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In this article, we’ll give you a brief overview of the different types of ski backpacks you can buy and how to choose the one that’s right for you.
Backpacks are an important piece of equipment when you’re planning on heading to the slopes this winter. You need your equipment close at hand, and this is where a backpack can be of great help. The backpack should be comfortable enough to hold the weight of all the gear you need for the day but still comfortable to carry. With so many different types of ski backpacks available today, how can you choose the best one for your skiing needs? Here are a few factors to keep in mind when shopping for a backpack.
Categories of Ski Backpacks – Which Type is Ideal For You?
These backpacks are the most popular because they’re designed for quick and easy access to your gear. They can carry a pair of boots, poles, helmets, and other small items easily. This is the type of backpack you’ll find in retail stores because resort skiers make up the majority of their customer base. They’re great for most skiers but may not be right for backcountry skiers because of their smaller size and lack of features.
With a capacity of 20 liters or less, they are among the smallest types of ski backpacks. If you like to explore off-piste at your own pace without a set trail to follow, these backpacks are not suitable for you! They are perfect for resort skiers, though.
They have enough room to pack your snacks and an extra layer of clothes. Some will even fit your water bladder for easy hydration. These backpacks are not built for rough conditions. Look for models that feature minimal straps and buckles, as they can make getting on and off chairlifts a nightmare.
On the positive side, resort skiers benefit from this type of backpack because it gives them quick access to their gear and keeps the weight down. If you are into in-bound riding looking for a comfortable and lightweight backpack, this type is for you!
Day Touring Backpacks
These backpacks are built with a day touring in mind and can carry all the gear you need for a full day on the mountain. They’re larger than resort-specific models, making them ideal for skiers who like to tour or spend time exploring off-piste.
They typically have a 25-35 liter storage capacity and come equipped with many features. For example, day touring backpacks are often hydration compatible with large openings for drinking tubes. They also feature ski straps to keep your skis secure and sometimes removable accessories for convenience. Other features may include mesh side pockets that let you stash snacks or energy bars close at hand, safety gear compartments, hip belts, external shovel holder loops, and more.
Day touring backpacks are designed for close-to-home adventures and allow for maximum comfort. Backpacks in this category are ideal for people that value comfort over weight savings. They will allow you to carry food, water, an extra layer, and even have dedicated pockets for your gear, helmer, skins, or snow goggles. If you value easy access to your gear, and full backpack access these are your best bet.
Most will be pleased with a day touring backpack as most models feature padded belts and straps. With just the right capacity for your day trip, easy access to gear, and excellent organization, you can’t go wrong with a day touring backpack for your backcountry tours.
Ski Mountaineering Backpacks
Ski mountaineering backpacks are perfect for experienced skiers who want to push the envelope and explore deeper into the backcountry. They tend to be larger than resort or day touring packs, making them suitable for multi-day tours with heavy loads.
When traveling on mountainous terrain, you will face potentially dangerous and physically demanding situations. You need a backpack that can withstand extreme weather conditions while providing easy access to all your equipment. A lot of time you will have glaciers and steep snowfields to cross, so you will need a backpack with attachments for your ice tool and poles.
These backpacks are usually between 35 and 60 liters. They tend to have more technical features, such as a helmet holder, ice tool holders, crampon pouch, and hydration port or bladder compartment. They also tend to have more space for first-aid equipment and a safety shovel. Moreover, they will allow you to carry your ski and snowboard equipment as well as a lot of overnight gear.
Mountaineering is a demanding sport that requires proper gear. You will need a durable backpack that provides excellent ventilation and is comfortable to wear. Also, you may get wet during your adventures so it is important to select the right materials. If you are heading out into the deepest powder or on multi-day tours these are the type of ski backpacks you should invest into.
Not all skiers or snowboarders need an airbag avalanche pack, but if you are thinking about taking your playing around in the deep pow beyond the resort boundaries, the airbag backpacks can be a life savior. The great thing about avalanche airbag packs is that they keep close to the surface during an avalanche. That means if you end up buried, your chances of survival increase significantly with an airbag pack.
The airbag system is designed in such a way that when you pull one cord it will shoot out the pack and inflate in a few seconds, providing protection for your head and neck. They work with either compressed air or electric fans, and they will keep your head above the snow as you wait for help to arrive.
You will find out that canister models are not only lighter, but also less expensive compared to the electric versions. The bad news is that you won’t be allowed on an airplane with a canister version. What I don’t like about compressed air models is that you have to refill them every time you use them. It’s not a big deal but I appreciate the fact that electric ones can be deployed over and over again on a single charge.
