You need a good quality, sturdy, and well-compartmentalized backpack to keep your belonging safe and accessible during your cross country or backcountry skiing adventures. All your important items such as extra layers of clothing, snacks, water, extra gloves, keys, cellphone, and even avalanche equipment (in case you are going out of bounds) need to have a proper place in your skiing backpack.
How to Choose a Backpack?
You must choose a backpack depending upon what your requirements are. You may want to purchase a backpack exclusively for your backcountry skiing trip or may want a versatile backpack that can be used for traveling, and trekking, along with skiing. Some backcountry skiers prefer a built-in deployable airbag in their backpack in case they encounter a slide.
In skiing, it is important to address the question of what kind of a skier you are before finalizing your backpack. If you plan to ski around your ski resort, you will not need to carry a lot of items. However, for your long ski tour in the backcountry that is involving several days, you will need more space and extra equipment in case there is an emergency.
You may need a backpack for one of the following reasons:
For Cross-Country Skiing
Some cross country skiers prefer not to carry a backpack when the trails are relatively shorter. However, once you aim to go on longer routes, carrying a backpack becomes a must. Still, you will need a compact model which is good enough to store some extra layers, water, and probably some snacks. You do not need to worry much about carrying other important and life-saving gear like avalanche gear. The same goes for your ski resort trails. However, once you go beyond the trails, you may then need a bigger storage pack.
For Backcountry Skiing
In the case of backcountry skiing, you will need to carry more items with you. Your backpack should have room for more items and should be more compartmentalized so that finding those items does not become a nightmare for you. Also when you are touring and plan to camp in the open, you may need more food and room for technical gear (such as ropes, ice-axe, etc.) for which you need bigger storage in your backpack.
The backpacks that are exclusively designed for backcountry skiers offer great storage and especially quality (the last thing you want is to have a tear at the bottom of the bag dropping all your stuff on the slopes). They also need to have multiple pockets protected by a weather-resistant cover. In addition to this, the backpack should have enough straps to attach your ski poles, skis, helmet, and other important gear. It is also important to invest in an avalanche safety system when heading out in the unknown snow. For this, if you plan to frequently travel to remote areas that have a higher probability of avalanches around them, make sure your backpack is equipped with a proper avalanche safety system.
When you are out in the snowy terrain, insulated items are all you want. This is not just true when you are wearing your warm layers of clothes and ski boots, but it is also crucial for your backpack to be well-insulated. If there is no proper mechanism of insulation in a backpack, your water bottles will freeze (who wants to drink ice?), your hydration hose will have an ice blockage, and your snacks and food items will taste like they have been just taken out from your deep freezer. For this reason, you need to make sure the quality of the material and its insulation mechanism are good enough for your skiing trip.
The skiing backpacks come in different sizes ranging from the compact 20 L backpacks that work well for your cross country ski trails to the larger 40 L or 50 L packs for your overnight backcountry stay.
Keep in mind the fact that you will be carrying your backpack so the larger your backpack is (which means it will be carrying more of your stuff), the harder it will be for you especially for long trips. A smart skier needs to go for a practical balance. Your backpack should be spacious enough to carry all important items and an avalanche safety system (in case you are going backcountry) but also practical at the same time. Generally, skiers go for the 30 L to 40 L backpack capacity range as this range is good for short outings of the backcountry and also saves room for your avalanche gear.
To find the perfect capacity for your backpack, keep in mind the type of skiing you are practicing, the duration, and the weather. Some minimalist skiers go for a 10 L backpack which has their hydration back along with a pocket to store an item or two. Many skiers go for the lightweight 20 L backpacks that offer enough space to store a hydration bag, an extra layer, some snacks, and backup goggles.
The 30 L backpack models are pretty popular among both cross country as well as backcountry skiers. This capacity is good for carrying necessary items and even safety equipment for storing avalanche tools. For backcountry skiers, 40 L to 60 L is also a preferred storage capacity where they can store their sleeping bag, ropes, extra layers, snacks, avalanche gear, and other important items.
