If you’re a ski enthusiast like me, I am sure you agree that skiing in solitude and not having to fight for first-chair to get onto fresh snow is becoming all the more difficult in overloaded ski resorts.
The allure of fresh tracks, no lift lines, and year-round skiing has pushed many skiers to the ever-growing pursuit of backcountry skiing.
For some, backcountry skiing is about getting the furthest out into the deep wilderness, while for others, it’s about finding waist-deep, pristine powder.
But for me, it’s getting out of resort boundaries before they’re open and continuing to do so after they close.
For whatever reasons you choose backcountry skiing, there should be no sugarcoating of the risks involved. Here, you’re on your own; there’s no ski patrol, and no one telling you to slow down.
Apart from a dose of confidence and respect for the terrain, you’ll also need a ski backpack suitable for your backcountry adventures.
You see, while sliding down the mountains, your beacon, shovel, and avalanche probe are your best friends and must always be on your person, not to mention be easily accessible while traveling out-of-bounds.
Choosing the right backpack for backcountry skiing ensures you have a convenient and easy way to store your essential items while on the move.
The choice of a ski bag can either make or break your next ski tour. Of course, you may choose to go with any retail backpack, but the modern-day backcountry skiing packs offer the best survival option in many situations.
From avalanche airbags to food and snack storage to avalung pipes, backcountry backpacks are more life savers than just storage options.
To help you choose the right backpack for you, we’ve prepared a comprehensive guide, reviewing the best options on the market today.
Table of Contents
The Best Ski Backpacks for Backcountry Skiing For The Money
#1 Osprey Kamber 32 - EDITOR'S CHOICE
If you’ve followed my blog, you’ll know that I love Osprey’s products because they put so much thought into their designs.
And the Kamber Backpack is no different.
It’s a fantastic backcountry backpack, containing all the features you would probably need to hit in freezing backcountry terrain.
This option is also available in different capacities, including 22L, 32L, and 40L, but today, our review will focus on the 32L option. I find packs in the 30 to 35L range are perfect for day trips into alpine trails and backcountry. It’s big enough to accommodate extra gear when needed, yet small enough to carry while skiing.
Features and Benefits
If you’ve been on a backcountry adventure, you’ll know that carrying mountain gear in the snow isn’t easy on a backpack.
From hauling ice axes, shovels, ski boards, and probes, backpacks often get a lot of harsh treatment out in the cold.
To withstand the demands, your backpack needs to be tough, like the Osprey Kamber.
The 420HD nylon on this option is a solid and durable material that handles anything you throw at it.
We used this option to hold our sharp-edged skis and other rock-climbing gear without it showing and signs of wear.
Another thing you’ll love about the nylon is how thick it is, enough to resist water penetration. It’s not fully waterproof, but it does have water-resistant properties to offer ample protection of your gear from moisture, snowmelt, and the odd light shower.
The Kamber, with a holding capacity of 32 liters, is neither too big nor too small.
I found the capacity right on the sweet spot for skiers who want to enjoy extended stays outside the resort or in backcountry outings, while at the same time offering sufficient space and organization for all your gear.
We were able to hold avalanche gear, food, several bottles of water, skins, and extra layers during our expedition and still had some space left. Yet, it didn’t feel bulky, and the mere three pound weight allowed us to move on our tracks much faster.
Storage and access
The Kamber 32 has plenty of storage compartments for optimum organization, but what we love most with this design is the access to the main compartment.
Entry to the main compartment on this non-expandable pack is offered via a back panel.
It’s a clever design that ensures the back panels don’t get covered in snow and that your back does not get wet. It also offers easy access to the main compartment.
On the flip side, I found the design a little challenging when I tried to really fill the pack to its capacity, limiting what I could carry.
Other storage compartments that we like include the dedicated avalanche safety pockets that fit a shovel saw, skin, probe, and other specific tools.
Finally, you get a hip belt pocket on each side for storing anything you need to access quickly without having to bring the bag down from your back. It’s an awesome place to store your energy bars, a small camera, or small accessories.
Fit and comfort
A backpack is only comfortable if it fits you well, and, fortunately, the Kamber 32 is available in multiple sizes that will fit pretty much everyone.
But apart from sizing, this backpack also integrates several other comfort-enhancing features.
For instance, it comes with a light aluminum frame, which works well to distribute your bag’s weight, so no single part of your body handles all the strain.
Also, the shoulder and sternum straps are padded with quality foam to remove any strain from your shoulders.
