The 10 Best Ski Backpacks To Carry Food, Layers, Equipment And More

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We independently select all products and services. If you click through links we provide, we may earn a commission. Learn moreVettedGearThe 10 Best Ski Backpacks To Carry Food, Layers, Equipment And MoreChris HaslamContributorOpinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.Forbes VettedFeb 6, 2024,12:51pm EST

Few activities require more gear than skiing. Going beyond the basics of skis, snowboards, poles, boots, goggles, gloves and outerwear, there’s also additional layers, spare lenses, liquids and snacks — and that’s just stuff you’ll need for the kids. Venturing beyond the roped boundaries of a ski resort in search of pristine powder necessitates safety equipment, including a shovel, beacon and probe. Fortunately, the best ski backpacks make it easy to carry so many essentials. From the Arc’teryx Micon 32, our top touring pick, to the value-packed Picture Organic Kommit 22, there’s a ski pack to serve every purpose.

You may look at a ski backpack and think it bears a striking resemblance to the hiking pack in your closet, but subtle differences set them apart. The best backpacks for skiing sport fleece-lined pockets for goggles, specific compartments for avalanche safety gear, multiple entry points for easy access, carry straps for your skis or board and, if you’re getting serious, airbag technology for added safety in the backcountry.

After testing and evaluating a series of ski packs, including options for touring, comfort, capacity and airbag safety, here are the top options for the 2024 season. For more information, head to the buyer’s guide to find the right pack for your needs.

Best Touring Ski Backpack: Arc’teryx Micon 32 BackpackBest Streets-To-Slopes Ski Backpack: Burton Day Hiker 22L BackpackBest Value Ski Backpack: Picture Organic Kommit 22L BackpackBest Ski Backpack For Comfort: Osprey Kamber 20 BackpackBest Large Capacity Ski Backpack: Patagonia Descensionist 40L BackpackBest Ski Backpack For Versatility: DB Snow Backcountry Backpack 34LBest Airbag Ski Backpack: Black Diamond JetForce Pro 25L Avalanche Airbag BackpackBest Minimal Ski Backpack: Dakine Poacher 14L BackpackBest New Style Ski Backpack: Mammut Aenergy ST 20-25 BackpackBest Ski Backpack For Hydration: CamelBak SnoBlast Hydration Pack

Best Touring Ski Backpack

Durable, Stylish And Perfectly Weighted

Arc’teryx Micon 32 Backpack

Buy From Arc’teryx

Style: Backcountry | Weight: 2.14 pounds | Capacity: 32 liters

Previously sold as the Arc’teryx Rush SK 32, the Micon 32 is an exceptional quality, high performance backcountry backpack. The surprisingly rigid aluminum back frame curves to fit your spine and works hard to keep the weight balanced and away from your shoulders. The cinch straps pull everything tight too, which, despite being quite a large pack, even when fully loaded, the straps hold everything in position making it a joy to ski with.

It’s a bag built for ski touring in the wettest conditions. Made using super tough 210-denier Cordura nylon, with a liquid crystal polymer ripstop for tear protection, it’s finished off with laminated fabric and taped seams. In short, your gear will stay dry whatever the weather.

At 2.14 pounds (970g) it’s positively featherweight compared to a lot of the competition, and looks great off the mountain too. Gorp-y aesthetics aside, it performs brilliantly on the mountain, with versatile ski and snowboard mounting options — the rigid frame helps manage the load — as well as separate pockets for avalanche tools, and a lovely fleece pocket for essentials. Having a roll-top design also means you can carry more than 32 liters, and the waterproof side zippers make access to the main compartment easy.

That said, Arc’teryx has swapped hip pockets for harness style gear loops, which are handy for serious mountain adventures and customization, but even the hardiest mountaineers need easy access to a Clif Bar occasionally.

If 32 liters is too much for your carry needs, Arc’teryx has a smaller, similarly minimalist Micon 16 pack that might be the ideal compromise.

