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Ski Touring Choosing a Backpack

Back­coun­try ski­ing is explod­ing with more and more peo­ple look­ing to get out of the lift lines and into wild untouched pow­der stash­es. But get­ting start­ed is dif­fi­cult, from the expen­sive gear to the daunt­ing task of learn­ing all the skills required to safe­ly engage in the sport. So where to start? Let’s talk about gear. Specif­i­cal­ly your pack. The pack you choose to bring in the back­coun­try will hold every­thing you need for the day,it can’t be too small and if it’s too big it’ll hin­der your skiing.

It should have a sep­a­rate wet” pock­et to hold your res­cue gear so that in case you need to dig some­body out of an avalanche you don’t have to emp­ty the con­tents of your pack on the slope to get to your shov­el and probe. It needs to be large enough that you can fit every­thing you need for the day inside the pack. Please avoid hav­ing items dan­gling on the out­side of your pack, espe­cial­ly your res­cue gear. If you get caught in an avalanche any­thing on the out­side of your pack WILL get ripped off. If you have your hel­met out­side your pack use a stretchy mesh hel­met hold­er that can firm­ly secure it to your pack so it’s not swing­ing around back there (it’s not a good look). I think that a 30 litre pack is a per­fect size for most peo­ple to get every­thing inside and still ski unhin­dered. Specif­i­cal­ly designed tour­ing packs are worth the invest­ment because of the sep­a­rate res­cue gear pock­et, and they are often water­proof with a slim pro­file so as not to get in the way. Your pack also needs to be able to car­ry your skis in either an A‑frame or diag­o­nal carry.

Avy air bags are a great tool and have saved many lives but they need to be used in cer­tain ter­rain in order for them to func­tion as intend­ed. The avalanche needs to occur on a slope with a runout so the slide can run and slow down allow­ing the mass of the bag to push you to the top. An Airbag won’t be able to push you up if the slide dumps into a ter­rain trap such as a gul­ly or if you’re ski­ing trees as we do much of the time here in the PNW. I have an Airbag and I will choose to bring it based on the ter­rain I’m plan­ning on ski­ing that day. Much of the time I opt for my nor­mal lighter backpack.