From budget-friendly resort designs to high-end airbags and ski mountaineering, we go through this winter’s Best Ski Backpacks.
A good ski backpack can make your day more enjoyable. The best ski backpack will have enough space to store your daily essential gear. It should also be comfortable to wear, with shoulder straps that distribute the weight evenly so that it doesn’t throw off your balance when skiing. And if you’re planning on spending any time in the backcountry, you’ll want a ski pack that can hold all your avalanche safety gear.
Our Top Picks
When it comes to a ski backpack, there are a lot of great options on the market. But with so many choices, knowing which one is right for you can be challenging. You’ll want to consider a few things before purchasing a ski pack:
- Think about the type of skiing you’ll be doing. Are you an avid backcountry skier, or will you primarily be hitting the resort?
- Consider the size and feature set that best suits your needs.
- Don’t forget to factor in the price.
Now that you know what to look for, let’s get started!
What Is The Best Ski Backpack?
Here is our ranked and reviewed list of the Best Ski Backpacks.
The 7 Best Ski Backpacks
- Best Overall Ski Backpack – Black Diamond Dawn Patrol 32
- Best Budget Ski Backpack – Dakine Mission Pro 18L
- Best Airbag Ski Backpack – Black Diamond JetForce Pro 25L
- Best Ski Touring Backpack – BCA Stash 30
- Best Lightweight Ski Backpack – Dakine Poacher RAS Vest $159.95
- Best Resort Ski Backpack – CamelBak Powderhound 12
- Best Large Ski Backpack – Osprey Mutant 52
The Black Diamond Dawn Patrol series’ are all-purpose backcountry skiing backpacks. It is packed with features but still very lightweight and sleek. The main compartment is roomy enough to store all your gear and has an internal sleeve for a hydration bladder. An integrated avy tools pocket holds all your safety gear, while the front zip pocket is ideal for smaller items.
The pack has a zippered back panel access and external straps to hold your helmet and ice ax. The shoulder straps are padded for comfort, and the hip belt is adjustable to ensure a perfect fit.
The ski carry system is A-frame and diagonal, while the snowboard carry system is vertical.
The Black Diamond Dawn Patrol 32 is the best overall bag because it has lots of features and is still very lightweight. It’s comfortable to wear, even when fully loaded, and can carry all the gear you need for a day in the mountains.
The Patrol also comes in a resort-friendly 15L and versatile 25L size, while the 32L is large enough for most day tours. Whether lapping the side country or looking to venture deeper into the mountains, the Black Diamond Dawn Patrol 32 is the best pack for the job.
- Use: Day Touring
- Capacity: 15L, 25L, 32L
- Weight: 2.5lbs (1.17Kg)
- Color: Black/White
What We Like
- Multiple carry options (A-frame, Diagonal, and Snowboard)
- Zippered back panel access
- Hi helmet carry for diagonal ski carry
The best overall ski backpack is the Black Diamond Dawn Patrol 32. It’s lightweight, has many features, and is comfortable to wear, even when fully loaded. If you’re looking for a versatile and durable pack, the Dawn Patrol is the best choice.
Designed for resort laps, the Mission Pro 18L is our pick for the best budget ski pack. Despite its small size, this pack has room for all your essential gear, including a shovel and a probe. It is Hydration compatible with an insulated shoulder sleeve and can carry a snowboard or diagonal skis vertically.
With a $90 price point, though, you do have to make some sacrifices. The pack is not as durable as some pricier competitors and has a limited 18L capacity. Additionally, it has limited strapping, meaning less compression, it will not A-frame carry your skis, and you are missing a zippered back compartment access.
However, if you are looking for a light and affordable bag, the Dakine Mission Pro is an excellent option for in-bounds and short-day tours.