#2 Dakine Heli Pack 12L Backpack - Best Minimalist Option
The Dakine Heli is a lightweight, minimalist ski bag, perfect for those in need of a backcountry bag in a manageable, mid-sized package.
While being a reliable outdoor bag, it’s also versatile and accommodative, with the different organizational compartments allowing you to pack everything you need for your trip.
Features and Benefits
As mentioned above, the Dakine is perfect for those looking for a small yet stable ski or snowboard pack.
While it’s modest and lacks the bells and whistles of our editor’s choice, the Kamber, I feel the size and functionality of this bag are perfect for those who want to keep things simple.
My daughter wanted something nice and rugged for her first solo trip, and she got this bag. She couldn’t be happier, and from her experience, the bag offers everything you may need for your trip.
It’s not the most spacious option, but you can go for the larger versions if you ever feel you need to carry more.
The ocean blue design might also not be to everyone’s taste, but my husband can spot me easily in the mountains when I’m wearing it.
I can’t overemphasize the need for having a high-quality ski bag when heading into the mountains.
While you could do with a regular bag for carrying essentials such as food and water, the situation is different when you need to carry ice axes, edged tools, and other sharp implements.
Having a rugged and strong bag is essential, and fortunately, with the Dakine, you don’t have to worry about your bag tearing.
The 100% polyester construction is sturdy and will survive anything you throw at it. It doesn’t wear easily and won’t tear even when holding sharp-edged tools.
It’s also water-resistant, and though it won’t protect your items from running water, it keeps them safe against moisture, melted snow, and light showers.
Dakine’s 12L capacity is relatively small, but if you’re looking for a more compact option with a lower capacity, this is a great choice for you.
It’s an appealing option for those who don’t carry a lot of gear and prioritize mobility on the tracks.
The pack doesn’t wear you down, and we had an easy time with it when skin tracking.
The Dakine 12L is also a great purchase for those who don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars on a ski touring backpack.
Organization & compartments
The Dakine Heli has three compartments, with the primary compartment accommodating the majority of your contents.
Here, you can pack your food, beacons, water, attire, and whatever else your journey requires.
But, keep in mind it’s only 12 liters, so you should always be mindful when packing. Otherwise, it’s easy for the space to fill up pretty quickly.
The second compartment is tailored to smaller accessories such as goggles, phone, wallet, and gloves. We love that the compartment features a felt lining to prevent any scratches or abrasions to your items.
One big drawback of the pouch is it expands back into the main pocket, thus taking up some of its volume. So, depending on the items in the pouch, you could lose considerable space in the main compartment.
I discovered that by packing the main pocket first, it was easy to fit a few more items in the side-pocket than when packing the secondary storage first.
The final compartment, formed by the backpack’s front template, offers the perfect spot for holding your helmet and doubles as a spot for loose clothing and hats.
Comfort and fit
The heavily padded back panel is comfortable against your back, while the countered shoulder straps offer an ergonomic and comfortable fit.
Additionally, the hip belt ensures the pack stays put on your body while going downhill.
#3 Black Diamond Dawn Patrol 25 Backpack - Best for Short Tours
If you need a backpack to get you through an afternoon on the slopes, short tours around the mountain pass, or shredding side-country routes, the Black Diamond Dawn is the pack for the job.
This popular backpack is nicely sized and shaped to hold an avalanche of gear along with the bare necessities.
It’s also AvaLung-ccompatible for that extra margin of safety when you venture out of bounds.
Features and Benefits
The Dawn Patrol is a product of a brand that has long been associated with quality manufacturing.
It upholds the brand’s legacy, which is easy to see from the quality of construction on this unit.
The lightweight Dynex material, a combination of nylon and PE, offers a sturdy and rugged bag that can survive anything you throw at it.
It doesn’t tear easily, even when loaded with sharpies or other sharp-edged tools.
The material also has decent water resistance and should keep your gear dry in slushy weather.
While the material seems solid and durable enough to stand up to several years of use, the fabric may be vulnerable to scrapes and punctures from the ski edges over time.
At 25 liters is a bit on the smaller side but still a great size for a single day outing.
The capacity comfortably accommodates most of your essentials, including food, water, clothing, and most of what you might need for your trip.
And the good news is the backpack is also available in a 32-liter version, so if you feel this option doesn’t fully accommodate your day tour needs, you can always go for the larger product.
The Dawn Patrol has a spacious storage compartment that works well for storing your ski touring gear as well as money or documents.
It also features several zippered pockets that make it easy to organize smaller accessories such as gloves and goggles.
