What's in Your Pack? - Part II: Backcountry Skiing
Traveling in the backcountry with what I need and nothing more. Freedom to move in the mountains unencumbered.
What's in Your Pack for Backcountry Skiing?
Backcountry skiing is a snow-sliding demonstration of self-reliance. There is no one telling you what to do, or where to go, or how to manage hazard. You and your ski party are fully responsible for your own safety [and enjoyment]. Start by making a well-informed trip plan, then move to assess snow conditions and weather in real-time while out skiing, and then return safe and psyched after a beautiful day of skiing. There is a deep satisfaction from the decision-making and responsibility that comes from ski touring: dictating your own fun, expressing yourself through the extreme freedom of moving in the mountains.
The gratification described is primed by being well-prepared. Having the appropriate equipment for a day out in the mountains will make the entire process more streamline and ultimately, more fun (that's the goal right?). I've listed my packing list for a day tour below. This list is a recommendation, not a rule. Feel free to leave a comment below with any personal preferences or pieces of opinion.
These are all of the essentials that I bring for a day of backcountry skiing. What isn't shown are the contents of my fix kit or first aid kit, goggles (inside the helmet), and my multitude of phenomenal snacks.
Backcountry Skiing Packing List (starting from top left):
- 500 mL Soft Flask: I like using a soft flask for water because it packs down small once empty. My touring pack also has an insulated sleeve on the shoulder strap, so I can sip water while touring rather than gulp water at breaks. I highly recommend a pack with this feature or an auxiliary soft flask holder.
- Salomon MTN Lab Ski Helmet: This is the lightest CE 1077 certified (tested for alpine skiing impact) ski helmet that actually feels like a downhill ski helmet. It has a secure sense of full coverage, a great quick-adjust mechanism, and a removable liner. I take out the liner because I like to ski with a hat underneath my helmet instead of the liner. Goggles also fit this helmet a lot better than other lightweight ski helmet options because of its flat brim.
- Pomoca Free Pro 2.0 Climbing Skins: These are the lightest skins made by Pomoca (measured in g/m^2). Lightweight skins are an effective and often overlooked way to save weight on the uphill. It's important to keep in mind that the Free Pro skin is lighter because it's thinner and thus less durable.
- Fix Kit: This zippered nylon pouch includes a small multitool with appropriate bits for my bindings, a pole basket, skin and ski wax, long voile straps, duct tape, stainless steel wire, and an extra USB-chargeable battery with appropriate charging cables. I'd love to hear what people have in their repair kit, as mine is an on-going project of cutting extraneous materials and including new, thoughtful additions.
- First Aid Kit: I find it appropriate to carry as many first aid supplies as you are trained to use. I'll leave this interesting bullet point for another blog post. Find linked a great first aid supply list that I often reference.
- Mammut Baryvox S Beacon: The Baryvox S has the largest search range and the highest level of functionality of any beacon on the market. Range and processing power are the second and third most important features in a beacon for me. The first being my level of familiarity and practice with the beacon. It's important regardless of the beacon you choose that you have practiced each season with its functionality.
- Avalanche Shovel and Probe: A sturdy aluminum shovel and an easy-to-deploy 270 cm aluminum probe are mandatory pieces of companion rescue equipment if traveling in avalanche terrain. The length of the probe and construction of the shovel vary depending on the application. I find durability is always a great attribute to guide your decision when it comes to this type of gear. I linked what I believe to be the most proficient shovel and probe that both balance weight and performance better than the rest.
- Backcountry Radio: I consider radios an essential piece of safety gear. You can avoid false safe zones, [greatly] improve communication, and make sweet call-names for yourself and your ski partners if you carry these while backcountry skiing. The BCA radio is easy to use and weather-resistant.
- Softshell Touring Gloves: I look for a glove that I can keep on throughout the course of the day, both uphill and downhill. Something with good dexterity to keep on when I rummage in my pack for a snack, and preferably a leather palm to better grip ski poles. The TNF Softshell gloves have fit all of these criteria for me while remaining quite durable.
- Puffy Mittens: These are almost a part of my first aid kit. If the temp drops or our party is stationary for a while, the puffy mittens are a great insurance policy against cold extremities. The cold hands [and even feet] of my partners and myself have all warmed up in these goose-down sanctuaries. The CAMP Hotmitt'n mittens are very packable while having an extremely high warmth to weight ratio.
- Puffy Jacket: Same as above in terms of first aid kit inclusion. I don't typically wear a puffy coat while skiing unless it's frigid out. But I might put one on while eating a snack or soaking in views before a downhill ski. I like to take my puffy jacket and mittens out of their stuff sack every so often and fluff them up as to not lose their insulative loft. A Down jacket like the TNF option linked above has a higher warmth to weight ratio and is more packable than a synthetic insulation equivalent layer. The downside to down is that it's rendered ineffective at keeping you warm once wet.
- Julbo Aerospeed Sunglasses, Sunhat, and Buff: These Julbos (linked) are the best sunglasses I ever owned. The Reactiv Performance photochromic lenses adjust from a CAT 0-3. So I wear these from dark pre-dawn to bluebird afternoon without noticing an adjustment is vision. The minimalist frame provides an unobstructed field of vision, and the coverage is so good that I typically ski down with them on (no goggles needed). The sunhat and buff are great protection from sun, wind, and other mixed weather.
Here is all my backcountry ski kit packed into a custom-made Apocolypse Equipment Pack. These are the best purpose-built ski touring packs out there.
By no means is this list comprehensive for every skier to enter the backcountry. There are many items left out here that improve safety, comfort, or fun for any ski tour. Everyone does it differently and there are no rules to follow when it comes to backcountry skiing or backcountry skiing gear lists. What else would you include in your backcountry ski touring pack? What did you learn from this blog post to update your existing kit?
Get packed up and plan your next ski tour! Pictured here is a light and fast ski tour in the beautiful backcountry of Colorado.
If you are interested, here is the full checklist from our guides at Aspen Expeditions for what they bring out for a day of backcountry skiing. Book a trip to learn from the experts firsthand on how to handle backcountry skiing like a pro. Spending a day with a ski touring professional will sharpen your skills and allow you to build more independence in the backcountry.
- Slator Aplin is a gear nerd living in Colorado. He enjoys low-angle powder, steep-angle powder, and everything in between -
- Accumula Collaborator