The Best Ski Touring Backpacks

This year’s overnight touring pack test was conducted in the mountains of Colorado on several long daytrips and a few nights of snow camping. Each pack in this test was more than adequate for carrying a heavy load through the backcountry.

TRENDS

As the popularity of backcountry skiing continues to increase and people are going for bigger days farther from towns or roads, weight savings has become a growing consideration. The Black Diamond Cirque 45 seeks to take advantage of this trend the most by providing a highly functional, minimalist pack that was the lightest option in this test.

With gear prices as they are and relatively few people interested in compiling a large quiver of different options, versatility in touring packs is also key. The BD Cirque 45 and Dakine Poacher RAS 46 both have removable safety options that cater to this versatility, allowing both packs to be used in different seasons with different considerations in mind.

For many, it’s easier to just purchase a 45 liter ski pack and use it for short and long days as opposed to owning both 35 liter and a 45 liter options. Packs like the Ortovox Peak 45 and Gregory Targhee 45 can realistically be used for both moderate-length day trips as well as overnights.
Ease of access is also a growing trend. Gone are the days with a single top load access point in a pack. The market is demanding back panel access or some form of functional side zip. In response, Ortovox fitted the Peak 45 with a full length body zip that allows for similar level of access as a back panel without compromising the pack’s rigid back support.

BEST USE

The Deuter Rise Tour 45 and Ortovox Peak 45 felt the most voluminous of all the packs in this test because of their adjustable lid height and overall design. These are the two to look at for multiple nights or longer trips. The Ortovox Peak 45 was the eventual Best in Class winner of the test due to its combination of comfort, weight, ease of use, access, and overall feature set.
The Gregory Targhee 45 was a close second to the Ortovox Peak 45 only because of a minor durability issue experienced during testing, despite it being a heavier pack than the Peak 45. Overall it is a great option for an overnight tour with full back panel access.

The BD Cirque 45 functions best as a long daytrip or hut-to-hut option for minimalists. It would be difficult to pull off a multi-day camping trip out of this pack. The added Avalung compatibility is a sure selling point as well for those who like a little extra peace of mind.
Airbag systems are a growing trend these days, and the Dakine Poacher RAS 46 combines this feature into a solid overnight touring pack. This pack is perhaps best used during mid-winter or times of questionable avalanche conditions. Even without the airbag system the pack is a solid throwback to its predecessor, the Poacher 45, which remains one of my favorite packs to this day.

Quirks 

Pack design is a difficult endeavor, and as a result each and every one of these packs have quirks or functions that don’t work quite as well as intended. Here are some examples:

A-frame carry systems almost always interfere with side zip access, like we see in the Deuter Rise Tour 45 and BD Cirque 45. Ortovox introduced a new full side zip carry system in the Peak 45, but the top lid must be unclipped in order to open and close the side zip.

Avy pockets have become standard in touring packs, but can sometimes be forgotten about as we see with the Gregory Targhee 45, which has Velcro loops blocking the avy pocket zippers from being quickly opened.
Diagonal carry systems are also tough to dial in, as there needs to be sufficient distance between attachment points to adequately secure the pair of skis while being carried. We’ve seen this issue particularly with the Targhee line and it looks to still be somewhat of a problem.

Back panel access is great, but oftentimes results in a less rigid, supportive pack structure, which can lead to discomfort while carrying heavier loads. We see this to some extent with the Targhee 45 and Poacher RAS 46, being the two packs in this test that feature full back panel access.

Review Year
Best in Class
Overall Rating
Price
Name Overall Rating Ratings The Good The Bad Price
Osprey Kode 32L
91
Best in Class
2015
Comfort & Fit 8
Ski/Snowboard Carry 9
Features 7
Ease of Use 8
Durability 9

User-friendly feature set

Ergonomic and comfortable

Thick, durable construction

Only carries one ice axe

Shoulder straps must be unclipped to access back panel

MSRP
$150.00
BEST DEAL
Ortovox Peak 45
91
Best in Class
2017
Comfort/Fit 8
Ski/Snowboard Carry 9
Features 7
Ease of Use 9
Durability 8

Full side access zip from one shoulder to opposite hip

Adjustable lid height

Lightweight for its size

Side access zipper runs underneath lid

Thinner material than its counterparts

No hydration hose sleeve

MSRP
$189.00
BEST DEAL
Dakine Heli Pro II 28L
89
Comfort & Fit 9
Ski/Snowboard Carry 8
Features 8
Ease of Use 7
Durability 7

Sleek, lightweight design

Comfortable, durable, and overall solid feel

Simple, familiar “no frills” feature set

Ski straps are thin and may not hold up to years of abuse

Awkward hydration integration

MSRP
$140.00
BEST DEAL
Gregory Targhee 45
89
Comfort/Fit 8
Ski/Snowboard Carry 8
Features 9
Ease of Use 7
Durability 7

