The ski season is fast approaching and, depending on where you live in Canada, some lucky ones have already made their first tracks in the fresh powder snow. For those who haven’t had snow yet, now is a great time to shop for ski gear, and specifically one of the top backcountry backpacks, for your future adventures.

our top choice

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Affordable, simple, efficient and resistant, the Trion 35 rucksack from Mammut is ideal for all skiers and mountaineers who don't compromise on equipment. It has a large opening that gives you easy access to its contents and its 35 litre format is suitable for a day's backcountry touring.

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best backpack for skiing and snowboarding

We like the Descensionist backpack from Patagonia for its external straps that allow you to carry skis and snowboard. Its 40-litre format is ideal for carrying essentials, especially as the bag has external attachments for ice axes.

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We like the Descensionist backpack from Patagonia for its external straps that allow you to carry skis and snowboard. Its 40-litre format is ideal for carrying essentials, especially as the bag has external attachments for ice axes.

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the most versatile backpack

With a ring belt for hanging gear, pockets on the back of the backpack for access to your shoulder straps if needed and integrated bindings for helmet and ropes, the Osprey Mutant is designed for real backcountry skiers and mountaineers. Its ice axe attachments are easy to use with gloves. Extremely comfortable and stable, this backpack is a good companion for hiking all year round.

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With a ring belt for hanging gear, pockets on the back of the backpack for access to your shoulder straps if needed and integrated bindings for helmet and ropes, the Osprey Mutant is designed for real backcountry skiers and mountaineers. Its ice axe attachments are easy to use with gloves. Extremely comfortable and stable, this backpack is a good companion for hiking all year round.

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top long trek backpack

Are you leaving for more than one day? The Targhee backpack by Gregory is the ideal companion to carry skis, clothes, water and food and all your safety equipment. Its zips with moulded zip pulls are compatible with gloves and mittens, perfect for the cold weather at the summit.

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Are you leaving for more than one day? The Targhee backpack by Gregory is the ideal companion to carry skis, clothes, water and food and all your safety equipment. Its zips with moulded zip pulls are compatible with gloves and mittens, perfect for the cold weather at the summit.

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best big load backpack

With well thought-out compartments that simplify the organisation of your equipment, the Keb 52 backpack from Fjällräven is ideal for backcountry skiing, mountaineering and expeditions all year round—as long as they keep updating it, we'll have it in our list of top backcountry backpacks. The front pocket has a reinforced pocket for a small shovel. Its outer side straps are designed to carry skis and an ice axe attachment has also been integrated into the bag.

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With well thought-out compartments that simplify the organisation of your equipment, the Keb 52 backpack from Fjällräven is ideal for backcountry skiing, mountaineering and expeditions all year round—as long as they keep updating it, we'll have it in our list of top backcountry backpacks. The front pocket has a reinforced pocket for a small shovel. Its outer side straps are designed to carry skis and an ice axe attachment has also been integrated into the bag.

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other top choices

This ski backpack is strong and distributes the load naturally to offer great freedom of movement during ascent and descent. The Trion Spine 35L is equipped with Active Spine technology and the Mammut Connect system compatible with Mammut avalanche safety devices.

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This ski backpack is strong and distributes the load naturally to offer great freedom of movement during ascent and descent. The Trion Spine 35L is equipped with Active Spine technology and the Mammut Connect system compatible with Mammut avalanche safety devices.

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best lightweight backpack

Those who like minimalist expeditions will find something to suit them with the Falketind 35 ski backpack from the experts at Norrona. Weighing only 830 grams, it offers enough storage space for all the essentials and more. A featherweight bag that doesn't weigh you down too much on the way up.

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Those who like minimalist expeditions will find something to suit them with the Falketind 35 ski backpack from the experts at Norrona. Weighing only 830 grams, it offers enough storage space for all the essentials and more. A featherweight bag that doesn't weigh you down too much on the way up.

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last, but definitely not least

You can never go wrong with a Patagonia product! The Ascensionist 35L backpack is more functional than ever. It is both big enough to accompany you in the mountains and small enough not to get in the way during the ascent. Like most of our products, it is bluesign-certified.

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You can never go wrong with a Patagonia product! The Ascensionist 35L backpack is more functional than ever. It is both big enough to accompany you in the mountains and small enough not to get in the way during the ascent. Like most of our products, it is bluesign-certified.

