If you’ve been thinking about ditching a regular backpack for a backpack specifically designed for snow sports – now’s the time! Whether this is your first ski backpack or one of many, having the right pack is essential. Not just any pack will do.
A backpack designed for cold weather and mountain activities makes your ski or snowboard experience a million times better! Once you experience the comfort and function they provide, there’s just no going back. But beyond that, having special features is imperative for your safety. Regardless of your ability level or level of intensity, all snow sports are risky.
So if you’re in the market for the perfect snowboard or ski backpack to ensure the best possible mountain experience, here you’ll find top picks for a variety of categories, plus things to consider when choosing your ideal ski backpack. Sit back, get comfy, and enjoy reading through this ultimate guide for finding the best ski backpack for your next winter adventure.
And away we go…
Quick Answer: Best Ski Backpacks
#1 Black Diamond Dawn Patrol 32 – Best Ski Backpack Overall
#2 Dakine Poacher 14L Pack – Best Budget Ski Backpack
#3 Deuter Freerider Lite 25 Snow Pack – Best Budget Ski Pack #2
#4 Black Diamond JetForce UL26 Avalanche Airbag Pack – Best Airbag Ski Pack
#5 Backcountry Access Float 32 Avalanche Airbag Pack – Best Airbag Ski Pack #2
#6 Black Diamond Cirque 35 Pack – Best Ski Mountaineering Pack
|Black Diamond Dawn Patrol 32||Check on Black DiamondCheck on Backcountry|
|Dakine Poacher 14L Pack||Check on REI|
|Deuter Freerider Lite 25 Snow Pack||Check on REICheck on Backcountry|
|Black Diamond JetForce UL26 Avalanche Airbag Pack||Check on Black DiamondCheck on Backcountry|
|Backcountry Access Float 32 Avalanche Airbag Pack||Check on REI|
|Black Diamond Cirque 35 Pack||Check on Black DiamondCheck on Backcountry|
Best Ski Backpack Overall
Are you a hardcore skier or die-hard snowboarder? With the Black Diamond Dawn Patrol, either one is cool because it’s fitted up for both. No matter how off-the-beaten-slope you like to get, this is the most versatile lightweight, mid-sized ski backpack (or snowboard backpack) you’ll find.
With back-side access to the main compartment, keeping the pack dry is easier and provides easy access to all the things you can easily fit for a full day out in the backcountry, such as snacks, extra layers, and other accessories. There are also additional storage compartments with roomy belt pockets and an insulated hydration sleeve built into the shoulder.
For more technical snow enthusiasts, you’ll appreciate the specialized attachment points to easily transport a helmet, ice tools, and avy gear. Most importantly, it’s a low-profile ski pack with form-sitting suspension that hugs your body for a stable, smooth ride. You won’t be disappointed with this one!
Best Budget Ski Backpack
Don’t be fooled by the minimalist, compact design of this 14L ski backpack; it has plenty of space for everything you need for a day on the slopes. And the best part? If you’re on a budget, the Dakine Poacher pack totally fits the bill.
This small ski backpack – which can also serve as a snowboard backpack – is designed to organize avy safety gear essentials, plus fits water, snacks, and extra layers. Your goggles or sunglasses will stay protected in its convenient, fleece-lined pockets.
The Dakine pack doesn’t include a frame, which makes for a secure, snug fit around your body. And it’s so slim that you won’t even have to take it off when hopping on lifts – a cool feature for an active day of resort riding. Sleek, functional, and affordable – what’s not to like?
Best Budget Ski Pack #2
If you need a lightweight but larger ski rucksack, don’t let the price deter you from buying a fantastic bag designed specifically for snowsports. If you venture off into the backcountry, having a ski backpack that properly carries and organizes safety equipment and tools becomes even more crucial. That’s where the budget-friendly Deuter Freerider Lite comes to the rescue.
You’ll get an ample 25 liters of space to carry light to medium loads for all your daily essentials. The ski pack has 2-way zip front-panel access featuring a shovel pocket on the inside and a designated pocket for valuables. Accessory loops for your helmet and attachments for an ice ax and poles make carrying your vital equipment less cumbersome. Whether you’re a skier or snowboarder, front compression straps keep everything securely in place.
This thing is also super comfortable. A centrally mounted hipbelt keeps the weight evenly distributed, and wide hip fins adjust to give you that proper secure-feeling hug. You’ll also find a usable zippered pocket – perfect for stashing an easy-accessible chapstick or small item of choice.
For the size, functionality, and price – the Deuter Freerider Lite is a winner.
Best Airbag Ski Pack
Weighing only 4 lbs. 6 oz., the Black Diamond JetForce is the most lightweight and functional airbag ski pack you’ll find. Cartridges are not included, but you’ll feel at peace in the backcountry knowing that the 150-liter airbag inflates in under five seconds.
