In this article, we take a look at what items you should carry in your rucksack when joining us on an Off-Piste & Ski Touring Skills Course as well as for ski tours requiring glacier kit and for our Chamonix Ski Touring Trips. A good rucksack is an essential piece of kit that will hold many other important items that not only help to keep you safe but also those in your group too. Skiers should always be correctly prepared before venturing into the backcountry and know how to pack their kit efficiently so they can access it easily; all key skills for efficient ski touring.
1. Rucksack – 25-30 litre rucksack is a good size for an off-piste skiing and day ski touring pack. Key features to have are a separate pocket for your avalanche safety kit to go into, zips that open around the whole top & sides of the pack so you can easily access the kit inside, a ski-carry system for either A-frame or diagonal carriage, ice-axe loop, wide hip belt for stability and a secure way to attach a helmet to the outside of the pack.
2. Skis – Suitable skis for off-piste and ski touring mounted with pin-style ski touring bindings.
3. Ski Poles – with large baskets and ideally some grip below the main handle which you can hold when skinning uphill.
4. Ski Strap – a strap used to tie your skis together when they are carried on your rucksack or for any walking sections.
5&6. Avalanche Shovel & Handle – the handle is usually detachable so it is easier to store in your pack.
7. Avalanche Probe – telescopic probe stored in a bag in your pack.
8. Avalanche Transceiver – this would be worn on your body at all times when skiing (put it on-turn it on, turn it off-take it off).
9. Emergency Shelter – A light fabric shelter or bivouac bag to carry incase of emergency e.g. Pieps Bivouac Sac Single 360g
10. Skins – cut to fit your skis with a tip bar and tail clip to hold them in place, stored in a bag.
11. Couteaux – ski crampons that must be compatible with your ski touring bindings, stored in a small bag for ease.
12. First Aid Kit – small first aid kit with plasters, bandages, blister plasters, scissors, pain killers etc.
13. Helmet – ski helmet, which not mandatory to wear, we do recommend it, a lightweight, well-ventilated helmet is best.
14. 1 Litre Waterbottle – or a thermos flask to carry a minimum of a litre of water for the day.
15. Food & Snacks – you need to bring enough food for the day, usually, a packed lunch is advisable to bring along with some snacks to you going for the day.
16. Suncream, Lipsalve, Spares – suncream & lipsalve essential to save your skin! Spares and repair kit like a multi-tool, pen knife, tape, zip-ties, piece of ski wax stored in a small bag for ease.
17. Additional Items of Clothing – warm hat, buff, spare insulation layer best put into a dry bag to keep tidy & from getting wet.
18. Ski Goggles & Sunglasses – you need to have both items with you for sunny weather and poor visibility/low light/snow; best kept in a bag so they do not get scratched in your pack.
19. Light Softshell Gloves – a light pair of gloves is good to have particularly for ski touring up and skiing in warmer weather e.g. Black Diamond Lightweight Softshell Gloves.
20. Warm Ski Gloves – a fully waterproof, insulated pair of quality ski gloves are essential for most skiing.
All this should fit into your 25-30 litre rucksack. Try to find a packing system that works for you, once you have, stick to it so you always know where the items are that you need. Aim to pack heavier items towards the bottom of your sack and items that you think you will need near the top.
All the items above are packed into the rucksack. This weighs 6 kilogrammes with 1 litre of water in the bottle.
For our Chamonix Ski Touring trips and other day ski tours where you will be skiing on glaciated terrain, it is usual to carry some other items of safety kit with you, these are boot crampons, harness and ice axe.
21. Ice Axe – lightweight ski touring axe, this is a simple non-technical axe e.g. Petzl Ride Axe
22. Harness – lightweight, compact ski touring harness e.g. Petzl Altitude Harness
23. Boot Crampons – Hybrid crampons for ski touring use e.g. Petzl Irvis Crampon packed into a small robust bag
24. Glacier Travel Rope – your guide will provide and typically carry the rope however on some ski tours it may be required to take 2 ropes and one will be given out to a member of the group to carry. A 30m line e.g. Beal’s Rando Line at 8mm weighs 1.2 kgs
The rucksack weighs in around 7.5-8kgs with the rope, boot crampons, harness and axe packed into/on it.
Ski Carriage on a Rucksack
Most ski-specific rucksacks usually offer both an A-Frame ski carriage system or a diagonal one. Even on a day tour, you may need to attach your skis to your rucksack to hike a short distance. Knowing how to do this is best practised before the tour, you can try at home in the garage or out in the garden.
Step 1 – Take a good look at your rucksack and work out what straps are provided for the ski carry system, take a bit of time to work out how it will work.
Step 2 – Lay your rucksack flat on the ground with the back of the sack facing upwards, prepare which straps you are using if you need to undo or loosen any.
Step 3 – Make sure your skis are clicked together base-to-base with the ski breaks.
Step 4 – Use your ski tie and attach it around the middle of the front part of the ski (between the front part of the binding and the tip). Pull it up tight to secure them together.
Step 5 – For a diagonal ski carriage, you can slide the tails of the ski through the loop provided then clip the strap around the skis nearer the toe-piece of the binding. Typically you would hold your poles in your hands when walking for stability but if you only need one you can loop the ski pole handle over the tip of the ski and attach the pole under the strap too. The slight disadvantages of this carry method is it your skis can move about a bit and it’s quite easy to kick and catch the tails of the skis on the slope.
Step 6 – For an A-Frame ski carriage you need to start of with your skis apart. Use the side compression or side straps to slide the tail of each ski, alternately into the lower strap. Now use the upper strap to secure the ski to the side of the rucksack, this is best done up just below the toe-piece of the binding, so some of the ski weight can hang on this strap. Now take your ski strap and tie it firmly around the tips of your skis, pulling them together into an ‘A’. The advantage of this carry method is that is tends to be more stable particularly on steeper more mountaineering climbing objectives.
Step 7 – You now want to pick up your pack and put it on. It will feel heavy! You may need to spend a bit of time adjusting the shoulder and waist straps to make it comfortable and distribute the weight as best you can. It’s very useful to know how to do this before you head off on a ski tour as you may well have to do this in a narrow, awkward place on a slope; you won’t always be in a nice open, flat area! Learning to manage your kit is another key skill of the ski tourer; many a helmet and pair of gloves have been last seen rolling off down the hill!
An ABS (avalanche airbag) type of rucksack is not essential for any of our courses. If you have one or wish to buy and use one, that’s fine. However please bear in mind that they are often heavy and not ideally set up to carry all the avalanche safety equipment and items that you need. You can usually only carry your skis on them in a diagonal ski carriage method due to the location of the airbag at the sides of the rucksack. While weight and design have improved you will add around 2kgs in the empty sac weight with the canister for a rucksack around 25-30 litres in size.