tested ski packs for more than 75 hours in the backcountry.

Throughout our field tests and personal experience, we determined the best ski backpacks based on a variety of metrics including fit adjustment, ergonomics, gear carry options, hydration compatibility, ease of use, organization from compartments to pockets, access, load placement, comfort, hip belt and shoulder strap design, performance, quality, durability, and value. These ski backpacks serve a range of athletes, applications, volume of gear, and budgets.

women snowboard
Snowsports Senior Editor Morgan Tilton backcountry splitboarding; (photo/Eric Phillips)

Buyer’s Guide: How to Choose the Best Ski Backpack

The trick to deciding what pack to buy is knowing what you’re going to use it for.

Do you want something small and compact you can carry for a quick uphill session at the ski hill after work? Or do you need a spacious, weight-bearing pack for an overnight hut trip or a weeklong summit snag with a remote basecamp?

Then, think about feature sets and overall capacity. Will you be carrying ice tools? A ski mountaineering axe? Crampons? Will you be on a splitboard or skis and what type? Will you be in-bounds only?

In your terrain, will you need avalanche safety equipment? Do you have room for all the necessary layers, enough food and water, and a tailored first aid emergency kit? Do you need to carry a radio? Do you prefer to drink water through a bottle or hydration bladder?

These are a handful of the questions you should ask as you consider the best ski backpack for your needs.

Types of Ski Backpacks

A wide variety of ski backpacks exist. Depending on your objectives and the terrain you’ll be in, you might want a pack that’s lightweight and simplified for in-bounds use or uphill sessions at a ski area. Or, you might need a streamlined, minimalist pack for fast and light training and skimo races.

If you’re heading into the backcountry, the ski or snowboard backpack you choose will have unique features. Namely, there will be a dedicated compartment with pockets for your avalanche safety gear: shovel and probe.

There will also be a helmet carry and radio integration via sleeves on the shoulder straps and, on some packs, an elastic loop on the chest strap to secure the mic.

Other backcountry packs offer greater capacity, enhanced back and shoulder support, and special organizational features for ski and splitboard mountaineering or multiday backcountry tours.

A sternum strap and hip belt can both help secure a pack while you descend; (photo/Jason Hummel)

Size and Capacity

It’s important to match the pack size to your body shape and size. You don’t want a pack that’s too big or it will shift around. Nor will it be comfortable if it’s too snug.

Pack capacity is a personal choice, dependent on whether you go fast and light or you’re the type of person who wants or needs room for plenty of gear.

In general, sub-20 L packs are ideal for resort skiing and riding, uphilling, or skimo races. Some of these compact packs even have a ski and snowboard carry, which is a nice feature for hike-to in-bounds terrain.

A pack from 20 to 35 L that can haul more is ideal for side-country, backcountry, and gear-intensive trips. A few of the packs in that house include the Thule Upslope 35 L.

Some pack designs in the 30 L to 35 L realm are designed to support ski and splitboard mountaineering expeditions like the BCA Stash 30.

Packs from 40 to 50 L are more stout for backcountry overnight missions and hut trips as well as mixed alpine and mountaineering ascents.

The leanest pack among our top picks is the 22 L CamelBak SnoBlast 22 Hydration Pack for hike-to terrain and lift days. The beefiest load-carrying pack is the Eddie Bauer Alpine Sisu 50, a 50 L animal for backcountry tours, mountaineering, overnighters, and hut trips.

Not all hip belts are padded, and some of those leaner designs can be easily tucked out of the way or removed if preferred; (photo/Jason Hummel)

Suspension and Carry Comfort

Suspension refers to the shoulder straps, hip belt, and frame sheet. Generally, the bigger the backpack, the more weight you can carry. And more weight requires a more sophisticated suspension system for comfortable carry.

Shoulder straps are generally padded to help cushion your shoulders from the weight. They also help disperse the weight from the pack.

New materials provide cushioning with less bulk. Most modern shoulder straps are a combination of dense foam and breathable mesh. The more weight a pack is designed to carry, the more robust the foam in the shoulder straps.

Hip belts are designed to help keep the pack from swinging around on your back. Packs that will carry 20 pounds or more need some sort of padded hip belt to help transfer weight to the hip bones.

Most hip belts are made of the same dense foam as shoulder straps. They’re built to snugly wrap around your iliac crest so the weight of your load is dispersed between your shoulders, back, and hips.

Torso Length

This is the distance (generally in inches) between the top of your shoulder to the top of your hip bone (iliac crest). Most packs fit torsos from about 16 to 20 inches.

If you have a very short or very tall back, you need to do some research into manufacturers’ recommendations. Fortunately, most packs come in small/medium, large/XL, or small/medium/large sizing.