- Use: Side Country/In-bounds
- Capacity: 18L
- Weight: 1.6lbs (0.7Kg)
- Color: Black
What We Like
- Small size, but has all the essentials
- Ski and snowboard carry capable
- Very affordable
The best budget bag is the Dakine Mission Pro 18L. It’s small but packs a punch. It has all the essential features you need for a day in the mountains. It’s also very affordable, making it an excellent option for skiers on a budget.
The JetForce 25L Pro is Black Diamond’s most advanced airbag system. It employs a lighter and more efficient electrical deployment mechanism than previous versions. The pack includes several user-friendly functions and is built to give the best fit and functionality possible, topping our list of the best airbag backpack.
The pack design is excellent. Everything from your keys to goggles has a designated location in the backpack. The pack fits securely and includes features like a helmet holder, hip belt stash pocket, and diagonal ski carry that doesn’t obstruct the airbag. And perhaps the most important news of all: Black Diamond’s modular design allows you to swap out “Boosters,” which means one pack can be a 10L, 25L, or 35L bag. Making it cheaper and easier to own multiple ski packs.
The Black Diamond JetForce Pro 25L is the best airbag backpack on the market. It’s user-friendly, has a great design, and is modular, so you can use it for different activities. If you’re looking for an airbag pack, the JetForce Pro is the best choice.
- Use: Day Touring
- Capacity: 25L (10L, 35L Booster Packs Available)
- Weight: 6.5 lb (2.96 kg)
- Color: Black/Red
What We Like
- Modular design
- The top-of-the-line electrical inflation system
- Ski carry does not impede the airbag
The best airbag backpack is the Black Diamond JetForce 25L Pro. It’s user-friendly, has a great design, and is modular, so you can use it for different activities. If you’re looking for an airbag pack, the JetForce Pro is the best choice.
The Backcountry Access Stash 30 is the best touring backpack. Its many features include a dedicated tool pocket for a shovel, probe, and saw. As well as BC Link radio integration, insulated hydration shoulder sleeve, compression straps and more.
This pack is designed for backcountry skiing by people who work in the backcountry. It has all the features and specifications you want or need in a backcountry pack and is of the highest quality.
The best part about the Stash 30 is that it is light enough to not slow you down while touring but also has enough space (30L) to store everything you need for a day or multi-day trip.
BCA has a reputation for making high-quality backcountry products, and the Stash 30 backpack is no exception. The BCA Stash 30 should be at the top of your list if you are looking for a top-of-the-line ski touring backpack.
Specs (Topic Dependant)
- Use: Day Touring
- Capacity: 30L
- Weight: 3.3 lbs (1.49Kg)
- Color: Black/Crimson
What We Like
- Adjustable belt height
- Dedicated radio pocket with dual zippered shoulders
- High-quality brand
The BCA Stash 30 backpack is the best ski touring backpack on the market. It has all the features and specifications you want or need in a backcountry pack and is of the highest quality. The BCA Stash 30 should be at the top of your list if you are looking for a top-of-the-line ski touring backpack.
The Dakin Pacher RAS Vest is the ultimate lightweight, minimal vest backpack. The vest style makes it more comfortable to wear while skiing, and the low profile won’t get in the way on chairlifts. It has just enough room for the essentials like a shovel, probe, water, and snacks. Despite its small size, it’s even airbag compatible, sporting the Mammut removable airbag 3.0 system (sold separately).
Since its debut, the Pacher RAS vest has been a big hit. It’s the perfect backpack for side country or in-bounds. It has all the features you need, like an avy gear pocket and front access pockets for storage, and it feels like you are wearing a regular coat when skiing.
I use my vest for quick side-country trips or in the resort when I’m carrying camera gear for photo or video work. The vest is super low profile with tons of pockets, making it the ideal tool for short trips where you don’t need a large pack. I often use the pack over a softshell in the springtime to carry needed gear with minimal insulation.
The Poacher RAS is the tool of choice if you want the best minimal lightweight pack option with all the critical features.
