THE BEST BACKCOUNTRY PACKS FOR 2017

25/11/16

THE BEST BACKCOUNTRY PACKS FOR 2017

When skiing off-piste it's important to have all the correct gear with you. If there is an avalanche, injury or mechanical failure, help may be too far away leaving you reliant on what equipment you and your group have. Apart from the holy trinity of transceiver, probe and shovel there are plenty of other bits you should consider taking on any trip - first aid kit, mobile phone, extra clothes, spare gloves, head torch, food, etc.

Here are our favourite backcountry packs that can swallow all the bits you need, whether its an afternoon heli-ski or a three day tour.

The Best Avalanche Airbag Packs

Proven to increase your chances of surviving an avalanche, it's no wonder that airbag packs have proved so popular in the backcountry community. Once triggered the packs inflates a balloon that helps keep you above the snow, protects your head and is easily seen by other skiers and mountain rescue.




Mammut

Ride Protection Airbag

Mammut Ride Protection Airbag
  • Protection Airbag System 3.0 (removable)
  • Front pocket designed for avalanche safety equipment
  • Side compression straps
  • Hydration system compatible
  • Snowboard carrier
  • 3-step back length adjustment
  • Safety leg loop
  • Thermoformed back panel for excellent carrying comfort
  • 2.73kg (Inc. airbag system)

Mammut use their own in-house RAS (Removable Airbag System) to help keep you above the snow in the case of an avalanche. Once triggered the gas canister inflates a 150 litre bag (with air) forcing it through a breakaway zippered pocket at the top of the pack. As well as keeping you above the snow the airbag has been designed to wrap your head and upper body protecting them from trauma.

Because the gas canister uses air to fill the avalanche bag rather than nitrogen, you are allowed to fly with it - as long as it has been emptied and checked into the hold. Once you arrive at your destination the canister can be easily and cheaply filled at any outdoor gear shop or anywhere that has a compressed air unit.

Like all good backcountry packs the Ride has sturdy shoulder and hip straps and a decent board/ski carry system. Where it stands alone is unique aluminium frame which evenly distributes weight, and the thermoformed back panel. Internally the pack has slots for a shovel,probe and space for the essentials.

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32L Backcountry Packs

The extra volume and features these packs have are aimed at those who will be touring over advanced terrain, with some mountaineering, across multiple days.




Osprey

Kamber

Osprey Kamber
  • Compression moulded back panel is snow shedding
  • Sternum strap with safety whistle
  • Quick access avalanche safety kit pocket with shovel handle and probe sleeves
  • Internal wet/dry compartment
  • Stowable ice axe loop
  • Integrated ski/climbing helmet storage
  • Hydration compatible – can be used with Hydraulics and Hydraulics LT reservoirs
  • Diagonal and side ski carry
  • Vertical and horizontal snowboard carry
  • Sternum strap with safety whistle
  • Abrasion resistant PU texture on front panel
  • Glove friendly buckles
  • 32 L capacity
  • 1.54kg

In the Kamber 32, Osprey have created a professionally spec’d pack that is ready for any adventure.

Apart from storing your avalanche kit, hydration reservoir and GPS, the pack is climbing ready with an external ice axe loop and tough front panel. It’s locked onto you back via form fitting shoulder and hip straps. Combine them with a moulded back panel and sternum straps and it’s no wonder the pack hugs your body.

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Ortovox

Haute Route

Ortovox Haute Route
  • Avalanche tool safety compartment
  • Durable Cordura and burly double-layer 420 denier nylon for abrasion resistance
  • PU-coated for improved water resistance
  • Back access to main compartment
  • O-Flex frame back system distributes weight between hips, shoulders and back
  • Vertical zipped front pocket ideal for maps
  • Hydration compatible
  • Ice axe and hiking pole loops
  • Snowboard and snowshoe attachment
  • A-Frame and diagonal ski attachment
  • 32 L Capcity
  • 1.25kg

Named after one of the most infamous ski routes in Europe the Haute Route lives up to the title delivering a high-quality multi-day backcountry solution.

The user friendly pack makes use of an O-Flex back system to distribute weight evenly across the hips and shoulders. Adjustable shoulder, sternum and hip straps allow for further customisation and fit.

Aimed at use on longer tours, the pack has a map friendly front pocket, compression straps to reduce bulk and a water resistant PU Coating. With a specific avalanche safety compartment you can quickly find your equipment in an emergency. As well as being ski friendly the pack caters for mountaineering aspects of touring, securely fastening crampons, ice axes and hiking poles.

