Once you have all the essential ski equipment out of the way, it’s time to start thinking about accessories. An item that many skiers like to take with them on the slopes is a backpack, and this gives you the ability to haul extra gear or equipment on your snow adventures.
I’m an avid skier with years of experience in many different snow-related situations. I often wear a backpack when I ski, and I know how to find the best models that are well built and ready to handle the rigors of winter use.
The Black Diamond Dawn Patrol 25 is my top pick for the best ski backpack of the year. This is a fantastic bag with a lightweight design and plenty of storage. It also gives you the ability to easily carry your skis if you want to hike to any hard-to-reach terrain.
There are plenty of backpacks out there, but not all of them have what it takes to live up to the demanding conditions that skiers put them through. I’ll give you all of the best models for winter use in this post, so you can find one that works well.
Let’s get after it.
- Who Should Get This
- Top Picks of Best Ski Backpacks
- How to Choose The Best Backpack for Skiing
- Useful Tips & Resources
- Final Verdict
Who Should Get This
Almost any skier can benefit from a well-made backpack. While I skied for many years without a pack, I made the switch over a decade ago and never looked back.
One of my favorite reasons to have a good ski backpack is the ability to take along enough water and food for an entire ski day. If conditions are really nice, I never like going inside the lodge if I don’t have to.
Another reason to carry a ski backpack is for safety. A pack is a must if you do any side or backcountry skiing.
You can carry an avalanche beacon in the pack. Many backcountry models also have features like airbags that can keep you safe in the event of an avalanche or other accident. You can also carry a first aid kit, survival supplies, and other essentials in your pack.
I also see a lot of photographers, both amateur and professional, bring along a pack for their extra photo gear. While this is very specific, if you like to ski or take photos, most of the options listed here will allow you to carry extra lenses, cameras, or any other gear you might need.
If you’re a beginner skier, I recommend not using a backpack until you’re very comfortable on skis. While it’s not that difficult to ski with a pack on, it does add extra weight. You need to be cautious when getting on and off ski lifts as well.
Is it safe to ski with a backpack?
It is generally safe to ski with a backpack. But I don’t recommend that you wear one until you are comfortable with the basics. Beginners should stay backpack-free to learn how to ski properly before wearing extra weight.
What size backpack do I need for skiing?
I like to use a backpack in the 20-25L capacity range when I ski. But it really depends on how much gear or other items you want to have with you on the mountain. A small size of 12-15L can work for light loads, and larger models over 30L are helpful in the backcountry.
Are North Face backpacks good for skiing?
I don’t recommend any North Face backpacks in my best models. While some ski backpacks are available from the brand, I don’t think they are the best options available.
How do you pack skis on a backpack?
Skis are usually packed on a backpack by using straps. Ski bags will have either straps on the side that allow you to attach a single ski on each side, or they will have a diagonal carry system that lets you keep the skis together.
Top Picks of Best Ski Backpacks
Here are all of my top picks for the best ski backpacks of the season. All models you see here are recommended for skiers looking for a highly functional pack.
1. Black Diamond Dawn Patrol 25
- Best for: Overall
- Key features: Great fit, durable construction, dedicated tool pocket, hydration compatible
- Capacity: 25 L
- Weight: 1040 grams
- Cost: $$
The Black Diamond Dawn Patrol 25 is my pick for the best overall ski backpack of the season. This is a great bag all-around, and I think it has everything you want and need when skiing.
This backpack has a simple-but-efficient design that makes it an excellent option for in-bounds ski days when you want to carry extra gear or food.
It features a Dynex and 840D nylon construction that keeps water out and your gear dry and has a 25-liter capacity, which I believe is the perfect size for a ski backpack.
The chest strap can run small on larger skiers, but there aren’t many downsides to mention other than that.