- Use: side-country/inbounds
- Capacity: 12L
- Weight: 3.2 lbs (1.4 kg)
- Color: Black
What We Like
- Removable Airbag System 3.0 by Mammut compatible
- Diagonal ski carry & vertical snowboard carry
- DK Impact Spine Protector compatible
The Dakine Poacher RAS Vest is the best backpack for skiers looking for a lightweight, minimal pack with all the features they need. The vest style is more comfortable to wear while skiing and has just enough room for essentials like a shovel, probe, water, and snacks.
The camelBak Powderhound is geared towards resort skiers looking to stay out all day without having to take a break in the lodge. With 12L of storage and a 3L water reservoir, the pack will carry all the essentials for a day while allowing you to smoothly get on the lift.
The pack includes a zippered back access panel to the interior storage compartment. While the pack boasts storage for avalanche gear and exterior attachment points for skis, this is not where it shines. The ski packs minimal shoulder and waist straps will make it less stable and uncomfortable to carry skis for an extended period. There is no dedicated avy gear pocket which means all your gear will have to be stored in one compartment, making it hard to get your gear out in an emergency. Honestly, though, that is not what this pack is meant for. In a pinch, this pack will work in the backcountry, but better options like the Dakine Poacher RAS Vest do a much better job.
If, however, your focus is lapping the lift without having to stop at the chalet and staying hydrated, the CamelBak Powderhound will keep you hydrated and organized all day.
- Use: Resort
- Capacity: 12L
- Weight: 1lb 8oz (680 g)
- Color: Black
What We Like
- Low profile
- 3L of water storage (bladder included)
- Sipper Back access
The CamelBak Powderhound is best suited for resort skiing. With 12 L of storage, it can carry everything you need for a great day in the resort. While it has some backcountry features, it is not meant to be used as an everyday backcountry pack, and there are better options out there if that’s what you’re looking for.
The Mutant 52 has everything you’ll need for your approach to basecamp and the route ahead, including a cavernous main compartment that’s big enough for gear and clothing. Dual ice tool attachments, a reinforced A-frame ski carry, and wand/picket pockets to keep your necessities safe from the elements. The three-point haul system lets you lift the pack up after setting up the belay.
The hip belt has gear loops, and the top lid and hip belt are detachable to save weight and space if you’re moving light and fast. The Mutant 52 is covered by Osprey’s All Mighty Guarantee, like all our products. For significant ascents and lengthy approaches, the Mutant 52 is a ski mountaineering pack for you.
- Use: Climbing/Mountaineering
- Capacity: 52L
- Weight: 3.4lbs
- Color: Black
What We Like
- The large storage compartment
- A-frame ski carry
- Removable top lid and hip belt for lighter travel
The Osprey Mutant 52 is best suited for climbers and mountaineers who need a large storage capacity for their gear. With a 52L storage compartment, this ski mountaineering pack has enough space for everything you need. The A-frame ski carry and removable top lid and hip belt make it easier to transport your gear.
Should I ski with a backpack?
Skiing with a backpack is a personal choice and depends on how you spend your day on the slopes. Many resort skiers prefer to ski without a pack because they don’t need to carry much with them and don’t want the extra weight or bulk. For backcountry skiers, however, a ski bag is a must. Backcountry skiers must carry avy gear, food, water, and extra clothing that are essential to safety outside the resort. If you feel the need to carry anything with you make sure to include a backpack when packing for skiing.
How big of a backpack do I need for skiing?
The size of the pack you need will depend on how you plan to use it. If you are only going to be skiing in the resort, a small pack like the CamelBak Powderhound will be enough to carry your essentials. You’ll need a larger pack if you plan on doing any serious backcountry skiing. A 30L pack will hold all the essential requirements for most day tours.
Why do free skiers wear backpacks?
Freeskiers often wear ski packs because they must carry avalanche gear, food, water, and extra clothing. Backcountry skiing is risky, and having the right equipment with you can mean the difference between life and death. Freeskiers also tend to travel further away from the resort than other skiers, so they need a pack to carry all their gear.
