At the Outdoor Retailer and SIA shows last month, one thing was clear: more and more people are venturing into the backcountry on skis and snowboards.
Whether you're dipping out of bounds at your local ski hill, or boot packing from the road to the summit, these done in a day packs will carry your skis and everything else you need to be safe and have fun.
Backcountry Access Float 22: ABS air bag avalanche packs save lives. In fact, one of Backcountry Access’s packs saved a snowboarder last week. The footage below was shot on January 25th, 2012 in the Snake River backcountry. Meesh Hytner, a pro snowboarder, deploys her Backcountry Access Float 30 when she is caught in a sizeable slide, and ends up walking away from what couldhave been a tragedy.
The main reason all skiers aren’t using air bag packs: the cost. Most systems run around $1200. Backcountry Access is striving to make air bag avy packs more mainstream by bringing the price down. Its new Float 22 is lighter than other packs (5.5 pounds not the standard eight pounds). And it costs around half for all the parts and pieces: the pack, the airbag, engine, and rechargeable cylinder. Available September 2012, $675, backcountryaccess.com
Black Diamond Covert AvaLung: Black Diamond has taken a tried and true avy pack and made it better. For those who want exceptional safety without the pricetag of an air bag system, the Avalung continues to rule.
The 24-26 liter Covert has a new suspension system for 2012—shoulder straps that thread through the pack and a hip belt that pivots on a ball joint for maximum comfort when you’re walking with your skis on your back. The incorporated Avalung—which in a burial lets you breathe in from the front and exhale through the back preventing a suffocating ice mask from forming in front of your face—has better airflow, and it rides more comfortably in your pack’s shoulder strap. Bonus: the pack now also comes with a stowable nylon-flap helmet holder that won’t block pack access or interfere with ski carry. Available August 2012, $250, blackdiamondequipment.com
Arc’teryx Quintic 28L &38L Packs: With a shape inspired by a utility knife blade and designed by Freerider Eric Hjorleifson, Arcteryx's wide and flat Quintic 28L & Quintic 38L packs manage weight transfer by keeping the load low, close, and centered over the skiers hips. It moves with you, whether you're skinning or slaying pow one big buttery turn at a time. The low slung flat profile puts the bag’s center of gravity as close to your body’s center mass as possible. Then, wrap-around side pockets, an exaggerated lumbar curve, and directional flex in the back-panel stabilize the bag.
Plus, the pack contents are accessible even when the bag is overstuffed. A quick draw side pocket, and side opening main allow quick access to items on the go and speedy transitions. Available fall 2012, $200-$250, arcteryx.com.
Sierra Designs Freyr: A no frills pack at a price that can’t be beat, Sierra Designs Freyr is for light-and-fast adventures. It’s under two pounds, but still carries a shovel, skins, goggles, lunch, and your skis or snowboard comfortably. Available Fall 2012, $99; sierradesigns.com