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how to choose a backcountry backpack

Your backpack is one of the most important pieces of equipment when you go outside the resort boundaries. You want one of the top backcountry backpacks—big enough to hold all your gear, but not so big that it compromises your mobility and ability to move around safely and comfortably.

With the increase in technology for avalanche safety equipment, many bags have appeared on the market that include avalanche airbags that inflate when triggered. These airbags allow your body to stay above the snow in the event of an avalanche. It is important to remember that these bags cannot guarantee that you will be 100% safe when you wear one, but they do increase your chances of escaping an avalanche unscathed.

What equipment to carry

In addition to your backpack, you need appropriate avalanche safety equipment. This includes your shovel, probe and beacon or transceiver. Ideally, you should take an avalanche safety course before you go because having the equipment is one thing, but knowing how to use it properly is another and could very well mean the difference between life and death in an undesired situation.

Many brands offer a variety of avalanche safety equipment, including Mammut, MSR, Black Diamond and Backcountry Access. An even larger collection of brands offers top backcountry backpacks for whatever activity you fancy.

ski backpack highlights

Straps and belt

When choosing your backpack for the backcountry, there are a few important features to consider. The Gregory Targhee has what some consider the most important feature—shoulder straps. You will often have a lot of gear in your bag and sometimes you will also be carrying your skis or board, so having thick and comfortable shoulder straps will allow you to carry a heavy load comfortably.

Waist straps are also a critical but often overlooked element of top backcountry backpacks. You want something thick that isn’t brittle or thin and doesn’t hurt your waist. Like a hiking or travel backpack, you want the majority of the weight of the bag to rest on your hips and not on your shoulders. If the weight of the pack weighs on your shoulders, you may get tired more quickly or end up with a backache in the middle of the day.

Pockets and compartments

Other important features are pockets and zips. You want to have enough room for your avalanche gear, your skins if you use them, as well as extra layers, toques and gloves in case the weather changes. The Targhee has a large number of pockets of the ideal size for the gear many need to wear.

Look for ski backpacks that have all the necessary features and try it out. Always check that the size is suitable for your body shape and that there are no points where the bag could rub uncomfortably. If you have to go on long backcountry expeditions, you should make sure your backpack is comfortable enough that you almost forget you are wearing it.

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Zip fasteners and zipper tabs

The size of the zips is another feature to consider when shopping for backcountry ski backpacks. Keep in mind that you’ll often be wearing gloves or mittens, and that larger zips with buckles or tabs will make your life much easier. When it comes to zips, most backcountry backpacks have heavy-duty zips, but it’s always a good idea to check. Try to open and close the bag several times to make sure there is no place where the zip will jam.

Ski and board carrying options

Whether you intend to hike with your board or skis on your bag or not, having this option is a luxury and will make your experiences more enjoyable. Some bags are equipped with a side and diagonal carrying system for skis and a front carrying system for snowboards. Often there will be small side straps where you can also attach your poles if you have them.

Compatibility with hydration tanks

Finally, compatibility with a hydration tank or bladder. Having one of the top backcountry backpacks should mean hydration compatibility. You don’t always have time to make constant stops to drink when on terrain not ideal for frequent stops. Hydration is just as important in winter as it is in summer, so don’t forget to drink! If you can find a backpack that is compatible with hydration, buy it. Also remember that cold winter temperatures often cause your water to freeze, so look for an insulated hydration system. There’s nothing worse than carrying a bulky block of ice all day.

backcountry backpack ski sizes

As far as the size is concerned, you generally don’t want to go below 20L, as you will fill it up to the seams. A 40L bag may be too big, but it depends on the type of equipment you ski with and the amount of stuff you have to carry (and, of course, how long you’ll be outside). If you are a guide, you may need extra space for extra equipment. A 25 to 35 litre bag is ideal for day trips into the backcountry. Our selection offers you some interesting options. This does not mean that bags under 20 litres are a bad choice and bags over 35 litres are too big, but you should choose the size that suits you best, when choosing one of the top backcountry backpacks.

pack that pack and ski anywhere

Each bag has unique features that appeal to different skiers—it’s always worth comparing ski backpacks. You may discover a practical feature you never noticed before. Once you’ve chosen your backcountry backpack, head over to our resources about helmets, goggles and jackets. Then pack up your gear and go on an adventure!