10 Freeskiers Share How They Pack Their Skiing Bags

Choosing what to bring on a freeskiing expedition isn’t easy.

You want to make sure you bring everything you need (including lots of food and energy!), but at the same time you probably don’t want to drag along a super heavy bag.

To improve how we pack and prepare, we have talked with 10 experienced freeskiers and asked them to share their best advice.

Read on and learn from their best tips and tricks (all 10 have years of experience, so they know what they are talking about!).

The 10 Freeskiiers

What top 3 things do you bring besides the common stuff everybody brings?

  • Stuff sack for my rope – This helps me to throw it into a crevasse or down a couloir.
  • Group Shelter – Not many people bring one ski touring. Saved my skin a couple of times.
  • Map and Compass – Hardly anyone brings with them but being able to navigate properly is very usefull.

How do you bring things with you?

I have three bags that I use for Skiing.

  • Salomon QST 12 for in resort skiing- sits close to my back, enough space for the bare essentials and nothing more.
  • Salomon QST 35 for Ski Mountaineering, Multi day ski tours. Spacious for all the gear you need, Crampons, rope, spairs, first aid kit, warm clothing. I put my Rope in the bottom in a throw bag and poke the end out of the zipped back panel and clip it to the side. That way I can quickly and easily get to the rope when I need it. Shovel, probe and often a lightwieght Ice axe go in the zipped pocket on the outside of the bag easy to get to.
  • Salomon Xalp 30 for more lightweight missions- Where weight and speed are key I love this bag. Superlight and easy and fast to get to ropes, crampons and skis.

What are your top tips for other freeskiers?

I like to get my axe inside of my bag. Just something from skiing in chamonix. I’ve been poked in the eye before in the lift line by the spike of someone else’s axe.

I pack things in order of importance but I also like a bag that I can get into from both ends and both sides. That’s why the Salomon QST35 is my favourite.

Packing light is easy. Just ask yourself, “Do I truly need this?” if the answer is no then why do you have it?

Remember skiing/ski touring/ski mountaineering is supposed to be fun but like anything worth doing there is an element of suffering and doubt. It’s important to embrace the highs and the lows and learn from your experiences. The learning is the true fun in anything.

What top 3 things do you bring besides the common stuff everybody brings?

My top three things I bring on a ski trip that are out of the ordinary might be: coffee making equipment (grinder, beans, French press or aeropress), running stuff, and too many books. The coffee stuff is because you just never know what you might encounter and I always want to have good coffee, plus I like to be self reliant if possible.

The running stuff is because it’s one of my favorite ways to explore new places anywhere on the globe is to get out and go on a run or hike, especially if the weather is bad and we aren’t skiing. Too many books would be because I would rather carry extra weight than run out of reading materials in a remote place; a good book can make all the difference for calming nerves or passing time while waiting for good conditions.

I’ve seen someone bring a video game console on a trip before, which isn’t something I would personally choose but they were entertained; I’ve also traveled with someone who brings a grappling hook everywhere they go just in case you need to pull off some crazy capers; and I’ve heard of someone bringing a stationary bike all the way to a remote lodge in BC before to be able to stay in shape on down days!

How do you bring things with you?

I travel with a large ski bag, by The North Face, and then either The North Face Rolling Thunder duffle or a classic TNF duffle bag, plus a backpack for carry-on. I always stuff my bags to the max and am right on the edge of the weight limits usually. I carry my ski boots on always—it’s the one item I need to have arrive at my destination. I can borrow most any other gear but ski boots are too personal! I’m always the person running late through the airport, sweating and carrying too much stuff with my ski boots flapping around my neck! Haha.

What are your top tips for other freeskiers?

My top tips for packing light would be choosing the perfect equipment that can work in more than one situation—ski boots that work for both Alpine and touring, plus the perfect pair of skis with the right bindings that are bomber for Alpine and also can tour, like the Marker Kingpins. If I only need to bring one setup then it cuts down comsiderably on gear and weight.