Your avy safety tools will neatly tuck away in the designated pockets, while the diagonal ski carry comfortably transports your skis, safely out of the way of airbag deployment. The roomy 26-liter interior leaves plenty of space for other goodies like water, food, extra layers, or anything else you want to bring along.
Best Airbag Ski Pack #2
For a larger-capacity airbag ski pack, this Backcountry ski backpack is the best you’ll find for the money. Hopefully, you’ll never need it, but venture off more peacefully with its Float 2.0 system – featuring a cylinder that gives your upper body maximum protection while giving you buoyancy in case of an avalanche.
If you like staying organized and keeping your wet items separate from your dry, you’ll appreciate the Backcountry’s many compartments and water-resistant zippers. It has panel access into the main compartment, where there’s plenty of space for all your gear, including tools, first-aid, and personal items.
Best Ski Mountaineering Pack
For the best combination of weight, functionality, and durability, this ski backpack is the best on the market for the avid ski mountaineer. It provides the perfect blend of features and layout, all in a minimalist design.
You’ll love the separate compartment for your shovel and probe so that you can keep them off your back and keep all your other items dry. The side zipper gives you quick access to the essentials you use most; being able to grab a water bottle without needing to take your ski pack off has its perks!
This ski mountaineering pack features their CINCH closure system, which allows you to open or close the top with just one easy pull. Secure your skis with its diagonal ski carry and rest assured that the Cirque ski pack has been designed for all the technical aspects of any level of mountaineering expedition.
More of the Best Ski Backpacks
For a more multi-purpose, all-in-one ski pack that you can use for a variety of other outdoor adventures – whether on or off the snow – the Ultimate Direction pack is awesome. Its rugged design can handle everything from backcountry skiing to hiking, climbing, and regular everyday wear and tear.
There are easy-access, usable pockets on both shoulders – one with a key fob and the other with a cinch pocket for carrying a water bottle. For more technical use, this ski pack also has an ice ax attachment with an ingenious magnetic closure and external lash points that can easily be reconfigured to carry skis. You can’t go wrong with this one.
For a more female-friendly designed ski backpack, the Deuter Rise Lite is everything every woman could want in a slim, lightweight snowsports pack. Easily carry a light-to-medium load with either your skis or snowboard comfortably secured.
There are plenty of pockets to keep all your stuff organized, including a zippered hip pocket to keep lip balm or other small items at your fingertips. Side compression straps ensure a snug fit around any type of body frame. It’s hydration compatible and features a front safety pocket that gives easy access to a shovel and probe for even the most intense backcountry rides.
The smaller version of the pack listed as our choice for best mountaineering ski pack, the Dawn Patrol 25 has everything you need for carrying your ski touring essentials along with avalanche gear.
This ski backpack features ski or snowboard carry options with helmet holder, ice tool pockets, plus an organizer pocket for avy tools. Top and back side pack access allow for easy entry into the main compartment, whether you’re putting stuff in or taking an item out. It’s hydration compatible too, with a shoulder strap insulated sleeve for the reservoir you can buy separately.
A big selling point for the Osprey Kamber is that it was designed with feedback from legit sources – from ski patrollers and professional guides to avid recreational skiers. This means it has incredible features that make for one comfortable, smart ski pack.
It comes in two size choices – 30 and 32 L, the perfect size for a day on the slopes or in the backcountry. Thanks to its adjustable torso and wide straps, the pack fits like a dream. You’ll also enjoy the insulated hydration sleeve and all avy gear storage spots—an overall solid choice for any skier or snowboarder.
This female-tailored ski pack includes all of the quality, function, and top-notch design you can expect from Osprey products. It’s available in two sizes, including XS/S, to accommodate petite frames.
From leisurely day tours to backcountry stints, you’ll enjoy how comfortable the Kresta is. With upper and lower side compression, zippered hip pockets, a goggles pocket, and an internal pocket for an optional hydration reservoir, this ski backpack has it all. And for those who need avalanche preparedness, there’s an avy safety kit pocket easily accessible too.
If you need some serious capacity with special emphasis on easily accessible snow safety tools, this Mystery Ranch ski backpack is your best bet. It features an oversized, zippered avy pocket that ensures all safety gear is well within reach.
It’s easy to stay organized with this 40-liter ski pack with its two zippered lid pockets and a zippered pocket housed within the main bag that you can access either from the top of via the body panel. The Gallatin Peak is also available in two sizes – S/M and L/XL – to accommodate torso lengths ranging from 15 to 24 inches.
