From massive backpacks designed for serious backcountry use, to smaller packs that are meant for lift-access skiing, you can find the best ski backpacks that will work with your budget and come loaded with all the right features to keep you safe and comfortable when you’re out on the slopes. For the skier, a backpack will be invaluable. These packs can carry essential personal items for the skier as they ride the slopes, but some can also carry lifesaving avalanche rescuing tools. Since there are so many different types and styles of skiing backpacks on the market, finding the right pack can be a challenge, which is why I’ve put together this in-depth buyer’s guide. The guide lists all of the must-have features the serious skier needs. I have also tested out several of the leading models on the market, creating a top six list that includes only the best of the best.
Below, you’ll find a comparison chart that includes each pack, its top features, and how it rated.
Ski Backpacks Comparison Chart
Sukoa Ski Boot Bag Backpack
This ski backpack features a massive fifty-liter capacity and can hold all your essential gear including goggles, gloves, boots, helmet, and more. It comes with three separate compartments that will help keep your gear organized and easily accessible. The vertical design comes complete with a reinforced back support which will improve your balance and posture during use. The pack is also approved for air travel, which is a huge incentive for most skiers.
If you need an all in one bag, one that can handle all your skiing gear and then some, this model is it. It comes with a separate boot compartment that’s lined with a water-resistant coating that will keep all of your gear dry. The side straps allow you to attach extra gear such as your ski jacket and other accessories.
- Large capacity
- Separate boot compartment
- Three compartments total
- Reinforced back support
- Perfect for air travel
- Cannot accommodate ski boots over size 11
This versatile bag is large enough to hold all of your skiing gear. Additionally, you can take advantage of the side straps and attach all of your wet gear or anything that won’t fit in one of the three dedicated compartments. This model is weather-resistant and designed to keep all of your gear safe, secure, and dry whether you’re on or off the slopes.
Osprey Kamber 32 Men’s Ski Backpack
This ski backpack comes with a back panel with a dual zipper design that provides access to the hydration reservoir sleeve and main compartment. The three-liter water reservoir is not included. The pack’s front panel features an extra-large design that will give the wearer access to the avalanche safety pocket complete with probe sleeves and a shovel handle. The upper side carry straps support a secure A-frame ski carry for ultimate convenience. The deployable, dual position helmet net allows you to securely stow your helmet, while all of the pack’s buckles and zipper pulls feature a glove-friendly design that allows for easy and fast use.
- Helmet net
- Avalanche compartment
- Glove-friendly zipper pulls
- Compartment for hydration reservoir
- Does not include a boot compartment
- Does not come with a water reservoir
This pack is perfect for backcountry skiing and other outdoor adventures. It comes loaded with all the right features designed to keep you safe, while securing all of your essential gear for your next skiing adventure. This is the pack you need if you’re heading out for some serious exploring during the winter and it’s designed to hold all of the gear, food, and tools you need to stay safe in the backcountry.
Outdoor Master Skiing Backpack
This versatile functional ski backpack features a non-slip waterproof bottom and two separate compartments designed for boots, complete with ventilation, grommets, and drainage holes. The main compartment is massive and designed to hold all of your essential skiing gear including gloves, ski jacket, goggles, gloves, helmet, and more. The boot compartment will fit most boot sizes, which is a huge plus considering competing models often are unable to accommodate boot sizes larger than size ten or eleven. This bag is water-resistant, comes with a lifetime warranty, and includes both wet and dry storage, making it the perfect pack to take with you for those long days on the slopes.
- Wet and dry storage
- Can accommodate most boot sizes
- Lifetime warranty
- Zippers are difficult to use when wearing gloves
This model is equipped with a couple of ergonomic straps three quick access pockets located on the sides, and offers plenty of space, which will allow you to bring along all of your essential gear, whether you’re heading out into the backcountry, or spending a day on the slopes at your local resort.
Unigear Ski Boot Bag
This fifty-liter ski backpack is big enough to store your goggles, helmet, boots, and clothing. If you’re looking for a bag that’s large enough to store all of your important ski gear, then your search is over. This model comes with three individual compartments, in addition to pockets, so you can securely store and organize all of your gear and supplies. The bag itself is durable and waterproof and made out of 1050D nylon. The bottom of the bag is lined with waterproof materials, so you can set your pack in the snow and all your gear will stay dry.