Full back panel access

Height adjustable lid

Big, easy-to-use zippers

Heavy

Thin outer material

Difficult avy pocket access

MSRP
$209.00
BEST DEAL
Mountain Hardwear SnoJo 20L
88
Comfort/Stability 7
Ski/Snowboard Carry 8
Features 8
Ease of Use 8
Durability 7

Simple and user-friendly feature set

Very lightweight

Less supportive while carrying heavy skis

Front of pack scuffs easily

MSRP
$100.00
BEST DEAL
Dakine Poacher RAS 46
88
Comfort/Fit 8
Ski/Snowboard Carry 7
Features 8
Ease of Use 7
Durability 8

Full back panel access

Easy drawstring closure

Compatible with Mammut airbag systems

Airbag compatibility adds weight

Diagonal ski carry utilizes same strap as ice axe carry

Attached lid prevents adjustability

MSRP
$250.00
BEST DEAL
N/A
Ortovox Haute Route 35
86
Comfort/Stability 8
Ski/Snowboard Carry 5
Features 8
Ease of Use 7
Durability 8

Good weatherproofing

Frame is stable and comfortable

Versatile for year-round use

Some features can be quirky and awkward at first

No snowboard carry

MSRP
$126.00
BEST DEAL
N/A
Deuter Rise Tour 45
86
Comfort/Fit 9
Ski/Snowboard Carry 7
Features 6
Ease of Use 5
Durability 9

Durable Construction

Height adjustable lid

Comfortable, well-padded straps

No back panel access

No hydration hose sleeve

Heavy

MSRP
$195.00
BEST DEAL
Black Diamond Dawn Patrol 32L
85
Comfort/Stability 6
Ski/Snowboard Carry 8
Features 9
Ease of Use 6
Durability 6

Lightweight

Comfortable, particularly when carrying lighter loads

Accommodates Black Diamond’s AvaLung Element (optional)

Less supportive under heavier loads

Pack droops when empty, making loading items challenging at times

MSRP
$159.95
BEST DEAL
Black Diamond Cirque 45
85
Comfort/Fit 6
Ski/Snowboard Carry 9
Features 7
Ease of Use 6
Durability 7

Lightweight & minimalist

Easy internal access via top

Integrates with the Black Diamond Avalung

No back panel access

Thin shoulder and hip straps

No hydration hose sleeve

MSRP
$219.95
BEST DEAL
Gregory Targhee 32L
81
Comfort/Stability 9
Ski/Snowboard Carry 3
Features 7
Ease of Use 4
Durability 8

Very comfortable

User-friendly back panel with large zippers

Diagonal carry system does not work well

Ice axe/tool attachments are limiting

Awkward hydration integration

MSRP
$199.00
BEST DEAL
Backcountry Access Stash 30
76
Comfort/Stability 5
Ski/Snowboard Carry 5
Features 7
Ease of Use 4
Durability 5

Versatile feature set given the low weight

Many dedicated pockets makes organization easy

Accommodates BCA’s Link radio system

No back panel or side zip access

No snowboard carry

MSRP
$145.00
BEST DEAL
Osprey Kode 32L

Simply put, the Osprey Kode 32 has it all for half to full-day forays into the backcountry. This was the single overall favorite out of all the packs in this test. An all-encompassing feature set makes this pack highly versatile in all seasons and its durable and well thought out construction stands out. It’s one limitation—it’ll only carry a single ice tool.

Read the Full Review Shop Now at Amazon.com

Mountain Hardwear SnoJo 20L

With a volume of 20L, the Mountain Hardwear SnoJo 20 is well-suited for carrying food and layers on days at the resort as well as short forays into the sidecountry and backcountry (don’t count on it for longer days out though). The SnoJo was the smallest of the packs tested and consequently, the lightest.

Read the Full Review Shop Now at Gear Coop

See All Ski Touring Backpacks Reviews

What's a backcountry ski pack?

Last Updated:

To spend the day skiing in the wilds of the backcountry means that you must rely almost entirely on what you bring with you. This is where a good backpack becomes a key component to the experience. You have to have enough room to take everything you will need to be safe and well fueled, but not so much that you are weighed down by the obsurdity.

As a general rule: the lighter the backpack, the less durable are. If you are out for a quick tour from the resort you can often get away with a small “slack-country” backpack or a skimo race pack. Of course, if you are out for a hut trip or an overnight you will need a durable pack that can carry all the necessities of overnight camping.

Deciding how you will use the backpack is the first place to start. From there you can decide what you need to put in it and what size you require.