If you’re into super modernized, tech-advanced snow gear – and are willing to pay for it – the JetForce Pro Avalanche Airbag Pack is about as cool as they come. Not only is this ski pack lighter and smaller than its previous models, it comes equipped with Bluetooth capabilities, which means you can update its software through the designated app on your mobile phone.
As a lightweight, 10-liter pack, this airbag packs it all in with a custom-built avy-tool pocket and storage aplenty for water, snacks, and any additional gear. The JetForce also features an ice-tool attachment and a helmet holder. The whole pack is modular, so you have the option of purchasing an add-on booster pack of 25-liters, 35-liters, or 25-liter.
This is an excellent bag if you want to combine all the best features of a ski backpack and travel bag into one. As a ski pack, you’ll enjoy having the choice between diagonal or A-frame carry, dual hydration sockets, and an avy pocket with plenty of room for your essential snow safety tools.
As a travel pack, the 35-liter capacity offers plenty of space to pack clothing and other travel necessities. Want to travel with your laptop? No problem. The Underground pack has a compartment for that. The size conveniently meets most airlines’ carry-on size requirements – which is a bonus for minimalist travelers.
If the idea of having an airbag ski pack that can handle multiple deployments in one day is appealing, the Arc’teryx Voltair is for you. It features a Voltair battery – sold separately – that can be recharged with a portable charger for charging on the go.
The Voltair is top-loading and can carry skis or a snowboard easily. Staying organized is a cinch with the waterproof sleeve for storing a shovel, saw, and probe, and a small internal pocket to secure essential personal items. The airbag trigger is mechanical, with no reliance on electronics. It can be locked into an “off” position at your leisure.
The Deuter Rise Lite keeps things simple and flexible. It has just the right amount of capacity to comfortably carry a light-to-medium load of essentials for a long day or weekend of backcountry skiing – or snowboarding – as both carry options are available.
You’ll find everything you need here – compression straps, a front safety pocket for your snow tools, five exterior pockets plus the main compartment to keep you organized, and it’s even hydration compatible. For the reasonable price, the Deuter Rise is quite a deal.
For a female-focused ski pack, the Dakine Mission has everything a female skier or snowboarder could need for the backcountry or a day on the resort slopes. It’s frameless and gives any waist/hips between 18 and 42 inches a perfectly secured snug fit.
There are pockets and compartments for snow tools and other technical gear, along with a roomy 25-liter interior for layers, snacks, and other essential gear. It’s hydration-compatible – for a separately sold reservoir – with a drink-tube sleeve neatly tucked into the shoulder strap. Ladies, you’ll love it.
Are you a skier and a climber? If so, the Cotopaxi Tarak is the right pack for you. There’s no fumbling around with this one; all loops are non-existent and essential equipment is secured with straps and configurable compression and lash points.
With this pack, you can comfortably enjoy a day of backcountry skiing, climbing, or hiking with a removable hip belt, removable frame sheet, and a hydration sleeve. For a no-frills, affordable, multi-purpose pack, the Cotopaxi is a solid choice.
If alpine cragging is on your list of favorite activities, along with gear-intensive snow excursions, take a good look at the Black Diamond Mission pack. This ski backpack is built tough and can be stripped down to the bare minimum with a removable hip belt, lid, and frame sheet.
The Mission pack is hydration compatible to keep you going in any style of mountain activity you choose. SwingArm shoulder straps make for a balanced, comfortable carry. You’ll enjoy further versatility with its top-loading access, a rope strap you can tuck away, and ice tool pockets – should you need them.
Lightweight and need for speed. If this describes your priorities, this streamlined 22-liter ski pack really packs a punch. It will haul all your essential gear for snow, ice, or rocks. Two zipper pockets, ice ax holders, and side pockets let you cover all your gear-packing basics.
Like the larger Mission pack, the Diamond pack is also strippable, with a removable hip belt, lid, and crampon straps. It is also hydration compatible. For an inexpensive do-it-all compact backpack, it’s a winner.
How to Choose the Best Ski Backpack
We’ve provided the above ski backpack reviews to make your search for the perfect ski pack easier, but if you want to keep shopping around, here are some things to know and pointers on how to choose the best ski backpack.
Ski Backpack Categories
- Day touring/resort
Ski packs in this category best serve recreational skiing in terrains served by ski lifts. The priority is comfort and convenience with a clean exterior that won’t snag on a chairlift.
- Ski mountaineering
Because this category caters to more technical needs in more rugged terrain, packs are more streamlined to be as lightweight as possible. Dedicated compartments for gear are needed for ice tools and safety equipment, and they’re usually larger capacity to accommodate overnight trips.
Airbag packs are equipped with an airbag for safety and are heavier and have more limited capacities by nature. They are more common for backcountry skiing served by lifts and heli-skiing.
