SNOW SPORTS

The Best Ski Backpack: Your Guide to The Perfect Ski Backpack

Best Ski Backpack
Daniel Carraway
Written by Daniel Carraway

Whether winter is your favorite season or not, you have to admit that it comes with its own set of challenges. However, sports companies have designed everything you could possibly need to make winter everything but cruel. Are fingers turning blue?

Wear gloves. Don’t want ice going into your eyes? Wear protective ski goggles. Need to protect your head? Cover up with a toque. But what about your valuables? Where were you planning on putting your water bottle and if you need to carry your skis?

If you were thinking about stuffing your ski jacket pockets with your belongings, think again. You’ll need a ski backpack that’ll be able to support you while you go into the backcountry. So, it’s time you learned all the ins and outs about the best ski backpack.

Why Do You Need A Ski Backpack?

You may think that you’ll be using your ski backpack for storing food and extra clothes, but you’re mistaken. Before you even touch foot onto the back country, you’ll need to carry your safety and emergency gear.

Ski backpacks

Your safety gear consists of a beacon, probe, shovel and your other avalanche equipment. Your ski backpack allows you to carry not only your skis but the safety equipment as well.

Why Can’t You Just Use A Regular Backpack?

We’re not saying you can’t. However, ski backpacks are designed to withstand the elements. You’ll be going through freezing temperatures and moist weather.

A ski backpack is built with reinforced seams, ripstop weave, bar-tacked stress points, windstorm flaps, hydration bladder sleeve, abrasion-resistant finish, watertight zippers and a PU internal coating.

These features are designed to help to protect the contents of your backpack and make sure everything is kept safe and dry. In addition, ski backpacks are focused on easy accessibility to your safety and emergency equipment.

Man with ski backpack

With normal backpacks, they’re usually made out of non-waterproof materials and are not primarily designed to withstand extreme climates. Plus, you won’t be able to attach your skis to regular backpacks.

There are a couple types of ski backpacks you’ll need to choose from:

  • Ski: Ski backpacks are designed to be able to carry your skis. They come in two carrying methods: diagonal or A-frame. Diagonal is when the skis are held together vertically on the back of the pack. A-frame is when the skis are held separately on the sides of the pack.
  • Snowboard: This backpack is specifically used for snowboarders and it’s designed to be able to carry your snowboard. It comes in two carrying methods: vertical or horizontal.

There is no better carrying style, it’s simply based on personal preference.

Sizes of Ski Backpacks

Before purchasing a ski backpack, you’ll want to ask yourself what you’ll be using it for. Are you going on multi-day trips? Will you be skiing? What gear will you be carrying with you.

Ski backpack sizes

These questions will help you decide on the size of your backpack. Backpacks are measured by their volume in liters (L), these are the typical sizes:

  • 10-20L – heli or cat accessed riding
  • 20-35L – day tours
  • 35-55L – overnight trips
  • 60-70L – multi-day mountaineering trips where you’ll require a tent and glacier equipment

Features of Ski Backpacks

There are several important features you should keep in mind when considering the kind of ski backpack you want to get.

Ski backpack features

Not only do you want your backpack to be useful and withstand the elements, but you want it to be comfortable to carry as well. Here are some of the necessary feature to consider when comparison shopping for the right backpack.

  • Proper Fit: You need a ski backpack that properly fits you. You may not think about it, but the fit is crucial, especially when going on long journeys.
    Make sure you try on a ski backpack with the jacket and layers you’d be wearing during your ski trips. You want to make sure that the pack matches the length of your torso, that’ll be the ideal fit. When trying on your pack, make sure you put some weight into the pack so you can adjust the straps and ensure that it’s the right fit for you.
  • Hydration Compatibility: If you’re in below freezing temperatures, there’s a high chance that your bottle of water is going to freeze up. Many ski backpacks now come with a hydration bladder sleeve. It’s a separate compartment in your backpack that helps protect the hydration system, aka, the bladder.
  • Airbags: Though airbags are not included in all ski backpacks, they can save your life. If you encounter an avalanche and are buried, the airbag system will help keep you at the top or near the snow’s surface. Being closer to the surface of an avalanche can help increase the chances of you surviving and being located quickly.
  • AvaLung: Again, not all ski backpacks included this type of feature. However, in emergency situations, you’ll be happy you have it. AvaLung is breathing tool that allows users to receive oxygen from the surrounding snow while extracting the carbon dioxide away from their face. It can increase your time before asphyxiation if you’re buried in an avalanche.
  • Back or Side Zippers: Side or back zippers are essential if you want to be able to easily access your gear without having to remove your backpack from your back.
  • Extra Carry: When it comes to your gear, you want to be able to have some way to strap it all in securely, and the right backpack could be a lifesaver. Look for one that allows you to strap your helmet and/or your ice axe so that you can continue your journey hands-free.
  • Compression Straps: If you want to have a smaller, condensed backpack, you’ll be able to do so with compression straps. They’re straps on the side of your ski backpack that can be tightened to reduce bulk and give you an overall lighter bag.
  • Specialized Mountaineering features: If you’re a mountaineer, you’ll be looking for specific features that’ll be able to support your mountaineering gear. These backpacks usually come with extra compartments and attachments that can be accessed easily without taking off your pack.

