Tested and Reviewed: The 10 Best Ski Packs of 2021

Make a good day on the hill great with these ski-focused backpacks

Our editors independently research, test, and recommend the best products; you can learn more about our review process here. We may receive commissions on purchases made from our chosen links.

The Rundown

Best Overall: Mammut Light Protection Airbag 3.0 at Backcountry

"It provides more protection than other packs."

Best Budget Pack: Mystery Ranch D-Route at Backcountry

"Broad and low profile, without a lot of straps to get caught on a chair lift when you’re offloading."

Best for Year-Round Use: Norrona Lyngen 35 at Norrona

"It’s a pack you can use all year."

Best for Snowboarders: Dakine Poacher RAS at Amazon

"Has all the features to help riders and skiers have a great day on the lift, booting, or skinning."

Best Budget Airbag Pack: BCA Float 32 Avy Airbag at Amazon

"The highly functional pack has lots of organization."

Best for Sidecountry: Black Diamond Jetforce UL 26 at Amazon

"A travel-friendly pack that can transition from resort laps to sidecountry laps."

Best for Comfort: Ortovox Haute Route 30 S at Moosejaw

"This pack carried loads better than anything else we tested."

Best for Resort Skiing: Osprey Glade 12 at Osprey

"It’s the perfect size for stashing extra layers."

Best for Hut Trips: Gregory Targhee 45 FT at Backcountry

"A great backpacking pack with the additional features ski tourers need."

Best for Ski Mountaineering: Mountain Hardwear Snoskiwoski 40 at Mountain Hardwear

"Made for speed missions in the mountains."

Wherever you plan to ski or ride this winter, a snowsports-specific pack will carry skis, helmets, and other gear that a backpacking or hydration pack won’t. It will also have snow safety features critical to speedy responsiveness if things go sideways while traveling out of bounds. Inbounds skiers don’t need all the bells and whistles that touring skiers do, but having a ski pack to tote skis or a snowboard uphill to carve a few extra turns can make a good day on the hill even better. 

The best ski pack will carry the gear you need for your specific trip. A hut trip, for example, will require a bigger pack than a day trip. And ski mountaineers need a pack both big enough and with the right attachments for ice axes, crampons, and a rope.

Kristin Arnold, ski and climbing guide with Cirque and I.R.I.S. says a ski pack should be simple and durable. “A good ski pack will have plenty of storage space inside and a dedicated pocket for rescue tools,” says Arnold, who also wants her pack to have attachments for ice tools for spring ski mountaineering. “I want my shovel and probe accessible, and don’t want to have to stuff them into the body of my pack with my warm and dry clothing.”

Ski legend Mike Hattrup, who is also Black Diamond’s Ski and Snowboard Business Unit Director, says an airbag is mandatory for anyone who skis in avalanche terrain. 

“Yes, airbags are expensive, and they add a couple of pounds to your pack,” Hattrup concedes. “Some skiers balk at the price, but it’s the cheapest insurance policy you can buy, and often cheaper than a new ski setup. It’s more than worth it.”

Both Arnold and Hattrrup prefer a pack with too much space than a tight fit. 

“A bigger pack is easier to work with,” Hattrup points out. “Buy one that’s too small, and it’s like having a suitcase that’s full when you leave for a trip and not big enough on the way home.”

The most versatile ski packs have 30- to 35-liter capacity, with room for a puffy, gloves, food, water, and more. For resort and sidecountry, compress your larger pack, or get a 10- to 15-liter pack that makes it easier to get on and off the chairlift and holds gear necessary for short missions. 

Also, consider how a pack carries skis: A-Frame, diagonally, or both. Smaller packs and some airbag packs offer diagonal ski carry only. With a stuffed pack, it can be uncomfortable to carry skis diagonally because the ski weight is far from your back. With an airbag pack, make sure your skis and helmet don’t obstruct your airbag.

Here are our picks for the top ski backpacks of the 2021-2022 season.

Best Overall: Mammut Light Protection Airbag 3.0

Mammut Light Protection Airbag 3.0

Courtesy of Erin Wyer / Outside PR

What We Like
  • Super light

  • Trauma protection

  • Infinitely adjustable ski tail strap

What We Don't Like
  • Airbag takes up both shoulder straps

  • No helmet carry

  • Holds one ice axe

Mammut’s Light Protection Airbag 3.0 may look like other high-end airbag packs, but when you’re in a slide, it provides more protection than other packs. The lighter-than-ever Airbag 3.0’s 150-liter balloon wraps around the back and sides of your head when the pack is deployed reducing the chance of injury or death by trauma. The diagonal ski carry and front panel carry snowboard attachment is the most flexible we’ve seen, with a bottom strap that extends to fit even the widest ski tails. Though it doesn’t come with a helmet sling, tabs on the front let us attach one. The aluminum frame and thermoformed back were ultra-comfortable even when this pack was stuffed. And because it’s light and spacious, we didn’t feel weighed down yet always had the gear we needed.

