Best ski backpacks 2022: for big days on the slopes or in the backcountry hills

Collage of the best ski backpacks
(Image credit: Future)

Making sure you buy one of the best ski backpacks is an important business. While personal preference plays into choosing the best ski jacket and ski pants for you – as well as skis and boots – the best backpacks for skiing are all about function, not style. The best ski pack can make or break your day in the back country or on the slopes. And if you get caught in an avalanche, your ski backpack can potentially save your life.

While most of the best ski backpacks have a dedicated pocket to hold snow safety tools, some ski packs also come with an avalanche airbag system. Pull a shoulder strap trigger handle, and an avalanche airbag deploys a giant balloon to keep you on top of sliding snow instead of getting trapped under it. 

Airbags aside, all the best packs for skiing have specific features you wouldn’t expect to find on hiking backpacks, such as loops to carry skis and snowboards, and fabrics that won’t get sliced by knife-like ski edges. Many of the best ski backpacks also have a fuzzy goggle pocket and a snow safety pocket – also called a shovel pocket – that holds an avalanche shovel and probe. Some also have a clip for a radio, which are sometimes used for communication among skiers. 

Black Diamond Dawn Patrol 15 Pack

(Image credit: Black Diamond)

Black Diamond Dawn Patrol 15 Pack

A super-organized, fully featured, fast and light ski pack for in-bounds and out-of-bounds that carries skis and snowboard

Specifications

List price: $119.95 (US) / £100 (UK)
Fabric: Recycled 840D polyester and 210D ripstop nylon
Sizes: S/M, M/L
Volume: 13L-15L / 793cu in-915cu in
Weight: 930g / 2lb 1oz
Airbag compatible: No
Colors: Storm Blue / Black / Amber

Reasons to buy

+
Oversized insulated shoulder strap pocket
+
Tuck-away helmet sling
+
Internal clip keeps shovel pocket closed
+
Helmet sling can be used with skis/snowboard loaded

Reasons to avoid

-
No hip pockets
-
Diagonal carry only
-
Webbing hip belt only

For early-morning tours, spring ski-mountaineering missions and in-bound storm days, the light-and-fast Black Diamond Dawn Patrol 15 Pack helps you lap your favorite run, or tag a quick summit without weighing you down. 

The recycled-fabric pack bats above its weight class when it comes to features. A front snow-safety pocket stores an avalanche safety kit. The pocket clips shut to keep your shovel and probe contained and to keep it from getting tangled in other pack contents. 

One of the packs’ most unusual features is an oversized insulated shoulder pocket that holds a hydration tube, soft flask or radio. The pack carries a snowboard vertically and it carries skis diagonally. An adjustable loop at the bottom of the pack holds ski tails – it extends to accommodate most ski widths. 

It pairs with a tip-wrapping strap that tucks into a dedicated pocket on the right shoulder when it’s not in use. A sewn-in, tuck-away helmet sling can be used high on the pack, with skis or a board loaded, or low when skinning.

BCA Stash 30

(Image credit: BCA)

BCA Stash 30

A workhorse pack with loads of space, and plenty of ways to access contents

Specifications

List price: $179.95 (US) / £145 (UK)
Fabric: 210-denier ripstop nylon & 420 denier Oxford nylon
Sizes: One size only
Volume: 30L / 1,830cu in
Weight: 1,490g / 3.3lb
Airbag compatible: No
Colors: Black / Crimson

Reasons to buy

+
Big, open spaces for gear
+
Hydration-reservoir ready
+
Many ways to access gear

Reasons to avoid

-
Heavier than similar-sized packs
-
Fabrics aren’t as fancy
-
Less streamlined than other packs

If you’re looking for a pack that won’t ever go out of style – and which will be part of your quiver for the rest of this decade into next – this is it. Practical and spacious, BCA’s Stash 30 has a highly tuneable fit and, despite its size, it’s one of the most affordable packs out there designed for avid skiers and riders. 

Spacious pockets and divided storage help with organization, and thanks to dual insulated shoulder straps you can run a radio and a hydration reservoir at the same time. The oversized dual hip pockets keep everything you need close at hand. 