Now that you’re aware of the features included in ski backpacks, it’s time to take a look at the reviews of the best backpacks on the market.

Review of Top Ski Backpacks

Now that you know everything about ski backpacks, let’s look at some of the top seven ski backpacks available.

Patagonia Black Hole

Patagonia Black Hole

Weight: 38 ounces

Dimensions: 13 x 11 x 23.5 inches

Best Use: winter sports

Description: The Black Hole, aside from having a cool name, is a 60L Duffel Bag. You’ll be able to store your hiking, mountaineering and traveling gear safely and securely in this bag.

Knowing that you’ll be carrying it around with you in the great outdoors, it’s designed with ripstop materials that don’t weigh down your bag. It has a TPU laminate film with a DWR coating so you’ll bag have ultimate protection from the outdoors.

The base of the bag is padded as well as the removable shoulder and backpack straps, providing you with all the comfort you need. Internally, the bag is full of organizers and zipper mesh pockets, so you don’t have to worry about your valuable getting misplaced.

The bag also comes with compression straps so you’ll be able to decrease the volume in your bag and make sure your gear is tightly secured inside your bag.

Related: If you’re liking the design of this bag, the North Face Base Camp bag is very similar in style and built. It’s weather-resistant and is filled with zipper mesh pockets and organizational compartments.

Patagonia Ascensionist

Patagonia Ascensionist

Weight: 41.6 ounces

Dimensions: 21 x 12 x 5 inches

Best Use: winter sports

Description: With the Patagonia Ascensionist on your back, you’ll be able to go through any terrain. This backpack is designed to endure rough terrain whether that be ice, rock, or snow. It’s designed with a lightweight yet durable material with double ripstop nylon which will last through anything.

It’s built with an aluminum loop frame and a mesh center panel so that bag with contour to your body and reduce rigidness in your movement. However, this feature can be removed easily if you’d like to reduce weight and provide more flexibility to your pack.

The compression straps allow you to shave off the pounds and create a smaller and firmer carrying load. For your safety gear, the backpack comes with an ax carrier that securely holds your ax and keeps it locked into place.

Of course, the backpack some with a variety of storage compartments and zipper mesh pockets so that you’ll be able to safely store your belongings. A great backpack for high-ground adventures.

Related: If you like the design of the Patagonia, you won’t be able to find another company that carries this look. However, Patagonia has a variety of ski backpacks with this design such as the SnowDrifter or Stromfront pack.

Douchebag Hugger

Douchebag Hugger 60 Liter Gear Bag

Weight: 64 ounces

Dimensions: 16.9 x 24.8 x 2 inches

Best Use: winter sports

Description: A pretty good name, no? The Douchebag Hugger is a 60L bag which is a crossover between a duffel bag and backpack. If you’re an outdoor enthusiast, you’ll be able to carry all your gear without weighing you down.

The bag can hold up to 60 liters of volume while not slowing down your movements. The Douchebag Hugger is a perfect example of a bag that’ll be able to carry out your needs without causing you discomfort.

The bag also has a waterproof top pocket that’ll be able to protect valuables, a large compartment for storing your gear and an ABS ribcage that’ll support you through your adventures.

Related: The Evecase hiking backpack is another great bag if you’re looking for a water resistant outdoor daypack. However, it won’t be able to carry the volume that the Douchebag Hugger will.

Ortovox Powder Rider

Ortovox Powder Rider

Weight: 25.6 ounces

Dimensions: 23 x 13 x 4 inches

Best Use: winter sports

Description: The Ortovox Powder Rider backpack is a body contouring bag that’ll support your winter activities with ease. It’s a small capacity backpack that’s ideal for dawn patrols and backcountry adventures. If you’re going on short rides or day trips, then this is the bag for you.

It has a separate compartment specifically made for your avalanche safety gear and a net which holds your helmet while you’re off the slope.

It’s specifically designed for skiers as it features a diagonal ski carry and back access that lets you access your bag without having to completely remove it. So, if you’re not looking for a bag to carry 60L of gear, the Powder Rider is your ideal backpack for light riding.

Related: The Powder Rider is extremely sleek and clean cut in design. If you’re looking for a bag that’s just as thin and light, you may have problems finding it.

However, if you’re looking for a bag of the same quality, you should consider the Ortovox Avalanche Rider. This bag will be able to withstand longer skiing trips.

Ortovox Free Rider 22

Ortovox Free Rider 22

Weight: 60.8 ounces

Dimensions: fits body sizes from 150-180cm

Best Use: winter sports

Description: Ortovox understands that women and men are built differently and requires a backpack that’s shaped accordingly. So, the Ortovox designed the Free Rider 22 for women. This backpack has a removable protector which can we wore under your clothing as well.

