Why Skiers Wear Backpacks and What to Keep in Them

by Simon Naylor | Updated: October 27th, 2022 |  Skiing Articles

It's no secret that ski gear essentials include more than your skis and boots. In fact, the skiing industry revolves around getting the most out of your day on the slopes. Whether it's lightweight, warm clothes, or safety gear like helmets and goggles, your skiing setup can make all the difference. Many skiers choose to take it a step further and buy a compact backpack.

Why do so many skiers opt to take along a backpack? Primarily it has to do with convenience. Everything you need will be in one place so you can make fewer visits to the lodge.

We are reader supported. We may collect a share of sales from the links on this page. As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases.

But isn’t that what pockets are for? It might seem baffling considering the wide variety of pockets you can find on your ski pants and coat. With all this built-in storage, why is carrying a backpack a good idea?

One reason is because of the sheer amount of pockets in pants and coats. Have you ever pulled out your ski pants from last season and discovered a stale protein bar inside that you don't even remember packing? Pants and coat pockets are an easy way to lose track of all your skiing essentials.

Not to mention, there's no guarantee that they will fit some of your more substantial items. You're going to have a frustrating fight on your hands if you try to stuff a water bottle or an extra pair of bulky wool socks in your pockets.

Some skiers prefer to head into the lodge after every three or four runs. Meanwhile, other athletes prefer to get the most out of their ticket and stay on the hill or enjoy skiing in areas where lodges and lockers are not an option. In these cases, carrying a backpack rather than relying on pockets would be the ideal choice.

Carrying lunch to the mountains

If you do decide that carrying a lightweight backpack is the best option for you, then what should you pack for your day on the slopes? Here are our top 5 recommendations.

What To Bring In Your Backpack

1. Snacks (recommended)

Don't let hunger force you back inside early in the day. While nothing tastes better than a hot bowl of chili on a snowy day, this and other options available in the lodge will leave you feeling full and sluggish. Instead, pack high calories snacks so you can keep your energy up. Keep plenty in your pack so you can eat in between runs on the chairlift.

What kind of nutritious snacks should you bring?

  • Apple slices
  • Granola bars
  • Protein bars
  • Peanut butter crackers
  • Dried fruit and nuts
  • Fruit leather
  • Chocolate bars that contain nuts and fruit

Each of these snacks are easy to pack and will curb your hunger while keeping your energy levels up. If you need a little more substance around lunchtime, you can even bring along a sandwich or breakfast burrito.

2. Hydration (recommended)

Water and sports drinks tend to be less appealing when we're cold vs. when we're exercising in the heat. Therefore, it's important to be extra conscious about getting plenty of fluids.

An easy way to do this is to pack a small bottle of water to drink. One advantage of a backpack is that many come with a built-in bladder that won't take up precious space.

If you want to mix things up, consider packing electrolytes with you to add to your water. You can even bring a small thermos of hot water, and you can stir in a tea bag or hot chocolate packet. That way, you'll not only stay hydrated, but it will warm you up as well.

3. Emergency Kit (optional)

None of us want to experience an accident or emergency while skiing, but the fact is, we might. That's why it's always a good idea to take along a small emergency kit.

Depending on where you are skiing (i.e backcountry or off-piste), your kit could include things like:

4. A small shovel (optional)

Testing out avalanche transponders in the backcountry


5. An avalanche transceiver (off-piste skiing)

However, if you're sticking to the groomed trails, your kit will be smaller and may include:

  • Bandages
  • Ibuprofen
  • Space blanket
  • Headlamp or flashlight
  • Lighter or Firestarter
  • Whistler
  • Multitool
  • Map
  • Compass

And don't forget hand warmers. Emergency or not, they are a skier's best friend - alternatively you can wear heated ski gloves.

The weather can change quickly, and even the most experienced skier can get turned around if only briefly. Having an emergency kit similar to this will give you peace of mind - depending how far from the resort you're skiing.

6. Extra Layers (weather dependent)

One great thing about keeping a backpack with you while you're skiing is that you won't have to worry about if you've put on too many layers that day or not enough.

You can easily start the day bundled up and spend it shedding the layers off or pack extra layers to add on as the temperature drops in the early evening.

Wool is ideal for a base layer because it keeps you warm while wicking away sweat. And you won't regret packing an extra pair of socks or gloves in case they get wet early on.

Another thing you'll want to bring along is a buff. It is a layering must. It can be used to keep your neck and face warm, like a hat, or even a headband or sweatband.

7. Daily Essentials

Many of the above items fall into the "what if" category. In all likelihood, you will not need to use that space blanket. That being said, several things are basic needs when skiing.

While essential items will vary from person to person, these items are best kept in the pocket most accessible:

  • Chapstick
  • Sunscreen
  • Tissue
  • Goggle Wipes
  • Phone – Keep in contact with your group.
  • Portable Charger – Cold weather can take a toll on smartphone batteries.

It's always a good idea to be prepared when you're skiing. Carrying a backpack is a convenient way to keep all your necessities in one place.

Just be sure to keep your packing list simple and based on the conditions in which you're skiing. That way, you'll have everything you need and can make the most of your time on the mountain.