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Choosing a Waterproof Ski Pack #4996
Back To Discussion List Written: 2018.02.02 by: Robin Tivy

After last weekend I'm looking for a new daypack for wet ski trips and hiking trips. See Sproatt in the drenching snow. I'm not looking for the ultimate ski pack. What I want is a day pack when it's raining or snowing. I've got other packs for nice weather and for overnight. So I'm willing to compromise. No outside pockets (to collect snow). No space between the pack straps and the body. Wide entrance or side zipper. Absolute minimum of outside straps. Big enough to stuff a down jacket, rain pants, sweater, water bottle, extra mitts. And then skins and spare cable and parts. Nice to have a shovel sometimes, although I don't do many ski runs. I'm into touring. Most packs have a top pocket for convenience, but the problem is they often leak over time. I wouldn't mind if I had to put my top pocket items into an inside pocket in the main compartment. That's the kind of compromise I'm willing to make. Ideally at least one inside pocket to keep wallet, glasses, car fob, spare GPS batteries, headlight.

I'm even willing to sacrifice side straps if everything else was perfect. After all, trips like Mount Sproatt are always ski right from the car.

In my old packs, in the top pocket I'd have a net bag with sunglasses, ski wax, sun cream. But I'm willing to sacrifice a top pocket if it means more waterproof. And I don't want a floating top, because the way I load my pack, they often go sideways.

At present, here are the two main packs I've used:

  1. Mountain Hardware Sortie
     This is a long thin pack, fairly sturdy construction, and with a good waist belt. Has long front pocket. Very difficult to organize loose gear because no side zipper. Has long front pocket. Has chest strap. Polyurethane coated nylon is not waterproof.

  2. Osprey Aether 85
     You might ask why I would ever take such a huge pack as the Osprey 85 litres as a day pack. This is my overnight pack, but the reason I often take it on day trips is for convenience. My Mountain Hardware takes forever to find anything because it is so thin and has no side zipper. The Osprey is the same weight, and I can instantly find anything in it. And it rides away from my back, so avoids sweat on my back. But it is really bad for wet snow. It has too many straps and pockets, all of which collect snow. The fabric is not waterproof. And the strap assembly isn't attached directly to the pack body, there is air gap between the strap assembly and the main pack which collects huge amounts of wet snow, and also all sorts of twigs, pine needles, etc. from bushwacking. I've got enough dirt down in that pocket to make a garden, and I don't know how to dig it out. Also, after about a decade of good service, the stretch fabric side pockets and back flap are all torn and useless. And it leaks. And it has a hole in the bottom.

So here is a summary of my requirements:

 - waterproof material
 - no snow accumulation pockets
 - welded seams?
 - waterproof zippers?
 - no extra straps
 - side zipper for easy access
 - about 40 litres

So I went out and looked at packs. Here are my notes: (just so you know my warped perspective)

  1. Arcteryx Khamski 38
     Cost $280 CAD, Weight 1.56kg. Volume 38L. This is designed to be a ski pack, has two main compartments, the outside one for ski gear like probes, shovel and skins. no sidepockets (good), has side zipper (good for quick access). It has a top flap with a zipper across it. (not good), I think it will leak over time. 38 litres is smaller than I'm used to, but because of the side zipper, I might be able to train myself to get by on 38L
     - they also have a Khamski 30, which is too small.

  2. Patagonia Storm Front 30L
     $365.00 30 liters
     This pack would be the most radical solution to the wet snow problem. It is not advertised as a ski or hiking pack. The main people that buy them are bicycle commuters and fly fisherman. You can store camera gear or laptops without worry. The fabric is completely waterproof - welded seams, waterproof fabric and waterproof zipper.
     - Has one giant waterproof, airtight zipper made by TiZip in Germany. The zipper has an docking station at the end where it seals up completely. They supply some kind of lubricant with which you are supposed to use occasionally.
     - hip belt is just a piece of unpadded nylon webbing (probably not really good enough for most people)
     - simple sleek design, with no external pockets

  3. Arcteryx Bora AR 50
     - $650 CAD,
     - comes in regular and tall size
     - waterproof looking material with wax like surface. The fabric is supposed to be waterproof, but not the zippers. I don't know about the seams. There is a big zipper across the top flap, protected by a flap. How waterproof will it be in a few years?
     - has bottom swivel mount for waste belt, might not be so good for ski?
     - has a few crevasses and holes in back plastic assembly, supposedly collects a bit of snow
     - has too much padding on giant hip belt

  4. Arcteryx Alpha FL 45
     Has roll top inside, and exposed draw string pocket outside. 45 litres. Nice red color. $300. But no side zipper, one big narrow compartment. So if you had your skins and wet gear on top, you'd have to dig thru that to get to the interior. No ski carry straps.