It’s a 22-liter model that is suitable for body sizes from 150-180cm. It has a neoprene hip belt that’ll hold snug against your body. Because riders also climb, there are various compartments designed to safely store your skis, snowboard, helmet and avalanche gear.

The main compartment is large in size and has back access so you won’t have to take off your bag to find an item. In addition, this backpack also includes safety compartments for smaller valuables, alarm whistle, and a hydration system. All the features that you’re looking for are included in the Free Rider 22.

Related: For the price and the features provided, nothing beats this bag.

The North Face Base Camp

The North Face Men's Base Camp Duffel

Weight: 70 ounces

Dimensions: 17 x 16 x 3 inches

Best Use: winter sports

Description: The North Face base camp duffel is a trendy and hip in design. However, aside from the aesthetics, it’s an extremely durable duffel bag. It’s made of a durable laminate material, so it’ll be able to be thrown around without hesitation.

It has 71-liter volume, so you’ll be able to do weekend trips with this bag and will be able to support you three to four days. It has many well-designed features which make this bag ideal for the backcountry.

Its main compartment has a zipper mesh pocket, it’s water-resistant with double-stitching, has four compression straps to reduce the size, detachable and adjustable alpine-cut shoulder straps, padded side handles, and can act as a duffel bag or backpack.

In addition, there is a feature of the North Face backpack that many do not have. The North Face duffel comes with a separate compartment to store your shoes and dirty laundry. Though you may think that it’s important, having the ability to carry your dirty laundry in a separate compartment from your gear is a relief. Truly a bag that considered all your needs.

Related: North Face has a couple of duffel bags, however, if you’re looking for a backpack the North Face Shadow is a great multi-day pack that’s designed simplistically.

Patagonia SnowDrifter

Patagonia SnowDrifter

Weight: 40 ounces

Dimensions: 22.5 x 15.2 x 4.2 inches

Best Use: winter sports

Description: The SnowDrifter is another exceptional bag designed by Patagonia. It’s a 30-liter pack that’ll be able to take you on day trips through the backcountry, you could even pull an overnighter. The backpack has all the necessary features that you’d want in a backpack.

It has a specialized compartment for your avalanche tools and pockets for your probe, shovel and snow saw.

In addition, it has back access, so you’ll be able to easily access your equipment whenever you wish. The main compartment has a two-way opening system, either a fast U-shaped zipper lid or a zip-open back panel – whichever suits you at the time.

It comes with front and side compression straps that’ll lock and secure your gear, with a carrying option for your skis or snowboard.

It also comes with many smaller features such as the microfleece-lined pocket for your goggles, airflow mesh shoulder straps, and padded waist belt. If you’re wanting a backpack that’ll be able to take you through anything, this is the bag.

Related: From Patagonia, the SnowDrifter is really a fully loaded feature bag that’s great on backcountry. Osprey has a Kode 22 backpack which is a good backpack for backcountry, however, doesn’t include the well-thought out small features the SnowDrifter has.

Conclusion

You’ve learned who should buy a ski backpack, the types, and sizes of ski backpacks as well as the features you need to consider when buying a ski backpack. Above, we provided you with a list of the top ski backpacks on the market.

Choose your ski backpack

Make sure you take the time to try these backpacks on and feel which one suits you the better. Whichever bag you choose from this review, you’ll be well taken care of.

Is there a backpack you’d like to share with us that you’ve had great experiences with? Feel free to share your stories with us in the comments section below.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Daniel Carraway
Daniel Carraway

Daniel Carraway joined our team last year. He is a gear freak when it comes to hiking, climbing and camping. He went to REI Outdoor School to meet new people and learn best practices. Don’t even try to argue with him about the latest backpack or ice axe, he tried most of them. Daniel’s dream is to climb Mount Everest.

  • Elisa Blair

    Ortovox powder rider makes a great pack for trail running and day hikes! I am almost 6 feet tall, and it fit me well. I will be using it this winter for day, or half day ice and climbs. Once tightened, it didn’t move around on my back, and any bouncing was minimal during my 10 miles trail run!

  • Daniel Carraway

    I think when choosing a ski backpack, make sure it fits comfortably on your back. The Ortovox is such a great gear and I would recommend it for skiers. It molds to the contour of your body so well, it feels like second skin.

  • Millie Anderson

    Bought the Patagonia SnowDrifter as I wanted a bigger upgrade than my 28L Refugio backpack. At 30L the size is a bit misleading, for me at least, as it doesn’t seem to fit anything more than my 28L backpack can! Didn’t actually realize when I bought it that it was a ski-specific backpack so that was a big plus for me! Obviously, as a Patagonia, the quality is second to none. None of the bags you’ve mentioned contain an ABS. Are there any bags you’d recommend that do, or do you buy an airbag in addition to a bag?

  • Daniel Carraway

    Hi Millie! You can buy an airbag in Amazon if you need one, just check which ones you’ll need. I’ve reviewed some Black Diamond products and I know that the Black Diamond Pilot 11 JetForce Avalanche Airbag Pack is a good buy. You might want to check that out.

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