Pros:

LightweightBrilliantly balancedDurable weatherproof construction

Cons:

Lacks a couple of easy access pockets

Best Streets-To-Slopes Ski Backpack

For When You Commute To The Hill

Burton Day Hiker 22L Backpack

Style: Resort | Weight: 1.5 pounds | Capacity: 22 liters

A staple in the Burton catalog, the Day Hiker is a no-nonsense everyday backpack made from tough, sustainable materials that’s equally at home on the daily commute, school bus or slopes.

The hydration-compatible sleeve doubles as a padded storage pocket for a laptop or tablet (18 by 10 inches), while the durable twin straps make it easy to carry your board hands-free.

There’s also two water bottle pockets, handy daisy chain attachments points on the back, a lens-friendly goggle pocket and safety-first key clip hidden inside. We also love the glove-friendly clips and low-profile shape that sits well on a chairlift.

The bag isn’t loaded with backcountry-ready features, but it’s a solid all-round option, and if you don’t mind wacky colorways, Burton currently has a couple of options on sale for just $68.

Pros:

Light and stylish for everyday usePlenty of internal storage space

Cons:

No ski-carry options

Best Value Ski Backpack

A Go-Anywhere Design That’s Loaded With Features

Picture Organic Kommit 22L Backpack

Style: All-round | Weight: 2.6 pounds | Capacity: 22 liters

French brand Picture Organic continues to impress with their innovative, sustainable designs that don’t burst the budget. Even at full price ($140) the Kommit 22L backpack represents great value thanks to its relatively light weight (2.6 pounds), PU-coated recycled ripstop construction, excellent back panel support and comfortable strap designs.

It’s a minimalist pack, and all the better for it, with little to snag on lifts and everything neatly organized away inside. There’s toggles for poles and/or ice axe carry and webbing loops for attaching any extras you might need, and I love the fact the ski/snowboard carry straps can be completely stowed away when not needed.

The front pocket is designed to hold your avalanche safety gear and the main compartment can be accessed easily via the back panel, which is super handy when transitioning from touring to downhill modes, or just getting snacks out at lunch.

There’s also a plush goggle pocket at the top of the bag which is great for stashing items for easy access, but once it’s full, using the top zip to access the main compartment becomes a little tricky as the goggle pocket flops around. It’s not a deal breaker, especially at this price.

Other notables here include space for a hydration system (or 15-inch laptop), an insulating zip cover for the hydration tube to prevent it from freezing and a pull-out helmet net that works a treat.

Pros:

Slim and lightMulti-functional Chairlift-friendly

Cons:

Main zip tricky to open when goggle pouch is full

Best Ski Backpack For Comfort

Ergonomic Brilliance From The Pack Masters

MOST POPULAR

Osprey Kamber 20 Backpack

Style: All-round | Weight: 2.1 pounds | Capacity: 20 liters

Despite only having a relatively small capacity, the Kamber has more than enough space for extra layers, dry gloves, snacks, water and all those things that help you through laps around the resort. You can also carry skis or a board with ease, and attach your helmet.

That’s not to say you can’t take it into the backcountry — Osprey has included a dedicated pocket for avalanche safety equipment. But we’re not sure that there’s enough usable capacity for long days in the wilds, though the separate wet gear storage compartment is a genius touch if the snow is slushy. The 420D fabric is also impressively water resistant, and tough enough to survive a season carrying an ice axe.

Hydration system-compatible with an insulated sleeve to avoid a frozen bladder tube, there’s also a super soft goggle pocket and surprisingly glove-friendly zip pulls and toggles.

But the real reason we love this Osprey comes down to just how comfortable it is to wear. The padded back panel, contoured straps and generous hip belt all combine to make a bag you’ll be happy to wear all day.