Keep in mind that these backpacks are not only heavier, but their limited capacity might not be adequate for prolonged tours. They are perfect for short day trips or heli-skiing. Even though their price is more expensive, they are a great investment due to the added safety provided. I would consider them a great option for anyone interested in backcountry skiing and even though they are less versatile, they can be a great asset to your ski gear.
Which Are the Best Ski Backpacks?
|Black Diamond Equipment - Cirque 45 - Best Ski Mountaineering Pack|
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|Ortovox Haute Route 32 - Best for Comfort|
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|Black Diamond Equipment - Jetforce Pro 35L - Best Avalanche Airbag Pack|
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|Osprey Packs Kamber 22 - Best Overall Ski Backpack|
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|Dakine Heli Pack 12L - Best Budget Ski Backpack|
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|Osprey Europe Osprey Glade 12 - Best for Resort Skiing Pack|
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|Osprey Stratos 24 - Best Day-Trip Pack|
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|Black DiamondJetForce UL Pack 26L - Best for Sidecountry|
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|Backcountry Access BCA Float 32- Best Budget Airbag Pack|
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|Dakine Poacher 32L - Best for Snowboarders|
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Last update on 26th May 2022 / Affiliate Links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
Best Ski Backpack Overall: Osprey Kamber/Kresta 20-22L
MAIN: 420HD Nylon Packcloth
ACCENT: 420D Nylon Mini Check Dobby
BOTTOM: 420HD Nylon Packcloth
Osprey’s Kamber/Kresta is the ideal lightweight companion for your next backpacking adventure. It’s easy to open and close, and it has a padded shoulder strap for added comfort when carrying. It has a spacious interior to keep your items organized and protected from the elements. and it’s made of water-resistant materials to keep your items safe from the rain.
You can find the backpack in various colors to choose from, but keep in mind that there are different options depending on the model. The Kamber is the men’s version from Osprey, while Kresta is the women’s specific backpack, that better matches women’s bodies and moves. The clean exterior look of the backpack, with all the straps, tucked away, makes getting on and off chairlifts a breeze. You can choose between two sizes, so let’s have a look at their specifications:
|Inches||22h x 11w x 8d||22h x 11w x 8d|
|Centimeters||56h x 27w x 20d||56h x 27w x 20d|
|Load Range||15-25 lbs / 7-12 kg||15-25 lbs / 7-12 kg|
|Torso fit||6–20 inches / 41–51cm||19–23 inches (48–58 cm)|
|Waist belt fit||40.5–51 inches / 103–130 cm||48-58.5 inches / 122–149 cm|
This ski backpack is made from 420D Nylon which helps keep your items safe from the rain and snow. Many will appreciate that the Kamber/Kresta backpacks feature a stowable helmet carry system. It is designed to secure your helmet when not in use, staying in place on top of the backpack with the help of cord loops and plastic hooks.
Moreover, you can also store your sunglasses or goggles in the dedicated, scratch-free fleece-lined pocket. I like that this compartment is also the top of the backpack for easy access.
So. what about your safety gear, you might be wondering? The Osprey has a dedicated compartment that is easy to access from the front. It has enough room to store your probe and shovel in an organized manner. The reinforced tool loop attachment on the side will allow you to attach your ice axe with the use of bungee ties, securing it in place and out of your way while skiing.
If you are coming from other 20L backpacks, you will be amazed by all the features packed in this one! This backpack is a huge leap forward if you are for example been using the Osprey Talon. While they have the same capacity, as the Kamber/Kresta we get all the features we were missing, like the dedicated goggle pocket, or the insulated hydration sleeve on the strap. I would consider the Kamber/Kresta an upgrade for most users of 20L daypacks.
You can add your Hydraulics or Hydraulics LT Reservoir inside the backpack with ease. It features a dedicated, sewn-in sleeve that is fully insulated, this way you will not have to worry about your hydration system getting frosted. You have easy access to the sleeve from the back panel for when you need to refill the reservoir, plus the hose is routed and secured on your right shoulder strap.
One feature you will appreciate from Osprey is their compression straps. If you’ve ever wanted to use the backpack without filling it at its full capacity, the compression straps will help you by tightening the interior load for improved stability. This alone makes the backpack very versatile and can be used on way more occasions apart from skiing. I personally love the attachment points offered on the harness, where you can attach your GPS or radio, or any gadget really, for easy access. Moreover, the key attachment clip on the internal pocket is also a nice feature to have.
