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Should I Ski With A Backpack? Is It Safe?

If you’ve ever been skiing, you’ve probably seen multiple people wearing a backpack. Believe it or not, other than just adding dead weight to your back, there’s a whole host of benefits to wearing one while skiing. You may also wonder if wearing a backpack while skiing is safe.

You should ski with a backpack unless you’re an absolute beginner. As long as you pack it correctly, chose the right style for your situation, and wear it on your front when you are on a chairlift, you should be totally safe. Taking a backpack on the slopes can greatly improve your experience.

Skiing with a backpack on is not the right choice for everyone. It’s not something you’ll choose to wear in every situation, and sometimes it may even be unsafe to do so. Below we’ll discuss skiing with a backpack and outline the best backpacks to take on the slopes with you.

Is Skiing With A Backpack Safe?

Skiing with a backpack is generally safe. But if you wear it on your back on a ski lift, you could be at an increased risk of falling. Having even weight distribution and wearing it on your front are two ways you can ensure you are as safe as possible while skiing and wearing a backpack.

Your Skiing Ability

The first reason it might be unsafe to ski with a backpack is if your skiing ability is, well, non-existent. This means if you’ve never been skiing, don’t bother taking a backpack because it will only hinder your performance and perhaps lengthen your learning time.

That’s not to say that beginner skiers don’t ski with backpacks on, it’s just not necessary for them to do so. Ideally, there will be someone else in their group that can carry anything important they need for their day on the slopes.

The Weight Of Your Backpack

The weight on your back is the next thing to consider when skiing with a backpack. Nobody wants to spend their day on the slope complaining of a bad back, especially when skiing is supposed to be such a freeing experience.

It’s possible that the weight of your backpack might also compromise your posture. Unless you are an experienced skier, a heavy backpack would likely cause you to compensate for the weight on your back, thus destroying your stacked skiing position.

The Way Your Backpack Is Packed

Believe it or not, even the way your backpack is packed can have an effect on your skiing. With a high proportion of weight to one side, your balance has the potential to be completely thrown off.

When that happens, you run the risk of making it much harder for yourself in certain technical situations, and even when just building up a rhythm. So, if you’re thinking of drinking water when you’re on the slopes, always bring an (insulated) hydration pack, not a bottle.


The Type Of Backpack

While the type of backpack you use won’t necessarily make you unsafe, it will contribute to either a good or bad experience on the mountain. That includes its resilience to the weather, how many pockets it has, and also the way it straps onto you.

The way your backpack is packed makes an even bigger difference if you aren’t wearing a specific type of backpack. As we’ll discuss in more detail later on in the article, backpacks without a waist and chest strap are not great ideas for taking on the mountain

The Use Of A Chairlift

By far, the most dangerous situation you’ll get into when skiing with a backpack is through using a chairlift improperly. If you’re wearing a backpack while skiing, always take it off and wear it in front. It might be annoying, but it’s the safest way to ride the lifts.

In some states and countries around the world, chair lifts do not have bars to pull down. That means the majority of your safety rests on how deeply you can sit in the chair. To take full advantage of the chair, means not wearing your backpack on your back.

What Should You Bring In A Skiing Backpack?

1. Snacks

An ideal skiing snack is something that fits in your pocket, is easy to pick at, and gives you the energy you need to keep skiing. This will largely be a personal preference, however, there are a few time-honored snacks that every skier should know about.

The first is pocket jerky. Beef jerky is packed full of protein, easy to eat, and incredibly tasty. It’s a classic “Ski Bum” snack, but we think it would be at home in just about anyone’s pocket.

Mars bars are great for a quick sugar energy rush and, if you buy them big enough, it goes a long way to filling you up as well. An added bonus of bringing a Mars bar to the slopes with you is that if it gets cold enough, the chocolate bar will become hardened and almost toffee-like in consistence. Only those who have tried it know how good it is!

