Winter is still in full swing, which is superb news if you’re interested in partaking in any cold-weather sports — like skiing and snowboarding. And while everyone knows the basic gear you need to get out there and hit the slopes, there are a few things you might not consider until it’s too late. Or maybe you’re a seasoned professional looking for some new gear. Either way, picking up a backpack as a part of your winter sports loadout is a pretty excellent idea.
Of course, you could probably get away with a basic bag if you’re the type who only goes up to the mountains once a season. But if you want to make a habit out of it, you’re going to want to pick something with a bit more capability. That’s why we’ve put together this list of 18 top-tier ski and snowboard bags — broken down into three categories: Casual, Backcountry, and Avalanche — to accompany you the next time you decide to go hit some fresh powder.
A Day At The Resort
For the vast majority of non-professional skiers and snowboarders, a casual pack is probably all that’s necessary. We’re talking something that’s got a decent amount of room for snacks, a water bottle, maybe your action camera, but not too much else. Of course, even with a casual backpack for groomed resort slopes, you should still seek out solid weatherproofing — these packs aren’t going to be fully-featured for off-the-grid adventure. If you’re the type to pick up a season pass to your favorite local slopes but you have no plans of venturing outside the normal routes, this is the section for you.
Dakine Heli Pro Backpack
Don’t underestimate Dakine’s seemingly simple Heli Pro Backpack. With 20L of internal storage, it’s not what we would call comprehensive, but it still has it where it counts. In fact, it’s weatherproof (thanks to a completely polyester exterior), has both ski and snowboard straps for easier carrying, and there’s internal organization perfect for some snow tools — like a collapsible shovel.
Material: 600D Polyester
CamelBak SnoBlast Ski Pack
One of the smallest potential carry capacities on our list, clocking in at 15L, this is definitely a backpack for the more casual skiers and snowboarders. But that capacity doesn’t come without a pretty major bonus not found elsewhere: this one comes with a built-in 2.0-liter hydration system, so you don’t have to haul around a water bottle or return to the mountain lounge every time you get thirsty.
Material: 300 HD Velocity Twill, DWR & PU Nylon
Burton Rider’s 2.0 Backpack
Burton’s Rider’s 2.0 Backpack is simple and straightforward with a weatherproof nylon exterior and 25L of internal space. But sometimes, especially out on groomed runs near ski lifts, that’s all you really need. But it’s not without some handy features, like its stowable and removable hip belt, chest stabilization strap, and internal storage for snow tools.
Material: 500D Nylon
Thule Upslope Backpack
Usually, when we’re thinking of Thule, it’s because of their top-tier roof racks and cargo boxes. But it turns out they also know how to make a pretty killer ski and snowboard backpack. Called the Upslope, this handy pack was specifically designed to carry all the gear you might need out on the mountain — including a pocket for gloves, slots for snow tools, a helmet connection point, and either snowboard or ski carry straps.
Material: 420D Nylon
The North Face Snomad Pack
Unsurprisingly, The North Face — magnates of winter-ready outdoor gear — make one of the best ski/snowboard bags out there. Granted, it’s a little bit on the small side, measuring up at 23L of internal storage, but it makes up for it in other ways. For starters, it’s made from an abrasion- and water-resistant fabric called IronLight, which is extremely lightweight but doesn’t sacrifice strength. It also offers both ski and board carry options, has a spring steel frame for stability, offers plenty of internal organization, and even comes with a lifetime guarantee.
Material: 420D IronLite
Patagonia SnowDrifter Pack
Like The North Face, it shouldn’t be a shock to anyone that Patagonia offers a number of stellar winter-ready outdoor packs. Their SnowDrifter, however, is one of our favorites for snowboarding and skiing, thanks to its ultra-durable DWR-coated Cordura nylon exterior (plenty water-resistant for most snow days), 30-liters of internal storage (putting this one right on the cusp of deserving to be considered a backcountry bag), snow tool storage, ski and snowboard carry straps, and plenty more.