A ski backpack can weigh as light as 2 pounds or as heavy as 6.5 pounds. For backcountry skiers who want to have an airbag system, the weight increases. Keep in mind the fact that the weight of the backpack will add to the weight of the items you will be carrying in it. Having said that, your backpack’s actual weight (without the items) is related to its level of supportiveness. The lighter your backpack is, the less padding and suspension it offers. A nicely padded backpack will let you carry your belongings effortlessly for a longer duration but will have some added weight of its own.
There are different types of safety features to look for when it comes to purchasing your ski backpack. As a rule of thumb, skiers stay indoors when the avalanche danger is high. However, whenever one is skiing, there is some level of risk attached to it. As a backcountry skier, it is important to have a backpack with an avalanche safety mechanism.
There are two main types of safety mechanisms implemented in skiing backpacks when it comes to avalanche protection: Airbags and AvaLungs. Though the functionality of both features is different, their purpose is the same, that is, to keep you alive. In the majority of the cases, the avalanche safety features are detachable so when the avalanche danger is low or you want to use the backpack for other reasons, you can simply remove the avy safety system. The AvaLung is a tube system that lets you breathe in oxygen (which is pulled from the pack) and exhale carbon dioxide which is transported away from the mouth and nose region. This way the survivor gets access to oxygen even after being buried under piles of snow.
Some new backpacks come equipped with an airbag feature that inflates from the sides or around your neck, depending upon its design. When you pull a cord in the backpack, the airbag feature gets activated.
There are two main benefits of having an airbag featuring a backpack. First of all, it shields you from the blows caused by rocks or branches of trees broken by an avalanche. Secondly, the airbag prevents you from getting sucked in by the avalanche as it enables you to float over or closer to the surface. This way, you can be easily spotted by the rescue team.
Getting an airbag-equipped backpack does not come cheap but it certainly is lifesaving in case you encounter an avalanche situation. If you are into extreme skiing and often go to the terrain around the avalanche-hit slopes, it is recommended that you invest in one.
Best 12 Backpacks for Cross-Country and Backcountry Skiing
Here are our top 12 recommendations when it comes to cross country and backcountry ski backpacks:
1. Arc’teryx Brize 32 Backpack
The Arc’teryx Brize 32 Backpack is packed with tons of features yet has a minimalist design which makes it stylish and practical at the same time. It is comfortable and sturdy, and the shoulder straps are cushioned giving you the comfort of a cushion when you are out and about. You can attach your helmet, climbing shoes, or any other gear using its SwiftClip bungee straps. This versatile backpack can be used for your day trips, overnighters, travels, or day to day use. You can conveniently access its main compartment from the top. The zippered pocket at the front gives you quick access whereas the side pockets are perfect for holding your water bottles and snacks. There is also a small pocket at the top that is ideal for keeping in lighter items. There is also an internal pocket where you can organize your headlamp or other important items. It is available for $189.00.
Colors: Black, Cobalt Moon, Yukon
Capacity: Available in one size – 32 liters/ 42 oz. Height = 61 cm, Depth = 20 cm, Width = 25 cm.
Weight: 1.19 kg
- Organized backpack with a lot of pockets for easy access. Features side pockets that can hold a 1-liter bottle or ski poles, internal security pocket, top lid pocket, and a zippered pocket on the front.
- Top access of main compartment featuring drawcord closure.
- Compatible with hydration bladder. Has a Hydroport™ drink tube passage that keeps the hydration bladder suspended using an internal clip.
- Comfortable design and airflow construction featuring Aeroform™ thermoform and hydrophobic back. Shoulders are padded with a sternum strap.
- SwiftClip bungee straps and dual front daisy chains for securing items such as ski poles, shoes, etc.
- Four compression straps. Two straps on each side of the backpack.