I’ve realized I don’t need as many casual clothes as I used to think, because no one really notices what you’re wearing as much as you think. I can bring a pair of jeans, a pair of yoga pants and a few tops and be fine for a few weeks.

Ultimately, it can be easy to tell yourself you don’t have the right gear or the time isn’t right, many excuses for not taking the trip but every time I just get in the car or buy the plane ticket and go, I’m always glad I did. Don’t let the logistics and the what-ifs overwhelm—if it’s something you can’t stop dreaming about, just throw some stuff in a bag and make a few phone calls and go do it!

What top 3 things do you bring besides the common stuff everybody brings?

The most important item I have on the road besides my ski boots, skis, poles and proper clothing that includes a variety of lightweight layering systems is my heated Kulkea Boot Trekker bag. This is the magic bullet. I’m not only able to organize all my gear in a way that I can keep track but I can also dry it out. The Kulkea bag is heated when plugged into the wall or into your car outlet. I can put everything from my helmet, gloves, face protection and boots in the bag after a day of skiing, plug it in and have dry, warm gear for the next morning. It’s amazing to put on warm ski boots in the morning before heading out.

How do you bring things with you?

On the road, I use a double ski bag. Be careful most ski bags that say they are a double ski bag do not actually carry two pair of skis or worse. The bag is not long enough. So make sure you get the dimensions of the bag before you purchase it. Try to get a bag that you can put in extra gear as well. Let it work as padding to protect your skis. Along with this make sure it had wheels and very good zippers.

What are your top tips for other freeskiers?

I always seem to over pack for a trip. No matter what, I bring two pair of skis. A narrow waist ski and winder ski so I am prepared for all conditions. Now days I make sure that all my skis have a hybrid of AT Alpine bindings. Than of course I need my skins and backcountry gear. I will also bring a basic tool kit and duc-tape just in case I need to make a few adjustment.

What top 3 things do you bring besides the common stuff everybody brings?

A hydroflask insulated water bottle to keep warm things warm. I find that I drink more tea than cold water and I also love bringing miso soup in these bottles. Keeping liquids warm is essential!

Healthy food and snacks including my favorite Hanah One packaged super foods to help fuel the day.

My Contax T2 film camera…just for fun. I love capturing moments and forgetting what was on the roll of film, waiting a few months before getting the film developed, and then reliving the experiences. This is a special item in my pack.

How do you bring things with you?

I use the Arcteryx Alpha SK pack and pack as light as I can. I typically don’t bring anything that will not be a crucial item in my pack and this particular pack holds all that I need on a day of touring to get the goods. I like a separate lunch bag, but everything else just fits nicely in the pack.

What are your top tips for other freeskiers?

Get your layering system down. I run a wool first layer, a puffy, and a shell. This system works pretty well for most days, but if it’s a little colder I will bring another layer particularly to hike in and keep my first layer dry. Arcteryx makes the best quality gear that is extremely functional.

What top 3 things do you bring besides the common stuff everybody brings?

I started making some kind of imitation fudge a couple of years ago, I used to get a lot of green eyed stares as I ate it on the lift, so now make sure to take enough out with me to share. It’s a great little bonus burst of energy when you can see everyone wants to stay out riding but their bodies are starting to disagree!

Try it out for yourselves!

  • 2 bars of melted dark chocolate
  • 1 tin of condensed milk
  • Chopped Almonds and Apricots
  • Desiccated coconut
  • Handful of rolled oats

Mix together and put the fridge! You can chop it in squares ones its solidified or roll it into balls beforehand.

On any overnight trip I always have a flask of Port. Nothing like a sweet winter warmer before bedding down in a hut or tent. Recently it was helpful in persuading a hut guardian to let us stay the night when we didn’t quite have enough cash with us!

Not enough skiers bring a map and compass. I’ve been in such a thick white out on a glacier that I know very well, that we thought our exit was on the opposite side to where it was, only when we saw the water running the opposite way did we check the map and see how we had been massively disorientated!

The most useless thing I see is an uninsulated platapus pipe which leaves people skiing around with 3kg of water that they can’t drink!

