Best Ski Backpacks in 2021 (Buyer’s Guide)

Ski Backpacks

Published: July 14, 2021

Ski backpacks are useful for carrying your essentials, like rescue tools, water, snacks, extra layers of clothes, and other ski gears. There are a lot of ski backpacks on the market that are incredibly well-made, and picking the right one depends a lot on your chosen expedition. These ski backpacks differ in weight, size, and how comfortable they are to carry. Most ski packs are made with materials that are built to last. They have seams that are bar-tacked or heat welded, and have durable buckles that only break when abused.

We know that unique features make it more difficult to choose the right one for you. That is why we have come up with a list of the best ski backpacks to help you find the most suitable choice for your ski mission.


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Best overall

1. Unigear Ski Backpack

Unigear Ski Backpack

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Capacity: 22 L

Weight: 2 lbs.

Unigear has been around since 2014. They provide quality gear for backpacking, camping, climbing, cycling, skiing, water sports, and fitness.

What we like about the Unigear ski backpack is that it measures 21.26×10.26×6.3 inches, and has a 22L capacity, which makes it suitable for skiing, touring, hiking, and mountaineering. It also has individual compartments that can store ski gears, clothing, and other essentials. It is constructed with a velvet-lined goggle pocket, so it can protect your ski goggle from scratches. In addition, it has an internal compartment that can store a 14” laptop and hydration system that is suitable for 3L bladder. The Unigear ski backpack is well-designed, and includes S-shaped elastic shoulder belts that won’t get in the way of arm mobility, and air-permeable PE foam in the inverted Y shape back panel to keep your back dry and comfortable. It also has a hip belt with waist strap, an adjustable sternum strap, and an adjustable chest strap. Finally, this ski backpack also has a reflective strip, and a whistle on its chest strap.

The material used for this bag is abrasion-resistant and water-resistant. Its main shell is made from 900D polyester, and its side panels are made from 900D polyester that is coated with PU coating. Additionally, the bottom of the backpack is wrapped in scratch-resistant 500D PVC. What’s more is that it has adjustable ski carry straps that are made from HYPALON material to be able to carry skis and a snowboard. There are also dual loops for ice axes, ski poles, and lateral stretch mesh pockets for trekking poles or water bottles up to 3.54 inches in diameter.

What we do not like about the Unigear ski backpack, on the other hand, is that its shoulder straps and hip strap may not adjust as wide to accommodate some adults. But overall, this ski backpack is well-designed to carry skis and snowboards, and it can be rolled up nice and compact when empty.


Best for women

2. Osprey Kresta 40 L

Osprey Kresta 40 L

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Capacity: 38L/40L

Weight: 4 lbs

The Osprey Kresta 40L is the women’s version of the Osprey Kamber 42L. This is a very well-designed pack that can carry all women’s skiing essentials, plus ski equipment.

What we like about the Osprey Kresta 40L is that it offers incredible features that will carry everything you need within easy reach. It has an avalanche tool pocket that comes with three zipper pulls to be able to access it in a matter of seconds. It also has a helmet carry that can stretch to sit over the bag’s top lid or front panel, making it a more customizable pack. The Kresta comes with a hydration sleeve in the interior, and also an insulated harness sleeve to keep your bite valve ice-free. It can also accommodate most ski and snowboard carriers, including vertical, A-frame, diagonal, and horizontal, and has smartly reinforced contact points to protect from sharp edges. Other nice features include scratch-free, fleece-lined goggle pocket, tool loops with bungee attachment, a rope compression strap located under the dual-compartment, and removable top lid, making the pack suitable for glacier travel and sharp ridgelines.

The backpack has a LightWire suspension, a padded hip belt, and contoured shoulder straps that will allow for a more comfortable carry. Plus, its zippered back panel access can keep snow out of your gear, and provides easy access. The Kresta 38L measures 23x13x13 inches, while the 40 L measures 25x13x13 inches and weighs about 4lbs.

What we do not like about the Osprey Kresta 40L, however, is that its straps may be difficult to adjust. Other than that, this ski backpack is comfortable, easy to load, has good suspension, and a large capacity.


3. Dakine Heli Pro 20 L

Dakine Heli Pro 20 L

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Capacity: 20L/24L

Weight: 1.89 lbs

The Dakine Heli Pro is also one of the best-made, women-specific ski backpacks on the market. It is incredibly durable, and may last for a lot of seasons.