With different sized pockets for storing various handy items, the Arc’teryx Brize 32 Backpack is easy to carry for a long duration of hours. The ergonomic Aeroform thermoformed back panel facilitates the airflow. The hip strap is not too rigid like many other backpacks out there, though a zipper pocket on the hip strap would have helped. Thanks to its padded shoulder straps that are super comfortable, this backpack will not disappoint you.
2. Osprey Kresta 20 Backpack – Women’s
The Osprey Kresta 20 Backpack is ideal for backcountry skier women with its practical size and features. It has a built-in pocket for hydration reservoir that is intelligently manufactured to prevent any kind of freezing. The shoulder straps are nicely contoured and the thermoformed back panel provides stability and comfort even if you carry it for long hours. You also get easy access to all your important stuff and the zippered panel makes sure your items are secure. The zippers and buckles are all glove-friendly which makes this backpack stand out from the crowd. It is available for $149.95.
Colors: Powder Blue, and Rosewood Red.
Capacity: With dimensions of 19 inches (height) x 11 inches (width) x 8 inches (depth), it has a capacity of 20 liters.
Weight: 2.14 pounds
- Quick and easy access to items. Glove-friendly zippers and buckles.
- Contoured EVA harness. Attachment points for GPS/ Radio webbing.
- The hydration hose sleeve is insulated and zippered.
- Easy zipper access to the avalanche safety pocket with shovel handle and probe sleeve. Extra-large front panel with front panel access to the main compartment for hydration and dry equipment.
- Zippered hip belt pockets for a single hand quick access to important items.
- Adjustable sternum strap with a whistle for safety.
- High-quality snow shedding material to reduce snow and ice buildup. The main material is 420HD nylon packcloth, with 420HD nylon mini check dobby accent, and 420 HD nylon packcloth bottom.
Although there are many unisex backpacks out there, yet a woman’s body is different than a man’s, and an exclusively designed backpack that features a contoured back panel and a fixed EVA hip belt along with an extremely handy and compartmentalized backpack is a big plus. The Osprey Kresta 20 Backpack is ideal for female backpackers and skiers for their adventures.
3. Kulkea Micro Pack
The Kulkea Micro Pack is intelligently designed to keep your important stuff handy without weighing you down. It is a low-profile backpack that works great for all kinds of outdoor adventures especially skiing. The back panel is padded and contoured, the shoulder straps are comfortable and ideal for long adventures. You can carry a vast range of items including extra goggle lenses and gloves, to snacks and water bottles. At only $99.95, you can get a great outdoor experience.
Colors: Grey/ Black/ Red
Capacity: It has the dimensions of 17.5 inches (height) x 8.75 inches (width) x 3 inches (depth)
Weight: 1 pound
The Shed-A-Layer™ design lets you remove and strap down a layer for your convenience and ease of use.
- The primary pocket is ideal for storing face masks, bandanna, extra gloves, snacks, or lunch. The security pocket lets you secure your important items such as keys, cash, credit cards, etc. in a rear entry back panel pocket. The stash pocket keeps your essential items and snacks dry under a waterproof zipper.
- The hydration holster with a large refillable water bottle or two smaller refillable water bottles.
- Padded and contoured back panel with adjustable waist straps that provide you with the ideal fil and support. You can tuck the waist belt into the back panel notches.
- The Pack Release™ features easy pack removing thanks to the swift buckles.
- The side loops can strap a helmet or any important item. There is also a lip balm pouch that is easily accessible.
- The backpack comes with an emergency whistle for your safety.
- Sturdy and good quality D-ring attachments, Velcro attachments, and daisy chains for front webbing loops.
The Kulkea Micro Pack is light in weight but does a heavy-duty job when it comes to storage and transportation. It is made of water-resistant nylon and polyester materials that have great quality and are durable. This backpack is not only great for skiing but also works nicely for your other outdoor adventures including trailing and biking.
4. Kulkea Kayda Ski Backpack
The Kulkea Kayda Ski Backpack is a stylish and spacious backpack that can be used for cross country skiing as well as backcountry skiing. It is also an ideal bag for traveling as it has a lot of compartmentalized room. You can make it your boot bag as you can carry your ski boots along with other necessary items. It is available for $279.95.