Pros:

All-day comfort courtesy of Osprey’s pack knowledgeLight yet durable design

Cons:

Not well-suited for overnights or all-day backcountry toursHeavier than most 20 liter options

Best Large Capacity Ski Backpack

Multi-Day Expedition Ready

Patagonia Descensionist 40L Backpack

Buy From Patagonia

Style: Backcountry/multi-day | Weight: 2.13 pounds | Capacity: 40 liters

Patagonia’s 40-liter Descensionist Pack is a stylish and practical two-compartment design with a host of ski and snowboard carry options and masses of capacity for multi-day tours and mountain missions. It has a well-organized avalanche safety equipment section, all of which is made from super-durable, eco-friendly 420-denier recycled nylon shell. It’s also currently on sale, which makes it doubly tempting.

This roll-top design weighs just 2.13 pounds and feels remarkably light when not fully loaded. The front pocket has been designed for safety tools, but could also be used for family snacks and sun cream on a resort day, although be warned, it is a big pack if all you’re transporting are a few spare layers, so you’ll want to make the most of the side compression straps.

We appreciate the versatility of the carry straps here too, as you can carry skis diagonally, or in a more typical A-frame shape, and there’s also a strap for a snowboard, so nobody misses out. There’s also space to carry a helmet, rope and ice axe.

There’s no rigid frame on this pack, but the back panel offers some protection against a poorly packed lumpy bag and is nice and breathable, allowing hot air to escape when you’re working hard.

Pros:

Stable skiing even when fullMultiple carry optionsCurrently on sale

Cons:

Too big for most resort users

Best Ski Backpack For Versatility

An Ultra-Durable Design For All Eventualities

DB Snow Backcountry Backpack 34L

Style: Backcountry | Weight: 3.9 pounds | Capacity: 35 to 38 liters

Swedish luggage specialists DB have a superb range of ultra-premium bags, including the ingenious roll-top ski/snowboard wheelie case, and the Snow Backcountry Backpack is arguably the most durable and versatile snow sports backpack available.

Made with abrasion-resistant recycled Cordura Eco fabric, the 35-liter pack (expandable to 38 liters using the roll-top opening) is big, has padded sides to protect gear and keep its shape, and boasts an impressive number of useful compartments and straps including those for skis, snowboards, ice axes, avalanche safety gear, rope, goggles, skins (for ski touring), snacks, valuables and a hydration bladder.

The bag has a light-but-rigid metal frame and a tough EVA-molded back panel that unzips and opens wide to allow easy access to the main compartment. The shoulder and hip straps are supportive, and we found the backpack comfortable even when heavy and fully loaded.

There’s no escaping the fact that this bag is expensive, big and fairly heavy at almost four pounds, but it will last for years, and with cool all-black looks, we’d happily use it off the mountain too.

And as a bonus, if you like to carry a DSLR camera on your adventures — or are indeed a videographer — this bag is compatible with DB’s camera inserts which offer excellent protection for a camera body and lenses, and quick access to all electronics via the back panel.

Pros:

Exceptionally durable fabricsExpandable capacity for more gearUnrivaled versatility

Cons:

Seriously expensive

Best Airbag Ski Backpack

Safety First, From Day Trips To Fresh Tracks

Black Diamond JetForce Pro 25L Avalanche Airbag Backpack

Style: Airbag | Weight: 6.5 pounds (S/M), 6.7 pounds (M/L) | Capacity: 25 liters

While not focusing too heavily on airbag technology in this feature, Black Diamond’s JetForce pack is worthy of inclusion for its game-changing ingenuity. This system uses a lithium battery-powered electric fan to inflate the airbag, which not only means you can take it on a plane without emptying and refilling gas cartridges, but more significantly, you can practice your avalanche safety and airbag deployment without the extra cost of new cartridges. The airbag also automatically deflates to create a potentially life saving air pocket once you’re buried under the snow. And it’s even Bluetooth compatible so you can update the software with ease.

Aside from the inflation technology, the 25-liter pack has, as you’d expect, an avalanche tool pocket, plus plenty of volume for layers and water. If, however, you need more capacity, you can connect on modules of either 10-liter, 25-liter (specifically for split boarding) and 35-liter. Given the high cost of the bag, it’s good to see Black Diamond keeping the prices of the accessories relatively low too.