The backpack will allow you to carry your ski as it features a webbing system to secure the skis diagonally. The glove-friendly buckle makes loading and unloading skis a breeze, but due to its size diagonally is the only option. When it comes to snowboards, you can use the same reinforced straps to tether your snowboard vertically, or you can opt for horizontal carry using the hip belt to secure your snowboard between your back and the pack.
That been said, the harness of the backpack is fixed, you won’t be able to make adjustments on the fly, so you have to make sure you pick the right size for the perfect fit. Once you pick the right size for you, you won’t have to worry about ergonomics and comfort as the contoured EVA cushions will help you carry your load with the help of the padded hip belt.
This graph will help you pick the right size for you:
The Osprey Kamber/Kresta is a great option because it’s affordable, durable, comfortable, and fashionable. Every hardware on this backpack is of top quality, so you can expect it to last for many years to come.
The perfect way to travel light and enjoy nature at its best. This is a great backpack for someone starting out, and perfect for those into the inbound and side country. It is exceptionally made, comfortable and the price is reasonable, but not a bargain.
I would consider these the best lightweight ski backpacks at their price range. Backed by Osprey’s lifetime guarantee, you can’t go wrong investing in this one if you are looking for a lightweight ski backpack.
I just wish there were more ski carry options, which would make it a great all-around backpack you wouldn’t worry about taking in longer hikes. If you need a little more room, the larger 30L version (Amazon) might be something to consider. The 30L version allows for A-frame ski carry, plus you get a dedicated compartment for your avalanche gear. It’s pricier and obviously larger, but for some skiers might be a better choice over the 22L one.
I personally went for the 32L Kamber (wanted more space coming from the Talon) and have no regrets! I suggest you try out both sizes if possible, but if you are shopping online I would suggest going for the smaller 20-22L first. Pick a retailer that would accept returns, and if you absolutely need more space, just return it for the larger 30-32L version.
- I like its modern, sleek design
- Lightweight, under 3 pounds
- Easy to use snowboard and ski carry system
- Plenty of pocket and dry/wet compartments
- You can easily add a compatible hydration system
- Fixed harness, you have to pick the right size
- Only one configuration to carry your skis, diagonally.
What to Consider When Buying a Ski Backpack?
For a day on the slopes, it’ll be very difficult if your backpack can’t carry all of your equipment without feeling too heavy or bulky. For beginners and anyone interested in sidecountry ski, a smaller backpack with a 20-30L capacity should be enough.
If you don’t need to carry rescue gear with you, the resort is close by, or you won’t be spending more than a day on the slopes, then choose a smaller backpack. This is where resort backpacks around 12 liters come in handy, being versatile for both backcountry and resort skiing.
If you plan on spending more than a day out or are interested inside country ski tours or maybe even tree skiing, then it would be wise to take a look at all-mountain/touring backpacks which have about 30-45L capacity.
If you plan to ski all day, it’ll be better to get a backpack with at least 50L capacity so you have more room for extra gear and food. I’ve found that 40-50L models are perfect for overnight trips where I can also carry extra clothing, a sleeping bag, and whatever else I need.
The larger the backpack, the easier it is for you to organize your gear, and still have a place to pack skins, extra layers, food, and even your avalanche gear. Keep in mind though that the extra capacity will result in not only in extra weight, but you may also end up with a cumbersome backpack.
Before even thinking about the actual capacity, you should look for a backpack that fits your size and weight. Obviously, bigger backpacks will have more space to store equipment, but this comes with a price in terms of comfort and fit.
You’ll want a ski pack that is fitted to your body type. Look at the shoulder straps and hip belts to see that they are adjustable, padded, and comfortable. The best ski backpacks will come with a large stiff waist belt that doesn’t leave too much empty space around them.
Make sure you’re able to cinch down the shoulder strap so it fits snugly around your lower arm. A simple trick is to put on the pack and tighten up all the straps, then move your arm around to make sure nothing is pinching. Ideally, you want to try the pack on with all of your equipment first, and see if it’s comfortable enough for you.
Weight is a big factor when it comes to any kind of backpack and probably most overlooked. The lighter your equipment the more you can carry, even if you’re going on an overnight trip. If you plan on touring, the backpack itself should weigh less than 3 pounds.
For an average day of skiing, even a larger, heavier pack (2 lbs or more) will be great for carrying your equipment. If you’re not into side-country or backcountry skiing, however, then lighter weight models are preferred.
- Hydration Compatibility
Another thing to look for is a ski backpack with a hydration bladder or external water bottle pockets. You’ll definitely want a sip tube to have easy access to drinking on the slopes, and depending on what you’re planning to do out there, it can be helpful to have an insulated sleeve for your drink.