What we like about the Dakine Heli Pro 20L is that it features a women-specific fit, with a 25mm web belt with hip wings. It measures 19x12x10 inches, is very lightweight, and is also made with durable materials, like 600D polyester. The backpack has fleece lined goggle stash to protect your goggles from scratches, as well as an organized front pocket, a snow tool pocket, a rescue whistle on sternum strap, and a non-padded sleeve that can fit most 15” laptops. Finally, the Heli Pro 20L features a ski carrier in both A-frame and diagonal configuration, and also a vertical snowboard carrier. Its interior sleeve can also be a storage for your hydration system.

What we do not like about the Dakine Heli Pro 20L is that it has no hydration reservoir included, and it may not be a suitable storage for an extreme backcountry expedition. Overall, the Heli Pro 20L is one of our top choices for the best ski backpacks for women, because of its women-specific fit, and convenient design and features.


4. Dakine Mission Pro 18L Women’s

Dakine Mission Pro 18L Women's

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Capacity: 18L

Weight: 1.6 lbs

The Dakine Mission Pro 18L is available in men and women’s version, with almost the same features, and is one of the best lightweight ski backpacks on our list.

What we like about the Dakine Mission Pro 18L is that it’s light and compact, and it’s compatible with the Dakine DK Impact Spine Protector. This backpack features an avalanche-gear pocket, a fleece-lined goggle pocket, and a padded hip belt and shoulder straps. It also has a rescue whistle on a sternum strap. Additionally, the Mission Pro 18L offers a vertical snowboard carrier and a diagonal ski carrier that are quick and easy to engage. Plus, it has an insulated hydration sleeve. Finally, it measures 18x12x6.5 inches, and is made with durable 600D polyester.

What we do not like about the Dakine Mission Pro 18L is that it does not provide a lot of space; that is why it is more suitable for those who like to pack light, while still having everything they need for a day on the slopes. All in all, this ski backpack is one of the lightest and most compact on our list, and it has a low-profile design, which also makes it suitable for riding a chairlift with ease.


Best for men

5. Unigear Ski Hydration Backpack

Unigear Ski Hydration Backpack

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Capacity: 30L

Weight: 1.13 lbs

The Unigear Ski Hydration backpack is a suitable choice for an all-around backpack. Not only does it suit snow sports, but it can also be used under any weather condition.

What we like about the Unigear Ski Hydration backpack is that it is made from a 900D polyester with PU coating, making it abrasion-resistant and water-resistant, so you do not have to worry about your gears getting damaged by the snow or the cold. It also has a slim design, and enough storage for your gears. It has individual compartments as well, to carry ski shovels, ice axes, ski gloves, and other essentials. In addition, it is constructed with a velvet-lined goggle pocket to protect your goggle from scratching. The internal compartment in this backpack can carry a 15” laptop, and has a hydration system that is suitable for 3L bladder. Additionally, it has S-shaped elastic shoulder straps, air-permeable, PE foam, inverted Y shape back panel, a hip belt with waist strap, and an adjustable sternum strap for a more secure and comfortable carry. It also offers a vertical snowboard carrier, and a A-frame ski carrier. Lastly, it has a lateral stretch mesh pocket that can carry a water bottle with a 3.54-inch diameter, or trekking poles.

What we do not like about the Unigear Ski Hydration backpack is that the back is not that stable and needs some reinforcement. All in all, this is a good backpack that can fit all your essentials, and is versatile enough to be used in any weather conditions.


6. Black Diamond Dawn Patrol 25 L

Black Diamond Dawn Patrol 25 L

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Capacity: 15/25/32L

Weight: 2.5 lbs

The Black Diamond Dawn Patrol is a compact ski backpack that is suitable for resort skiing or day touring.

What we like about the Black Diamond Dawn Patrol is that no matter how much you stuff in there, it will still be zipped up nicely without being too bulky. Also, this backpack has a back panel access, so you can easily retrieve items, even when you are riding a chair lift. It also has a dedicated avy tool pocket to keep your equipment organized. Plus, it comes with an oversized goggle pouch for stowing your goggle when not in use, and is large enough for your beanie, sunglasses, or facemask.

