The Gigantic Guide to All the Best Ski Backpacks

Skiier going downhill

If you are about to hit the slopes and spend a couple of weeks skiing, you will not be able to make do without a ski backpack. These packs ensure that you are well-equipped at all types of terrain that can prove to be quite dangerous. This is why you have to pay attention to the backpack that you are purchasing.

Ski backpacks are specific to the activity and the environment and can’t be substituted by traditional packs. In this guide, we tackle all of the elements of these backpacks that you should be aware of as well as how to go about choosing your own one. Let your journey begin now.

The Key Features of a Good Ski Backpack (Buyers Guide)

Whether you are new to the world of skiing or have been a professional for a while now, there is one thing that you can’t do without in terms of gear – a ski backpack. You will use this pack on a daily basis, using to cart all of the tools and accessories that you need while skiing. Needless to say, you can’t just blindly pick the first one that you come across. If you aren’t all that sure about which one would be a good fit for you, check out some of these guidelines to make a more informed decision:

What Type of Skiing Are You Doing?

Now, you will first need to narrow down the type of skiing that you will be doing. This will determine the type of ski pack that you will require on your trip. In most instances, if you are either going cross country skiing or downhill skiing, you will be able to use a similar backpack. With backcountry skiing, though you are going to need a backpack that is a little different. So, once you have made up your mind, you can then move onto the rest of this guide.

Look for Weatherproofing Features

Since you will be in snow all day, day in and day out, you can expect to have to contend with a great deal of moisture. Now, the exact fabric that you will need depends on the conditions that you expect to encounter. In extreme conditions when you are quite sure that you are going to be around water or rain, then a waterproof skiing backpack may be required. If you only expect moderate amounts of moisture, a water-resistant pack will prove to be more than sufficient.

Now, most backpacks are made from either nylon or polyester. If you are looking for a backpack that is merely water resistant, then these alone will work just fine. If you want waterproof features, though, it is best to look for nylon or polyester that has been treated with polyurethane or a similar coating. These will keep the water out properly.

Of course, there is little use in have water resistant or waterproof fabric if the rest of the backpack is left vulnerable. This is why you should look for zippers that have been treated with water-resistant coatings so that they will not let the water in. If you feel like you will be caught in really bad weather, you may want to look for backpacks with storm flaps in front of the zippers.

If the backpack that you want isn’t made from the right materials or doesn’t have such features, there is a simple solution. You can purchase an additional rain cover and place your backpack in there to keep it protected.

How Is the Ski Carry Positioned?

One of the main perks of having a skiing backpack as opposed to a regular pack is that it has a carrying system for your skis. These are essentially loops present on the back of the pack. These allow you to keep your hands free while you are hiking across long distances. Now, most packs have one of two ways of storing your skis. Some let you secure the skis in a diagonal position while with others, the skis are at a slight incline, creating a shape reminiscent of the letter A.

Both positions have their benefits as well as their disadvantages. A-frame carry systems make it easier for you to stabilize the load that you are carrying. Their downfall comes when you have to go through a wooded area with trees and branches. Here, they will keep interrupting your journey. With skis that are placed diagonally, you aren’t offered the same kind of stability. However, they are less likely to hit low hanging branches as you pass under them.

The other thing to keep in mind with the carry system is the size of the loops. You will need to measure the width of your skis and ensure that the loops on the backpack can accommodate them.

How Big Does Your Backpack Need to Be?

As you are probably aware, with backpacks – skiing packs included – it isn’t about size but more about how much the bag can hold. So, in terms of capacity and volume, just how much should your backpack be able to carry?