How do you bring things with you?

I have to confess that I’ve got a bit of an obsession with backpacks, having no less than 10 to choose from, and still wanting more! These range from 16L slim packs to big 80L expedition ones. I think its one of the most important pieces of equipment to get right, as it directly affects your enjoyment of moving through the mountains.

For resort free skiing I currently use a 16L Go Pro Seeker. It’s a great bag, lots of compartments for snacks, cameras, first aid kit, and space in the main body for safety equipment, spare clothes and water. The material is also pretty robust and weatherproof so great for long days storm skiing.

For single days back country ski touring I take a Crux AX30. It’s a perfect size and dimension for carrying additional equipment needed for glaciated ski touring/mountaineering such as crampons, skins, rope and axes. It also has reinforced A-frame ski carry straps which is a big bonus in an alpine pack.

For multi-day or multidiscipline trips (ski touring, ski mountaineering, alpine climbing) involving carrying even more equipment and supplies, I reach for the Montane Fast Alpine 40L. This bag has stood the test of time for me, carrying as much weight as I dare to when skiing in a secure and stable way. It has tough and light weight materials and is well designed for the varied use I end up putting it through.

By changing between these three sizes I find that I rarely have too much or too little room and my skiing is that much more fun!

What are your top tips for other freeskiers?

Learning the limitations of your equipment and your skills is the key to being able to pack light. Are you planning on moving fast and light? Or slow and heavy? You might worry about getting cold, pack a lot of extra clothes, sweat more, and in turn get tired and cold- if your bag had been lighter, maybe your day could have been a bit better? It’s always a trade off between risk of exposure or not having the ideal equipment when trying to shave off the grams, and that all comes with getting out there.

Ski in ALL conditions, learn about the different snow, about your energy levels and how your equipment does. I think a lot of freeskiers wait around, dreaming of the ‘perfect day’. The more time you spend out, the better and stronger you get so that you’re ready for that bluebird day!

I’m also a big believer in being proactive in making your own decisions of where to ski and assess the risks in person. Too many freeskiers use social media as a reference for conditions, and that’s dangerous. A photo won’t tell you what happened before or after that moment, what equipment they had or if it was -30 deg C!

What top 3 things do you bring besides the common stuff everybody brings?

  • A lacrosse Ball and Blackroll mini – I class these as one, both are great for Myofascial release (thinks sports massage but without the price tag) they will help you ease any stiff and sore muscles meaning you can ski hard all week. Unlike regular foam rollers, they also take up no more space than a water bottle. Search for MobilityWOD if you want some inspiration.
  • The right thermals – anything man made will get smelly quickly. Merino wool, on the other hand, will not, this means you can pack less of it saving you weight and space and saving everyone else at Apres.
  • Fatmap – You don’t need to pack this so much as download it. Fatmap is an awesome 3d map tool that shows you everything from off-piste runs to slope gradients, avalanche runout areas, terrain traps, weather, the list goes on and on. For experienced freeskiers, it is an amazing tool to find the best runs in new resorts and make informed decisions about avalanche risk.

The most useless thing you can bring. A giant DSLR camera,(unless you are on an actual photo shoot) it may sound like a great way to capture your skiing in all its glory. The reality is they are heavy and expensive, you will ski cautiously so you don’t fall over and break it, your mates will not want to hang around while you get it out, set it up, take a photo and then carefully put it away again. and by the time you have taken one photo, everyone else will have skied 3 extra runs. Take a great compact, or use your phone.

How do you bring things with you?

When it comes to travelling with Skis nothing beats the brand Douche Bags. They are designed by a skier for skiers.

The original product The Douchebag is a wheeled ski bag that when not in use rolls up so you can easily store it. It provides loads of protection for your gear using a unique rib cage inspired design and is light meaning you can pack more.

Their Hand luggage is also great the Hugger 30L is IATA approved carry on luggage has loads of space and a unique side pocket making accessing your laptop at security really comfy. If like many skiers you have customised boots and losing them is just not an option they fit inside easily meaning you can keep them with you at all times.