- Loaded with pockets
- Large capacity
- 1-year satisfaction guarantee
- Does not have drain holes in boot compartment
This model is covered by a one year one hundred percent satisfaction guarantee. The pack will keep all of your essential ski gear secure and dry, comes loaded with plenty of compartments and pockets, and is made out of tough material that’s designed to handle plenty of use and abuse on the slopes. This model features an ergonomic design, so you can wear it all day long, whether you’re resort skiing or heading out for some cross-country skiing in the backcountry.
Osprey Kresta 20 Women’s Ski Backpack
This model offers a moderate capacity at twenty liters, so it may not be able to hold as much gear as some skiers may need for a long day of backcountry exploring. The pack comes with plenty of storage options for basic gear such as a helmet, ski jacket, gloves, goggles, and some snacks. The pack features an internal hydration sleeve with a hanger and a dual zipper, and a fully insulated harness router for easy hydration access. The pack’s front panel will give users easy and fast access to the main compartment and the hydration tube. This model also comes with a thermo-formed back panel and shoulder straps that are contoured for user comfort. The shape of the straps and back panel will also improve the user’s posture and balance when they’re on the slopes.
- Hydration sleeve
- Ergonomic design
- Thermo-formed back panel
- Does not come with a boot compartment
- Low storage capacity
This is a small pack that’s designed for smaller trips through the backcountry. Despite its lower capacity it still offers plenty of storage options and comes with a hydration sleeve that is well-protected against freezing temperatures so you can enjoy frost-free drinking on the go. The pack’s lower and upper reinforced carry wings provide comfortable and secure diagonal ski carry, while the ice tool attachment will allow you to secure all of your important tools so they will remain easily accessible during your journey. This is a versatile pack and what it lacks in storage it makes up for in functionality, durability, and an ergonomic design.
DAKINE Poacher Snow Sport Backpack
Not every skier is looking for a pack that offers a massive amount of storage space. In fact, many skiers want a compact pack that’s designed to store just the basics. Enter the Poacher Snow Sport backpack. This ski pack by Dakine features a low capacity of fourteen liters. This model is more designed for backcountry use than resort skiing, despite its lower capacity. The bag’s lightweight design can hold essential avalanche safety gear for general lift riding or shorter backcountry adventures. The bag’s design will rest snugly against the wearer’s back, which makes the pack perfect for aggressive riding. The pack offers just enough room to store a hydration bladder, ski jacket, a few snacks, and a shovel. Boots, skis, and poles can be attached to the exterior of the pack.
- Attachment points on exterior for skis, poles, and boots
- Ergonomic design
- Perfect for short backcountry trips
- Low capacity
- Does not have a dedicated boot compartment
This bag’s design is pretty basic. The low capacity makes it a great choice for shorter days on the slopes or adventures through the backcountry. The pack is designed to carry the basics such as a ski jacket, poles, skis, goggles, and a few snacks. Despite its smaller design the bag itself is very durable and features straps that are highly adjustable for a more comfortable fit.
Ski Backpacks Buyer’s Guide
Most backpacks have a lot in common, such as the shape of the bag and the heavily padded shoulder straps. Yet packs do differ in terms of weight, size, and how much gear they can carry. These days, skiing backpacks are tougher than ever. These packs are designed to last and come equipped with seams that have been bar-tacked or heat-welded. The trick to deciding which pack is the right for you is knowing how you’re going to use it. Will you need a pack simply to carry personal items such as gloves, snacks, and a phone? Or do you often spend most of your time backcountry skiing, so you need to carry important lifesaving tools such as an ice ax? These packs offer a wide range of features to choose from. Of course, one of the most important factors to consider before you buy is what size pack you’ll need.
In most cases, pack size is a personal choice and will depend on if you are the type of person who needs room to take along plenty of gear, or you’re someone who prefers to pack fast and light. Generally, packs that measure in at twenty-five liters are a good choice for short trips. Packs that offer a higher capacity closer to forty liters are a better choice for day trips that are more gear intensive.