Well, this depends on what type of skiing trip and how long you will be taking:

  • 10 – 20 liters: if you will be gone no longer for a day and will be arriving at your skiing spot by either lift or helicopter, you won’t need much more than this. This should be enough for food, water, and a camera.
  • 20 – 30 liters: this capacity works well for anyone who will be taking a tour of the area and is expected to go for most of the day. You will be able to take all of the supplies you need in addition to a first aid kit.
  • 40 – 55 liters: you will need a larger capacity for overnight trips where you may need to take more supplies, equipment, and another change of clothes.
  • 60+ liters: if you are headed up to the mountains for a few day and will be camping outside, a bag with this capacity will accommodate a tent, sleeping bag, and supplies easily.

What Suspension System Should You Look For?

The suspension system on the bag includes the shoulder straps and the other belts. It will determine just how comfortable it is to carry your load for a particular period of time. The first thing that you will need to think about is where the pack will sit on your back. Typically, the pack shouldn’t be longer than your torso and shouldn’t sit below your hips. This means that when you are adjusting your pack, it should sit just above your waist so it doesn’t impede your natural movement.

Now, when strapping the backpack on to see if it fits, there is a certain factor you will need to take into consideration – your clothing. In the winter, particularly on the mountains, you are likely to be wearing many more layers. The straps on the backpack will need to accommodate this and fit comfortably.

Also, while it may not count as much, considering all of the layers that you are wearing, you should still look for wide and well-padded shoulder straps. If you need a hip belt to make it easier to distribute the weight of your load, make sure that it is padded around the hip bone area too.

Although you may not think it, compression straps can also play a role in the suspension system. They help to compress the size of the bag. This, in turn, brings it closer to your center of gravity, making it easier for you to both walk as well as ski.

Carrying Water in Your Backpack

When you are skiing or just hiking in cold weather, carrying water can be a tricky thing. This is because the water has a tendency to get very cold or worse, freeze. The easiest way to take water with you is in a hydration bladder. These come with their own drinking tubes so that you don’t have to stop every time that you want a drink.

Of course, hydration bladders can also be prone to freezing. This is why a compartment in your backpack should be insulated so that the bladder can be stored there and be unaffected by the surrounding temperatures. Of course, the drinking tube path should also be covered or insulated so that it will not freeze up or get too cold.

Additional Features for Backcountry Skiing

There is no denying that backcountry skiing is not for the faint of heart, especially if you are headed to uneven and treacherous terrain. Due to the specific nature of this type of skiing, you may want to consider a specialized pack.

While it is not absolutely necessary, you should think about getting a backpack that has been fitted with an airbag. This is particularly important if you will be skiing in an area that is prone to avalanches. There are many people who don’t want to buy packs with attached airbags. These backpacks tend to be quite heavier and a great deal heavier than the traditional options. At the same time, properly using this type of bag can help to increase your chances of surviving an avalanche up to 50 percent.

Attachments and Compartments for Your Gear

Unless you are going downhill skiing, there is a chance that you will require some gear and equipment, at least. Since a lot of this gear will either be too big or sharp, they will need to be carried on the outside of the backpack. This is why you should look for loops and daisy chains that will allow you to carry ice axes, crampons, and essentially any other equipment that you might need.

Depending on where you will be skiing, you may need to keep certain avalanche tools on hand, in case you need to dig somebody else out. You should keep an eye out for a backpack that has a separate compartment just for these tools. If an emergency situation does arise, you will need to have quick access to this gear and they shouldn’t be entangled with anything else.

For when you are just walking and not skiing, you will need a place to keep your helmet. There are backpacks that will have pouches or compartments that are specially designed for your helmet.

So there you have it, all of the key features that make up a good ski backpack. If you want to be fully prepared for your skiing trip, these are the components to keep an eye out for.