The best bit is when you arrive at your destination you can just clip the bag to The Douchebag and wheel both around using a unique link-up system.

Even though the hugger is only 30L you can fit loads in. We have seen people do week-long summer trips with just that bag.

If you need something bigger the classic North Face duffle in any of its various sizes is also a great shout. We love the medium at 50Litres it can just squeeze in as hand luggage although you may want to get someone to distract the flight attendant if you are on one of the budget airlines or weirdly swiss who are really strict about what you can keep in the cabin. (Swiss do let you take a ski bag for free though)

Ski bags take a beating in the airport so make sure you pad the tips and tails of your skis. Impacts here can cause the ski to delaminate, this sucks. Similarly, pack stuff around the bindings and make sure you have a ski brake retainer. Thes are just strong elastic bands that hold the ski brakes up. I have seen ski brakes make holes right through ski bags as they rub against the fabric during transport.

What are your top tips for other freeskiers?

Check the airline’s baggage policy before you travel on many European airlines your ski bag can be counted as your normal piece of hold luggage meaning you don’t need to pay the high fees they charge for carrying skis. Dive into the baggage section and check the dimensions you are allowed for hold luggage most airlines allow you to carry something that is 250cm long. Your ski bag will fall into this category. Print these dimensions off and take them with you too check-in if you are worried.

Rather than clipping your skis together for transport, pop them side by side bindings up into the bottom of your ski bag. This makes packing far easier and you can even fit your ski boots into your ski bag if you fancy.

I generally keep my boots in my carry on. I can rent new skis but renting the right boots is virtually impossible. Most boots are also heavy, so keeping them with you means you can put the lighter gear into your ski bag and stay below the weight limit.

Clip your helmet to your carry on this saves a lot of space and make sure it arrives in one piece.

I always pack my airbag rather than using it as my carryon. I have been asked to fully unfold all the balloons at security before and nearly missed my flight. In addition, it saves you having to unpack all your Avalanche gear and risk leaving a key part on your bed.

Finally, if you are travelling with an airbag powered by compressed air always put the canister in your hold luggage and inform them at check-in. If you are travelling with a battery powered airbag always put the battery in your hand luggage. Lithium Ion batteries can not go into the hold so you will need to keep it with you.

What top 3 things do you bring besides the common stuff everybody brings?

I bring ground coffee and a French Press – morning coffee is just too important to leave to chance or bad quality. I also bring a copy of my passport (plus e-mail a copy of my travel documents to myself before leaving so I can access them via email if needed). Another item I’ll bring is a power converter (not just an adapter) to get power down to 110v from 220v.

Useless things? I’ve seen a lot of people bring candles on expeditions (???) or an axe, which is pretty worthless if you are on a glacier with no trees.

How do you bring things with you?

Lately I’ve been using a DaKine ski bag. I think it is a 2 pair “womens” bag, which just means that it is slightly shorter, but since I’m mainly using backcountry gear, my longest ski is a 174cm.

I also have a hanging scale in my shop and pack my bags right to 50lbs exactly. On a big trip I’ll bring a ski bag and then a duffel, so two bags at 50 lbs each = 100lbs total. For more civilized trips, I’ll just bring the ski bag and a carry-on.

What are your top tips for other freeskiers?

Buy the ticket and the adventure will follow. 🙂 I do a lot of trip planning ahead of time, so my trips tend to run pretty smoothly. One of my favorite quotes comes from Dwight Eisenhower referring to battle planning – “Having a plan is important, following it is not.”

To help protect my skis from rough luggage handlers, I’ll strap things to them like ropes, shovel handles, poles, etc., which gives them a bit more protection than if they are just banging around loose in a ski bag.

Here’s a video that shows my packing process.

What top 3 things do you bring besides the common stuff everybody brings?

I don’t leave home without chocolate, roasted almonds and a small water bottle. Staying hydrated and fueled are important when you want to ski your best all day. I stuff these items in my jacket pockets and this means I can have a quick drink or snack on the lift or at the top of the mountain.

