Not Your Ordinary Backpack: Choosing a Pack for Backcountry Skiing

Backcountry backpackThe right backcountry backpack can comfortably and safely hold all your necessary gear and equipment — an essential accessory when embarking on a backcountry skiing trip. Not all backpacks are made the same, however, so keep the following things in mind when you’re looking for them at different snow shops.

Not Just an Outdoor Backpack

Snowscene and other snow shops say that backcountry backpacks are different from your average outdoor backpacks. These have a compartment especially for avalanche gear, which offer easy access during emergencies. Your safety gear must be inside your pack not just strapped outside, and you should tuck it in a vented compartment that has pockets for holding your probe and shovel.

Backcountry packs likewise offer different carrying systems, including diagonal and a-frame styles. The carrying style is normally a personal preference, but you should take note where and how you’re getting around. Although the a-frame style can provide better balance, your equipment could snag on rocks or brush in tight clearances. The diagonal system, on the other hand, could potentially drag the ski tails on steep descents. This is true if you wear your straps lower.

Backcountry Backpack Fit and Size

Where exactly are you planning to go and for how long? These are important considerations since the trip duration and required gear will determine your backpack’s size. For fit, keep in mind that packs come in different lengths, and consider the outerwear and layers you’ll be wearing under the pack. The length of your pack should ideally match the length of your torso. In addition, place some things inside the pack to mimic what you’ll be carrying to see if you can adjust the waist belt and straps for maximum comfort.

Additional Backpack Features

Know any other additional features offered by backpacks to see what you really need. These features typically include side and back access zippers, hydration compatibility, ice axe carry, helmet carry, daisy chain loops, compression straps and ski attachments. Features such as AvaLungs and airbags could also make a huge difference between disaster and survival in case of an avalanche.

These are only of the things you should take note of when buying a backpack. Don't sacrifice what you should be carrying in your bag for appearance, or you might be sorry if ever you need something while climbing the mountains.