Volume: 30 liters | Size: O/S | Weight: 5.4 pounds with canister | Number of External Pockets: 3 | Airbag Compatibility: Protection Airbag System 3.0 | Climate Consciousness: None

Best Budget Pack: Mystery Ranch D-Route

Mystery Ranch D-Route Pack

Courtesy of Moosejaw

What We Like
  • Ultra low profile

  • Minimal straps ideal for the lifts

  • Full-side zip access

What We Don't Like
  • No shovel pocket

  • Small capacity

For inbounds skiing, the lower profile the pack, the better. Mystery Ranch’s glove-friendly 17L D-Route is broad and low profile, without a lot of straps to get caught on a chair lift when you’re offloading. The diagonal ski carry loop tucks away, and daisy chains down the front panel hold a helmet. The D-Route is durable and comfortable. Side compression straps draw the load in towards your back. A top pocket is easy to get into without unloading the pack, and a reservoir pocket separates water from gear. But what really sold us on this pack, was the full-side zip access. Though this pack doesn’t have a shovel pocket, it lets us get snow safety tools fast. We also loved the oversized haul loop that lets us grab the pack with gloves on. 

Volume: 17 liters | Size: O/S | Weight: 1.6 pounds | Number of External Pockets: 1 | Airbag Compatibility: No | Climate Consciousness: None

Best for Year Round Use: Norrona Lyngen 35

Noronna Lyngen 35

Courtesy of Backbone Media

What We Like
  • Oversized hip pockets

  • Insulated hydration sleeve

  • Also good for summer use

What We Don't Like
  • Not airbag compatible

If you don’t need an airbag pack, not only does Norrona’s Lyngen 35 carry comfortably, but it’s a pack you can use all year. The spacious, back panel-entry main compartment was as easy to pack for skiing as it was for day hikes. Inside, a zippered flap separates a hydration reservoir from the rest of the pack’s contents, and it provides a mesh organization pocket. In winter, we used the top pocket for goggles. In summer, we used it for small items we wanted to access easily. In all seasons, we loved having snacks at our fingertips in the sandwich-sized hip belt pockets. The shovel pocket is highlighted with a red zipper pull so there’s no fumbling for snow safety gear in an emergency. A helmet harness tucks out of the way on the front of the pack when it’s not in use.

Volume: 35 liters | Size: O/S | Weight: 2.6 pounds | Number of External Pockets: 4 | Airbag Compatibility: No | Climate Consciousness: 50% recycled Bluesign-certified fabric, PVC-free DWR

Best for Snowboarders: Dakine Poacher RAS

Dakine Poacher RAS

Courtesy of Backbone Media

What We Like
  • Airbag compatible

  • Insulated hydration sleeve

  • Intuitive snowboard carry

What We Don't Like
  • Could use more pockets

A pack that can be run with or without an airbag system, Dakine’s minimalist, low-profile Poacher RAS is sized for sidecountry laps and day trips, with all the features to help riders and skiers have a great day on the lift, booting, or skinning. The front panel snowboard carry was quick and intuitive, and the lower board retainer strap feeds through the front panel to form a diagonal ski carry loop. Sleeves in the main storage pocket hold a shovel handle and probe, as well as a reservoir, with an additional sleeve for routing an airbag. The pack doesn’t have a lot of easy access storage, so we tucked our goggles inside our helmet and used the goggle pocket for knickknacks and snacks. The zippered shoulder strap held a hydration hose or a radio.

Volume: 18 liters | Size: O/S | Weight: 2.7 pounds | Number of External Pockets: 2 | Airbag Compatibility: Mammut RAS | Climate Consciousness: Global Recycling Standard (GRS) certified post-industrial recycled nylon

Best Budget Airbag Pack: BCA Float 32 Avy Airbag

BCA Float 32 Avy Airbag

Courtesy of Colorado Marketer

What We Like
  • Great price

  • Ample organization

  • Height-adjustable

What We Don't Like
  • Heavy

  • Goggle pocket gets in the way of main compartment

Price is often the deal-breaker for buying an airbag pack. BCA softens the sting of this potentially life-saving purchase with the Float 32. Built around BCA’s own airbag system, the highly functional pack has lots of organization: A dedicated tool pocket, helmet carry, goggle pocket, two hip pockets, an internal mesh pocket, and dual insulated shoulder straps—one for the trigger handle and one for hydration or BCA’s backcountry radio. Thanks to a height-adjustable waist belt, the pack fits a broad range of users. It’s 30 percent smaller and 15 percent lighter than the 1.0 version. And the Float 2.0 system isn’t in the main compartment as with other airbag packs. It’s behind a zippered covering, so it leaves more space for gear in the main compartment.