Ski Backpack Categories
For resort skiers, a ski pack is mostly about storage and comfort. The backpack should be lightweight and low profile. You will be getting on and off chairlifts, and a large ski pack can get in the way. Straps should be stowable to prevent them from getting caught on the chairlift. A goggle pocket is a nice feature to protect your goggles and make them easily accessible when you need them.
A backcountry bag is much more technical. Weight and space are essential as you will be carrying all your gear for an entire day in the backcountry. The pack should carry your critical avalanche safety gear in an easily accessible pocket in the event of an emergency. Many ski packs include a place for a radio that can be accessed from a zippered shoulder strap.
If you are boot packing or snowshoeing, ski and snowboard carrying are important. These features make it easier to attach your skis or board to the outside of the pack. While hiking, you don’t want to wear your helmet as you will get hot and sweaty. So helmet carry is another beneficial feature and should integrate with ski carry options.
The harness of touring packs should be designed to handle the additional weight without shifting while skiing. A good pack will do all of this while being lightweight and functional.
Touring packs range in size from 15L to 45L. Smaller bags are meant for side-country/resort skiing where you are looking to carry safety gear and not much else. Larger packs are used when traveling further afield into the backcountry.
Mountaineering packs have all the features of a touring pack with some additional items. They will have more loops and daisy chains to help attach gear to the outside of the bag. An ice ax carry system is essential, as is a place to stow your crampons.
As you carry heavier loads, a better suspension system is needed to keep the weight from pulling you backward. This is accomplished by having a more substantial hip belt and frame system.
Mountaineering packs come in two sizes, 40-60L+ for longer trips and 20-30L for day excursions.
Airbag Backpacks are a particular type of touring backpack that includes an avalanche airbag system. An airbag pack is designed to help prevent burial in an avalanche. The airbags inflate, making you more visible and buoyant in the event of an avalanche. This can help reduce injuries or even save your life.
An airbag pack is heavier and bulkier, so they are best suited for backcountry skiing or riding. Most pack brands offer an airbag system that can be purchased separately and added to one of their existing packs.
When considering capacity, first decide what kind of skiing you will be doing. If you are only going to be skiing in the resort, then a smaller 15-20L pack is all you need. You won’t be carrying much gear and can get away with a smaller bag.
If you are venturing into the backcountry, you will need a larger pack in the 20L -35L range. This will allow you to carry all your necessary gear for a day trip.
And finally, if you are planning on spending multiple days in the backcountry or doing any mountaineering, then you will need an even larger pack in the 45L+ range.
Ski Backpack Features
Avalanche Gear Storage
Touring backpacks should include a separate pocket for your avalanche gear. It should be easily and quickly accessible in the event of an emergency. In the event of a burial, you want to be able to get your gear out as fast as possible.
Most ski backpacks will have several accessory pockets for items like your phone, keys, snacks, etc. These should be easily accessible, so you don’t have to take your pack off whenever you need something.
Hip belt pockets are a great place to store energy bars, your phone or camera, and other small items.
Compression straps help to stabilize the load in your pack. This is especially important for a backpack as you want the pack to stay stable and as close to your body as possible while skiing. Compression straps can also be used to attach skis or other gear to the outside of the pack.
External Attachment Points
Most backpacks will have loops or daisy chains outside the pack. These can be used to attach skis, poles, shovels, etc.
Some packs also come with an integrated helmet carry system. This is excellent if you take your helmet on and off while skiing.
Ski and Snowboard Carry
Most backpacks will have some sort of ski carry system. The most common is a diagonal carry, where the skis are attached to the pack at an angle. This keeps the skis close to your body and makes them less likely to catch on things while you are hiking. Some backpacks also have an A-frame or a vertical carry system.
There you have it, the best backpacks for skiing. With so many great options on the market, it can be hard to decide which is right. But with this list, you should be able to narrow down your choices and find the perfect backpack for your needs.