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Best Ski Touring Backpacks 2020 | Buyer’s Guide

Lightweight, durable, comfortable. We bring you the best backpacks for ski touring – all chosen by our experts

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

Pictured: Arc’teryx Alpha SK 32 Carrying skis in Axamer Lizum

Weight: 1,000g
Price: £240
Available volumes: 32 litre

Website: arcteryx.com

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.

Lowe Alpine Descent 35

Pictured: Carrying freeride skis while bootpacking in Tignes

Weight: 1,080g
Price: £120
Available volumes: 35, 25 & 23 litres

Website: lowealpine.com

Although this is the largest pack in the roundup (in terms of carrying capacity), Lowe Alpine have managed to keep the Descent 35 down to an impressively low weight of 1,080 grams without sacrificing too many features. Great for those who prefer their packs stacked with multiple ski carry systems, strapping, and compartments.

The back panel makes use of a simple snow-shedding layer of foam and combines with a pretty large hip belt and contouring shoulder straps to spread the heavy load evenly I certainly found this to be the case while bootpacking with heavy freeride skis (and all my touring kit).

“Lowe Alpine have managed to keep the Descent 35 down to an impressively low weight”

We’re not too keen on goggle pockets, as we feel that this space could be better used on a smaller pocket that doesn’t waste as much fabric. We’re also not too much of a fan of hydration systems as these tend to freeze up or become easy targets for crampon points when in the pack. But that’s all nit-picking, all in all this is an extremely well thought out ski touring pack.

Buy Lowe Alpine packs here

Blue Ice Kume 30

Pictured: High alpine touring on the Tignes / Val d’Isere border

Weight: 1,145g
Price: £140
Available volumes: 30 & 38 litres

Website: blueice.com

Whenever you get a relatively young brand developing products, whether that be skis, boots, bindings and even backpacks, they always approach the design with a fresh pair of eyes and some novel ways around common flaws – this is certainly true with the Blue Ice Kume 30.

Firstly, we’re big fans of the double zipped side access, allowing you to reach anything hidden at the bottom of the pack – perfect if you like keeping your crampons or glacial rope at the bottom of your pack.

“This’ll definitely come in use when you find yourself on a steep slope”

Also, you’re able to attach your skis to the pack without having to take the pack off – this’ll definitely come in use when you find yourself on a steep slope and need to attach your skis quickly, or if you’d just like to save a minute or so on the transitions. To do this, all you’ve got to do is slot your skis through a loop sat at the back of your right hip, then attach the tips with the shoulder strap on your left shoulder. Nice work, Blue Ice.

Tying the pack all together is a nifty top loading design that doubles up as a quick point to stash your helmet or rope underneath while also hiding the separate snow safety compartment, similar to that found on the Alpha SK 32.

Osprey Kamber 22

Pictured: The diagonal ski carry on the Osprey Kamber 22 is simple and quick to use

Weight: 1,270g
Price: £120
Available volumes: 16, 22 & 32 litres

Website: ospreyeurope.com

Sometimes you don’t always need to be carrying around a 30 litre sized backpack with you when you’re in the mountains – perhaps you usually go for shorter tours or never need to carry a huge amount of ski mountaineering equipment. This is where smaller (20 litres and below) packs come into their own, as the smaller pack size is able to keep the weight close to your body – this is certainly true with the Kamber 22 from Osprey where our test team were applauding the carrying comfort of the Kamber 22

“Our test team were applauding the carrying comfort of the Kamber 22”

Of course, being Osprey, the Kamber 22 comes with Osprey’s All Mighty Guarantee – their commitment to protecting the environment by looking to repair products where possible, rather than a straight up replacing them.

If you’re looking for a more resort focused pack that still offers quick access to your avalanche safety gear, then take a look at the Kamber 16 or, at the other end of the spectrum, the Kamber 32 which offers up more volume for technical equipment.

Buy the Osprey Kamer 22 here

Patagonia Descensionist 32

Pictured: Out in Les Deux Alpes with the Patagonia Descensionist 32

Weight: 1040g
Price: £140
Available volumes: 32 & 40 litre
Back lengths: S/M & L/XL
patagonia.com

Just like the Alpha SK is a ski touring version of the Alpha LT climbing pack, this, the Descensionist 32 is the touring version of the Ascensionist 30. Patagonia have taken the Ascensionist and beefed it up a little. While the Ascensionist is an extremely versatile mountain pack that’ll be able to join you on a range of activities, the Descensionist is an out-and-out touring pack – and we love that.

Separate avalanche tools compartment, multiple lashing points, both A-Frame and diagonal ski carries along with a vertical snow carry have all been included, meaning this can easily fit your needs – one plank or two planks. We did feel that the inclusion of the snowboard carry didn’t add too much for us, so good on Patagonia for making these straps easy to strip out, along with the internal foam back panel for lightweight assaults.

Given its carrying volume and durability, this is another impressively lightweight ski touring backpack. We’d look to the Descensionist if you like the style of the Alpha SK, but prefer a more feature-packed backpack. The Descensionist is seeing an overhaul for the 20/21 winter season, so keep an eye out for the update – especially if you’re a fan of purple.

Buy the Patagonia Descensionist 32 here

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