It is arguably more pack than most casual skiers and riders will need, but if you’re taking the next steps into backcountry touring, being able to practice avalanche safety beforehand could well save your skin.

Pros:

Rechargeable avalanche airbagTravel and practice friendlyModular capacity

Cons:

Safety costs big

Best Minimal Ski Backpack

Low Profile And Affordable

Dakine Poacher 14L Backpack

Style: Resort/sidecountry | Weight: 1.5 pounds| Capacity: 14 liters

The Dakine Poacher is as minimalist a backpack as you’ll find, and one that, once on your back, is easy to forget about whether you’re boot packing to fresh tracks or spending the day resort side. At 14 liters, it’s not huge, but there’s enough space for essential snacks, layers, spare gloves and a insulated hydration bladder (not included). The goggle pocket is fleece-lined for added protection and it’s all made from 100% recycled fabrics.

In truth, the main compartment has been designed to hold your avalanche probe and shovel and not much else, but we actually think this works best as a day pack for resort shredders who need to take extras, but don’t want to be inconvenienced by a heavy pack (it weighs just 1.5 pounds).

That’s not to say it isn’t ready for missions; there’s vertical snowboard and diagonal ski carry straps, front helmet attachment loops and an adjustable hip belt for stability, plus Dakine also offers a slot-in Spine Protector that displaces impact if you do take a fall.

Pros:

Small but efficientLow profile comfort on liftsOption back protection

Cons:

Small capacity won’t suit families

Best New Style Ski Backpack

Trail Running Inspiration For The Slopes

Mammut Aenergy ST 20-25 Backpack

Buy From Mammut

Style: Backcountry | Weight: 1.5 pounds | Capacity: 20 to 25 liters

Premium Swiss alpine brand Mammut have combined their knowledge of trail running and alpine ski touring to create a hybrid backpack with a snug-fitting running hydration vest-style harness. These tend to not have much padding and instead hug the upper torso to prevent the contents from bouncing around. It’s akin to wearing a second skin, and here, thanks to the ergonomic shape of the shoulder, it’s quite comfortable. And surprisingly for a ski backpack, there’s no hip strap, but once you’ve adjusted the elastic chest straps, you won’t miss it.

The bag is a roll-top design with 20- to 25-liter capacity and only weighs 1.5 pounds. As with most premium packs, access to the main compartment can be made through the back, and thanks to an ingenious bungie attachment and sling straps, you can attach your skis without removing the bag. And yes, it takes practice.

The front compartment is dedicated to avalanche equipment, and the orange toggle on the front can be pulled hard to open the pocket instantly. Add in helmet attachment points, daisy chain loops, ice axe/pole attachments and the ability to squeeze in a hydration bladder, and it has everything for fast, light adventures.

Pros:

Lightweight and supportiveFully featured for safetySuper durable

Cons:

Pack light for best comfort

Best Ski Backpack For Hydration

Quench Your Thirst For Powder

CamelBak SnoBlast Hydration Pack

Style: Resort | Weight: 1.7 pounds | Capacity: 22 liters

With capacity for two liters of water and 22 liters of well-organized cargo space, this hybrid hydration pack will keep your gear tidy and thirst quenched with ease.

Supplied with the latest CamelBak Crux Reservoir system, it has a huge faucet-friendly opening and cleverly engineered mouthpiece that delivers a quoted 20% more water per sip than standard bladders. I can’t accurately corroborate those statistics, but in my experience, you get a huge gulp of water for your efforts. The pipe is also housed in an insulating sleeve and everything can be zipped away to avoid freezing and/or flapping about when not needed.

The traditional backpack section has a generous amount of space, plus multiple openings and zips to make access as simple as possible. There’s also a clever expansion panel that unzips, giving a few liters of extra storage if needed.

The polyester fabric used here is impervious to snow and moisture which is a nice extra on powder days, and the compression straps help slim down the bag when you’re not carrying loads. It’s a shame, however, that it can only carry skis, and not a snowboard.