2. Teton Sports Oasis
- Best for: Hydration
- Key features: Comes with a 2L hydration pack, solid construction, lightweight fit, affordable
- Capacity: 18L
- Weight: 1100 grams
- Cost: $$
The Teton Sports Oasis is a solid option for any skier who wants the benefit of having an efficient hydration system at their disposal when they ski.
This model comes with a 2L hydration pack, alongside an 18L capacity for other gear and equipment you want to bring along out on the mountain.
It also has a lightweight, sturdy construction that leads to reliable performance at the resort.
The Oasis doesn’t come with straps for carrying skis, so you won’t want to take this one into hard-to-reach locations.
3. Deuter Freeride Pro 30
- Best for: Backcountry
- Key features: Larger capacity, comfortable, durable, Alpine Back System, Softstripe pads
- Capacity: 30L
- Weight: Not specified
- Cost: $$$$
If you want a pack that can handle the heavy demands of the backcountry, the Deuter Freeride Pro 30 is a solid option.
This pack has all the features you’d want in a high-end model, such as durable construction, weatherproof outer materials, and a shovel/avalanche probe pocket.
It also features the Alpine Back System, which helps balance your load to ensure a stable experience when skiing a fresh line in the backcountry.
The Freeride Pro 30 is really expensive but a solid investment for any backcountry skier.
4. Dakine Heli Pack 12L
- Best for: Budget Pick
- Key features: Affordable, durable construction, snow tool pocket, fleece-lined goggle pocket
- Capacity: 12L
- Weight: 800 grams
- Cost: $
The Dakine Heli Pack 12L is a very affordable ski backpack recommended for any skier who doesn’t need to carry a lot of weight and wants to save some cash.
I have had one of these for over 15 years now, and though it looks a little rugged, it still holds up. That is because of durable construction that is built to last.
It also has well-placed straps for securing extra gear and is hydration compatible, though you’ll need to purchase a bladder separately.
It’s not the largest pack around and only has a 12L capacity, but the added straps make it a solid choice for a great day on the slopes.
5. Black Diamond Jetforce Pro 25L
- Best for: Airbag Pack
- Key features: Avalanche airbag equipped, large capacity, durable construction, dedicated avalanche tools pocket
- Capacity: 25L
- Weight: 3060 grams
- Cost: $$$$$
If you are looking for the added safety of having an avalanche airbag on your back, the Black Diamond Jetforce Pro 25L is the way to go.
It has a Jetforce powered airbag system that deploys an inflatable balloon to keep you on top of the snow if you get caught in a slide.
The bag also has a decent capacity for you to bring extra gear or equipment, and it’s comfortable to wear despite being a bit heavy.
This is an extremely expensive option, but it can very well save your life.
6. Black Diamond Cirque 45
- Best for: Large Capacity
- Key features: Large capacity, sturdy design, tool pockets, ultra-light Dynex straps and panels
- Capacity: 45L
- Weight: 1500 grams
- Cost: $$$
The Black Diamond Cirque 45 is a great bag for any skier looking for a lot of storage space. It can help serve you well in the backcountry or function as a travel and ski bag.
As the name implies, this pack has a 45-liter capacity making it more than large enough for any ski day. It could be used for multi-day trips and also functions well as a carry-on bag.
The Cirque 45 has a similar design to the Dawn Patrol 25 in that it doesn’t have too many extra features but excels with what it has. The waist and chest straps allow easy adjustment, while the swing arm style shoulder straps make with your gloves on.
This one can be overkill at the resort, but if you need extra space, it will certainly give you that.
7. Osprey Daylite Plus
- Best for: The Resort
- Key features: Simple design, comfortable, large main compartment, stretch mesh pockets
- Capacity: 20L
- Weight: 900 grams
- Cost: $$
The Osprey Daylite Plus is a good resort backpack that will meet the needs of many skiers.
This one has a simple design that features a large main compartment to store extra clothing or food.
A 20L capacity is perfect for helping you pack all of the essentials without weighing things down too much.
This isn’t highly waterproof, so you’ll want to be careful what you put inside on really heavy snow days.