One unique feature that isn’t common on other backpacks on the market is a zipped shoulder strap that opens to reveal a hidden slip pocket. It’s a thoughtful design that provides the perfect place to store your valuable items and money since there’s no way anyone can access the storage while you’re wearing the backpack.
The Dawn Patrol is as comfortable as it gets, with the ultra-thick padding in the back panel and an insert in the middle making this a delightful backpack to use.
It’s comfortable to wear, and the single insert helps to keep your back dry, even if you decide to wear the backpack during warmer days.
The pack also stays put, securely attached to your torso, and it feels weightless, so you won’t feel fatigued even after wearing it for an extended period.
#4 Ortovox Haute Route 40 - Perfect for Alpine Adventures
Our fourth pick, the Haute Route 40, is named for the classic European ski-touring route and is designed to accommodate alpine adventurers’ needs.
It’s a heavy-duty option that will guarantee a successful backcountry adventure, satisfying all your needs and keeping your essentials safe.
But, is it the right backpack for you?
Features and Benefits
The Haute 40 is a top-loading backpack, boasting of a weather and scuff-resistant outer skin made from Cordun and 420 denier nylon.
It’s a reliable shell that works well in a large variety of conditions, from multi-day hut trips to side-country laps outside the resort.
It doesn’t wear out quickly and will survive anything you throw at it.
The Haute Route comes with a 30-liter capacity, which I find is the perfect medium for storage and portability on certain outings.
It’s big enough to hold all you need for your skiing essentials, yet it doesn’t feel bulky and won’t weigh you down when on the move.
The bag is also spacious and will accommodate more stuff than our previously reviewed items.
However, if none of the above are on your agenda, you might want to downsize to a smaller, more minimalist option.
Like many of the bags on our list, this option has a main compartment and several other zippered pouches for storing smaller accessories.
But one thing I particularly like with the Haute’s compartmentalization is a back-panel zipper, which allows me to find things buried deep in the bag’s bottom while my skis are still strapped on.
Other crucial storage compartments include a dedicated pocket for holding your goggles and keeping them abrasion-free, along with an avalanche compartment.
Finally, the pack also includes a lash point for the easy storage of ice axes and poles. It can accommodate both snowboards and skis in either an A-frame or diagonal configuration.
Comfort and fit
The generous padding in the shoulder and hip-belt straps ensure the pack doesn’t dig into your shoulders, even when overloaded.
But what we find even more appealing is the O-shaped suspension system, which helps with the transfer of weight onto the hip belt while keeping heavy loads from crushing the pack.
While the suspension is nothing revolutionary or groundbreaking, it comes with a practical design to promote comfort and ease of use.
And, despite the presence of sport-specific components, this option is neatly designed with a clean and simple fee.
#5 TETON Sports Oasis 1100 Hydration Pack - Most Waterproof
I love the Teton Sports Oasis pack as it easily hods everything I need for a day hike. The small pockets are ideal for holding my keys, wallet, or binoculars, while the larger pocket is suitable for my fleece, rain jacket, or other clothing.
My only wish is that the backpack be available in a larger size, say 30 liters, but that’s just my preference. This one has an 18-liter capacity.
Features and Benefits
I must be honest, I didn’t expect great results in terms of durability, considering the cost.
But, I was wrong,
This bag is acceptably durable for its price.
The 210D weatherproof shell with ripstop polyester and polyurethane offers a rugged material that will survive heavy backcountry skiing use.
It’s the perfect pick for outdoor adventures, from biking, hiking, and mountaineering to skiing. It withstands scrapes with boulders or even trees on a dense trail.
The pack also includes a rain pouch to keep everything dry through the deepest part of the water. With this pack, you don’t have to worry about getting caught in a shower, heavier rain, or the risk of melted snow.
The Teton Sports might not be the most spacious item on our list, but the 18-liter capacity is still sufficient to hold quite a lot of your gear.
It has enough space to carry your sports gear, clothing, food, and other items for your adventure.
For my taste, a little more space would have been good as I usually have a lot to carry when skiing.
The good news, though, is that they have a larger version of the same product.
Your storage options are less likely to run out with this bag because it features a host of multi-pockets and zippered pouches for more carrying space.
For instance, I find the mesh pouches on each side ideal for storing my sunscreen or lotion, while the secondary compartments are perfect for small accessories such as phones or wallets.
And the fun doesn’t stop there!
These pockets also feature a weather guard to protect your items, regardless of the weather conditions. They also have reverse zippers to prevent melted water or any other elements from getting into your bag’s interior.
Another outstanding feature of the Teton Sports is the two-liter water bladder, which is perfect for keeping you hydrated when hiking.
