Skip to main content

Packing List of Essential Items in your Backcountry Backpack for Skiing or Splitboarding

Backcountry Backpack for Skiing or Riding

If you come on one of our trips, you’ll see our instructors using Osprey packs, and we even have demos on some of our trips if you’d like to try one out.  Thanks Osprey! For backcountry skiing day trips, aim for a 32-38 liter pack.  For longer hut trips aim for 40-55 liter pack. Skiing and riding specific packs are nice because you have a spot to put your shovel, probe to keep your gear organized and ready to pull out quickly in an emergency. Backcountry skiing and riding packs also come with loops and straps to bootpack with your skis on your pack, they’re durable and stay relatively dry in the snow.

Backcountry Skis, Boots, Poles, Skins.

My favorite brands right now are DPS Wailer 112 Skis with Dynafit or G3 Ion Bindings. Pomoca Skins.  Scarpa Boots, and really any lightweight adjustable ski poles.  For Splitboards check out Weston Splitboards

Beacon, Shovel, Probe, Batteries.

Wear your beacon on your body, just above your long underwear layer.  That way it’s still ready to go when you take off your waterproof layer or puffy.  TURN YOUR BEACON ON, and do a beacon check with your ski partners. 

Shovel– a solid, sturdy metal shovel is important. Practice shoveling techniques in icy, crusty piles at the edges of plowed parking lots.  Dig fast, dig hard.  Take your AIARE Rescue Course to brush up on skills and learn the latest, most efficient standards for rescue. Take your AIARE Level 1 to learn how to make better decisions in the backcountry.

Probe– Not the place to shave weight.  It’s important to have a sturdy probe that won’t break when you need it most.  Practice deploying your probe. Practice searching & probing for buried beacons (in a soft pack to protect your beacon. and make sure the beacon is turned on before burying it!)

Food, Water, Thermos.

Food.  Bring more food than you’ll think you need!  It’s pretty easy for a 3 hour tour to get a lot longer if something doesn’t go according to plan.  I like to pack a sandwich, a burrito, salty chips or cheezits, and maybe a candy bar or two.  What are your favorite backcountry ski foods?

Water. I use Nalgene bottle or Hydra Pack.  They hydrapacks are cool because they deflate as you drink from them, but yeah, they do have a shorter life expectancy and eventually break.  Nalgenes are basically indestructable, but they are heavy.  A Smart Water Bottle from the grocery store can be just fine.  Hydration packs are not recommended because the tube freezes so easily!

The thermos is a nice touch for having a hot drink on your ski tour. Fill your cup with snow and top off with hot tea for good snow melting action and more hydration! The main drawback of a thermos is the heavy weight. I typically skip the thermos, but a lot of Backcountry Babes instructors and clients love them!

Phone, Wallet, Keys.

Useful for the getting to and from the trailhead.  Mapping tools with the phone from Avenza, Cal Topo, Gaia GPS, Topo Map Apps, and other sources are super handy as well.

Buff, Socks, Warm Hat, Googles.

Super thin, wool compression socks are my favorite. Skida Hats are also great.

Sunscreen, Sunglasses, Hat, and Lip SPF

Protect your skin from the bright sun rays reflecting off the winter snow.  I would skip a ski tour if I forgot my sunglasses or hat! Also, please get very high quality sunglasses that block UVA, UVB and all UV light.  Skip the gas station cheapies…they can cause more harm than good!

Long Underwear, Jacket, Snow Pants, Down

Long Underwear–I’m a fan of lightweight wool layers because I think they smell less than synthetic layers.

Puffy jacket-I pack a very warm layer in my backpack that is beyond what I think I’ll actually use on the tour.  If you get an injury you may be sitting still for a very, very long time.  Extra warm hat, gloves, stove, bivvy sack, hand warmers, etc are recommended for tours that go a bit further a field.

Hardshell Outerlayers- Gortex Pants and Jacket, waterproof layers.  Patagonia makes a great lightweight, breathable, slightly stretchy and actually waterproof line called “Descentionist,” designed for backcountry skiing and riding. You’ll see many Babes instructors wearing Patagonia uniforms… thank you Patagonia!  Another great brand is Arcteryx.  Sure, you’ll spend a lot on outwear, but these layers work wonderfully and they last for many years.

Ski Wax, Ski Scraper, Ski Strap

Scraper: It’s really nice to have a tool to scrape clumpy snow off your skis or skins and bindings.

Wax: A bit of wax for warm spring touring can help with the clumpy snow. There are a ton of different brands and types…I don’t have much insight on the differences but I’m sure your local ski shop can help!

Ski Strap: A handy tool to strap your skis to your backpack, or fix a random issue that comes up.

First Aid Kit & Meds, Repair Kit, Bivvy and Headlamp

What goes into your First Aid Kit and Repair Kit will be another blog topic for another day!

Always pack a headlamp: I never plan to be ski touring after dark, but if something goes wrong and you’re stuck in the dark, a headlamp can help you self rescue, and make you much more visible to rescuers.

Map, Compass.

It’s very important to have a very solid mental map of where you are going to ski tour planned out and shared with a friend or partner who’s staying home.  Expect the best, but plan for the worst!  Cal Topo is a great place to look at topo maps, overlay with slope angles, read others trip descriptions, pay attention as you travel.  [Phone apps like Topo Map Apps, Gaia GPS, and Avenza are super useful for tracking your travel on your phone’s GPS.]  Go to new areas with a local who’s familiar with the terrain.  Imagine a whiteout conditions storm blew in on your tour.  Would you have the skills to navigate and retreat to safety?  Also, don’t be afraid to reschedule or cancel a trip due to poor conditions.

Of course, there’s so much more! Whistle, overnight gear, rescue sled, AIARE Field Book, Snowpit Test Kit, Radios, Helmet, Crampons, Ice Axe. It all depends on what your plan is for the day and how much you want carry.