8. Dakine Poacher 32L
- Best for: Touring
- Key features: Good size for touring, comfortable, lightweight, ice-ax loop
- Capacity: 32L
- Weight: 1500 grams
- Cost: $$$
The Dakine Poacher 32L is an excellent backpack to bring along on all of your ski touring adventures.
This one has a larger 32L size than a typical resort pack, giving you extra room to bring equipment or supplies.
It also has pockets for snow tools and side pockets to give you easy access to other gear you might want to bring along.
The bag can be a bit bulky if you pack it completely full.
How to Choose The Best Backpack for Skiing
Ski backpacks come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and capacities. Every model in this guide provides you with the ability to carry your gear while skiing. That being said, there are some considerations you want to keep in mind.
Always consider size when picking out your ski pack. There are many sizes out there, and they tend to be listed in liters. A good size for a ski backpack is around 25L, with 15L being on the low side and 40L on the high side.
Consider the type of skiing you do to help you determine how much you might need to carry. If you just want to bring water and a few snacks, you can get away with a smaller pack.
If you’re going on a backcountry trip or are in charge of carrying extra food and warm gear for kids, you’re going to want a larger capacity ski backpack.
When mentioning security in a ski backpack, I’m not talking about if it locks or not. I’m talking about how well the back can stay on your body.
Most ski backpacks come equipped with plenty of straps and buckles to help you tighten it down while you ski. If you buy a pack not specific to skiing, you might not have that security.
This is an important thing to consider because a loose or floppy backpack can lead to poor skiing. You want a tight fit that doesn’t restrict movement, but you also want the pack secured around your waist and chest for added stability.
Your Style of Skiing
Many ski backpacks are designed with a specific ski style in mind, and they have added features to match.
If you do a lot of backcountry skiing, you want a pack with plenty of room in addition to features like an avalanche airbag or easy access to a beacon. If you stick to the resort and don’t need any additional features, a basic backpack can take care of your needs.
When looking for a ski backpack, it’s important to make sure it’s constructed with high-end materials that can survive a long trip on the mountain. Well-constructed zippers and buckles are vital, especially ones that still work when coated in a layer of ice.
Most of the bags listed here are built with these considerations in mind, but some of the cheaper options may skimp a little in this department. It’s something to think about if you are considering a budget option – it may not last as long as others constructed with more durable materials.
Another important consideration when picking out your ski backpack is to make sure it’s made with waterproof and weatherproof materials. You’re going to see many different conditions while skiing and so will your pack.
If your backpack can’t keep out the snow and sleet, all of your food and gear will get wet. That means you need to ensure your bag can handle changing conditions.
Most ski backpacks are inherently designed to be waterproof. Even so, look for materials like nylon or other synthetic fabrics that will keep your gear nice and dry during your outings.
Many ski backpacks have additional features that make them specific to skiing. One big thing to look for is ski straps that allow you to carry your skis attached to the pack. These are usually built right into the pack and allow you to strap your skis on easily and effectively.
Also, look to see if your pack has hydration compatibility that allows you to keep enough water with you while you ski. Pockets, as well as backcountry or side country features like an airbag, are essential as well.
Useful Tips & Resources
As you can see, there are plenty of reasons to choose one ski backpack over another. No matter what you want to pack, a good ski backpack can help make the most out of the time you have on the snow.
Proper fit is another consideration that can change the course of your ski day. A nice ski backpack that doesn’t fit will cause more trouble than it’s worth. Take a look at these tips to learn how to fit a backpack properly.
The Black Diamond Dawn Patrol 25 is my pick for the best overall ski backpack of the season. This is a comfortable bag with a solid fit and should work well for most skiers. It also has a rugged construction that will last a long time.
All of the backpacks you find on this list are built to work on the ski slopes or in the backcountry. If you want to carry extra gear with you when you ski, you need a high-quality option that will give you plenty of storage.