Volume: 32 liters | Size: O/S | Weight: 6.4 pounds with canister | Number of External Pockets: 4 | Airbag Compatibility: BCA Float | Climate Consciousness: None

Best for Sidecountry: Black Diamond Jetforce UL 26

Black Diamond Jetforce UL 26

Courtesy of Backbone Media

What We Like
  • Oversized goggle pocket

  • Travel friendly

  • Three-quarters opening on the main pocket was easy access

What We Don't Like
  • Few pockets

  • Cartridges are single use

A travel-friendly pack that can transition from resort laps to sidecountry laps when you screw in two small travel-friendly Argon canisters, Black Diamond’s Jetforce UL is big enough to hold everything you need for a full day in the mountains, but light and trim enough to use as an everyday pack wherever you ski with an airbag for best-in-class safety. The compact Alpride 2.0 system is powered by two space-saving, compressed argon and CO2 gas cartridges that inflate the 150-liter airbag in less than five seconds when you pull the trigger.

A dedicated shovel pocket is inside the main zip behind an easy-to-spot clip. A mesh pocket holds snacks and other small items. The pack’s exterior is clean and modern, with a flap that stores the helmet carry sling, and an attachment for a single ice ax. We loved the oversized goggle pocket and used it for gloves and food as well as eye protection. The redesigned leg strap is now retractable for quick access and quick storage.

Volume: 26 liters | Size: S/M, M/L | Weight: 4.4 pounds with canisters | Number of External Pockets: 2 | Airbag Compatibility: Alpride 2.0 cartridge system | Climate Consciousness: None

Best for Comfort: Ortovox Haute Route 30 S

 Ortovox Haute Route 30 S

Courtesy of Backbone Media

What We Like
  • Loads of organization and storage

  • Exceptionally comfortable

What We Don't Like
  • Not airbag compatible

Built on Ortovox’s signature O-Flex-2 frame, this pack carried loads better than anything else we tested. The well-padded, well-vented back panel has an S-shaped stabilizer and load lifters that keep weight balanced from left to right, and from shoulders to hips. An articulated hip belt connects directly into the pack frame, further stabilizing the pack and making pack weight practically disappear.

The pack's main storage can be accessed from the top or through the zippered back panel. A separate shovel pocket makes getting to emergency gear quick. And an oversized stuff pocket left room for goggles, gloves, energy bars, and more. The pack holds a snowboard and carries skis A-Frame or diagonally, with straps for a rope, ice axes, poles, and more. When the helmet sling and ski or snowboard carry aren’t in use, they tuck out of sight keeping this pack clean and unlikely to snag in tight tree lines.

Volume: 30 liters | Size: Small; also available in 32 liters for longer torsos | Weight: 2.9 pounds | Number of External Pockets: 4 | Airbag Compatibility: No | Climate Consciousness: PFC-free, manufactured under Fair Wear Foundation fair working conditions 

Best for Resort Skiing: Osprey Glade 12

Osprey Glade 12

Courtesy of Osprey

What We Like
  • Reservoir and insulated hydration hose included

  • Flexible pockets

  • Supportive back panel

What We Don't Like
  • Webbing waist strap only

It’s easy to get dehydrated in winter. This pack solves that problem, with an insulated hose on the pre-installed hydration reservoir. Both slim and broad, the pack was comfortable getting on and off the lift. It carried skis diagonally and snowboards horizontally and vertically. A front pocket was big enough for snow safety gear. It also has a key clip and a mesh pocket that kept snacks at hand while leaving the goggle pocket-free to hold eye protection. It’s the perfect size for stashing extra layers and worked for skiing and fat biking, snowshoeing, Nordic skiing, and more.

Volume: 12 liters | Size: O/S | Weight: 2 pounds | Number of External Pockets: 2 | Airbag Compatibility: No | Climate Consciousness: Bluesign approved recycled high-tenacity nylon fabric, PFC-free DWR

Best for Hut Trips: Gregory Targhee 45 FT

Gregory Targhee 45 FT

Courtesy of Verde Brand Communications

What We Like
  • Removable lid

  • Waist belt and framesheet

  • Holds ice gear

  • Skis mount and dismount with pack on

What We Don't Like
  • No helmet sling

  • Buy the 35L version for everyday use

  • No snowboard carry

A great backpacking pack with the additional features ski tourers need, this is the pack we grabbed for overnight hut trips, and when we packed gear for big or complicated missions. The Targhee is a workhorse, with a harness and hip belt built to carry heavy loads with stability, and a FastTrack attachment that lets us get skis on and off the pack without taking it off.

