While winter doesn’t technically start until December 21, many areas of the country are deep into ski season. If you haven’t already, now is the perfect time to shop for the best skiing and snowboarding equipment. If you’re an avid skier, you no doubt already have the basics — skis (or a snowboard), goggles, a ski helmet, and a hydration pack. But, what about a good backpack to stash all that gear?
The right snowboard or ski backpack is lightweight, durable, and weatherproof. But, the best ones are also versatile, suitable for all manner of outdoor winter adventures. The options below might even prove useful for spring and summer activities, whether you’re hiking, kayaking, or spending a day at the beach. Then, once the weather turns wintry once again, you’ll be well prepared to head to the ski resort.
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 men’s ski backpacks.
Patagonia SnowDrifter 20L Ski Backpack
Patagonia’s streamlined SnowDrifter is a sleek, trim, lightweight ski backpack ideal for a wide variety of winter adventures. As with everything Patagonia, this is a well-made, durable pack that’s ready to stand up to days on the trail. The fact that it’s crafted from 100-percent recycled fabrics is a nice plus. At 20L, it’s large enough to hold your skiing and snowboarding essentials, yet compact enough to wear all day, from the slopes to the lift and back again. For those who like to carry a bit more, theadds 50% more pack capacity.
Osprey Kamber 16 Ski Backpack
For an ultra-light option, Osprey’sis a pared-down ski backpack that’s precisely as large as it needs to be. The 16L capacity is meant to hold only the basics for a day of light trail run. The front panel provides access to the main compartment designed to keep your gear nice and dry. An insulated sleeve at the rear holds a hydration sleeve to make sure your water’s always within easy reach. Oversized, glove-friendly zipper pulls also provide quick, easy access to the bag’s contents. Plus, at around $100, it’s one of the most budget-friendly on this list.
Dakine Mission Pro 18L Men’s Ski Backpack
Dakine has long been a perennial favorite here at The Manual for their best-value bags that perfectly balance budget with must-have features. The Dakine Mission Pro is trim at just 18L. Inside, it offers plenty of room for your slopeside essentials with a fleece-lined goggle pocket, an insulated hydration sleeve, and a dedicated pocket for a snow shovel/tool. The exterior is clad in 420D semi-dull ripstop nylon with a durable water-repellant finish. A padded hip-belt and sternum strap ensure it’s comfortable for all-day wear.
Deuter Freerider Pro 34+ Snow / Ski Backpack
Deuter is best known for its hiking and backcountry packs. But the German brand’s Freerider winter backpack series is just as solid. The Freerider 34+ is the largest on this list, with a base capacity of 34 liters. Plus, an expandable collar in the roll-top closure unfurls to add 10 more liters when needed. It’s an excellent solution for backcountry enthusiasts who like — or need — to pack tons of extra gear for a day or a long weekend on the trails. Plenty of lash points and well-placed loops are available to secure ice tools, skis, helmets, gloves, and more.
Black Diamond JetForce Pro Avalanche Airbag 25L
For hardcore backcountry skiers, avalanche preparedness is critical. Knowing what to do in the event of an avalanche is the first step, but having the right gear is just as important. Black Diamond’s flagship JetForce Pro boasts a battery-powered airbag that deploys — and potentially saves your life — if the worst should happen. It’s powered by a rechargeable battery-powered airbag (arguably better than one-time use gas canister-powered airbags) yet is surprisingly lightweight. The 25L capacity hits the sweet spot of compact but practical enough for all but the heaviest packers.
How to Pick the Right Ski Backpack
It’s easy to assume that “a backpack is a backpack is a backpack.” Sure, any ol’ backpack will mostly work on the slopes — mostly. But we wouldn’t recommend it. You want a ski backpack with the right fabric to maximize water-resistance. Because, face it: If your bag gets wet, then your equipment gets wet, and you’ll be forced to lug all that soggy, heavy gear up and down the mountain.
Assuming you plan to carry boots in your bag, be sure the ski backpack you choose has a separate pocket or pockets for them. The best ski backpacks have dedicated sections for ski boots with vents and grommets to allow water to drain without filling up the bottom of your bag. Weight might be another concern. Keep an eye toward the smallest possible bag with the necessary room for your ski essentials. As with any gear-heavy outdoor adventure, minimizing weight will make your next outing so much more enjoyable.
For around-the-mountain transport, the type of bag you select doesn’t matter as much. If you plan to ski or board while wearing the bag, however, a better quality, purpose-built ski backpack will be much easier to manage. The best bags will have straps to fasten around your waist area that help distribute the load better and minimizing shifting — both of which can be problematic when you’re on the slopes.
What Do the ‘L’ Numbers Mean?
Lastly, if you’ve been shopping ski backpacks (or any outdoor backpack for that matter) long enough, you’ll have noticed most have an “L” rating after their name. This is the industry standard for measuring the volume (in liters) of each backpack. So, for example, 30L and 45L backpacks offer 30 liters and 45 liters, respectively, of interior “room” for your ski equipment.
Most skiers who aren’t planning to overnight in the backcountry will do just fine with a bag that’s around 28L. This capacity provides plenty of room for your essential ski gear, yet it’s compact enough to wear comfortably for an entire day on the slopes.
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