The Black Diamond Dawn Patrol is an AvaLung-ready design and can accommodate the lack Diamond Avalung element, which can be purchased separately. It features an active, form-fitting suspension, high-tenacity Dynex side panels, and shoulder straps to be able to stand up to wear and tear. The backpack is also hydration-compatible, and comes with an insulated sleeve in the shoulder strap. Additionally, it has multiple ski and snowboard carrier options that include diagonal and A-frame configurations. This pack measures 20x11x6 inches; the S/M pack fits a torso length of 16 to 19 inches, while the M/L pack fits a 18.5 to 21.5-inch torso’s length.

What we do not like about the Black Diamond Dawn Patro however l is that it will not effectively carry a standard snowboard, but can carry skis, and maybe even a splitboard. All in all, this backpack is compact and comfortably small. It can fit your essentials for a day at the resort.


7. Gregory Targhee 45 L

Gregory Targhee 45 L

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Capacity: 45L

Weight: 4.12 lbs

The Gregory Targhee 45L will give you a good balance of comfort, lightness, adaptability, and specialized function.

What we like about the Gregory Targhee 45L ski backpack is that it has a height adjustable lid, and a full back panel access. It has adequately padded hip and shoulder straps, and a semi-rigid back panel. It features thick, durable and stowable A-frame ski-carrier straps, and vertical snowboard straps to transport your gear easily. It has dual stowable aluminum ice-axe retainers that are easy to adjust, even with gloves on, and a Vertflex suspension system, so that it can evenly distribute the weight of the pack. Its hip belt features a tubular gear loop, ice clipper slots, and zippered accessory pocket. Additionally, it has an insulated hydration sleeve with an easy entry port on the shoulder harness, a high-density nylon bottom panel to protect it against ski edges, shovels, and any sharp gear. Finally, this backpack is equipped with an oversized top accessory and goggle pocket, avalanche-safety pocket, and internal security pocket. It measures 26.5×11.5×11.5 inches, and can fit a torso’s length of 16 to 18 inches.

What we do not like about the Gregory Targhee 45L is that it is quite heavy, and it is also a bit difficult to access its avy pocket. All in all, the backpack still stands out because of its height adjustable lid and full back panel access. It is big enough for your gears, and has easy-to-use zippers.


Best for ski mountaineering

8. Black Diamond Cirque 45

Black Diamond Cirque 45

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Capacity: 30/35/45L

Weight: 2.5 lbs

Another backpack from Black Diamond is the Cirque 45L ski backpack, which is suitable for those looking for a minimalist option for ski mountaineering.

What we like about the Black Diamond Cirque 45L is that it is lightweight, and has a simple design. It features a sturdy, supportive back panel with gel-like foam, and ultra-light Dynex side panels and contoured shoulder straps. Its 45L capacity makes it suitable for ski mountaineering trips, and can also accommodate a sleeping bag and an ultra-light tent for overnight missions. It has an external helmet carry system, so that you can free up space inside the pack. Plus, it has an internal avalanche gear pocket, four side compression straps, and a top strap that enables the pack to compress when going to light outings. This pack is durably made with 210D Dynex, and the bottom is reinforced with PE 200 Denier. It is also equipped to carry skis in A-frame and diagonal configurations. Additionally, it is compatible with a detachable Avalung Element, which you can purchase separately. The Cirque 45 has a large body pocket that has a cinch and flap with a metal clasp system that is easy to operate. It measures 29x16x6 inches, and comes in S/M and M/L sizes.

What we do not like about the Black Diamond Cirque 45 is that it has no back panel access, and no snowboard carrier. All in all, this is a lightweight and minimalist backpack that is large enough to carry all your essentials for ski mountaineering. It has an easy internal top access, and can be integrated with the Black Diamond Avalung.


Best for ski resort

9. Osprey Kamber 22 L

Osprey Kamber 22 L

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Capacity: 16/22/32/42L

Weight: 1.15 lbs

The Osprey Kamber 22L is the best backpack that can carry all your essentials at the ski resort.

