The ski backpack hides many very useful secrets and features, especially for on an outing to the mountains and the snow. It is the essential companion of any skier, on tour or off-piste.

Perhaps, if we are going to be on the comfortable slopes of a ski resort, we won’t need to carry a backpack, since normally the ski areas offer all the services that we might need. However, if we want to make a skimo outing or go off-piste, the usefulness and need of a backpack becomes very evident.

The ski backpack should incorporate at least the most basic mandatory safety elements. These should also include the technical equipment and clothing necessary to carry out an excursion in total safety. A well-equipped outdoor backpack is an extremely useful (and essential) element when you want to partake in mountain activities. For example, thanks to their external binding systems, we can hold skis comfortably. These external fasteners allow us to anchor other types of materials too, without interrupting our ascent. It can also serve as protection for your back in case of a fall and for many other things, but let’s explain this step by step and in more detail.

Image: What to take with you in your ski backpack by iloveski.org

Specialized brands of ski backpacks offer a wide range of products that are suitable for skiing, whether on a resort or doing some other mountain activity.

Are you ready to know the most important features that your ski backpack should have? Keep reading!

Choosing the right ski backpack for off-piste outings

Your choice of backpack must take into account several criteria that we are going to break down below. Perhaps we should first put to one side our desire for aesthetics and focus on the best features of the equipment. Mountain backpacks or ski backpacks have several characteristics that are very useful on a day of skimo or off-piste excursion.

A large volume ski backpack to safely enjoy to great outdoors off-piste
Image: A large volume ski backpack to safely enjoy to great outdoors off-piste

For example, the height adjustment of the lid, the lifting handle, the upper shoulder straps also called stabilizers, the padded and anatomical shoulder straps, the chest adjustment straps, the belt ties (upper and lower). The girdles of the belt that help reduce lateral sway or even the famous dangling fingers, which help to apply pressure with the thumb like points, releasing the weight and keeping the hands above the heart. Lastly, the compression straps and the anatomical crosshead. The compression straps help us close the backpack including the ski rack letting us anchor the skis without bothering us while we walk. On the other hand, the anatomical crosshead allows us to distribute the weight evenly on the shoulder girdle, releasing tension in the trapezius and other muscles of the neck.

In the case of the ski backpack, you should already be able to see that not just any one is valid and that if we want to enjoy the mountain and skiing safely, we must pay special attention to the following points.

  • Ergonomics
  • Comfort
  • Capacity
  • Weight
  • Airbag system
  • Accessories

Ergonomics of the ski backpack

If we want to avoid problems with pain in the back, neck, cervical and lumbar areas, we must be sure that the ski backpack has an ergonomic design that adapts to our needs. When we carry a backpack for a short time, there is no problem, but if the sporting activity lasts for hours, you will have to take into account the ergonomic features of your ski backpack. It is important since the load that you are going to have to bear on your back must be well distributed and adapt as well as possible to the curvature of your spine. It is really important, because poor ergonomics can end up causing back, neck or even serious lumbar problems.

The straps of this ski backpack have been well adjusted to fit comfortably onto the back of this skier.
Image: The straps of this ski backpack have been well adjusted to fit comfortably onto the back of this skier.

Check if it has the possibility of adjusting the shoulder straps or upper fastening straps. Also see if the model you are considering has uniform padding and front belts. The latter allow us to fix the load against the body, achieving an evenly distributed weight. One of the golden rules is that there should be no space between the backpack and your back. It should always be well adjusted to your particular curvature. 

Above all else, comfort

When talking about backpacks we’re usually discussing the cause of our back pain. A bad choice can ruin your mountain outing or even put you in danger. The backpack must fit perfectly to your body. This is thanks to the adjustment of each and every one of its fastening straps. Try to distribute the load as evenly as possible. One suggestion is to not leave the heaviest items in the lower section, since this will generate tensions that are not good for the long-term health of your back.

Couple nordic skiing in the wide outdoors with well equipped ski backpacks
Image: Couple nordic skiing in the wide outdoors with well equipped ski backpacks

Capacity of your backpack

It will be hard to find a ski backpack that has a useful volume of less than 15 or 20 liters. These small types of backpacks are ideal for short outings outdoors, off-piste or in the vicinity of a ski resort. They are generally very lightweight, as well as being comfortable to wear. The greatest difficulties you might find is when trying closing the backpack while stuffing in (by force) warm garments.

In terms of useful volume, a ski backpack with an average capacity of between 20 and 35 liters may be the most suitable for all day mountain excursions. It is very important to understand the need to choose the correct volume of your backpack. This depends on the type of excursion you will take and its specific needs.

Then there are 40-liter ski backpacks, which are used for one-day activities by people who need to carry many things with them. Those with a higher volume, from 40 to 65 liters, are useful when you are going to stay overnight. When sleeping on the mountain it is necessary to carry other essential materials, be it a sleeping bag, a bivouac cover, a stove to cook food and hot drinks, as well as much more water.

Those backpacks greater than 65 liters are usually very heavy and are only used when making a crossing of several days, carrying at altitude and other long activities. Try to minimize the number of items to carry, being as pragmatic as possible.

What should you carry inside your ski backpack?

A ski backpack’s possible contents (non-exhaustive list):

  • The basic safety elements for a skier are: a shovel and probe (the DVA is placed directly on the skier). Many bags have a compartment specifically dedicated to them, which makes it very accessible in a critical avalanche situation.
  • A “bottom compartment” with technical replacement materials: second pair of gloves (loss, wet gloves, etc.), replacement sunglasses (loss, fall, break, etc.) and clothing (hat, thermal inner layer, etc.)
  • A small first aid kit.
  • Sunscreen and lip balm.
  • A repair kit: multifunction key (similar to the Leatherman), adhesive tape, strong adhesive tape (there is the possibility of sticking it on a strip around the ski pole), knife, …
  • A mobile phone with a well-charged battery. If you have an external charger or Power Bank that occupies little space, do not hesitate to take it.
  • IDs protected in a plastic bag.
  • Water (flask / thermos)
  • Food as well as energy food.
  • Emergency radio (depending on the massifs in which we are carrying out the activity)
  • Some money (cash and credit card)
  • A small headlight (in case of any unforeseen incidents or a late return)

If you are doing a cross-country skiing route, you must include in your backpack:

  • “Ski skins”
  • Blades (adapted to the width of the skis)
  • Toilet paper or other disposable tissues.

For the more adventurous, depending on the technical level of the outing:

  • Harness
  • Rope
  • Carabiners
  • Descender
  • Ice axes
  • Crampons
  • Ice hooks
  • Cords (2/3 meters of 6/7 mm)

For the more foresighted:

  • walkie-talkie” style radio (contact with group members according to relief, visibility …)

Our final thoughts

In a skier’s backpack, if you have enough room, can contain all the material that is listed in this article. This should also include the clothing material that you will use that day and that you might want to store. This could be items such as a goretex jacket, the first or second thermal layer as well as other clothes.

We hope you found the article useful in helping you better choose your next choice of ski backpack for your next outdoor adventure. Enjoy the mountain!