Charging through fluffy, wild snow that you’ve climbed for is a remarkable feeling. It’s one of those pure outdoor experiences where nature is the medium; simple gear enables your movement and expression within it. It’s akin to surfing (so I’m told, I’m afraid of water). Your gear must fade into the background to maximize the experience. It must function flawlessly but not distract from the moment; it must work in harmony with your body.
The Arc’teryx Rush SK 32 is subjectively the most aesthetic pack out there right now. And on top of that, I found that its minimalist design translated to minimal distraction from powder skiing in Colorado’s Mosquito and Gore Ranges.
But the SK 32 is more than just good looks and skiability; it’s loaded with innovative features that blend seamlessly into the design.
In short: The Arc’teryx Rush SK 32 pack is purpose-built for backcountry ski touring in wet conditions. Above all, it skis great. On top of that, its waterproof roll-top design expands the capacity to 40 L, its side access zippers are generous, and the pack is built to last. The only thing it doesn’t excel at is carrying a piolet or ice tools without an additional ski strap. (For ski mountaineering, this pack will fall short.)
Arc’teryx Rush SK 32 Backpack
- Body material 210D Cordura nylon 6,6 w/ 6.5 twisted 200D LCP grid
- Recycled materials N/A
- Ski carry A-frame or diagonal
- Weatherproofing Taped seams, roll-top closure, WaterTight zippers
- External pockets Goggle pocket, elastic hip pocket
- Technical tool attachment Ice tool pick loop, hip belt ice clipper slot
- Rope carry compatibility Yes
- Side access Waterproof zipper access to safety pocket and main compartment
- Sleek and waterproof
- Expands to up to 40 L
- Purpose-built for ski touring
- Generous side-access zippers
- Very durable
- Ergonomic for skiing
- Doesn't fit an ice axe well (without an extra ski strap)
Arc’teryx Rush SK 32 Review
Pack in Action
The Rush SK 32 skis exceptionally, even when the powder disappears and sastrugi starts tossing you around. A uniquely rigid back panel suspends the pack’s weight and its curved profile fits nicely against your back. The compression straps cinch everything down tight, including the main compartment, which translates to a compact and predictable skiing companion. Nothing flops around. The weight rides on your hips and close to your back, right where you want it.
Inevitably the run ends and it’s time to transition. Typically that means donning skins and pointing it back uphill. But when that means boot packing, the SK 32 carries skis very well, especially A-frame ones. Its relatively rigid structure provides plenty of support to keep your skis upright and stops them from swaying, hitting you in the head, or detaching from each other at the tips.
Diagonal carry, as far as I can tell, requires one ski strap attached to the bottom loops to make it work. Most packs have an integrated ski carry loop near the outside bottom of the pack, but I don’t mind the ski strap method. It omits an extra webbing loop that’s prone to snagging.
Build and Features
The roll-top closure is the most unique feature of the Arc’teryx Rush SK 32 Backpack. Although it requires some fiddling to get it closed, it adds significant volume capacity to the pack. When fully stuffed, it holds at least 40 L inside. The roll top, along with taped seams, also keeps the contents of the pack dry even in dumping snow and rain.
I was pleasantly surprised by how functional the 32L+ capacity turned out to be. Typically, I struggle to fit my helmet inside a pack this size, which is my preference. However, my Petzl Meteor slotted nicely into the top of the pack, along with all my other day-touring essentials. For those who prefer external helmet carry, the removable helmet carry system is effective and frees up space for big days in the backcountry.
Pockets, Pouches, and Straps
I’m a big fan of the two burly weatherproof side zippers — one to access the avi tools pocket, the other to access the pack’s main compartment. I found myself pulling my shovel and probe out far more often to dig hasty pits, look at snow layers, and probe snow depth because the tools were so easy to access and replace.
The main compartment side zipper is generous. I accessed layers and water exclusively through the side, which reduced the need to roll and unroll the top access. It also keeps the pack’s contents more organized than accessing everything from the top (and subsequently pulling every last thing out of the bag to get to those gloves stashed in the bottom).
Aside from the aesthetic, the feature that garnered the most gear envy among my ski partners was the massive goggle pocket at the top of the pack. It’s big enough to carry all of your miscellaneous things: keys, snacks, sunglasses, sunscreen, etc. There’s also a low-profile elastic hip pocket that I immediately wrote off because it lacked zipper security. After stuffing it with snacks, I came around. I wouldn’t put a phone or leatherman in there, but it’s perfect for snacks or a glop stopper.
Radios are a critical piece of gear for backcountry skiing. Although the Arc’teryx Rush SK 32 backpack doesn’t have a dedicated radio attachment point, my Rocky Talkie sat nicely on my shoulder, albeit a bit high, attached to the pack’s load adjustment straps. The sternum strap daisy chain and the hip belt’s ice clipper slot are additional clip options.
I was curious to see how this ski-touring pack would perform in a mountaineering or ice-climbing context. So I took it out for a few days of backcountry ice climbing. What surprised me the most is that the Arc’teryx Rush SK 32 Backpack carries weight significantly better than any other pack I’ve tried in this volume class. All those pounds of climbing steel, aluminum, and nylon ride sustainably on the hips. The load adjustment straps allow you to disperse the weight as needed.
I didn’t realize how elegant the pack’s rope-carry system is until I had a coiled rope in my hand. After draping it over the top, the roll-top closure’s side buckles tuck around the coiled rope and direct it through the compression straps on the side of the pack.
Here’s the catch: This pack does not accommodate an ice axe very well or ice tools at all without an additional ski strap. I have stared at it for at least an hour, and if there is an integrated tool grip or piolet shaft attachment point, I can’t find it. It does hold an ice axe. The pick passes through a webbing loop at the bottom of the pack where the bungee dogbone can wrap around the shaft near the head. But the spike side of the shaft is left unsecured.
The removable splitboard carry strap can hold the shaft from falling outward. But it doesn’t secure it laterally. It works. But a simple Velcro loop, like those included on the Alpha AR pack, would secure it better with less fuss.
Arc’teryx Rush SK 32 Backpack: Conclusion
The Arc’teryx Rush SK 32 Backpack is an excellent ski touring pack for skiers or splitboarders who venture into the backcountry in the harshest conditions. It will also pull year-round duty for adventurers in rainy climates. It carries weight much better than other packs of its size and skis with remarkable composure.
The pack also protects its contents from anything nature throws at it while remaining highly accessible and functional. If ice tools or an axe are part of your daily kit, be prepared to DIY some simple attachment loops. Most importantly, your touring partners will be jealous of how many snacks fit in that goggle pocket.