- Materials And Durability
When it comes to materials, pick something that can withstand heavy use and abuse. A ski backpack with a durable exterior made of nylon or polyester will make sure you have enough protection without wearing it out too quickly.
Nylon tends to be less expensive while polyester is the preferred choice for ski backpacks. It’s lighter, stronger, wears better, and offers more water resistance. The exterior should have a surface made of abrasion-resistant fabric to withstand scrapes and snags. The best ski backpacks will be made out of waterproof fabric or have a storm cover that can shield against rain and snow.
When it comes to ski backpacks, the inside of them is just as important. You want to make sure that you have a pack with enough padding on the back and the waist belt, but not too much where it could affect breathability or your movement. Having back ventilation is another feature you should consider so the pack doesn’t get too hot against your skin when skiing all day long.
- Organizational Features
Having a separate compartment for your avalanche gear is key so you aren’t packing it around with everything else. Having a dedicated pocket for your shovel blade and probe is definitely preferable, but if it’s not an option you can always go with strapping them to the outside.
Other things to look for are internal mesh pockets where you can separate out your lunch, sunscreen, bug spray, extra ski socks (in case you get wet), headlamps, and so on. If you have a hydration bladder, it’s best to look for ski backpacks with an external sleeve where they can slide in and out easily.
You’ll want to look for ski backpacks with a top lid pocket where you can keep your goggles and gloves when you need them most. This is especially handy if you’re going off-trail and don’t need your avalanche gear.
- Ease of Use
When it comes to accessing your gear, you want something that is easy to get in and out of. The best ski backpacks will have a main compartment with a drawstring closure or zipper so you can quickly unzip the pack to get at all your stuff.
Ski packs should also NOT be top-loading only (unless they’re also a panel loader). You’ll want to be able to access the bottom and side of your pack as well so you can easily get at all your gear on the mountain.
- Attachment Points
When it comes to skiing, having places on your backpack that you can attach things to is great. A top flap that secures with a drawstring or buckle lets you carry your skis vertically, and it’s especially useful if the snow isn’t deep enough for a ski strap.
Soft ski straps on the side of your pack are another feature that comes in very handy for carrying multiple pairs of skis (or one pair on your shoulder). This is especially great if you’re hiking through the backcountry.
Other great features to look for are daisy chains, multiple compression straps on the outside of the pack, and bungee tie-downs where you can secure extra gear (like an extra pair of skis or poles).
- Women’s-Specific Ski Backpacks
While the features I’ve listed below are useful for anyone using a ski backpack, women’s-specific ski packs focus on better fit and comfort. By adjusting shoulder straps and hip belts you’ll find that they will contour to your body better than other ski backpacks. Most women’s-specific ski packs are shorter in length, have a narrower width between straps, and taper towards the waist belt.
All of these things are designed to provide better upper body balance when carrying skis, poles, and other gear at once. They also feature more flexible shoulder straps that curve down to reach your hips instead of just hanging off your shoulders. Having a waist belt designed specifically for women’s bodies helps to balance weight over both your hips and upper body; this reduces fatigue on any one part of your body.
Do You Need a Backpack While Skiing?
There are benefits to using one, especially if you’re hiking through the backcountry. Having all your avalanche gear in one place is more efficient than leaving some items in your car or locker at the resort. Having your skis strapped to the side of your pack is also great for longer hikes, especially if you’re carrying other items like climbing gear.
How Much Should I Spend?
Shopping for ski backpacks is a lot like shopping for tents or hiking boots. You can find them at all budget levels, but the ones that are best suited to skiing are usually mid-range models in the $100-$400 price range.
What Size Backpack Do I Need for Skiing?
You’ll want a ski pack that is big enough to accommodate all your gear, but not so big that it becomes difficult to carry. If you’re only going for an hour or two you can get away with something smaller, but if you plan on skiing for longer it’s best to go with a slightly larger model. Our guide to choosing the right ski backpack will help you find one that’s right for your needs.
How Do I Choose the Right Backpack for Skiing?
Depending on what you like to take skiing along with you, your ski backpack should have different features. Keep in mind the following:
– The more pockets, zippers, and compartments it has the better. Having lots of pockets means you can separate out your stuff, making it easier to find things when you need them most (like snacks and lip balm while you’re at the top of a mountain).
– Ski packs should be easy to access and open. Make sure that there is some way for you to reach the bottom and side of your pack, even when it’s full. Having these features will also make it easier to get at all your gear on the mountain.
– Ski packs with a top flap that secures with a drawstring or buckle are great for carrying skis vertically. This is especially useful if the snow isn’t deep enough for a ski strap.