And with shoulder strap adjustments and load-lifter straps, you can generally get 2 to 4 inches of adjustment out of any pack. Plus, some manufacturers make packs with back panels that have adjustable lengths. In most cases, this is done by moving the shoulder straps up or down the back panel or moving the hip belt up.

skier wearing backpack
After descending the Southwest Chutes route on Mount Adams in Washington; (photo/Morgan Tilton)

Women’s-Specific Packs

Most of our top choices for ski pack designs are unisex or men’s, which can work fine for many riders and skiers regardless of their sex. That said, everyone’s body is unique. Some women swear by women’s-specific packs. If you generally have a smaller frame, consider checking out a women’s-specific ski pack.

Compared to men’s or unisex packs, a women’s pack is constructed based on the average size of female bodies. The back length is shorter, and the carrying system — the hip belt and shoulder straps — hugs a narrower body figure. The hip belt is also made in a conical shape, which sits more comfortably on the hips.


Modern materials are unbelievably tough. It’s really difficult to wear a hole in a pack when it’s used correctly.

Abrasion is most likely to occur on the bottom of a pack. This is more common in packs hauling heavy loads of solid gear but naturally happens from setting the pack down on various terrain from rocks to ice or snow.

Packs designed for carrying ice-climbing equipment will generally have a padded bottom. This keeps sharp objects from poking through the bottom of the pack when you set it on a hard, rocky surface.

These specialty packs often use durable material in places where you attach an axe or crampons. Ski packs also have reinforced attachment points so sharp ski edges don’t cut into the pack.

Airbag-compatible packs require that you purchase an air canister separately, which adds cost, weight, and volume; (photo/Eric Phillips)


A major differentiator between ski and snowboard pack styles is whether or not there’s a designated compartment for avalanche safety equipment — the shovel and probe. That design component is essential for backcountry and side-country recreationists because efficiency and organization are critical and life-saving.

Many ski and snowboard packs have an internal sleeve for a hydration bladder and a sleeve to route the hose but not all sleeves are insulated. Beware — the water in your hose can freeze. To be proactive, you can blow the water back through the hose after each sip, but it can help to get a proper pack, too.

Pockets add weight but are nice to keep everything in place. Again, efficiency is key when we are playing outdoors in cold, gusty, snowy elements.

We appreciate at least one spacious hip belt pocket if not two. These are handy if you want to keep snacks, sunscreen stick or sunscreen chapstick, slope angle reader, straps, or glove liners handy. Most packs for backcountry or front-country use have a softly-lined goggle pocket and ski helmet carry, too.

Packs with one or two oblong pockets toward the top-front of the pack offer an easy-to-access placement for quickly grabbing items like a google lens, sunglasses, snack, ice scraper, rub-on skin wax, compact phone, or satellite communication device. Pockets that are buried deep inside the primary compartment are not ideal, because we typically need to dig through a pile of items to reach what we’ve stashed.

Ski and Snowboard Carry

Many ski backpacks have a ski-carry system — which can be used for skis or splitboard skis — and potentially one for snowboard carry, too.

Generally, backcountry skis — or a splitboard — can be attached to a ski pack via an A-frame setup, which many travelers feel is well balanced. The caveat? An a-frame carry cannot be used with packs that are set up for an airbag deploy. The other ski option carry is diagonal. Some pack designs feature straps for both of these arrangements. Other packs also provide a solid snowboard carry that is either vertical or horizontal.

Most of the time, how you carry your skis, split skis, or snowboard is a personal preference, but terrain management can also influence your choice, especially for split boarders. For instance, if you’re bootpacking a backcountry ridge or short hike-to at the resort, you might not prefer a vertical snowboard carry if the tail is digging into your calves between steps. However, if you are bootpacking a steep slope that will not top out with enough space to transition from split to solid, or rappelling into the start of the descent, you might need to strap your assembled solid splitboard to the back of your pack.

You’ll want to be sure to practice clipping your skis, split skis, or snowboard onto your bag before you head to the backcountry to make sure you know how the strap arrangement functions. Be sure to pull on your pack to make sure your gear isn’t smacking the back of your calves or head.

Compartment Access

Snowsport packs often have back-panel access via a U-shaped zipper that lets you fold back the entire back panel like a clamshell. This method of entry is handy if you’re going to throw your pack down in the snow when you open it up. This way, your shoulder straps and back panel stand a better chance of staying dry and not soaking up water.

This design is also a convenient way to access gear that’s sitting in a certain quadrant of your pack without needing to unload all the goods into the snow or wind.

Some packs have front access through a large U-shaped zipper. Other designs blend the two entries with both a front and back-panel entry, which is super helpful. A handful of designs are top-loaders or have a roll-top closure.

Extra Ski Pack Features

Additional pack details range from a helmet carry system — usually, a pouch or pocket that’s removable, stashable, or compressible — to a hydration sleeve for a bladder and an arm sleeve to protect the hose.