Top 10 Best Ski Backpacks

1 – Gregory Targhee 45

Gregory Mountain Products Targhee 45 Liter Backcountry Ski Backpack | Skiing, Snowboarding, Snowshoeing | Insulated Hydration Hose Cover, Helmet Holder, Ski and Snowboard Carry Straps
  • MULTIPLE CARRY OPTIONS: Stowable A-frame and diagonal ski carry straps. Stowable vertical snowboard and snowshoe carry straps. Stowable aluminum toggle ice axe retainers.
  • DEDICATED AVY GEAR POCKET: Dedicated pocket for avalanche safety and rescue equipment.
  • STORAGE FOR ACCESSORIES: Oversized top accessory and goggle pocket. Stowable mesh helmet holder. Hydration sleeve with insulated shoulder harness hose cover. Gear loops, ice clipper slots, and zippered accessory pocket on hipbelt.
  • DURABLE FABRIC & EASY ACCESS: Dual-layer HD nylon bottom panel. Winter- and glove-friendly materials and hardware. Full-length backpanel main compartment access. Internal security pocket.
  • IDEAL USES: Skiing, Snowboarding, Backcountry Skiing, Splitboarding, Ski Mountaineering, Snowshoeing. WEIGHT: 4.2lbs. DIMENSIONS: 30.5" x 11.5" x 11.5"

Here’s what the reviewers think about the Gregory Targhee 45:

Reviewers like these things about the Gregory Targhee 45

  • With padded shoulders and ergonomic design the backpack carries weight exceptionally well. The hip belt is also padded and is well balanced.
  • The backpanel is molded with a lumber pad allowing to transfer the loads to your hips.
  • The Gregory Targhee is equipped to carry ski/snowboard which is an advantage for winter trekking and hiking.
  • It contains a separate avalanche gear pocket and a stowable helmet carry net.
  • A large goggle pocket and a zippered hip pocket make it easy to store emergency utilities while commuting.
  • With thick ski straps it has a solid build and is more durable for your vacations.
  • The zipper pulls and buckles are largely designed to access easily wearing gloves.
  • The torso length for the pack is quiet good and the hip belt is quiet adjustable for larger wait sizes also.

Reviewers don’t like these things

  • The design and spacing is neat and clean but lacks a little extra space to fit in all clothing and accessories for longer trips.
  • Some also complained that the water bladder doesn’t fit inside the compartment.
  • A few trekkers complained that the diagonal carry system doesn’t work well.

2 – Osprey Kresta 20

Osprey Packs Women's Kresta 20 Ski Pack
  • Material: [main body and bottom] 420HD nylon packcloth, [accent] 420D nylon mini check dobby
  • Volume: [x-small/small] 18L (1098cu in), [small/medium, medium/large] 20L (1220cu in)
  • Support/Suspension: LightWire
  • Shoulder Straps: contoured
  • Waist Belt: yes, padded

Here’s what the reviewers think about the Osprey Kresta 20:

Reviewers like these things about the Osprey Kresta 20

  • Comes with very stylish and modern design. Many women found it stylish and trendy in looks.
  • Plenty of useful features to carry your skiing equipment, such as skis, helmets, snowboard, and snowshoes.
  • Zippered hydration pocket is kept separated from dry compartment which is the best thing Osprey did to its backpack.
  • According to many reviewers, it is a back pack comes with women-friendly design. The harness is shaped well to fit a female body very well.
  • It has got very useful dual zippered pockets that are placed on hip belt.
  • It has got very durable and reliable built with great features.
  • Both snowboarders and skiers found it useful.

Reviewers don’t like these things

  • According to many women skiers, the backpack is overly priced. Other backpacks with almost same features come in lower price range.
  • It is sized a bit smaller which may cause trouble for tall women.

3 – Backcountry Access Float 32

Backcountry Access Float 32 Airbag Pack
  • 150-liter airbag not only decreases your burial depth but also protects your head and neck from trauma in an avalanche
  • Dedicated shovel/probe pocket
  • Helmet and diagonal ski carry system
  • Padded waist belt pockets
  • Hydration compatible sleeve ice ax loops

Here’s what the reviewers think about the Backcountry Access Float 32:

Reviewers like these things about the Backcountry Access Float 32

  • Reviewers thought that the Backcountry Access Float airbag backpack is comfortable to use due to its excellent construction.
  • Other reviewers noted that this airbag decreases burial depth.
  • Testers also said that it helps protect the head and neck from trauma in an avalanche.
  • Several users pointed out that the bag has enough room to fit tools and equipment.
  • Other users noted that it has a pocket dedicated to a shovel or a probe.
  • Other reviewers pointed out that the bag is functional and easy to use.
  • Some users are pleased with the quality of the pack.
  • According to some users, it includes a carry system for a helmet and a diagonal ski.
  • Other reviewers thought that it was easy to organize and store things well.
  • Some users felt that its padded waist belt adds comfort and stability to the bag.
  • Many commended its attractive yet functional design.
  • Users were delighted that the bag is compatible with hydration bottles through the sleeves designed for such bottles.
  • They also mentioned that it has loops dedicated to an ice ax.

Reviewers don’t like these things

  • A user said that it may not be used for everyday activities due to its airbag feature.
  • Another reviewer noted that it has no pocket dedicated to laptops.

4 – Salomon Quest 23

Salomon Quest 23 Backpack
  • Soft Contour Shoulder Straps
  • Adjustable belt with large winter buckle
  • Multiple pockets
  • Side pockets
  • Bladder compartment with hanging system

Here’s what the reviewers think about the Salomon Quest 23:

Reviewers like these things about the Salomon Quest 23

  • Some users thought it’s a sturdy pack that’s big enough to hold a lot, but doesn’t feel bulky.
  • Other users liked how the zippers make accessing items in the bottom relatively easy to access.
  • Some hikers thought it’s a nice, light bag, great on the slopes.
  • A number of reviewers thought it’s big enough for significant touring with easy access to gear and some essentials.
  • Some skiers thought it’s a convenient carrying solutions for skis or snowboard.
  • One user described it as a great little backpack that works perfectly for commute to work.
  • A lot of users laud the bag for its light weight and perfect snug fit.
  • Many reviewers thought it’s a very comfortable backpack perfect for runners, walkers and skiers.
  • A number of owners said it’s really well-made and just the right size for a daypack, comfortable to wear all day long.

Reviewers don’t like these things

  • One user said she loved the bag, but was disappointed the zips completely detached after a month.
  • Some users find the straps quite comfortable.

5 – Salomon Quest 30

Salomon Quest 30 Backpack
  • Soft Contour Shoulder Straps
  • Adjustable belt with large winter buckle
  • Multiple pockets
  • Side pockets
  • Bladder compartment with hanging system

Here’s what the reviewers think about the Salomon Quest 30:

Reviewers like these things about the Salomon Quest 30

  • According to users, the Salomon Nordic pack is simple and durable.
  • Reviewers mentioned that it folds down compactly when not in use.
  • Other users noted it is lightweight.
  • Reviewers said that it has external compression straps for security.
  • They also pointed out that the bag has a decent price.
  • Other reviewers thought that it contains a protective klister sleeve to keep their skis coddled and safe.
  • Reviewers mentioned that the bag’s main compartment is fully padded and separated by 100-denier tarpaulin material, keeping skis shielded from sharp pole tips.
  • They noticed that its adjustable shoulder strap with sliding pad lets them dial-in carrying comfort.
  • Testers noted that its heavy-duty zipper opens bag completely for easy access and packing.
  • Other testers said that it is PVC-free.
  • Other users praised its external accessory pocket that stores wax, binding screws, and gloves.

Reviewers don’t like these things

  • A reviewer felt that the bag cannot hold as many skis as advertised.
  • Another reviewer thought that the bag shows noticeable rips after usage.

6 – Burton Rider

Here’s what the reviewers think about the Burton Rider:

Reviewers like these things about the Burton Rider

  • Many of them said that they use it for work daily and it works just fine for school.
  • Users love it as it has two water bottle holding side pouches.
  • Reviewers said it can hold their laptop easily and they love it.
  • Some of the users said the material is pretty sturdy, durable, super functional and stylish.
  • Several users said that Burton Dayhiker feels like brand new after many months of use.
  • Users said that it fits well in the overhead compartment.
  • It has also been reviewed that the material doesn’t show dirt or wear.
  • Users also said they love taking it to hiking and snowboarding and it is very comfortable to wear while riding.
  • A few said it is a bag that looks clean, modern, and well-designed.