The pack helped us keep track of where we put things, with a dual pocket removable lid and a side- or top-entry main compartment that has a dedicated hydration sleeve. Tools store in a front stash pocket with Velcro shovel handle and probe holders so even when this pack is stuffed you can get to your snow safety gear, and even though it’s not in a zippered pocket it won’t fall out. The lid and hip belt were removed when we wanted to strip this pack down for day use or technical climbs. Metal toggles held ice axes and poles securely.

Volume: 45 liters | Size: S/M, M/L | Weight: 2.9 pounds | Number of External Pockets: 4 | Airbag Compatibility: No | Climate Consciousness: None

Best for Ski Mountaineering: Mountain Hardwear Snoskiwoski 40

Mountain Hardwear Snowskiwoski 40

Courtesy of Mountain Hardwear

What We Like
  • Ultralight

  • Attachments for climbing and ski gear

What We Don't Like
  • Lidless design won’t appeal to all users

Made for speed missions in the mountains, the lid-free Snoskiwoski is made from ultralight and super durable materials to help technical skiers and climbers move as fast as they can. The pack has A-Frame and diagonal ski carries, and it lets us load our skis without taking off the pack. A tubular side pocket stashes crampons away from other gear. The snow safety pocket is inside the main compartment, along with a mesh zip pocket for a headlamp, lighter, and more. The detachable sling fits skiing and climbing helmets. And the pack held a massive amount of gear for its weight. The low-profile waist belt was supportive and removable.

Volume: 40 liters | Sizes: S/L, M/L | Weight: 2.4 pounds | Number of External Pockets: 3 | Airbag Compatibility: No | Climate Consciousness: recycled nylon shell

Final Verdict

We like to minimize risk whenever possible, and Mammut’s Light Protection Airbag 3.0 (view at Backcountry) is the best pack to protect a skier or rider in an avalanche, while also being a fantastic pack for carrying ski and snowboard gear. Its lightness reduced the burden of carrying an avalanche pack, and its features gave us the space and organization to carry what we needed so we could stay focused on the skiing.

What to Look For in a Ski Pack 

Choose a pack that's comfortable when loaded, as well as durable, snow-shedding, and easy to get into when the pack is full and your skis are loaded. Check for glove-friendly zippers and clips. We highly recommend a pack with an airbag or one that’s airbag-compatible. And if you’ll carry specialized gear or you want to use your pack year-round, choose a pack with the appropriate attachments and features. 

FAQs

How much should I spend?

Ski packs are pricey. Spend what you can to get a pack that meets your needs. If you just need a pack to carry water and food, you’ll spend less than if you’re buying an expedition pack. “Cheap” packs won’t be glove-friendly, they won’t keep out weather, and they’ll be made from cheap materials that will wear out or fail sooner. If you’re unsure you want to shell out for an airbag pack, if you ski in avy terrain, we urge you to reconsider. According to Pascal Haegeli, Ph.D., professor, and the Research Chair in Avalanche Risk Management for the Canadian government, without an airbag, the chance of being buried under the snow is 47 percent; with an airbag, the chance of being buried drops to 20 percent. Without an airbag, the mortality rate if caught in a slide is 22 percent. With an airbag, it drops to 11 percent. Translation: An airbag increases your chance of survival by 50 percent. 

What size do I need? 

Choose a pack that fits your torso comfortably. Some packs come in multiple sizes, like S/M and M/L. Some have a height-adjustable waistbelt. With the pack loaded, the weight should be carried by your hips and stabilized by the shoulder straps. 

What kinds of storage and carrying features do I need?

Be sure to buy a pack that has enough storage capacity for the kids for the trips you’ll take it on. For sidecountry, a 15-liter pack will hold enough food, water, and clothing. A 30- to 35-liter pack is the most versatile for full backcountry touring days. A good pack will cinch down so that you can also use it for resort skiing, dawn patrols, and all-day adventures. If you’re packing your gear into a hut or taking on a technical ski mountaineering mission involving ropes and other climbing gear, you’ll likely need more space. Whatever pack you buy, also consider what lash points and straps are available for expanding its capacity if needed. 

How We Tested

Most of the products in this review were tested on snow in the backcountry on day trips and hut trips in Colorado, New Hampshire, and Vermont. When we weren’t able to test packs on snow, we loaded them with ski and snowboard gear and hiked up a mountain. Multiple industry experts were also consulted in picking the best packs.

Why Trust TripSavvy? 

Vermonter Berne Broudy is an avid backcountry skier who also logs plenty of days at the resort. She has reviewed ski gear for more than a dozen endemic and non-endemic publications from Popular Science to Outside Magazine.

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