Material: 420D Cordura Nylon
Off The Beaten Path
Resort skiing and snowboarding is plenty of fun under the right conditions, but it can be crowded. And that means congested runs, compacted snow, and very little in the way of any kind of untouched features — manmade or natural. If you really want to get your board or planks on some fresh powder, you’re going to have to trek away from those ski lifts and head out into the backcountry. And if that’s your goal, you’ll need a pack that can offer you a lot more than just a place to stash your trail mix. We’re talking bags that have ski and/or snowboard storage built-in, hydration pack compatibility, slots for some emergency gear, and maybe even space for an avalanche airbag. If you’re adventurous at heart, these are the ski and snowboard bags for you.
Salomon QST Backpack
Salomon, the world-renowned ski brand, has been around for quite a long time, so they can absolutely be relied upon to craft a killer backcountry backpack. And if anything they make qualifies, it’s the 30-liter QST Backpack. Made specifically to be operated while wearing gloves — meaning you don’t have to risk frostbite to get your hands on your gear inside — this pack has plenty of compartmental internal storage for all your snow gear, it’s got a thermo-molded back pad for excellent stability, and a sleek silhouette.
Material: 450D Nylon
RMU Core Pack
What’s really excellent about the RMU Core Pack is that it’s plenty big enough for all your backcountry ski or snowboard gear, measuring up at 35L of internal storage, but it was also designed specifically to meet most carry-on bag guidelines — so it’s perfect for long-distance trips to mountains around the world. While that alone would certainly make it an interesting prospect, its long list of other features is what solidifies it as deserving of a spot on our list. Those features include dual types of ski carry, dual hydration ports, climbing axe loops, and so much more.
Material: PU-Coated 630D Nylon
Burton[ak] Incline UI Backpack
Burton is practically synonymous with winter sports — more specifically, snowboarding — so their spot on this list is practically compulsory. Of course, it wouldn’t be unless their gear was backed up by top-tier construction and features, as is the case with their Incline UI Backpack. For those unfamiliar, Burton[ak] is the brand’s line in collaboration with the folks behind GORE-TEX, so you can definitely count on this pack being extra-weatherproof. Pair that with a customizable board/ski carry system, slots for an ice axe and backcountry poles, a radio port under the top lid, and even hydration bladder compatibility.
Material: Dimension Polyant LS07, 70D Ripstop Nylon
Osprey Kamber ABS Compatible Pack
Most backcountry ski/snowboard backpacks have some way to carry your board or skis, hydration bladder compatibility, plenty of internal storage, good stability, and an ultra-durable waterproof exterior — and the Osprey Kamber is no exception. But where this one shines is in its ABS compatibility. You see, ABS is an avalanche airbag system that can help float the user to the top of the snow, increasing survival chances tenfold. This backpack has a specific compartment made to house just such a system. Of course, if you don’t want it, you can take it out, as well.
Material: 420HD Nylon
Mystery Ranch Patrol Backpack
Based out of Bozeman, Montana, the folks at Mystery Ranch are no stranger to winter weather. And that’s reflected in many of their offerings, including their Patrol Backpack you see here. Perfect for backcountry exploration, this 35L bag boasts a composite frame incorporated with high-density foam for stability even during dynamic movements. It also has dual egress locations for easy internal access, even in knee-deep powder. And it’s constructed from ultra-tough and water-resistant Cordura nylon.
Material: 330D Cordura Lite Plus, PU-Coated 500D Nylon
Deuter Freerider Pro Backpack
Deuter’s Freerider Pro might not be the ultimate backcountry ski/snowboard backpack, but it’s definitely not far off — especially when you consider its versatility. You see, while it’s made from a durable weatherproof combination of nylon and polyamide and has tons of internal storage (30L), including room for a 3.0-liter hydration bladder, it also features a format that can carry skis, a snowboard, and even snowshoes. Mate that with multiple organizational pockets and a wealth of stabilization features and you can see why this is one of the best backcountry bags available.