Reviewers don’t like these things

  • One user said that straps felt really cheap and one of the straps came unstitched.
  • Some users said that there is no padding on be front.
  • A few mentioned that the cinch down straps gets in the way of opening the pack and are annoying.

7 – Deuter Freerider Pro 30

Deuter Freerider Pro 30
  • Detachable helmet flap
  • Hip belt with Pull-Forward system
  • Load adjustment straps; compression straps; emergency whistle on chest strap;
  • Removable sitting mat
  • SOS label

Here’s what the reviewers think about the Deuter Freerider Pro 30:

Reviewers like these things about the Deuter Freerider Pro 30

  • Many reviewers felt that the Deuter Freerider backpack was comfortable to wear due to its Alpine comfort carry system.
  • Other reviewers praised it pockets which can fit several objects including goggles, shovels, and a lot more.
  • Other reviewers also praised its modern and clean design.
  • Testers thought that its body-hugging soft stripe pads are able to follow the movements of the user.
  • Many reviewers noted the stripe pads keep the load close to the body’s center of gravity.
  • A lot of users thought that its ergonomic shoulder straps provide ventilation and additional comfort.
  • Other reviewers noted that the weight of the load is appropriately distributed.
  • Testers have discovered that the pack is sturdy and well-made.
  • Many of those who have tried the pack said that its U-frame provides ample stability and effective load transfer.
  • Many users thought that it was easy to carry around.
  • Versatile and ergonomic, users recommend the pack to be used for alpine skiing, ski touring, and snowboarding.
  • Other users found that there were attachment points for ice axes and hiking poles.
  • Some users also found out that the bag has attachment points for snowboard or snowshoes.

Reviewers don’t like these things

  • A reviewer did not like the new designs of the backpack.
  • Another reviewer thought that the backpack is not waterproof.

8 – Thule Upslope 35

Thule Upslope Snowsports Backpack, Black/Dark Shadow, 35 L
  • Avalanche compartment with dedicated probe and shovel handle sleeves keep tools separated from dry gear in main compartment
  • Bottom loop on ski and snowboard carry quickly adjusts for varying widths of skis and boards and stows to prevent snagging
  • Stowable ice axe loop holds a mountain tool but can be tucked away to prevent snagging
  • Versatile carry options include A-frame and diagonal ski carry or horizontal and vertical snowboard carry
  • Store helmet either on the bottom of the backpack for simple retrieval or storage while wearing the pack or on the front of the pack

Here’s what the reviewers think about the Thule Upslope 35:

Reviewers like these things about the Thule Upslope 35

  • According to users, the Thule Upslope backpack is comfortable to use.
  • Users took notice of its versatile carry options which include vertical snowboard carry and diagonal snowboard carry.
  • Other users thought that its 420D Cordura Nylon provides sufficient durability to the bag.
  • Reviewers mentioned that the tools and dry gear are separated well in the main compartment because of its avalanche compartment feature.
  • They noticed that its bottom loop could carry ski and snowboard easily.
  • They also noted that the backpack includes a stowable ice ax loop for holding a mountain tool efficiently.
  • Users found it easy to access the storage of the bag.
  • Testers said that the bag could store a helmet.
  • Reviewers mentioned that the backpack is water resistant.
  • Other reviewers also found that its zippered pockets allow them to organize their things well.
  • Reviewers indicated that the bag might be efficient for backcountry skiing, snowboarding, and hiking.
  • Other reviewers mentioned that the bag has a lot of compartments for storing things.

Reviewers don’t like these things

  • A reviewer thought that the backpack is heavy.
  • Another reviewer noted that the bag would not fit all body types.