Pros:

Excellent hydration systemSlim, chairlift-friendly designIntelligent zip layout and access

Cons:

Can only carry skis MORE FROMFORBES VETTED

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Why Trust Forbes Vetted

We understand just how important quality ski apparel is on the slopes. From gloves and mittens to jackets and helmets, we know how disappointing the wrong buying decisions can be, especially when they don’t meet your standards in the mountains. Choosing the best ski backpack for your needs is incredibly personal, which is why we’ve tested a wide range of high quality options to suit the type of skiing you do, and who you’re doing it with. A carefree, unencumbered resort rider will need a lightweight design, a father keeping his kids warm and fed will need storage space, a backcountry splitboarder sending big lines will need pockets for safety equipment, and so on.

We’ve tested ski backpacks at resorts around the world in an effort to identify what works, and crucially, what doesn’t. As a dad, a resort rider and (when he gets the chance) a backcountry explorer, author Chris Haslam has tested the latest outdoor products for Forbes for years. His recommendations are bolstered by expert insights, meticulous research and customer experience. And his work is edited by gear editor Cam Vigliotta, a skier with years of resort and backcountry experience who holds AIARE 1 and avalanche rescue certifications.

What To Consider When Buying The Best Ski Backpack

Capacity

How much capacity your ski backpack needs will depend on the length of your trip and the amount of gear you need to haul. Measured in liters, packs under 20 liters are designed predominantly for day resort use — although exceptions to the rule exist, such as the compact Dakine Poacher 14. Most ski backpacks offer between 18 and 25 liters which is great for days out with kids as well as one day backcountry adventures.

20 to 35 liters is a fair size for longer day tours with more variable weather conditions. The largest backpack here (the Patagonia Descensionist) is 40 liters and perfect for hauling enough gear for serious overnight touring trips, while anything bigger (60 to 70 liters) is reserved for multi-day trips and serious ski mountaineering.

But remember, capacity is only half the story. A well-designed pack, with stretch pockets, roll-top closure, compression straps, hydration bladder compatibility and daisy chain webbing loops help you maximize the amount of gear you can carry without being overloaded.

Resort Or Backcountry?

Most skiers stick to marked trails or side country terrain, and a resort-specific backpack will be ideal. These have enough capacity for water, snacks and layers, and have a low profile, making them easy to ski with and also not too inconvenient on chair lifts. We highly recommend looking for bags with the bare minimum of straps on the back to reduce the chance of snagging when you get off a lift.

Anyone looking to explore further will need more kit, especially if you’re touring and need to carry avalanche gear, skins, poles and ice axes. Backcountry bags typically have a dedicated avy (avalanche) compartment with specific slots for an emergency shovel and probe.

Backcountry bags also have zipped rear access compartments, which enable the wearer to place the bag down in the snow and open it fully without getting any contents or the back protector wet. We would also recommend hooks and loops for hiking poles if you’re splitboarding and ice axes (if you’re serious).

Being able to carry skis and snowboards is also useful if you’re boot packing. Skis can be mounted either as an A-frame or vertically using tough nylon straps. Snowboards are generally carried vertically with simple straps hooking underneath the bindings.

Can I Just Use My Regular Backpack For Skiing?

Yes, and many people will be perfectly happy using a standard issue sports backpack when skiing, but specific designs do have their advantages. Firstly, ski backpacks tend to have slimmer profiles that sit close to the body, which means weight is evenly distributed and you’re better balanced as you ski. Hip and chest straps also keep the backpack secure, while most quality designs will feature side access zips — for easy rummaging, even on a chair lift — and fleece-lined pockets for keeping goggles safely.

Are Backpacks Allowed At Ski Resorts?

Backpacks are generally allowed at ski resorts, whether you’re wearing the pack down your favorite black run or rummaging through its pockets in search of a sandwich in the parking lot. With that said, some resorts require you to remove your backpack before riding the chair lift, asking instead that you hold it in your lap. Otherwise, you’re free to ski or snowboard while carrying your essentials.

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