Unisex and Women-Specific Ski Backpacks
Many ski backpacks are listed as unisex, and overall, they can work for men and women equally well. But for women looking for the most contoured and close fit possible, female-specific packs are highly recommended.
Ski packs specifically built for women usually differ in capacity and shape that comes in the suspension system design – hip belts and shoulders are contoured more to a woman’s body. Especially for more petite women, women’s ski packs may provide a better fit.
Ski Backpack Capacity
You’ll find that ski backpacks come in a wide range of sizes – from compact under 20-liter packs to larger +40-liter packs. To know how much capacity is right for you, you must first figure out what your needs are. If you’re about technical ski mountaineering or longer overnight or multi-night trips, you’ll need the +40-liter range. For side-country skiing or speed, a lighter pack makes more sense.
For most skiers and snowboarders looking for a ski pack for long resort days or less technical backcountry ventures, a ski rucksack in the 25- to 32-liter range usually fits the bill. At this capacity, there’s plenty of space for water, food, layers, and avalanche gear.
Avalanche Safety Mechanisms / Airbags
Even if you make it a habit to avoid the slopes when avalanche danger is high, the risk is always there. That’s why a pack with an avalanche safety mechanism is recommended to keep you prepared for even the most unexpected situations. The two types of avalanche-safety mechanisms you’ll find in ski backpacks are airbags and AvaLungs.
The idea behind both mechanisms is to keep the person alive and breathing until help arrives. Airbags are the most common; they’re designed to keep a person afloat in case of a slide, so they don’t get pulled further under. The airbag also provides essential neck and head protection against mountainside rocks and trees.
Just like with capacity, ski backpacks can range from a light 3 pounds to over 8 pounds – especially those equipped with airbags. Obviously, to stay fast on a descent – if that’s your priority – you’ll want the most lightweight pack possible with a minimal amount of gear inside. Keep in mind that with lighter weight, you usually get less suspension and padding for comfort.
At no point on your average day on the mountain should you be back 10 plus kilos worth of gear.
A big factor here is a ski backpack’s suspension system, along with shape, size, and adjustment mechanisms. What you’ll find most comfortable will depend on the type of skier you are. If downhill skiing with less restricted movement is what you love, you’re best looking for a ski pack with minimal suspension and compression straps that let the pack sit close to your back.
But if you’re an uphill skier or technical skier that needs a 40-liter pack to hold loads of equipment for overnight expeditions, you’ll want to trade off lighter weight for a hardier back panel, hip belt, and shoulder straps. At that capacity, you need extra support to keep the load manageable and comfortable.
Closure Systems and Access
A ski backpack can have top-zip access, back panel-zip access, side-zip access, or a combination of a zipper, drawstring, etc. The main thing here is to think about the environments you’re mostly in, and how often you typically need to access your pack’s contents throughout the day.
For resort or chairlift skiing, top-pack access works best for grabbing water or snacks. For snow activities that involve a lot of transitions, a back panel U-shaped zip lets you see all your gear to find what you need without having to take everything out. For fewer transitions – like for ski mountaineers – more streamlined access works well.
Organizational Features and Accessory Pockets
Every skier has accessories, whether it’s lip balm, ID, sunglasses, goggles, snacks – or all of the above. So, in addition to the main compartment and the one for avy gear, you’ll want to a ski pack that has one or more accessory pockets.
Also, take into account where the accessory pocket is. An inside pocket makes the exterior more streamlined but will be less convenient to access. If you need lip balm on hand frequently, an exterior accessory pocket is a small detail that will make a big difference in your day’s experience.
Compression straps are the key to keeping things snug and in place, which is important when you’re powering up or down a snowy slope. Luckily, most ski backpacks are designed with a strap system to make carrying a load of gear more comfortable. For resort skiers, consider that external straps easily get caught on chairlifts, so you may want to opt for a ski pack with a clean exterior to avoid this issue.
You may notice that many ski rucksacks are hydration compatible. Usually, the reservoir is sold separately, but having a hydration system that’s seamlessly built into your pack’s design can be beneficial. For intense backcountry snowsports or very technical mountaineering, reaching into your bag for a water bottle isn’t practical. In this case, you’ll want hydration compatibility to be one of your must-haves.
That’s it, guys! All you need to know about the best ski backpacks out there and what you need to know to find the right ski pack for you. As you can see, snow sports can be a leisurely weekend warrior sport or an intense, technical way of life. This is why finding the ski backpack with all the features you need is so important.
We hope you found this ski backpack shopping guide useful. Remember, it’s about function, comfort, and safety, so don’t hesitate to shop around. Spend what it takes to make sure you get yourself a quality ski pack you love, and that will serve you well for a long spell of mountain bound adventures!
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