While the season has ended, it’s a great time to start thinking about grabbing some good deals on ski and snowboard equipment thanks to off-season sales. One of the things you’ll need is a good backpack to carry all that gear, whether it be goggle lenses, a tool for your bindings, an extra layer, a spare helmet, or a hydration pack.
And ski and snowboard backpacks in many cases aren’t just suitable for winter season activities. Our options below might prove useful for spring and summer activities, whether you’re hiking, kayaking, or spending a day at the beach. Once the weather turns wintry once again, you’re prepared to hit the slopes.
To help you know which pack is best for your winter adventures, we’ve sifted through what’s available and tested a slew of models from the best outdoor brands on the market. Here are our picks of the best ski backpacks.
allows you to store your boots separately from the rest of your gear, keeping those other items dry and grime free. The zippered side pockets each hold one boot, with venting and grommets near the bottom to drain out melted snow. The large center pocket is big enough to hold all the rest of your gear, and a padded back close to your lumbar area makes transport a little less stressful on your back.
The entire bag is crafted with water-resistant polyester, keeping your stuff inside dry even in the snowiest of conditions. Reflective material in the piping and across the straps add safety when traveling with the bag in low visibility conditions or after dark. You can’t beat the price either — it’s one of our cheapest options on this list.
It’s obvious how the
bag got its name: You literally can fit everything in it. A large center pocket will fit not only your snow gear but a change of clothes and helmet, too, while separate ventilated pockets hold your wet boots away from everything. There’s even a pocket on the front to store your MP3 player or smartphone. Its padded back adds comfort when using it as a backpack, and a strap on the top allows you to use it as a carry bag if you prefer.
Perhaps what attracts us the most to Athalon’s bags is the five-year manufacturer’s warranty. That is one of the best in the snowsports industry and makes us feel much more comfortable spending close to $70 on a backpack. But it’s worth it — the quality is noticeably better than most, and the company stands by its product.
is a lower-cost variation of the XT1, and features the “isosceles storage system” that has become a trademark of the company’s bag design. While it might not have the space of the previous two bags, the triangular shape of the bag makes it easier to transport because it is far less bulky.
One thing we do miss from the other bags is the rear padding to protect your back. That shouldn’t be too much of an issue, however, as this bag isn’t designed to carry as much as some other bags. The straps are padded though, which reduces the strain on your shoulders.
is the ultimate crossover backpack, providing a smaller, bulk-free resort pack that won’t catch on chairlifts while also offering enough backcountry features to sustain a day off-piste. It’s loaded with features including a cozy fleece-lined goggle pocket, shovel compartment, helmet attachment loops, and a sternum strap rescue whistle.
It offers wearers the ability to strap on snowboards vertically and a diagonal or A-frame style attachment for your skis. The padded hip belt and back panel makes it comfortable to wear, and its customizable straps ensure it doesn’t rub or chafe, even while ripping at breakneck speeds. As a bonus, the pack fits with Dakine’s impact spine protector, adding an extra layer of safety and protection.
The North Face’s
is much closer to a traditional backpack than some of our other selections, but we like it both for its style and versatility. This particular backpack does just fine as you around town backpack with its included laptop sleeve and many fleece-lined pockets for your other gadgets and goodies. But it’s equally at home on the trail and the slopes with stretchy water bottle holders and external bungee storage for wet gear.
The Borealis doesn’t have a spot to store your boots, and while water repellent, it isn’t necessarily waterproof. Still, its style and capability to be more versatile than your standard ski backpack certainly make it an attractive option.
We’ll be truthful: Calling this a ski backpack might be a little bit of a stretch. However,
has a design that caught our eye and won our hearts. The company patterned the design after the classic mountaineering packs of the past but with a few modern conveniences.
A magnetic snap keeps all your valuables safe and secure, while an impressive 28 liters of space inside offers more than enough room to store just about anything you need. There’s even a media pocket to store your media player or smartphone, and contoured straps and mesh back padding make it comfortable to wear for extended periods.
How to pick the right ski backpack
Sure, you could use just about any backpack out there the next time you hit the slopes, but we wouldn’t recommend it. The primary thing you should be concerned with when looking for a bag to carry your stuff on the slopes is water repellency. The bag will get wet, and you’ll be transporting snowy equipment in them.
If you plan to carry your boots in the bag, ensure the bag you select has separate pockets for them. A good ski backpack also has grommets and venting, which allow water from melting snow to drain out rather than pooling at the bottom of your bag. We also recommend buying the smallest bag necessary to carry your essentials — especially in the backcountry you don’t want to be lugging around a ton of added weight.
For around-the-mountain transport, the type of bag you select doesn’t matter much. However, if you plan to ski or ride with the bag on, a more traditional style backpack will be easier to manage. Higher quality bags will have straps you fasten around your waist area, minimizing shifting, which can be problematic when you’re on the slopes.
What do the ‘L’ numbers mean?
You might notice that some bags have a number after their names, i.e., ’16L,’ etc. The industry measures the amount of space in a bag in liters. So a 16L backpack can hold up to 16 liters of volume, and so on. While bag sizes run in sizes of 30, 40L, and more, for snowsports purposes you’ll want to stick with sizes of 28L (which is still pretty big) or smaller unless you plan to camp out overnight on the slopes. We doubt most of you will be doing that.