Granola bars are another great snack for skiing. Much better for you than the Mars bar, gives you the energy you need for your day, and comes in hundreds of different flavors. You could have many different ones each day of your holiday and never get bored of them. It’s pretty much the perfect ski snack to have in your backpack!

2. Extra Layers

It’s always a good idea to look at the weather forecast before you head up the mountain, but even then weather can be unpredictable. Sometimes a weather front comes out of nowhere and it pays to be prepared. That’s why taking an extra fleece or jumper (the layer before your coat) in your backpack is something you should do on pretty much every day of your holiday.

At the same time, it’s important to have enough room in your backpack to fit in any clothing you’re wearing in case the weather starts to warm up. There’s honestly nothing worse than skiing while being really hot. A lot of people would prefer to be slightly colder than boiling hot while skiing if they had the chance.

3. Cash

Cash is still king in a number of places around the world, and that sometimes includes ski resorts. Japan, for instance, is extremely cash heavy. Turning up in a ski resort over there without any cash in your backpack is a recipe for disaster.

This is extremely specific to where you’re going skiing, however. So, the best way to navigate it would be to do some research before figuring out how much cash to take. In any case, it’s always worth having even a small amount of money with you in case of an emergency.

4. Hydration Pack

If you want to drink water when you’re skiing across the mountain, a hydration pack is what you’re going to need. If you’re using a backpack specifically designed for skiing (which you should be), it will likely come with a space for your hydration pack. This separates it from the rest of your bag giving you a lot of extra room.

The only thing you have to watch out for when using a hydration pack is the possibility of the hose freezing over, depending on the temperature. To combat that, many of the best ski backpacks have insulated insides to prevent that from happening. We’ll get into that later on when we explore some of the backpacks.

5. SPF Lip Balm

Technically you don’t need a backpack to fit this into, but if you do have one, you best be damn sure this is in there! SPF lip balm is an extremely important item to have in your ski backpack at all times throughout the season.

Not only will it protect your lips from being damaged by the sun, but also, depending on the product, from the wind, snow, and any other weather-related elements you might come across. This thing is too tiny not to carry with you at all times, no excuses!

6. Piste Map

Sure, you could possibly download this on your phone, but there’s nothing like being able to read a ski resort piste map. You’ll make many memories planning your routes over these bad boys the night before, and then again at your lunch stops.

It might be worth taking a pen too, that way, you can write notes on the map, cross off the no-go areas, and circle your favorite lunch spots. Plus, you’ll go home with a unique little souvenir too.

7. Phone

Once again, you could definitely fit this in your pocket, but if you have a backpack, it does make things easier. Try to put it closer to your back, rather than near the front edge of the bag. That way it won’t lose as much battery life due to the temperature, and you won’t run the risk of breaking it if you fall over.

What To Look For In A Good Ski Backpack

Knowing what to look for in a ski backpack is half the battle. This will of course depend on your skiing ability, what you’re hoping to achieve on your ski trip, and what the weather is like. While there are general things that everyone should look for, your skiing ability will determine exactly what you need.

Beginner

If you’re a beginner skier, there are a few things you should look out for when buying a backpack. Even at this stage, it’s still important to get a backpack specifically designed for skiing. Getting anything else would only hamper your efforts to improve or enjoy being out on the mountain.

Probably the single most important thing for a beginner to consider when buying a backpack for skiing is whether or not the bag is comfortable. Ideally, you’ll go to a shop and try it on, rather than simply ordering it online.

After all, as a beginner, you’ve got a lot to think about, and the last thing you need to be is annoyed by the pain your backpack is creating. Padded straps and adequate airflow are a must, especially for easter skiing when temperatures are likely to rise.

The second thing you’ll want to do is to keep things lightweight. For some people, it might even be worth getting a backpack designed for just a hydration pack. If that’s all you need on a day out, then your back will definitely thank you!

Intermediate

As an intermediate skier, your days of skiing are likely to get longer, and the conditions you ski in are going to start to get worse. As such, your backpack needs to keep up with you, and not be the bottleneck on your trips.

