Building a backcountry ski kit can be a daunting task, but we’ve got you covered. These 10 products will keep you safe, swift, and smooth from the skin track to the descent.
Black Diamond Helio 95
The versatile Helio is everything you want in a touring ski. It’s light enough for going up, stable when descending at speed thanks to a rubber layer in the core, and a versatile width means it plays equally nice in powder and crud.
$850; 5 lbs. 8 oz. (173); 163, 173 (123-95-113), 183
SCARPA Maestrale RS / Gea RS
Sixty degrees of articulation makes the Maestrale RS (the Gea is the women’s version) one of the most comfortable boots out there for the skin up, but it charges on the way down, too: Carbon-fiber hybrid material reinforces key areas without affecting the progressive flex, and it has a three-piece shell for increased power and easier entry.
$795; 6 lbs. 2 oz. (m’s 27); m’s 24.5-32, w’s 22.5-27
By minimizing weight while still maximizing performance and safety, the ZED gets our nod for touring binding of choice. Metal cutouts shave ounces without affecting forward pressure, so the a skeleton-like heel piece has a consistent release point regardless of how the ski flexes.
$499 (without brakes); 1 lb. 8 oz. per pair (1 lb. 14 oz. with 100mm brakes);
Mammut Barryvox S
At 70 meters, this beacon covers a wider area than any other transceiver in its class. The Barryvox S is also recreationist-friendly: It has a smart feature that essentially coaches the user through a search (where to go along the grid pattern and, eventually, “probe here”).
$500; 7.2 oz.
ORTOVOX Pro Light
This shovel shaves grams without compromising function. Instead of a short shaft or small blade, ORTOVOX uses cutouts in both to save weight. Strength doesn’t suffer, because the holes are strategically placed. The skeleton-like Pro Light deploys to 2 feet, 6 inches—normal for the category—and has a blade the size of a dinner plate.
$65; 15.5 oz.
BCA Stealth 270 Avalanche Probe
The faster you can assemble a probe the better, and the Stealth has the quickest draw we’ve used. Even novice backcountry skiers will have no problem with its intuitive mechanism.
$60; 10.9 oz.
G3 Alpinist+ Glide Skins
These skins provide a Goldilocks balance of grip and glide with a 70/30 blend of mohair and nylon and a solid polyurethane tip. The combination helped us skin in a variety of snow conditions and temperatures, only faltering on a predawn sheet of ice when everyone reached for ski crampons.
$184; 1 lb. 3 oz. (pair M); 100, 115, 130, 145; XS-L
Pret Cynic AT
This lid dispenses with bulky helmet technologies like MIPS and adjustable venting (both better-suited to aggressive in-bounds skiing) in favor of a design that prioritizes weight savings and breathability. Strong carbon composite in key impact areas—the rear and sides—provides ample protection.
$150; 14.6 oz. (M); S-L
Black Diamond Expedition 3 Ski Poles
These affordable poles aren’t the lightest sticks on the mountain, but they’ll last for years. All-aluminum construction fends off dings from rocks and trees, and their three-stage collapsible design means easy stashing on (or in) your pack.
$75; 1 lb 2 oz
Thule Upslope R.A.S. 35L
If you’re looking for a daypack that can push into overnights, the Upslope R.A.S. is your ticket. This hauler is big enough to fit your avy gear, snacks, as well as a sleeping bag and other necessities for a hut trip. The refillable cylinder can be recharged at any SCUBA shop.
$680; 5 lbs. 8 oz. (with R.A.S. 3.0); 35 liters