With backpanel entry, you can grab extra layers and anything else required from the main compartment without taking your skis off the pack, and you can also access the main compartment through a top zip. The snow safety pocket has a zippered mesh pocket for smaller snow safety tools and the goggle pocket is generously proportioned. The helmet sling tucks inside a front panel flap for descents. 

POC Dimension Avalanche Backpack

(Image credit: POC)

POC Dimension Avalanche Backpack

The most protective ski pack you can buy

Specifications

List price: $1,300 (US) / £1,200 (UK)
Fabric: Dimension Polyant polyester laminate
Sizes: One size only
Volume: 25L / 1526cu in
Weight: 3.2kg / 7lb
Airbag compatible: Yes
Colors: Fluorescent Orange / Uranium Black

Reasons to buy

+
Safety orange is easy to spot in winter
+
Rechargeable airbag with LED screen
+
RECCO reflector and NFC medical ID chip

Reasons to avoid

-
No hip pockets
-
One size and volume only
-
Buckles take practice

The safest pack you can buy, POC’s thoughtfully designed Dimension Avalanche Backpack is also one of the most durable. Many packs feature metal buckles only on the waist strap, but this pack uses metal buckles everywhere. The Dimension is made from 133 pattern pieces and 66 distinct webbings designed for durability, user-friendliness and safety. 

An avalanche airbag pack, the Dimension uses Alpride’s E2 rechargeable Electronic Airbag System with supercapacitor technology. It’s lighter, with more volume in the balloon than previous Alpride packs, and it also deploys faster than previous versions. Though it’s battery-powered, it’s extremely reliable in the cold, and it’s significantly smaller and lighter than previous versions of Alpride. It’s a canister-free system (many other avalanche airbags rely on compressed air for balloon inflation). The Alpride system now has a tiny LCD screen showing battery levels so you know when the pack is charged and ready for action. 

In addition to Alpride, the Dimension has an embedded RECCO reflector, which makes a user searchable to rescue teams, and a twICEme medical ID NFC chip that stores first aid data for first responders. 

Four internal pockets in addition to a goggle pocket, a shovel pocket and an extremely spacious main compartment help you stay organized and make it quick to grab items when you need them, be it a first aid kit, ski repair kit or lunch. You have the option of carrying skis diagonally or A-frame style, while snowboard carry is vertical. 

Rab Khroma 30L Ski Pack

(Image credit: Rab)

Rab Khroma 30L Ski Pack

A tough and technical pack built for experienced users

Specifications

List price: $220 (US) / £160 (UK)
Fabric: X-SHIELD with Spectra
Sizes: One size only
Volume: 30L / 1830cu in
Weight: 1.22kg / 2lb 11oz
Airbag compatible: No
Colors: Pewter

Reasons to buy

+
Aluminum frame adds stability
+
A-Frame and diagonal ski carry possible, plus snowboard carry
+
Zippered back gives access to the main compartment

Reasons to avoid

-
Not airbag compatible
-
One size only
-
Limited color options

This pack has the space to hold a full day’s worth of gear and the toughness to be scraped across rocks and ice without showing wear and tear. 

The Khroma is made from fabric with Spectra, which is 15 times stronger than steel by relative weight and helps make this ski pack seriously abrasion-resistant, but also light. Rab also treats the Cordura nylon Spectra Ripstop fabric with a water-resistant finish. Inside, an aluminum frame helps support the load. 

Many lightweight packs restrict how you can carry skis, but this pack gives A-frame and diagonal ski carry options, and it carries snowboards. A rear-entry zipper gives access to the main storage compartment, even with skis on your pack. Oversized hip pockets keep snacks, lightweight gloves, a hat and an emergency beacon close at hand. The detachable helmet holder lets you pare down for the ascents. 

Ripping down the mountain with the pack stuffed to max capacity, our tester found the Khroma stable and balanced. 