Material: Polyamide, Nylon
Extreme Survival Essentials
We’ve all seen those snowboard and ski videos where a helicopter takes riders up to the pinnacle of mountains few other humans have ever stepped foot upon — and a good number of us have watched with envy. Well, guess what? You can explore the furthest reaches with the freshest snow. You just have to set your mind to make that happen, maybe save up a bit of money, and get in touch with a mountain guide to show you the way. You’ll also probably want to bring along an avalanche pack. These bags have built-in airbags specifically designed to deploy and float you above the wave of snow in the case that you disturb the mountain gods and they decide to bury you. In all seriousness, avalanches are one of the most dangerous natural events and should be taken extremely seriously. If you’re even considering going boarding or skiing anywhere with even a moderate risk of being caught in one, you should bring along one of these bags. They’re pricy, but they can also save your life.
Mammut Light Removable 3.0 Airbag
One of the biggest issues with airbag-equipped avalanche backpacks is that the airbag systems can add weight and take up space you’d otherwise be able to use for gear. Of course, the tradeoff is a potentially lifesaving piece of equipment. Mammut’s offering you see here is a pretty solid middle ground, as the airbag system is removable for when you don’t want to use it and the bag itself is fairly lightweight even when the airbag is inside. And while we wouldn’t call 30L capacious, per se, it’s definitely not small, either.
Material: 100D Ripstop Cordura Nylon, 210D Nylon
Backcountry Access Float Airbag Backpack
While we wouldn’t suggest taking the BCA Float Airbag Backpack out for a multi-day outing, as it only boasts 22L of storage, it’s definitely a superb daypack for, say, a helicopter drop outing. This is primarily because, what it lacks in storage, it makes up for by coming equipped with an avalanche airbag, a light and compact overall form, dedicated snow tool storage, and a durable exterior perfect for staving off the snowfall, powder, rain, and whatever else nature can throw at you.
Material: PU-Coated 210D Mini Ripstop Nylon, 420D Nylon, 200D Polyester
Mammut Pro Protection Airbag 3.0 Pack
While Mammut has an excellent lightweight avalanche airbag snowboard and ski pack, their Pro Protection Airbag 3.0 might just be their magnum opus in the category, as it boasts an advanced airbag system that not only helps keep you above the snow in the case of an avalanche, but it can also protect your head and neck from mechanical injuries in the process. Pair that with dual size options (35 and 45 liters), tons of organization for all your tools, gear, and board or skis, hydration system compatibility, and more, and it’s easy to see why this might be Mammut’s best snow-ready backpack ever.
Ortovox Tour 32+7 Backpack
The Ortovox Tour 32+7 backpack boasts a lot of features, but probably not entirely surprising ones. For instance, it has 37L of internal storage, a ruggedized weatherproof Cordura and ballistic nylon exterior, and a ton of internal organization for everything you’ll need on the slopes. But where it really shines is with its airbag system. You see, unlike other options, this one comes with two separate airbags that activate and inflate independently from one another. That means, if one were to fail, you’d still have a backup — and that’s a nice bit of extra safety.
Material: Cordura/Ballistic Nylon
Black Diamond Jetforce Tour Backpack
Leave it to a brand like Black Diamond to create a top-tier avalanche backpack — featuring 26L of storage, an abrasion- and water-resistant nylon exterior, plenty of stabilization and organization, and more — while still making it sleek and handsome as hell. It’s also quite handy in that the avalanche airbag system can be charged by USB in just 40 minutes — making this perhaps the best grab-and-go airbag backpack for snowboarding or skiing out there.
Material: 210D Nylon
Arc’teryx Voltair Backpack
Take one look at the Voltair Backpack from Arc’teryx and it will become abundantly clear why this brand is one of the most respected in the outdoor gear space. Crafted from the brand’s AC² (Advanced Composite Construction) proprietary fabric, it’s lightweight but tough enough to take on anything. It also features both ski and snowboard carry, alongside your other snow tools — like an ice axe. It’s got a superb airbag system and still offers up 30L of internal storage for all your gear. If you want to hit backcountry powder while staying as safe as possible and only the best will do, this is the bag for which you’re looking.
Material: Arc’teryx AC² (Advanced Composite Construction)
The Best Ski & Snowboard Gear
A backpack is only one of the pieces of gear you’ll need to get the most out of your mountain adventures. Find the rest of it here on our list of the best ski & snowboard gear available.