What we like about the Osprey Kamber 22L is that it is a resort-specific backpack, with a low-profile design that features a front panel access to its main compartment with wet or dry gear division. It also has glove-friendly buckles and zipper pulls, a J-zip access on the front panel to an avalanche safety kit pocket with sleeves, that can accommodate a shovel handle and a probe. Plus, it has a goggles pocket to protect your goggles from scratches, as well as zippered hip belt pockets and internal zippered mesh stash pocket with a key fob. Additional features include a lower side compression that has tuckaway ice-tool loops, and a tuckable bungee. In addition, this backpack features an internal reservoir pocket with insulated harness sleeve, and insulated hydration tube sleeve in the shoulder harness. This pack is comfortable, stylish, and big enough to fit all your essentials. It is made from durable nylon, and has multiple ski and snowboard-carry configurations. This bag provides top-notch comfort and fit; you can rest assured that it won’t get in the way while you’re skiing or snowboarding. It is also a great backpack for winter hiking and snowshoeing.

What we do not like about the Osprey Kamber 22L is that it can be a bit confusing to rig its external ski and snowboard straps, and that it has no airbag option. Overall, this backpack is pretty much all you need for the resort, when you plan to pack your food and gear for a whole day on the mountain, and when you’re headed into the sidecountry.


Best for skinning

10. Thule Upslope

Thule Upslope

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Capacity: 20/25/35L

Weight: 1.78 lbs

The Thule Upslope is a good choice for those looking for a great quality backpack that is suitable for mountain hikes and snow sports.

What we like about the Thule Upslope is that it sits high, and is a bit narrow at the midsection, thus allowing for good movement. It features roomy side pockets, an avalanche compartment for a probe, and shovel handle sleeves. It also has back helmet storage, back panel access, a protective goggle pocket that is fleece-lined, stowable ice axe loop, and insulated hydration sleeve and reservoir pocket. The 35L version of this backpack comes in one size only, but has a pretty neutral sizing, as it’s not uncomfortably short, and should fit a range of body sizes. It can accommodate a heavy load, and can fit your equipment perfectly. In addition, it has two hip belt pockets that are useful for ski touring, and even for ski photography. Plus, it features a diagonal and A-frame ski carrier that has fixed bottom loops on the outside part of the hip pockets, and can spread the tails of your skis out so that you never tag one walking. Additionally, this backpack does a great job at carrying a sleeping bag when you’re planning for longer trips. Its hip strap gives a lot of support, and helps keep the weight down. It stays put while skiing, and doesn’t joggle in bigger impacts. It measures 13x11x21.3 inches, and comes in 20L, 25L, and 35L.

What we do not like about the Thule Upslope is that some may find its gear attachments a little bit inadequate, and the volume is too small for longer expeditions. But overall, it performs very well for skin tracks, and for an everyday touring pack. What’s also nice is that it is very useful for ski photographers as well.

Best Ski Backpack Comparison Table

Foto Ski Backpack Capacity Weight
Unigear Ski Backpack

1. Unigear Ski Backpack

22 L2 lbs.
Osprey Kresta 40 L

2. Osprey Kresta 40 L

38L/40L4 lbs
Dakine Heli Pro 20 L

3. Dakine Heli Pro 20 L

20L/24L1.89 lbs
Dakine Mission Pro 18L Women's

4. Dakine Mission Pro 18L Women's

18L1.6 lbs
Unigear Ski Hydration Backpack

5. Unigear Ski Hydration Backpack

30L1.13 lbs
Black Diamond Dawn Patrol 25 L

6. Black Diamond Dawn Patrol 25 L

15/25/32L2.5 lbs
Gregory Targhee 45 L

7. Gregory Targhee 45 L

45L4.12 lbs
Black Diamond Cirque 45

8. Black Diamond Cirque 45

30/35/45L2.5 lbs
Osprey Kamber 22 L

9. Osprey Kamber 22 L

16/22/32/42L1.15 lbs
Thule Upslope

10. Thule Upslope

20/25/35L1.78 lbs


Do you need a backpack when skiing?

Wearing a backpack when skiing will pretty much come down to a personal choice. Some prefer skiing or snowboarding with empty pockets and just stuff everything they need in one bag, while some may find it inconvenient. Carrying a backpack can definitely have its benefits, and it is a must when taking on the backcountry. Having a backpack can notably help you carry your ski or snowboard, thus allowing for free movement of your arms and legs, so you can comfortably hike.

Even if you’re not a backcountry skier, it is also important to carry a backpack for hydration. This will indeed prevent you from feeling lightheaded and out of breath. A backpack will also allow you to carry snacks, so you do not have to spend a fortune at the lodge cafeteria.

What size backpack do I need for skiing?