I love that I no longer need to lug my water bottle because this bag comes integrated with a BPA-free and DA-compliant bladder.
And that’s not all!
The bladder features a kink-free sip tube and a novel push-lock for easy access. The five cm opening for ice keeps the water cool while ensuring a hassle-free cleaning process.
The only slight complaint I have with the bladder is the water tastes plasticky for the first two or three times of use. From there, though, the taste fades and is barely noticeable.
Comfort and fit
Skiing with this pack is a delight, and you’ll enjoy every moment with the Teton Sport.
First, the back has a ventilated mesh section to keep your back dry and airy on sunny days.
It’s also cushioned, so it feels great on your back.
Additionally, the straps are sufficiently padded not to strain your shoulders. When wearing the pack, you won’t feel like the straps are digging into your shoulders, and when you combined it with the pack’s lightweight design, you’ll hardly feel it on your back.
Best Ski Backpacks for Backcountry Skiing Buying Guide
Most backcountry ski bags have the same things in common, such as their shape and the presence of suspension straps.
At the same time, however, they differ in many other ways.
To help you pick the right ski bag for you, we’ve created a detailed guide outlining the critical factors to consider in your next purchase.
Factors to Consider when Selecting a Backcountry Ski Backpack
Size and capacity
Ski backpacks are available in a wide range of sizes, from the compact 18-20L packs to the larger 40L+ ones.
To find out which capacity is right for you, consider your needs.
For instance, for skiers who participate in side-country skiing at speed, a lighter pack such as the 20-Liter option makes more sense.
On the other hand, 40-liter options are more suitable for skiers planning for a long overnight or multi-night trip.
Keep in mind, though, that you’ll be backpacking with your bag, which may be more challenging if you choose a big option.
A smart skier needs to go for a practical balance. Your backpack should not only be spacious enough to hold all your crucial essentials, but it should also be lightweight and functional at the same time.
Backpacks can weigh as little as two pounds or as much as six and a halff pounds.
For backcountry skiers who want to incorporate an airbag system, the weight increases drastically.
While a weighty bag will wear you down fast, keep in mind that the weight determines a bag’s supportiveness level.
The lighter your bag, the less padding and suspension.
For a backpack, the suspension refers to the frame, hip belt, and shoulder straps.
The bigger the bag, the more the weight it holds, and more weight requires a better suspension system for supporting the load.
The perfect suspension system should come with padded straps to help cushion your shoulders from a heavy load. It should also help in distributing the weight from the pack.
Modern shoulder straps feature a combination of breathable mesh and dense foam.
Other backpacks come with hip belts to prevent the pack from moving around a lot when worn. Hip belts are standard in models that can accommodate heavier loads as they help with the transfer of the weight to the hips.
Even if you make a habit of avoiding the slopes when the danger of avalanches is great, the risk is always there.
This is why we recommend you choose a backpack with an avalanche safety system to keep you prepared even in unexpected situations.
The two common types of avalanche safety mechanisms you find in ski backpacks are airbags and AvaLungs.
The idea behind both of these safety mechanisms is to keep you safe and breathing as you wait for help to arrive.
Airbags are the most common option as they inflate, keeping you afloat if you slide so you don’t get pulled under. They also offer essential neck and head protection against obstacles on the path.
On the other hand, the AvaLung consists of a breathing valve attached to the pack’s shoulder strap. In case you’re buried under the snow, the snorkel piece of the lung can be placed on the mount to facilitate breathing.
Backcountry skiing is all about getting yourself past the limits, and, in some cases, it can get very cold indeed.
Of course, having proper body gear for insulation is critical, but it’s also essential to have your backpack well insulated.
If there’s no proper insulation, you risk water bottles freezing or having an ice blockage in your hydration hose.
No one wants their meal to taste like it has just been taken out from a deep freezer.
For this reason, you need to ensure the quality of the materials and insulation used on your backpacks is good enough for your trip.
Wrap Up: Our Choice
Our list of the best ski backpacks for backcountry skiing consists of awesome choices, but we feel the Osprey Kamber 32 stands out from the rest.
It’s a heavy-duty option, tailored to survive the grueling needs of backcountry skiing. The 420D nylon doesn’t wear easily and will stand up to the sharp-edges of your skis and other climbing gear.
We also love how the pack strikes a balance between size and portability. It offers a decent capacity of 32 liters, enough to hold all your skiing accessories, yet it doesn’t feel bulky.
The pack is also easy to use, with the back panel access offering simple and fast access to your gear.