Capacity: It has the dimensions of 20 inches x 13.5 inches x 8.5 inches.
Weight: 40 liters volume
- Main compartment for storing objects that need extra space like your ski boots.
- The backpack is well-organized and has a separate pocket for your laptop.
- It is made of waterproof PVC-free tarpaulin fabrics to keep your belongings safe.
- Removable waist belt for comfort.
- Super spacious for storing electronic gadgets including having a padded laptop pocket.
- You can store your helmet outside the bag using the retractable helmet slight which saves you internal space.
The Kulkea Kayda Ski Backpack is spacious, stylish, and manufactured using great quality 900D polyester, which makes it durable, lightweight, and waterproof. There are lots of compartments and you won’t end up with cluttered items at the end. It has a detachable travel kit that comes in handy when you are traveling, making the Kulkea Kayda Ski Backpack a versatile backpack.
5. Osprey Kamber 22 Backpack
The Osprey Kamber 22 Backpack is great for backcountry as well as cross country skiers and snowboarders. It is available for $149.95.
Colors: Galactic Black, Ripcord Red
Capacity: 22 liters. It has dimensions of 22 inches x 11 inches x 8 inches.
Weight: 2.79 pounds
- Spacious and compartmentalized with pockets in the hip belt.
- Front panel easy access.
- Manufactured using snow shedding material to keep your stuff safe from external dampness.
- Made with great quality 420HD nylon.
- Glove-friendly buckles and zippers.
- It has a built-in pocket for a hydration reservoir to prevent freezing.
- A handy whistle for emergencies.
With easy zippered access to your gear, the Osprey Kamber 22 Backpack is light in weight but heavy-duty when it comes to storage. On the outside of the backpack, there are multipurpose straps. The construction and design are intelligent, and the backpack adds value to your skiing experience.
6. Jones DSCNT Pack
Simple, stylish, and spacious, the Jones DSCNT Pack can be purchased for $129.95.
Capacity: 25 Liters
Weight: 1.2 kg
- Hydrop-pocket with insulated sleeve.
- Reflective straps and color-coded buckles.
- Double hip pockets and a fleece-lined goggle pocket.
- Comfortable straps featuring S-shaped shoulder straps.
- Dual loops for ice axe and an avalanche tool pocket.
- Helmet holder
With avy tool pocket and dual loops for an ice axe, the Jones DSCNT Pack works as a great backcountry ski backpack, but can also be used as a cross country ski bag as it has a good capacity of 25 L which does not get too heavy for XC trails.
7. Dakine Heli Pro Backpack
The Dakine Heli Pro Backpack is affordable and reliable and comes with great functionalities. It is available for only $94.95.
Colors: Dark/ Slate, and Golden Glow
Capacity: 20 Liters
Weight: 1.8 pounds
- It is spacious and has the dimensions: 21 inches x 12 inches x 8 inches
- It is a great quality backpack with an integrated hip belt for continuous stability on the move.
- It has a snow tool pocket with integrated sleeves that give you quick access to the shovel and probe.
- Carry options for A-Frame or diagonal ski as well as a vertical snowboard.
- Padded protection for your laptop up to 15 inches.
- The optics pocket is fleece-lined, and it keeps your goggles and glasses scratch-free.
- This backpack is compatible with the DK Impact Spine Protector, which you can purchase separately.
It is a great cross country as well as a backcountry ski backpack. Since the padded laptop sleeve doubles as the hydration compartment, it gives your hydration reservoir the anti-freeze protection that you need when outdoors. It is a versatile bag that can be carried in multiple ways. The Dakine Heli Pro Backpack gives you value for your money and a great outdoor experience.
8. Ortovox Haute Route 32 Backpack
The Ortovox Haute Route 32 Backpack is jam-packed with features that make it stand out from the rest of the ski backpacks. It is available for $170.00.
Colors: Just Blue
Capacity: 32 Liters
Weight: 2.76 pounds
- Manufactured using great quality polyamide.