Compression sleeves are really nice for hugging a load and making it more streamlined. Load-lift straps are also key for adjusting how the pack sits on your shoulders and back, a fit that changes throughout the day due to adding or pulling out gear from inside the pack. Some packs also have external and internal gear carriers — that are fixed, removable, or adaptable — for ice tools, an ice axe, poles, crampons, or a rope.

Ski packs often have exterior straps for carrying gear like skis, ski poles, ice axes, and more; (photo/Jason Hummel)


What is a ski touring backpack?

Generally, backpacks that are developed for ski and splitboard tours have a dedicated internal compartment for avalanche safety gear: the shovel and probe. (The beacon is worn on your person, not stored inside the pack.) These packs also have ski and splitboard or snowboard carry systems.

Ski touring packs usually have a hip belt to help support the load and prevent pack swing on the descent. Some hip belts are generously padded or even have zipper-enclosed pockets, while other designs are slim to help trim ounces.

Each pack has its own organizational features, including a potential hydration sleeve, radio integration, and lined goggle pocket plus various internal and external pockets for stashing items. Most conventional packs have some kind of helmet carry system that’s removable or stashable.

Some packs are larger and more robust than others in order to support a heavier load while touring for a day or more. Technical ski touring bags are outfitted with features to carry safety equipment from crampons to an ice axe or tools.

Do you need a backpack while skiing?

For resort riding, it’s certainly not a requirement. But it can be convenient to have for carrying extra snacks or a lunch, water, extra layers, gloves, an additional goggles lens in case the light conditions change, or a camera.

On the other hand, if you’re skiing in the backcountry, it’s an absolute must-have. You’ll need a backpack to carry avalanche safety gear, including your shovel and probe as well as a radio, satellite communication device, and first-aid kit.

What is an avalanche airbag pack?

An avalanche airbag pack combines a traditional backcountry pack with an inflatable airbag system.

For the most part, each brand has its own unique pack design that’s paired with an airbag system, which all function similarly and for the same purpose: to help protect a winter traveler in the event of an avalanche.

Airbag system designs are proprietary and can be developed through a partnership or licensed between brands. For instance, Arc’teryx and Ortovox teamed up to develop the lightweight LiTRIC avalanche airbag system, which each brand utilizes in its own pack line, that launched in fall 2022.

When the rider or skier is caught in an avalanche, they need to manually release an inflatable airbag, which fills up through compressed air or gas or via an electric fan. When the airbag explodes through the top of the pack, the firm cushion surrounds the head and neck to help prevent trauma.

The airbag also helps the skier or rider stay atop the moving snow. After the snow settles, the airbag can also potentially keep snow from blocking the victim’s airway.

What should I carry in my ski backpack?

For resort days, it’s nice to have a snack, some water, and room to stash a layer you may remove as the day heats up. And it’s never a bad idea to have a small first-aid kit and repair tool.

If you’re heading out of bounds, you’ll need more. In addition to a good pack with the right capacity and features, the list ranges from a down jacket, extra goggles, and ski straps to your shovel and probe. We’ve dedicated an entire article to the gear you need to start backcountry skiing.

What size ski backpack is best?

While this varies depending on your adventure plans and gear needs, sub-20 L packs are ideal for resort skiing and riding, uphilling, or skimo races. Some of these compact packs even have a ski and snowboard carry, which is a nice feature for hike-to in-bounds terrain.

A pack from 20 L to 35 L that can schlep more is ideal for side-country, backcountry, and gear-intensive trips. Some pack designs in the 30 L to 35 L realm are also designed to support ski and splitboard mountaineering expeditions. Packs from 40 L to 50 L are more stout for backcountry overnight missions and hut trips as well as mixed alpine and mountaineering ascents.

How do you pack a backcountry ski backpack?

When you pack for a backcountry ski or splitboard day, first put your shovel and probe into their proper pockets inside their designated spots. Usually, it’s most comfortable to put heavier and lesser-used items toward the bottom of the pack like a first-aid kit, repair kit, or an extra down jacket and beefy gloves.

Make sure you keep your snacks in places you can quickly access while you’re on the skin track, so you can continue to take down fuel as you venture. Likewise, you’ll want your water in an accessible place. Sometimes that’s in a hydration bladder or in a water bottle that fits along the side of the pack next to a zipper entry so you can quickly grab and sip.

Battery packs, extra batteries for your beacon, or headlamps are nice to keep in a protective zip-enclosed pocket. If the backpack doesn’t have one, you can put those items in a tiny dry bag and put it toward the middle or bottom of the backpack. Of course, it’s a good match to put an extra pair of goggles or sunglasses in the goggle pocket.

Toward the top of the pack or in external pockets, you’ll want the layers you’ll most likely be rotating through like a fleece or buff.

You’ll also want your downhill gloves or mittens towards the top of your pack, so you can put them on right away during a transition, especially if the temps are frigid or there’s windchill.


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