Alpine Lab backpack header

If you venture out into the backcountry―even in the back bowls of your local mountain―you need to be prepared. At the top of your list should be an avalanche beacon. Second, third, fourth, and fifth will all be tagging along on your back: a shovel, probe, and water, all stuffed into a backcountry pack.

There are a lot of options out there when it comes to packs, but for the most part, anything from twenty to thirty liters of volume is enough to carry what you’ll need for a day out of bounds. Here are eight of the best new backcountry packs we took out into the wilderness this past winter and put through the paces. – AXIS MEDIA

K2 Sentinel Backpack

K2 Sentinel Backpack

Alpine Lab Seal of Approval: The airy Sentinel won’t give you the sensation of a turtle, and the straps are thoughtfully placed and tastefully finished.

The lightweight, no-frills Sentinel goes virtually unnoticed while it’s on your back riding around the mountain. Each strap has a small Velcro wrap that keeps it from flapping around, making your backpack game extra tight.

Volume: 20L
Weight: 2.1lbs
Goggle pocket: Yes, with lens pouch.
Bladder compatible: Yes
Tool storage: Internal
Board-carrying orientation: Vertical

SCORE

Tight: Velcro keeps on each strap make the Sentinel look clean.
Loose: A few more internal pockets would help keep your shit straight.
Cost: $99.95

Oakley Snowmad 20 Backpack

Oakley SNOWMAD 20 Backpack

The top-loading SNOWMAD 20 has the comfiest straps of the bunch, and a goggle pocket with a separate lens pouch for covering your bases when it comes to vision in the backcountry.

Volume: 22L
Weight: 2.8lbs
Goggle pocket: Yes
Bladder compatible: Yes
Tool storage: Internal
Board-carrying orientation: Vertical

SCORE

Tight: Top access=fewer leaks.
Loose: A few more pockets would come in handy.
Cost: $85.00

DAKINE Pro II Backpack

DAKINE Pro II Backpack

Looking for an unobtrusive pack that you can stuff anything into? The Pro II cinches down for a light day, and expands to hold all you can carry. Two main compartments help keep everything organized. DAKINE has always been a leader in the pack market, which means you can’t go wrong with the Pro II…or any DAKINE pack, for that matter.

Volume: 26L
Weight: 3.1lbs
Goggle pocket: Yes
Bladder compatible: Yes
Tool storage: Internal and external
Board-carrying orientation: Horizontal or vertical, via straps

Score

Tight: Two compartments, and just enough pockets to dial in a day in the backcountry.
Loose: Once you set up the Pro II, you might want to think about trimming the excess strap material. It’s a bit long.
Cost: $125.00

Quiksilver Travis Rice Backpack

Quiksilver Travis Rice Backpack

The most voluminous pack we tested, the Travis Rice pack is big enough for the biggest man in snowboarding. If it works for him, it’ll probably work for you. The coolest part? It’s white. Pretty swanky.

Volume: 24L
Weight: 3.3lbs
Goggle pocket: Yes
Bladder compatible: Yes
Tool storage: Internal and external
Board-carrying orientation: Horizontal (against your back) or vertical (straps)

Score

Tight: Lots and lots of room.
Loose: For the average day trip, she’s a bit hefty.
Cost: $120.00

Lib Tech Hot Lap Backpack

Lib Tech Hot Lap Backpack

Mellow on the outside, and yellow inside (the liner is banana print), a tool compartment inside the Hot Lap keeps sharp shovels away from your food and other necessities. When the snow melts, you can remove the waist strap and use the Hot Lap like a traditional backpack. This sucker’s way cooler than a JanSport.

Volume: 24L
Goggle pocket: Yes
Weight: 2.9lbs
Bladder compatible: Yes
Tool storage: Internal and external
Board-carrying orientation: Horizontal (against your back) or vertical (straps)

Score

Tight: You can remove the Hot Lap’s waist strap to use it the other six months out of the year. More bang for your buck!
Loose: In our test model, we had to make a small incision to get the hydration system’s hose through.
Cost: $99.95

Volcom Defender Heli Backpack

Volcom Defender Heli Backpack

The Defender’s plethora of pockets helps keep more than just your shovel and probe organized. You’ll find pockets for your phone, digi cam, sandwich, water bottle, beer, and two main compartments to hold larger items. If you like to take a lot, check out the Defender.

Volume: 27L
Weight: 3.9lbs
Goggle pocket: Yes
Bladder compatible: Yes
Tool storage: Internal
Board-carrying orientation: Horizontal (against your back) or vertical (straps)

Score

Tight: More pockets than you can shake a stick at.
Loose: There are two overlapping straps that need to be released to gain access to your shovel and probe.
Cost: $120.00

Burton Sled Pack

Burton Sled Pack

A single main compartment is easy for cramming in your necessities on your way out the door in the morning, and you can squeeze a few pairs of goggles into the Sled Pack’s goggle pocket, in case rag-dolling is one of your best tricks.

Volume: 26L
Weight: 3.1lbs
Goggle pocket: Yes
Bladder compatible: Yes
Tool storage: Internal
Board-carrying orientation: Horizontal (against your back) or vertical (straps)

Score

Tight: A lightweight internal frame runs from between the shoulders to the lumbar pad to help you and the Sled Pack keep your composure.
Loose: The side pockets like to gather snow, which will turn into two small ponds. Tip it upside-down when you’re done riding.
Cost: $104.95

Ride HE Journey Backpack

Ride’s HE Journey is unique in that you can carry your board horizontally or vertically, or simply choose to leave the board-carrying straps at home to save weight. Its sleek design gives it a low profile, but you can easily pack a day’s worth of safety gear and food.

Volume: 20L
Weight: 2.9lbs
Goggle pocket: Yes
Hydration compatible: Yes
Tool storage: Internal and external
Board-carrying orientation: Horizontal or vertical

Score

Tight: Two access points into main compartment.
Loose: Shovel blade and handle aren’t held in the same compartment.
Cost: $99.95