9 – Osprey Kamber 32

Osprey Packs Men's Kamber 32 Ski Pack, Galactic Black, Small/Medium
  • Stowable helmet carry quickly deploys so you can store your helmet on long ascents
  • Features an internal hydration sleeve with hanger and a fully insulated, dual zippered harness router
  • Glove friendly zipper pulls and buckles allow for quick and easy use in adverse conditions
  • Dual zippered access to dry storage and hydration compartment
  • Lower reinforced ski carry loops and upper side carry straps provide secure and comfortable A-frame ski carry

Here’s what the reviewers think about the Osprey Kamber 32:

Reviewers like these things about the Osprey Kamber 32

  • Several users have noted the Osprey Kamber backpack for its ample amount of space to place their belongings.
  • Reviewers recommend the pack for those who are into hiking, backcountry snowboarding, and mountain climbing.
  • Users have noted that the glove-friendly zipper pulls and buckles are quick and easy use in adverse conditions.
  • Many reviewers commented that its reinforced hip belt wings which provide a fast horizontal carry.
  • Other reviewers highlighted on the zippered hip belt pockets of the backpack which offer an easy access to essential belongings.
  • Most of those who have tried the bag praised its main compartment which zips all the way down to its base so that they can fully open the main compartment.
  • Testers commented on the frame around its main compartment which keeps the pack in good shape.
  • Other testers thought the contours of the backpack fit the torso well.
  • Others felt that it was comfortable to use.

Reviewers don’t like these things

  • A user noted the lack of waterproof pockets for essentials including phones and wallets.
  • Another user thought that the tool pocket is a little too large, especially for backcountry snowboarders.

10 – Osprey Kode 22

Osprey Packs Kode 22 Backpack
  • A top zippered stash pocket with heat embossed, non scratch coating provides the ideal place to stow goggles and other smaller items
  • An upper ski carry strap with cam-locking buckle and lower reinforced ski carry loop combine for A-frame style ski carry
  • Diagonal ski carry utilizes one side of the bottom front panel webbing and secures on the opposite side of the top front panel webbing
  • Dual upper and lower reinforced strap wings on the reinforced fabric front panel of the Kode provide stable vertical snowboard carry
  • An internal zippered back panel hydration compartment with reservoir hanger and a fully insulated dual zippered harness

Here’s what the reviewers think about the Osprey Kode 22:

Reviewers like these things about the Osprey Kode 22

  • Many users find the pack durable and well made, with thick and highly adjustable straps.
  • Helmet carry system,avalanche safety pocket and large spacious main pocket of the bag received great admiration from users.
  • Users recommend this bag to anyone looking to do longer tours that require more layers,gear and storage space.
  • Some skier were amazed with how the bag carried all their gear including their boots inside the bag without any issues.
  • Ergonomic fit and weight distribution features are also appreciated by users.

Reviewers don’t like these things

  • One user said he really like the layout and features of the bag but it is too small.
  • Some thought it would be better if it has specific ski poll lash/strap.

Selected reviews

Backpack Gear Test reviewed the Gregory Targhee 45

I have really enjoyed testing the Gregory Targhee 45 pack. I like the winter features for carrying avalanche tools, skis, and snowshoes. It also works for summer and compresses for acceptable use as a day pack. The pack is comfortable while loaded and almost empty. The major drawback is the fixed lid, in my opinion.

Posted 15 July 2014 by Andrea Murland – Read full review

Utah Outside reviewed the Salomon Quest 30

At the end of the day though, the Salomon Quest 30 is a badass pack. It looks good, feels great when worn, and has all the features a serious backcountry skier would come to expect in a pack that needs to perform all day in the mountains.

Posted 31 January 2012 by Jared Hargrave – Read full review

The Big Outside reviewed the Gregory Targhee 45

All in all, though, this is one of the most versatile and comfortable technical packs Ive seen for backcountryskiing or riding, snowshoeing, and climbing.

Posted 1 January 0001 – Read full review

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