Packs that are over forty liters are good for a long weekend trip. Packs that are over fifty liters are built for multiple days on the trail. However, it’s important to keep in mind that the bigger the pack, the heavier the load.
For a backpack, the suspension refers to the frame, hip belt, and shoulder straps. Usually, the bigger the pack the more weight the skier can carry. More weight will require a better suspension system in order for the skier to comfortably carry their load.
The shoulder straps are usually padded to help cushion the shoulders from the heavy load. They also work to disperse the weight from the pack. Modern shoulder straps will feature a combination of breathable mesh and a dense foam. The more weight a model is designed to carry, the thicker the foam will be.
Hip belts are designed to prevent the pack from moving around when worn. Models that can carry over twenty pounds will usually come equipped with a type of padded hip belt that’s designed to transfer the weight to the hips. Most types of hip belts will be made out of the same type of foam found in the shoulder straps. They’re designed to fit snugly around the iliac crest, allowing the weight of the load to be dispersed between the hips, back, and shoulders.
The torso length refers to distance between the top of the hip bone to the top of the shoulder. Many packs are designed to fit torsos that are around sixteen to twenty inches. Skiers with a very tall or short back should do some research to find the perfect length.
Fortunately, most packs are highly adjustable and come with load lifter straps that will allow the wearer to adjust the length from two to four inches. Additionally, many manufacturers make backpacks that have back panels that also have lengths that are adjustable. In many cases, this is accomplished by moving the straps down or up the back panel or by moving the hip belt.
These days, materials that are used for skiing backpacks are impressively tough. Packs that are designed to carry ice and rock-climbing gear will usually have a bottom that’s padded. These packs are often equipped with incredibly durable material in places where crampons or axes are attached.
These packs come with attachment points that have been reinforced so that sharp ski edges will not tear into the pack.
Storage and Organization
Pockets can add a lot of weight to a pack, but they can also keep all of your gear neatly organized and easily accessible. When you’re shopping for a new backpack, you need to determine if you want a model that comes with internal organization or if you’d rather use accessory sleeves for the main compartment.
A traditional backpack will have a drawstring closure and a wide mouth, with some kind of lid. These days, you’ll find packs that come equipped with side zippers, so you won’t have to dig through your whole pack to reach your gear that’s been stored on the bottom.
These packs usually come with back panel access with the help of a U-shaped zipper that will allow the user to fold the entire back panel like a clam shell. This type of entry method will come in handy for the skier who plans on throwing their pack down into the snow when they open it up. The shoulder straps and back panel will have a much better chance of remaining dry and not absorbing water.
Other packs you will come across are panel loaders. A panel loader will have a large reverse U-shaped zipper that can be used to access the contents of the bag. This type of zipper will come in handy, however, it’s also more vulnerable to wear and tear compared to a traditional top loading bag. A roll top backpack will open wide, making it easier to close and open. It also has a reputation for being more water-resistant compared to bags that feature other loading options.
This safety feature is designed for backcountry skiers. If you’re planning on taking your skis out for some serious backcountry skiing, then you may want to consider choosing a model equipped with an Avalung. The Avalung is integrated into some packs and features a breathing valve that’s attached to the pack’s shoulder strap. If the wearer is swept up in an avalanche, then the snorkel piece of the lung can be placed in the mouth. If the skier is buried, they will be able to breathe through the snorkel, which will push the used air out of the opening in the bottom of the pack. This feature will extend the supply of fresh oxygen in the event of a burial. It has a reputation for being very effective at extending a skier’s survival time. However, it’s not meant to save their life, just extend their air supply, giving people more time to find the buried skier.
This is a new feature that you’ll find on some packs. Models with this feature can cost hundreds of dollars, but it can save lives. Using a refillable CO2 canister, the airbags inflate instantly around the wearer’s head. This is accomplished by pulling a ripcord that’s attached to the pack. The first airbag will keep the wearer close to the surface of the avalanche as it continues to slide. This will make it easier to find the skier. Additionally, the airbag wraps around the wearer’s head on three sides providing almost full protection. This can help to minimize trauma damage from boulders and rocks that get swept up by an avalanche.