Other small items I frequently use include lightweight wool glove liners and a neoprene Seirus face mask.

As for useless items, it seemed there were lots of companies trying to sell gadgets to help people carry their skis and poles a few years back. You don’t need gadgets.

How do you bring things with you?

I love, love, love ski boot backpacks. My family and I travel a lot and we all carry Transpack TRV Pro bags. These are my favorite because they are roomy, and the straps stow into a back pocket so that there is no risk of an airline baggage handler throwing the pack by a strap and damaging it.

We keep these bags packed and at the ready for day trips as well. And in summer, the packs are where we store our clean items in anticipation of the coming winter.

As for ski bags, we use the Transpack Double Vault roller bag and the Kulkea Kantaja bag. The Transpack is extra long and accommodates my husband’s and sons’ longer skis.

What are your top tips for other freeskiers?

Pack light! Always. If you wear wool socks and layers you can get several days out of each item without washing, even if you get sweaty. One pair of jeans, a couple of shirts, underwear, pajamas and comfortable shoes are all you need, even on a lengthy trip. Pro tip: toss your swimsuit in your ski boot bag. It takes up little space and you’ll always be sauna/hot tub ready.

Ski jackets and pants with zippered vents are useful when the weather warms up or you are hiking in the backcountry. A down vest is a useful layer and always wear sunscreen and lip balm.

As for getting out the door, keep your gear clean, packed and ready to go. It makes going to ski nearly a no-brainer. Also never pay full price for a ticket. Plan ahead, buy season or multi day passes or from online discounters and resort websites. Seek out good value by skiing and riding less well know smaller resorts.

Have fun!

What top 3 things do you bring besides the common stuff everybody brings?

A tarp/toboggan… for emergency camping or an emergency toboggan to drag a person out..luckily these have never been used. they improve the safety of the trip..

First aid, small first aid kit with some good drugs.

How do you bring things with you?

I typically use a 38 -40 ltr bag, big enough to carry lots but small enough to not overburden my skiing. Arcteryx Khamski 38l… first aid/tarp on the bottom, where I never touch it except to dry it. then the rest goes on top, easy access from the side zipper..

What are your top tips for other freeskiers?

Light is amazing, but as long as you know that nothing can go wrong.. I have done the spearhead in Whistler in a day, skiing off 11 summits with a bag full of water and food, no emergency stuff whatsoever.. but I knew that all day and made sure to make no mistakes. On most days I would like a bit of a safety net, especially if I am skiing something big, so I carry the extras, or make sure my group does.

Whatever size your bag is packing it right so it rides properly is the key..

Motivation to get out is a personal thing but having a good group of friends with the same goals really helps. They may call you to get you out when you are not feeling it or vis versa. this helps a lot.

What top 3 things do you bring besides the common stuff everybody brings?

White wave traction snowsurf pads are always in my bag if there is a chance of powder conditions. They don’t help travel as they are extra weight in the bag, but the extra fun on the downhill is worth it.

Everything else I pack is pretty normal I guess.

How do you bring things with you?

I prefer to carry the pads inside my bag rather than strapped to the outside. I usually use a pack around 40 litres. Can also fit the splitboard bindings in the bag when the pads are in use. Rather have a bigger bag and not stuff it than use something smaller and struggle for space.

Had pretty good luck with the larger size Dakine bags. Think the model I’m currently using an older version of the poacher. Emergency kit and extra layer sits on the bottom of the bag. Skins and gloves sit on top of that. Try tuck lunch somewhere near the top so it doesn’t get crushed and beat up.

What are your top tips for other freeskiers?

I’ve found the only way for me to ditch weight has been to seek out lightweight products. Don’t have anything in my bag that I’m willing to leave at home in the name of saving grams.

I do think a lot of people who head into the backcountry are pretty under gunned for first aid and emergency situations.

Double check you got everything before you head out the door. The seasons over before you know it so make the most of it and get out there!

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