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.