Fall/Winter Gear Guide 2011: K2 Pilchuck Kit Backpack

This compact, 11-liter pack comes equipped with an avalanche shovel and probe.

Just add snow: This compact, 11-liter pack comes equipped with an avalanche shovel and probe, which makes getting started that much easier if you’re new to backcountry skiing. But there’s nothing entry-level about the tools. After using the 300-centimeter probe, our tester (a ski guide at Jones Pass, Colorado) said, “It’s the easiest-deploying probe I’ve ever seen.” Credit a spring-loaded button near the handle that locks the sections in place once extended—no tightening or cinching required. And the aluminum shovel’s handle doubles as a hoe, which makes it easier to dig into hard snow.

The pack’s main compartment carries the safety gear as well as extra layers and a 50-ounce hydration reservoir (not included), and a stretchy exterior pocket secures climbing skins. You can pack skis or a snowboard in diagonal or A-frame positions, but don’t plan on long carries; the weight of skis exceeds what the pack can comfortably haul (10 pounds max). And there’s no framesheet buttressing the foam backpanel, so pointy objects jabbed testers’ backs.

$190

3 lbs 10 oz (with shovel and probe)

11 liters

www.k2skis.com