Arva Airbag Reactor Calgary 18

(Image credit: Arva)

Arva Airbag Reactor Calgary 18

If you care about the climate and you also want to be safe in the backcountry, this avalanche airbag pack ticks the boxes

Specifications

List price: $599.95 (US) / €529 (EU)
Fabric: Recycled polyester
Sizes: One size only
Volume: 18L / 1,100cu in
Weight: 1,780g / 3lb 14.8oz
Airbag compatible: Yes
Colors: Black / Moss

Reasons to buy

+
Balloons easy to pack after deployment
+
Affordable (for an avalanche airbag)
+
Simple and user-friendly

Reasons to avoid

-
Airbag system takes up more space inside the pack than other systems
-
No reinforcement to protect the pack from ski cuts
-
No key clip
-
One relatively small size only

Arva designed the world’s first eco-oriented avalanche airbag backpack, using the fewest components and the least complexity possible to limit fabric scraps and manufacturing waste. The Reactor airbag system is designed, manufactured, and assembled in France, near Arva’s headquarters, by subcontractors located within 50 miles / 80km. The Calgary 18 is made from recycled polyester, which generates four times less CO2 emissions than virgin polyester. 

Arva’s Airbag Reactor Calgary 18 is also one of the most affordable avalanche airbag packs around. The Arva’s Reactor airbag system features dual balloons. Each 75L air chamber fills independently, and together, they offer the security that if one is slashed by a tree or rock when you’re caught in a slide, the other one will stay inflated, increasing your chance of survival. 

The pack, which carries skis and snowboard, has three pockets: a main storage area that also contains the airbag system, a shovel pocket with an easy-to-see red zipper, and a brushed goggle pocket. The webbing waistbelt secures with metal hardware and a crotch strap. And despite this pack’s compact design, it comes with a webbing ice axe/trekking pole loop that tucks away when not in use. 

Skis carry A-frame, and the pack can also tote snowshoes. A helmet holder is sold separately. This pack is only available in one size, and it works best for smaller riders and skiers. 

Mountain Hardwear Snoskiwoski 40 Pack

(Image credit: Mountain Hardwear)

Mountain Hardwear Snoskiwoski 40 Pack

The best pack for ski mountaineers

Specifications

List price: $220 (US)
Fabric: Recycled 210D ripstop shell and 500D Cordura base
Sizes: S/M, M/L
Volume: 40L / 2,441cu in; 42L / 2,563cu in
Weight: 1,092g / 2lb 6.5oz; 1,153g / 2lb 8.7oz
Airbag compatible: No
Colors: White

Reasons to buy

+
Spacious, light and tough
+
Easy access to outside pockets
+
Customizable

Reasons to avoid

-
No lid
-
Carries skis but not snowboards
-
More technical than most skiers need

Made for big days in big mountains, the Snoskiwoski is a haul bag for ski mountaineers who need to carry heavy gear without a heavy pack. The lid-free Snoskiwoski is flexible and lets skiers get to gear without taking the pack on and off, which saves energy on all-day missions. 

Most of the pack’s volume is in a single main compartment, which is ready to carry ropes, technical climbing gear, or a sleeping bag plus food for a hut trip. That compartment is accessible from the top and the side. A metal buckle top strap is also long enough and strong enough to secure a climbing rope when needed. 

Ski carry is diagonal or A-Frame, with a movable tail strap that can be rigged up on either side of the pack, and an adjustable right shoulder strap to hold ski tips that lets you get skis on and off the pack without taking it off. Flexible features like cord lock loops attach to the daisy chain front of the pack, which can be used to secure axe handles and trekking poles. 

The Snoskiwoski has a dedicated front pocket for snow safety gear that can be accessed instantly. A zippered side pocket holds skins, extra gloves, ski straps and a water bottle, in a place where you can get to them without taking off the pack. A side pocket and gear loop adorn the contoured hip belt, and an aluminum frame inside the pack keeps heavy loads centered on your back. 

Burly Cordura on the front and bottom of the pack resisted cuts from ski edges and prevented a cut from a rock. Mountain Hardwear uses undyed shell fabric in the pack and lining for maximum durability and minimum water pollution during production.