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20L Backcountry Packs

A blend of volume and features - if you want to carry a few more bits on a single day tour.

Osprey

Kresta

Osprey Kresta
  • Women's specific fit
  • Main compartment with elasticated load control system
  • Internal wet/dry compartment
  • Quick access avalanche safety kit pocket with shovel handle and probe sleeves
  • Vertical and horizontal snowboard carry
  • Glove friendly buckles
  • Sternum strap with safety whistle
  • Stowable ice axe loop
  • Diagonal ski carry
  • 20 L capacity
  • 0.97kg

Tested and refined in Colorado with the help of ski patrol, guides and seasoned locals, the Kresta has been created specifically for women.

The pack is made from a tough anti-abrasion material which helps shed snow. Yet it is able to mould around your body for a snug and pleasant fit, with air channels preventing excess perspiration. Within the bag there is a wet/dry compartment to look after valuables and electronics.

One of the best things about the pack is the glove friendly buckles and zips, saving your hands in the freezing temperatures.

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Ortovox

Cross Rider

Ortovox Cross rider
  • Padded foam back and ergonomic shoulder straps
  • Water resistant zips
  • Hip belt with hip pocket
  • Avalanche tool safety compartment
  • A-Frame and diagonal ski attachment
  • Snowboard and snowshoe attachment
  • Ice axe and hiking pole loops
  • Hydration bladder compatible
  • 20L capacity
  • 0.86kg

Lightweight and sleek, the Cross Rider from Ortovox is an excellent entry-model backcountry pack that has enough storage for safety equipment and plenty of useful features.

Snowboarding or skiing, you can fix your ride to the back of the pack on the diagonal (skis) or vertical (snowboard) ties - there is also an external attachment for snowshoes. Once at the top of the slope there is easy access to the main compartment from front or back zips. When skiing down, a sturdy chest and hip belt help make the pack comfortable and keep it close to your body when you're turning.

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Dakine

Pro Heli

Dakine Pro Heli
  • Adjustable webbing hip belt with hip fins
  • Padded shoulder straps and lumber area
  • Diagonal ski carry
  • Hydration compatible
  • Vertical snowboard carry
  • Fleece lined goggle pocket
  • Sternum strap with safety whistle
  • 20L capcity
  • 0.8kg

Tried and tested, Dakine’s original backcountry pack has a great range of features that won’t let you down in tough conditions. The reliability and comfortable fit are why this bag has been such a favourite with skiers and snowboarders alike and continues to be used by pros such as Chris Benchetler.

With 20L there is enough space in the main compartment to store extra layers, food and a first aid kit. Behind that compartment you can slot in a water bladder to keep you hydrated on long hikes.

In terms of avalanche safety gear there are attachments to lock your shovel shaft on to the side of the pack for quick access and plenty of space internally for a probe. The pack is also compatible with Black Diamond's Avalung.

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12L Backcountry Packs

Small enough to easily ride with yet big enough to carry the basics, these packs provide you with a lightweight backcountry solution.

Dakine

Heli Pack Women

Heli Pack Women
  • Women’s specific fit
  • Adjustable webbing hip belt with hip fins
  • Fleece lined goggle pocket
  • Diagonal ski carry
  • Hydration compatible
  • 12L Capacity
  • 0.9kg

With an improved women’s fit this pack is very comfortable - it utilises padded shoulder/waist straps to distribute the weight evenly.

Even though the pack is small, it has a water reservoir compartment and an insulated sleeve to stop the water from freezing. Another great feature is the fleece lined goggle pouch which prevents scratches on backcountry hikes.

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Dakine

Heli Pack

Dakine Heli Pack
  • Vertical snowboard carry
  • Diagonal ski carry
  • Sternum strap with safety whistle
  • Adjustable webbing hip belt with hip fins
  • External shovel carry
  • 12L capacity
  • 0.9 kg

Built to carry the all the essentials you need for a day in the backcountry the Heli Pack 12L has a low-profile body hugging shape that reduces swing weight for a more natural feel when skiing.

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About the Author:

Pete Fletcher - Outdoor Expert

Pete grew up hiking most of the trails in the Lake District before being introduced to skiing. A few decades later and you're most likely to find him snowboarding, skateboarding, or making a mean coffee.