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Just as in hiking, your pack is one of the most important pieces of your kit for backcountry skiing. A dialed touring pack provides a number of important benefits: It will hold all the gear you need for your tour; distribute the weight comfortably and securely on both the ascent and descent; provide easy access to avalanche rescue tools such as a shovel and probe; and provide a stowing options for skis or a snowboard should you need to strap it to your back. With those qualities in mind, here are our four favorite touring packs on the market right now.
Best Resort-to-Backcountry: Mammut Nirvana 25
If your tours usually start with resort laps and transition to the backcountry, this pack straddles both worlds while still packing in the volume and features you need for a half-day mission. The Nirvana is light and compact enough to stay out of the way while you’re ripping groomers and riding chairlifts, yet it has a separate avalanche tool pocket for a shovel and probe—highlighted by a long, orange zipper pull—and a backpanel zipper that grants access to the interior without allowing snow in as you rifle through the pack while it’s on the ground. Straps on the back allow for diagonal ski carry and vertical snowboard carry, and the chest strap and webbing hipbelt keep the Nirvana steady on descents—although you probably won’t be carrying much in it.
$140; Buy Now
Best for Day Tours: Osprey Soelden 32/Sopris 30
Heading out for a full-day mission? The Soelden (men’s version) and Sopris (women’s) have the space for layers, water, food, and gear, without being so big as to feel cumbersome. Where this pack really shines is its suspension: A wire frame distributes weight across your back and down to your hips, so even if you stuff the Soelden to the brim you won’t get a sore back on a long tour (or experience pack sway as you make your turns). For a medium-size pack, it’s stuffed with features: The main packbag has sleeves both for a radio and a water bottle, the backpanel has a zippered interior compartment to hold small items, and avy tools are easily accessible in their own compartment. There’s a top zippered goggle/snack pocket, and one hipbelt pocket. A mesh helmet carry holds your lid in place, and the pack supports A-frame and diagonal ski carry, as well as vertical and horizontal snowboard carry. One caveat: The backpanel is the only way to access the main packbag..
$160; Buy Now
Best for Overnights: Deuter Freescape Pro 38+ SL/40+
Winter camping or a hut trip are fantastic ways to extend your tours and experience deep winter solitude. They also require much more gear, though, and the Freescape Pro has the chops to carry it all. This pack (The 38+ SL is for those with shorter torsos) carries much larger than its stated size, with an extendable packbag cuff, floating toplid, and pockets galore. Should you load the Freescape Pro up with 30 pounds of winter gear—which we did across overnight trips in Wyoming, Montana, and Oregon—its plastic perimeter frame will ensure that the weight feels centered and steady instead of a hindrance as you search for powder. Storage spaces for everything (avy equipment, a helmet, a rope, ice tools and poles, snacks, water, and more) means organizing your bevy of gear is intuitive, and keeps the jumble to a minimum. And, for a pack this capacious, the Freescape Pro’s tall-and-slim profile means you won’t have to fight it as you reap downhill rewards.
$220; Buy Now
Best Airbag Pack: Black Diamond JetForce Pro 35L
If you want an extra measure of safety in the backcountry, wearing an avalanche airbag can increase your chance of survival should you get caught in a slide. Yes, these packs are heavier—and much, much more expensive than non-airbag packs—but the extra protection is worth it. The JetForce Pro is our pick thanks to its versatility: Thanks to a modular, zippered packbag, you can add or subtract 10-liter, 25-liter, and 25-liter, splitboard-compatible compartments (sold separately) depending on the length and nature of your tour. This pack’s electric inflation system allows for multiple uses without changing out a gas canister (and you can fly on planes with it), yet it’s not superheavy and doesn’t take up a ton of storage space compared to previous electric systems. You’ll definitely be paying top dollar for the JetForce Pro—it’s more expensive than some other electric models out there—but you’ll be getting top-notch safety and performance.
$1,500; Buy Now