Dynafit Speed 20 Backpack

(Image credit: Dynafit)

Dynafit Speed 20 Backpack

An ultralight pack for Skimo Racing

Specifications

List price: $139.95 (US) / £95 (UK)
Fabric: Nylon 210/D Ripstop
Sizes: One size only
Volume: 20L / 1,220cu in
Weight: 675g / 1.5lb
Airbag compatible: No
Colors: Hot Coral & Blueberry / Marine Blue & Blueberry / Dawn & Blackout / Blackout & Nimbus

Reasons to buy

+
Ultralight skis mount and dismount without the need to remove the pack
+
Spacious lumbar pocket
+
Shoulder straps carry food and water

Reasons to avoid

-
Designed to support lightweight skis only
-
One size only

Skimo racers and skiers whose top priority is dashing to the top of a mountain as fast as humanly possible will find features to support their passion in this pack. More than any other ski pack we tested, the Dynafit Speed 20’s design works to diffuse sweat. And skimo racers do sweat – they’re essentially running up the mountain. So Dynafit makes the stabilizing backpanel foam and shoulder strap foam breathable with cutouts that let sweat escape. They also make the hip belt out of mesh to keep ski racers cool, and to save on weight, so that racers aren’t carrying anything more than necessary up the mountain.

The Speed 20 has two feature sets: one for racing, when a skier hopes to transition from uphill to downhill without removing their pack; and one for training. For racing, the pack has a ski carry system that loads and unloads with the pack on. It consists of a stiffened mesh loop for ski tails, and a metal shoulder clip attached to a bungee in the right shoulder strap that pulls to tighten and secures skis for bootpacking. A lumbar pocket held emergency gear and an extra layer. I could access pocket contents without interrupting my stride. 

For training days, the pack’s main compartment holds enough gear for a long day. A waterproof pocket inside the pack was a great place to stash a phone or emergency beacon. For skinning, an insulated water bottle holder is located on the left shoulder strap. The right shoulder strap has an oversized mesh pocket for a flask or food. 

The front of the pack is articulated to hold a shovel blade. A bikini sling holds it in place. Dedicated sleeves in the main compartment kept my shovel handle and probe where I could grab them fast. And the pack holds an ice axe and a helmet too. 

It’s a purpose-built pack with a specialized feature set that will help speed demons train hard. And when it comes to winning races, this pack gives skiers the best chance of reaching their potential.

Dakine Poacher RAS 18L Backpack

(Image credit: Dakine)

Dakine Poacher RAS 18L Backpack

A great pack for heli-skiing, cat-skiing, lift-assist backcountry and resort skiing

Specifications

List price: $195 (US) / £159 (UK)
Fabric: 840D Nylon/ 500D Nylon two-tone ripstop with water-repellent finish / High tenacity heather plain weave with water-repellent finish
Sizes: One size
Volume: 18L / 1,098cu in
Weight: 1.2kg / 2lb 10oz
Airbag compatible: Yes
Colors: Black

Reasons to buy

+
Airbag-ready
+
Designed for snowboarders first, but also holds skis
+
Ultra low-profile

Reasons to avoid

-
No dedicated shovel pocket
-
Minimum organization
-
Sewn-in shoulder straps limit adjustability

For heli-skiing, cat skiing, and lift-assist backcountry, when all you need is safety gear, a liter of water, a snickers bar and your down jacket, this is the perfect pack. It’s also a great resort pack and sidecountry pack. 

Unique to the Poacher is compatibility with Mammut’s Removable RAS Airbag System 3.0 – so it’s an everyday pack, and also an airbag pack depending on the day. That makes the Poacher a great choice for skiers and riders who want to buy a pack that can grow with them, one that they can upgrade when they’re ready to take a big trip. 

Our tester loved this pack’s low profile, burly construction, and streamlined features. You can ride the lift without taking it off, it holds goggles and the main gear compartment stores snow safety tools and extra layers. Both shoulder straps are insulated, so you can run a hydration hose in one, and the Airbag System trigger in the other. 

The front of the pack is highly ruggedized to resist cuts from skis being carried diagonally. It’s a pack that carries well, holds essentials and is so streamlined you’ll forget you have it on. 