As your bag starts to get heavier, you need to make sure it has a waist strap. That way, it takes the pressure off your back and provides you with a more comfortable experience for your day skiing.

So as your days get longer, the amount of food, and gear is likely to increase too. That means a bigger bag, and one with more pockets. That way you’ll be able to fit in everything you need no matter what the day calls for.

Advanced

As an advanced skier, the bag you need and the kit you carry will be incredibly specific. As such, the ski backpack you use needs to be fit for purpose. They can get quite expensive, but in some cases, it’s worth forking out the cash as it becomes a safety issue if you were to compromise.

The first thing you should look out for when buying a bag as an advanced skier is the ability to have an airbag, even if you aren’t using it yet. These backpacks almost always have one purpose, and that’s to protect you if you happen to get into an avalanche. They’re heavy and expensive but sometimes the only feasible option.

The second most important thing to consider is whether the bag has places to strap your skis. As an advanced skier you may wany to explore the world of ski touring. While there are many different things to consider when ski touring, having the ability to strap your skis to your backpack is critical.

The 5 Best Backpacks For Skiing

1. Ortovox Ascent 22 AVABAG

The Ortovox Ascent 22 Avabag is an absolute beast of a ski backpack. Reserved only for the most advanced of skiers, this backpack is made for charging big mountains and exploring off-piste to your heart’s content.

It uses compressed gas to inflate the airbag, something that protects you if an avalanche occurs, and has enough space for shovels, skins, extra layers, probes, and just about anything else you could imagine. Even if you don’t use all this stuff yet, it’s a good idea to invest in your future skiing journey

It’s a little bit pricy, but when it comes to advanced backpacks and what they have to do, it’s not worth trying to save your pennies. This is without a doubt, one of the best ski backpacks available to buy, though the demographic it’s aimed at is a niche one.

2. Dakine Poacher RAS 26L

A bag built for off-piste, and those who like to push the boundaries of skiing. It’s compatible with a specific Mammut airbag system which means freeriding isn’t out of the question, should you want to.

At 26L, it’s built with plenty of space to accommodate anything you throw into it. It’s possible it might be too big for some, but if you’re carrying multiple people’s things (in the resort) it should be perfect. Thanks to its extremely slim design you also won’t need to worry about it throwing you off balance anytime soon.

3. Camelback SnoBlast Hydration Pack

This is the ideal bag for those days when you would prefer to stay in a resort rather than explore the backcountry. The Camelbak SnoBlast has a 2l capacity for holding water, and only weighs 690 grams.

It also has a 15l space capacity, so you can take that extra jumper and those sandwiches with you. It’s simple, lightweight, insulated so the water doesn’t freeze, and relatively cheap. A fantastic option for any skier on a resort day, beginner or advanced.

4. Mammut Nirvana 18L

The Mammut Nirvana 18L ski backpack is a true jack of all trades. While it’s simple enough and small enough to function as a resort bag, it also has more than enough features for those wanting to trek further off the beaten track.

There’s more than enough room for a set of probes and shovel, as well as straps for skis and axes on the front if you want to do some touring. It seems to have an incredibly thin design which means you won’t be thrown off balance by the weight, no matter how heavy you pack it.

5. Dakine Mission Pro 18L

Perhaps the best ski bag for beginners on this list, the mission pro is a well-featured bag that performs hugely above its weight. At 18l, it’s smaller than some of the other backpacks on this list, yet that’s what makes it so compelling for small trips and beginner skiers.

It might be a cheap bag, but the quality of it and its feature list is incredible. It has room for a hydration pack with an insulated covering for the tube, as well as straps for your gear, room for skins, and a couple of extra bits for your day.

Final Thoughts

Skiing with a backpack is completely safe. However, it’s imperative that you keep it on your front when using the chairlift. If you’re a complete beginner, don’t ski with a bag until you’re at least a little comfortable on your skis. Once confident, it should greatly improve your skiing sessions.