- It features side and diagonal ski fastening mechanisms.
- Whistle with the chest strap.
- Helmet net and rope attachment options. Also has snowboard and snowshoe attachment points.
- Well-compartmentalized with water-resistant zippers. Also features a hip pocket as well as a map compartment.
- Compatible with a hydration system.
- SOS emergency information.
- It comes with 2 years manufacturer’s warranty.
The Ortovox Haute Route 32 Backpack is spacious, chic, practical, and versatile. It has an intelligent design to keep all your important ski gear handy with you. You can access its main compartment from the back making it easy to use and comfortable to carry on long adventures.
9. Ortovox Free Rider 26 L Backpack
The Ortovox Free Rider 26 L Backpack comes in three different sizes and is great for multiple days of skiing adventures. It is available for $200.00.
Colors: Black Raven
Capacity: 26 Liters
Weight: 3.06 pounds
- Compartmentalized and organized, featuring upper storage compartment, key holder, and hip pocket.
- Has a diagonal ski or snowboard fastening attachment, a side ski attachment, ski pole and ice axe fastener, and a helmet net.
- Front as well as rear access to the main compartment of the backpack.
- Chest strap with whistle.
- Wide hip belt for comfort and fitting.
- Compatible with a hydration system.
- Emergency card for important ID information.
The Ortovox Free Rider 26 L Backpack is spacious and durable and perfect for cross country as well as backcountry skiing trips. It is intelligently designed giving you organized storage and quick access to your belongings when you are on the go.
10. Black Diamond Cirque 35 Ski Pack
The Black Diamond Cirque 35 Ski Pack has a minimal construction layout but is loaded with features. It is available for $169.96.
Capacity: Two sizes: 35 liters (M/L) and 33 liters (S/M).
Weight: 2 pounds 6 oz (M/L) and 2 pounds 4 oz (S/M)
- Unique design that opens and closes with a single pull.
- Constructed with great quality Dynex.
- Integrated avalanche tool pocket with drain holes.
- Comes with a diagonal ski carry and A-frame carry.
- Spacious and great quality. Comes with a hip-belt pocket and single gear loop.
The Black Diamond Cirque 35 Ski Pack is a great technical ski mountaineering pack and features active suspension and a CINCH closure system.
11. Black Diamond JetForce UL Ski Pack
The Black Diamond JetForce UL Ski Pack is the lightest avalanche backpack you can come across. It is great for backcountry skiing trips and can be purchased for $722.46.
Capacity: 24 liters (S/M) and 26 liters (M/L)
Weight: 1.89 kg (S/M) and 1.99kg (M/L)
- Lightweight and sturdy.
- Diagonal ski carry system enables airbags to deploy while skis are attached.
- Helmet holder and internal pocket.
- Avalanche gear pocket.
The backpack comes in two sizes and is super light in weight, which makes it ideal for long durations of snowy terrain. It has a higher price than many other backpacks but offers great quality and avy features.
12. Scott Patrol E1 30 Avalanche Airbag Backpack
It is a chic backpack that comes equipped with an avalanche safety mechanism. You can purchase it for $1,100.00.
Colors: Black/ Tangerine Orange
Capacity: 30 liters
Weight: 1390 grams
- Lightweight and features an avalanche airbag for emergencies.
- Offers a good amount of storage including a helmet holder, snowboard holder, equipment loops, and a ski rack.
- Has an emergency whistle and carry cushion.
- It is constructed using great quality polyamide and polyester.
The Scott Patrol E1 30 Avalanche Airbag Backpack checks all the boxes when it comes to avalanche safety, lightweight, and quality. It is an expensive backpack but totally worth the price due to its avalanche safety features.
You cannot go on a ski adventure without carrying the proper gear with you. Whether you are heading out for a cross-country ski trip or are going to the backcountry, you need a comfortable, sturdy, spacious, and well-compartmentalized backpack that has safety features so you can enjoy a safe ski trip.