Look back ten or so years ago and you’d notice that ski touring backpacks were pretty much non-existent, with many ski tourers opting for the lightweight and minimal approach that climbing and mountaineering packs offered. This was the go-to option for carrying the abundance of kit required for a single day ski touring.
Although climbing packs were designed for mountain travel, they weren’t built with the typical ski tourer in mind and lacked what are now standard features on ski touring backpacks; sufficient ski carry options, snow safety pockets, and a durable construction built to stand up to constant contact with ski edges – to name a few.
We’re now seeing an extremely well designed choice of ski touring specific backpacks that address all of the shortcomings of climbing packs, and that come with features specifically designed to meet the needs of ski tourers.
We’ve gone and taken a selection of the top ski touring backpacks out there right now. From Scotland, to France, onto Switzerland and to be finally tested again in Austria, we put these packs through their paces all in the name of testing. No fun was had at all, we promise.
Arc’teryx Alpha SK 32
Available volumes: 32 litre
Coming in lightest, the Alpha SK 32 was born from the needs of backcountry skiers who were modifying Arc’teryx’s lightweight, yet durable Alpha FL climbing pack to create a ski touring pack that worked for them. After much tinkering, Arc’teryx finally saw the light, creating the Alpha SK 32 – a pack that remains lightweight and durable, but with features specifically tailored to backcountry skiers.
“After much tinkering, Arc’teryx finally saw the light”
The first thing you’ll notice when you take a look at this pack is the unique ski carry system, that allows for both A-Frame and diagonal ski carry. This system uses ski straps to strap your skis to the pack (two are included). It’s an extremely well thought out way of carrying skis – there when you need it, removable when you don’t, creating an extremely sleek pack when removed. We’re also big fans of having two more ski straps at hand – for emergency use.
If you do like to carry your axe on the outside of the pack, then you’re going to have to get used to sliding it into the snow safety compartment – something that’ll become be an issue if you’re looking to carry two ice tools for any steep climbing. If you would like to carry your skis in the A-Frame method, then you’ll have to grab yourself two extra ski straps although I’m sure most of you will have two spare kicking about.
We’re also yet to test the long term durability of the Alpha SK 32 – the laminated sections look like they could fall victim while carrying heavy loads such as large freeride skis. Give us a couple more months of testing, and we’ll let you know if this is the case.