  5. Mountain Hardware Rainshadow 36 L
     I haven't found one yet, but the specs online say it is waterproof. They say fabric is "100D HT Ripstop Dobby Nylon".
     - has mesh outside pocket (bad for snow accumulation)

Ok, how close can we get to my "ideal" pack? The Stormfront is not made to be a ski pack, and the Khamaski is not made to be waterproof. Both would have been better last weekend at Sproatt. But I haven't found the ultimate waterproof ski pack yet. I'd like to see a slightly larger Stormfront, like 40 litres, and with a bit better hip belt. Or the Arcteryx Khamski with material like on the Bora 50, and waterproof zippers. If you said you were looking for a waterproof hiking pack, then the Stormfront would have more of a chance.


#6194 - 2018.02.10 Zoran Vasic - Ski carry not essential
The longest stretch I carried skis was walking down switchbacks after Never Traverse. Several times ... And 10 minutes from parking lot on Elfin in late Spring. Other than that I don't remember. Still I have tendency to look for pack with ski carry options. I believe it is not critical. Size, weight, durability and avalanche gear accessibility are more critical in choosing ski pack?

#6180 - 2018.02.06 Blair Mitten - Ski carry possible with Hyperlite
The Hyperlite pack does have compresion straps on the side. I think that an A frame carry can be rigged.

#6178 - 2018.02.05 Robin Tivy - Not used for extensive ski carry
Not every day trip requires the ability to carry skis. Certain trips like Diamond Head, Sproatt and Hanging Lake, and various low level day hiking trips that we do every year are ones that you can know in advance you aren't carrying skis, and for those, you use the pack I'm looking for. The idea is to not try and solve all problems with one universal pack.

#6177 - 2018.02.05 Steve Grant - Carry skis?
How would you carry your skis?

#6176 - 2018.02.05 Robin Tivy - Hyperlite Packs
Based on Blair's posting, I investigated Hyperlite packs. The two models I looked at were the Porter and the Southwest. See Hyperlite 2400 Porter for $300. USD.

They are ultra light and simple. One market is the "section hikers" such as people doing the Pacific Crest Trail. But they are also used for ski touring.

They are made out of some new white colored fabric called "Dyneema" which is some exotic fabric supposed to be pretty tough and 100% waterproof. And I don't need a separate pocket as long as the main sack is wide enough. I suppose the white material would help in visibility when you look in your pack. I'm not really sure how waterproof they are after a lot of use, but they are simple, which usually helps in waterproof considerations. And also snow accumulation which was my big problem at Sproatt. The packs are one big sack, no top pocket, but side straps you could use to carry skis. Because they are made in USA, they name their packs in cubic inches.

  2400 cubic inches is about 40 litres.
  3400 is about 55 litres

Here is a video which examines one of the packs. I fast forwarded to the middle of the video, and it was pretty good because you actually see the pack from all angles.

Hyperlite Pack Review and Mentality

 - one big sack, top loading
 - no top pocket
 - closes like a dry bag
 - minimal side pockets possible
 - lightweight pack straps and waist belt

For these wet ski trips, I'd want to not have any external pockets or attachments. The 2400 Porter looks like that, although the Southwest seems to have a back flap.

Here's a good review where the pack is used for ski mountaineering: Wildsnow Review of Hyperlite.

#6175 - 2018.02.05 Steve Grant - Alternatives
Why not just use a sturdy trash bag inside the main compartment and a smaller one in a top flap pocket? Leave them home for dryer trips. Avoid buying another pack. Large bag is useful for emergencies. Have you considered a pack rain cover?

#6174 - 2018.02.05 Blair Mitten - Waterproof Pack, Hyperlite Mountain Gear
I bought a Hyperlite Southwest in more durable black really-is-waterproof fabric online and I had it delivered to Kintec in Blaine, a US $5 pick up fee. It is a sac, three different volumes to choose from with a waist belt and two pockets there. It has a roll top system, like dry bags for watersports, to close. I custom ordered a zipper pocket inside that fits my wallet, keys, and my sungasses. The SW has three elastic topped pockets on the outside for stuffing jackets, waterbottle, and stuff into. This fall I got a strap set up on the top of the backpocket just so that I can stuff climbing skins in securely for the downhill run. The Porter model has no outside elastic pockets but it has an optional pocket that clips on to carry a shovel and skins. No garbage bag needed inside. They have a website and check the index on Lou Dawsons "Wild Snow" blog for a report on this pack being used for ski touring.