Skiing in the backcountry, while fun, requires a lot of preparation. You never know what you’re going to encounter while off the grid, nor do you know what the mountain will throw your way. As such, it’s important to equip yourself with the proper gear.
There’s nothing like a solid pair of ski poles, especially when you’re out in tough terrain. Solid backcountry models, like the ones analyzed in the following guide, help you navigate through deep powder or shifting elements without getting bogged down.
- The Black Diamond Vapor is a pole for skiers who want something light. This item has a minimalist design and comes with a carbon fiber construction. That material, which is 10 times stronger than steel, is both lightweight and powerful. The freeride baskets help keep your poles above extremely deep snow. Serious backcountry skiers will also love how easy it is to work with these poles and how little weight they add to the journey.
- As the name suggests, the Dynafit Speed Vario 2.0 is a solid pole for skiers who want to go fast. This model doesn’t just have a powder basket and carbon shaft, it is also lightweight and extremely strong. The carbon allows for great power and control in tough conditions, while the extended grip keeps you comfortable. The push-button system and wrist straps work great for skiers who often find themselves hiking up slopes.
- The Atomic Backland FR is the best pole for backcountry skiers who want to get a lot of bang for their buck. This affordable model utilizes a hybrid aluminum design that reduces weight without sacrificing performance. Skiers looking for versatility will also appreciate how adjustable these poles are; enabling you to prepare for both hiking and downhill runs. The built-in screwdrivers also allow for quick gear adjustments on the fly.
Who Should Get This?
Every backcountry skier needs a solid pair of poles. Not only will they keep you above any deep powder or tough terrain, but they will also ensure you have the ability to move both up and down slopes. Adjustable models are a great way to go towards that end, as are options with removable baskets that provide excellent versatility.
The options outlined in this guide are for one specific type of skier. They have backcountry-focused features and are made for those who like to brave the snow on their own. If you’re a beginner or someone who doesn’t take to the backcountry, these aren’t for you.
Best Backcountry Ski Poles: What to Consider?
You never know what you’ll encounter while trekking out through the backcountry. As such, you need poles that can handle anything. While models made for resorts can have one use or function, backcountry ski poles should give you the ability to perform multiple actions. Favor models that match your needs, acting as a hiking stick for the walk up and a ski pole for the trip back down. Pay attention to adjustable poles as well.
Baskets, that is the plastic disk near the bottom of the pole, are important to keep in mind as well. Though resort skiers can get away with small baskets for groomed runs, backcountry poles need wider baskets. That will enable you to handle deep powder and trudge through tough conditions without losing your pole to the snow. Some models even give you the option to switch out your basket if you want extra flexibility.
While resort ski poles function well enough on their own, backcountry models typically come with extra attributes to help you when the going gets tough. When making your final decision, favor options that go the extra mile to help you brave the backcountry. That includes handy enhancements like an ice ax or inclinometer, as well as safety features like a built-in screwdriver.
Best Backcountry Ski Poles: Our Picks
Backcountry skiers looking for a lightweight pole will love the Black Diamond Vapor. This model, which weighs in at just 10.4 ounces, features a minimalist design, freeride basket, and carbon fiber construction. Not only that, but it has a sticky rubber grip that helps adjust your bindings and boot buckles when you turn the pole upside down.
What We Like:
- Extremely lightweight
- Carbon fiber construction
- Freeride basket
- Sticky rubber grip to adjust bindings and buckles
What We Don’t Like:
- No compact adjustment
- One-piece design
Skiers who often find themselves traversing tough or uneven terrain will value the Dynafit Speed Vario 2.0. This speed-based pole offers many features that help you pilot through the backcountry, including a push-button system, external level-lock, and wrist straps. The powder basket and carbon material are simply icing on an already delicious cake.
What We Like:
- Lightweight construction
- Powder basket
- Extended grips for more comfort
- Push-button system provides versatility
- External lock lever
- Wrist straps
What We Don’t Like:
- Might be a bit too light for some skiers
Fully adjustable for extra versatility, the Atomic Backland FR is an affordable ski pole that every backcountry skier can appreciate. Not only does this feature a strong hybrid aluminum design, but it also comes with padded straps, a powder basket, and built-in screwdrivers so you’re never caught off guard on your runs. It is also one of the more lightweight options around.
What We Like:
- Hybrid aluminum design
- Hidden screwdrivers in shafts
- Secure wrists straps
- Comfortable to hold and maneuver
What We Don’t Like:
- Not as light as other models
Useful Tips and Resources
Backcountry skiing is exciting, but it can also be quite dangerous. There are many tribulations to watch out for when pushing through uncharted snow, and perhaps none are more worrisome than avalanches. This article covers basic information to help keep you safe.
Beyond safety, navigating the backcountry can be difficult as well. You never know what you’re going to run into off-piste, nor can you be sure what type of terrain you’ll encounter. As such, rather than going in blind, it helps to have an idea of what to do when encountering different obstacles when no one’s around.
It is never easy to pick out the perfect backcountry ski pole. Many models might seem great at first glance, but they often cannot hold up to harsh weather or push over deep snow. The above models have no such issues.
Every pole in this guide can handle the backcountry with ease. As such, the one you pick should have extra features that best fit your skiing style as well as any attributes that may come in handy during the runs you enjoy the most.
Do you have a favorite pole for the backcountry? Was it listed in this guide? Let us know in the comments below!
Joseph Scalise is an avid writer, editor, and snow sports enthusiast who loves to spend his time outdoors. He began his love of writing early on in life and continued to pursue it as he grew older. While his time behind the computer doesn’t get him into the wild unknown as much as he would like, he never misses a chance to head up (or down) a mountain, across a river, or through a lush forest. When he’s not planning new trips, you can always find him typing away on his next project.