This feature is specifically designed for the out of bounds or backcountry skier. For skiers who normally stick to resort use, airbags will be overkill.
Many packs on the market will come with external straps that are designed to attach skis to the outside. These external straps will come in handy in the event that the skier needs to hike with their skis on their back, which is pretty common for accessing terrain at many resorts or ski mountaineering. When it comes to design, some packs will allow users to attach the skis in an A-frame configuration or diagonally. Other packs will limit users to a single setup. Bags that come with airbags will not support the A-frame carry. Additionally, it’s also common to find packs that are not able to haul skis, due to their smaller, more compact design.
Types of Ski Backpacks
When it comes to this winter sport, it can take a variety of forms from traveling the Haute Route in the Alps, quick dawn patrol laps before work to seeking fresh powder in the backcountry or lift-served turns. Considering the variety and major differences in pack designs that are created for each use, I’ve broken down the backpacks into a couple of major categories:
- Ski mountaineering
- Resort and day touring
Resort Skiing and Day Touring
A resort pack or day touring pack is perfect for close to home missions and lift-served terrain. These packs tend to prioritize comfort over shaving weight. For this type of pack, you should look for a bag that comes loaded with transition-focused features such as an external accessory pack, back panel access, padded construction that will help the bag to retain its shape and a snow goggle pocket. Most people will go with a lower capacity bag, one that’s around ten to twenty liters. However, some ski tourers will need a larger pack that’s around thirty liters. Skiers who plan on wearing their packs in bounds should look for a model with minimal straps and a clean exterior, both of which can prevent the pack from snagging on the back of a chair lift when unloading.
Ski mountaineering is a type of skiing that involves heading into more mountainous and technical terrain. Mountaineering is a very challenging discipline. Skiers may encounter dry trails along the route, steep snow, ice, and even glaciers. Packs designed for ski mountaineering will often feature a more streamlined design, which will help to shave weight. These packs will also come with dedicated pole and ice tool attachments, in addition to larger capacities for overnight trips, and a helmet carrying system. These packs will also have external straps for ski carry, supportive suspension systems and will be made out of lighter weight fabrics.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Size Backpack do I Need for Skiing?
If you need a pack just to bring along the essentials, such as snacks and a spare pair of gloves, then a smaller pack that offers a capacity of fifteen to twenty liters is perfect. For off-site skiing you may need a bag with a higher capacity of around forty liters, one that comes with pockets that you can use to store and organize all of your gear.
What Should I Carry in my Ski Backpack?
If you’re going to a resort, make sure you keep a resort map on hand. Always bring identification and money for emergency situations. Additionally, bringing along an extra set of socks, glove liners, an additional fleece layer, and extra goggles will always come in handy.
Should I Ski with a Backpack?
Wearing a pack is a must if you’re going backcountry skiing. It’s also important in any skiing area that’s outside the operation of a chair lift. Most packs will come with plenty of useful features such as ice picks, extra straps to attach skis, and pockets that you can use to organize and store all of your essential gear.
What is a Lift in Skiing?
A lift is a type of mechanism that’s used to transport skiers up hills. Lifts are usually a paid service that’s found at all ski resorts.
How Long Does a Ski Lift Take?
This will vary from resort to resort. You may end up going on a lift for a five-minute ride and be at the bottom of a run in another five minutes, or you can go up three lifts and spend thirty to sixty minutes getting down. This all depends on how high up the mountain the lift travels and the routes you take on your way down. Some runs are more difficult and longer than others.
Regardless of the type of pack you choose, make sure you determine what your needs are first. The best ski backpacks will provide enough room to store the gear needed whether it’s an overnight tour or a short day trip at the local ski resort. There are many packs that come loaded with important avalanche features, however, the resort skier will not need this type of advanced safety gear, but the backcountry skier and the out of bounds skier will find these safety features invaluable. I hope this guide can help point you in the right direction to find a pack that meets your needs out on the slopes or deep in the backcountry.