If you are not planning to tackle the backcountry and just want to carry essentials, including water and snacks, then your best option is a 15 to 20L capacity. But for some off-piste expeditions, it is more ideal to have a backpack with at least 40L of capacity, with adequate pockets for all of your equipment and essentials.


Buying Guide

We’ve listed down a few factors to better guide you on ski backpacks’ details, and to have a more in-depth knowledge on what to choose for your next winter expedition.


To determine which size of backpack you should use, you have to determine the length of your trip, and the amount of gear you need to carry. A backpack’s volume is typically measured in liters (L).

  • 10-20L: This capacity is best for lift-served sidecountry, heli, or cat accessed riding.
  • 20-35L: This is adequate enough for longer day tours.
  • 35-55L: Backpacks with this capacity are good for multi-day hut touring, and even overnight winter camping trips.
  • 60-70L: This is a sizable capacity for longer mountaineering trips, because it requires a tent, cooking equipment, and additional technical gear.



Ski backpacks range from lightweight 2-pound models, to heavy, airbag-equipped bags that weigh around 6.5 pounds. For those who are more focused on moving quickly on the skin track, and for those who don’t want to be weighed down on the descent, it is more ideal to have a light pack, along with light gears. For most people who want an added carrying comfort or an airbag system, this may add a big bump in weight. So, it is best to keep in mind that a pack’s weight generally corresponds to the level of supportiveness. Thus, the lighter the pack, the less padding and suspension it can offer.


Ski and snowboard carriers

Most packs are designed with external straps for attaching skis or a snowboard to the outside. These straps are super useful whenever you need to hike with your skis on your back, and are common for ski mountaineering and accessing hike-to terrain at resorts. On the other hand, some packs will allow you to attach lightweight skis in both diagonal and A-frame options, while others limit you to just one setup or the other. It is also not rare to find a pack that is unable to haul a snowboard.



Hydration compatibility

If you want to carry a hydration bladder, check the backpack for a separate compartment, which is usually insulated to protect the bladder and an insulated exit port for the hose.


Back or side access zippers

This can be a huge time saver! So, choose a backpack that provides a way to access items at the bottom of your pack instead, so you do not have to unload all of its contents.


Ice axe carry

A loop (or loops) located at the front bottom of the pack, along with easy-to-fasten tabs or straps, can secure one or two ice tools. This is simply essential for ski mountaineering trips.


Daisy chain gear loops

These loops, located on the back of the pack, make carrying climbing hardware or crampons on the exterior of the pack simple, and will help protect the backpack fabric.


Helmet carry system

This is an elastic flap or pouch that can secure your helmet when you’re not wearing it. It can also keep it from bouncing.


Compression straps

These are side straps that can be tightened to reduce the bulk of a pack for those light days. It will allow you to compress a partially full load, so that it rides closer to your back and doesn’t feel cumbersome. These straps are also helpful for streamlining a larger-capacity bag.



This is made by Black Diamond, and is essentially a snorkel that inserts into the backpack’s shoulder strap. This can give skiers a supply of oxygen in an event that they are buried by an avalanche.


Avalanche airbag

These packs are built to keep avalanche victims at or near the snow’s surface. Wearing an inflated airbag will seriously increase one’s chances of survival in the event of an avalanche. In the early stages of an avalanche, the surface snow moves a little much slower than the deeper debris, so a skier with an airbag is usually taken for a shorter ride, and may experience less trauma. Airbags can notably protect your head and neck from blunt trauma, and decrease the likelihood of being buried into an avalanche.


Women-specific ski backpacks

Women’s ski backpacks may differ in shape, suspension system, and capacity, and often in colors as well. For instance, some packs come in muted color tones, a slightly smaller capacity, and with a hip belt and shoulder straps that are more contoured to fit a woman’s body.


Carrying comfort

There are factors that can contribute to a pack’s overall comfort. This may include the shape and size, the beefiness of the suspension, and the adjustability features that the pack offers. A backpack that is streamlined and sits close to the back is for those who focus more on freedom of movement. You should look for smaller capacity, minimalist suspension, and compression straps if you prefer more mobility. These packs will perform better than a pack with a beefy suspension system that separates the load from the body. On the other hand, it may also come beneficial to have a robust back panel, shoulder straps, hip belt, and features like load lifters, that will allow you to dial in the right fit.

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