Best ski backpacks comparison table

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Best ski backpacks comparison table
Sleeping bagPriceWeightVolumeFabric
Black Diamond Dawn Patrol 15 Pack$120 (US) / £100 (UK)930g / 2lb 1oz13L-15L / 793cu in3-915cu inRecycled 840D polyester and 210D ripstop nylon
BCA Stash 30$179.95 (US) / £145 (UK)1,490g / 3.3lb30L / 1,830cu in210-denier ripstop nylon & 420 denier Oxford nylon
POC Dimension Avalanche Backpack$1,300 (US) / £1,200 (UK)3.2kg / 7lb25L / 1526cu inDimension Polyant polyester laminate
Rab Khroma 30L Ski Pack$220 (US) / £160 (UK)1.22kg / 2lb 11oz30L / 1830cu inX-SHIELD with Spectra
Arva Airbag Reactor Calgary 18$600 (US) / €529 (EU)1,780g / 3lb 14.8oz18L / 1,100cu inRecycled polyester
Mountain Hardwear Snoskiwoski 40 Pack$220 (US)(S/M) 1,092g / 2lb 6.5oz(S/M) 40L / 2,441cu inRecycled 210D ripstop shell and 500D Cordura base
Dynafit Speed 20 Backpack$140 (US) / £95 (UK) / €120 (EU)675g / 1.5lb20L / 1,220cu inNylon 210/D Ripstop
Dakine Poacher RAS 18L Backpack$195 (US) / £159 (UK)1.2kg / 2lb 10oz18L / 1,098cu in840D Nylon/ 500D Nylon two-tone ripstop with water-repellent finish

How we tested the best ski backpacks

While testing these ski backpacks our writers took them out on to the slopes and into the backcountry hills and peaks of the USA and northern Europe, putting them through their paces in a mixed range of conditions on both short and long days.

For more details, see how Advnture tests products.

Choosing the best ski backpack for you

Ski packs come in all shapes and sizes, and they carry a wide range of price tags depending on their level of functionality and, importantly, the degree of safety they supply. The best ski backpack can be a serious investment, so consider the following factors before making a purchase. 

Best ski backpacks

You need to make sure the pack fits perfectly, so fill it up with stuff and put it on to try before you buy (Image credit: Poncho / Getty Images)

1. Fit

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This is the single biggest consideration. On the uphill, a pack needs to do a lot of things, but its job on the downhill is even harder – the best ski packs fit and carry so you forget they’re there. Check each pack’s specs to see if the pack’s torso length matches your own, but don’t just slip an empty pack on in the store and call it good. If you can, load a pack with skis or a board, a down jacket, some water and other gear you might pack for backcountry skiing, and wander around your local shop to get a sense of how the pack carries. If your shoulders and back are still happy after shopping fully loaded, you know the pack is for you, and you can be confident it’ll help you have a great day on the snow

Best ski backpacks

(Image credit: Milo Zanecchia/ Ascent Xmedia / Getty Images)

2. Size

Think about how long you’re likely to be going out for, and what kind of skiing you’re most likely to be doing, and these considerations will typically inform how much you carry. A multiday hut trip obviously requires a lot more pack space than a dawn patrol lap before work. Some ski packs come in multiple sizes; many are one size only. 

Best ski backpacks

Size matters (Image credit: Ascent Xmedia / Getty Images)

3. Carry capacity

Look carefully at how a pack carries your skis and/or snowboard. Check whether it has a helmet sling or not, and if the zippers are easy to operate with ski gloves on. Wherever you ski, and whether you opt for an airbag pack or not, buying a snow sports-specific pack that feels good loaded is key. 

4. Avalanche airbags

There are pros and cons to avy airbags in a ski pack. An avalanche airbag pack can save your life in a slide, but packs equipped with airbag systems are heavy and considerably more expensive than non-avy airbags. They’re also only useful if you ski or ride in avalanche terrain. If you don’t, you likely don’t need an airbag pack. (See also: Avalanche safety.)

Vermont-based writer, photographer and adventurer, Berne reports on hiking, biking, skiing, overlanding, travel, climbing and kayaking for category-leading publications in the U.S., Europe and beyond. In the field, she’s been asked to deliver a herd of llamas to a Bolivian mountaintop corral, had first fat-biking descents in Alaska, helped establish East Greenland’s first sport climbing and biked the length of Jordan. She’s worked to help brands clean up their materials and manufacturing, and has had guns pulled on her in at least three continents.