How Do I Fasten My Skis to My Backpack?
Most ski packs have some kind of system for carrying skis. The most common are daisy chains, multiple compression straps on the outside of the pack, and bungee tie-downs. Daisy chains are long loops sewn into the fabric of your pack that allow you to secure gear (like skis or poles) using nylon webbing with a buckle and slip lock.
Compression straps on the outside of your pack are useful for attaching anything you need to get at quickly (like snowshoes or an extra pair of skis). Bungee tie-downs can be used to secure loose items like a shovel handle, avalanche probe, climbing skins, sleeping pad (you get the idea) and they’re a great addition to a ski pack because you can strap them down even when it’s not snowing.
Do I Attach the Skis to My Pack Horizontally or Vertically?
If you’ll be skiing in deep powder or on a sled, it’s best to carry your skis vertically. This is because the sheer weight of loose snow will push down and collapse your skis without something holding them together. It doesn’t matter how strong you think they are, trust me: once they get wet and heavy from the snow they will buckle.
What Should I Pack for Backcountry Ski Days?
You never know what you’re going to encounter in the backcountry, especially on a day with a lot of new snow. If you end up spending the day climbing a mountain it’s good to pack for all scenarios including cold and wet weather, not just sunny skies at moderate temperatures. Here are some ideas:
– Extra clothes – bring an extra pair of mid-layers and a down or synthetic puffy jacket. It’s always better to be comfortable and warm than cold and wet.
– Traction – crampons, climbing skins for your skis, and ski boots with integrated (or removable) crampons are all great for getting up steep slopes in the mountains.
– Avalanche safety gear – carry a beacon, probe, and shovel at all times. Check the conditions before you leave so you know what to bring with you.
– First aid kit – don’t stop being prepared just because you’re not on the groomed slopes of an alpine resort.
What Is an Avalanche Airbag Pack?
Avalanche airbags are something skiers should consider if they want to spend time in the backcountry where the deep powder is often left untouched by human feet. An avalanche airbag pack has an inflatable tube that will help you stay on top of the deep snow and avoid being buried in it.
Are Avalanche Backpacks Worth It?
Avalanche airbags do help skiers stay on top of the snow, but they are not 100% effective. Just like all safety gear, there is no substitute for experience and good decision-making. Avalanche airbags do not make you invincible and should be treated with respect.
Why Are Avalanche Backpacks So Expensive?
Avalanche airbag packs are relatively new technology and the components that go into making them are not cheap. The quality of your avalanche bag will affect how effective it is in case you ever need to use it and how long its lifespan is, so buy a trusted brand with good reviews.
How Hard Is Backcountry Skiing?
Backcountry skiing can be just as simple or difficult as you want to make it. There are terrain parks where it’s easy to learn the basics, but if you want something more challenging there are slopes that will test your skiing abilities. If you’re going with a seasoned skier who knows the area well, follow their lead and they’ll help you pick out a route that matches your ability level.
Are Ski Bags Considered Oversized?
Ski bags are not considered to be oversized luggage, but they do have to follow the same guidelines as any other bag. Baggage that is under the weight limit doesn’t pay excess charges on most airlines and oversized baggage may require you to pay more or buy an additional seat for your skis. You have to check with the airline to find out their guidelines for items that you plan on bringing with you.
What Is the Most Important Piece of Equipment You Bring Into the Backcountry?
The most important equipment you bring with you in the backcountry is a map and a compass so that if anything happens you have the tools to find your way out. A beacon, shovel, and probe are also crucial pieces of safety equipment when skiing in avalanche conditions. If you feel like something is off take a moment to assess the situation before putting on your skis and heading out.
How Do You Carry an Avalanche Shovel?
Some backpacks have straps on the sides where you can hook shovel handles so they stay secure during violent movements like side slipping or falling over. You can also store a shovel in a side pocket and pack it flat with the rest of your gear. If you need to, take a break from skiing and make sure all of your gear is secure before you head out again.
Do I Need an Avalanche Probe?
The main purpose of a probe is to help you find someone who has been trapped in an avalanche. You should always have a beacon, shovel, and probe with you when skiing in avalanche-prone conditions. Even if you don’t think there’s a risk of an avalanche, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Is Backcountry Skiing Legal?
Backcountry skiing is legal as long as you stay away from groomed areas and ski with a buddy. If you’re at a resort it’s a good idea to check their website or call ahead of time before going into the backcountry.
Some ski resorts offer guided backcountry tours for skiers who want to explore the mountain but don’t feel like doing it on their own. You can also hire a guide or take an avalanche safety course if you’re new to skiing in the backcountry.