What's in my ski tour rucksack
The clothing and equipment you carry for winter backcountry skiing and ski touring is always a thorny subject with a vast array of kit on offer to baffle and confuse! The golden rule is ‘light is right’. There is no substitute for good quality, lightweight kit. Second rule is ‘be prepared for changing conditions’ – weather moves fast in the mountains and during the ski touring season temperatures tend to be well below freezing in the mornings and elevating to double figures in the mid-day sun. Carry layers that allow you to adapt to whatever nature throws your way.
Choosing the right rucksack is key - a good ski rucksack should have all its weight at the base so you are not overbalanced when turning (narrow tall climbing packs aren’t ideal as they have a high centre of gravity). A solid way of attaching skis for carrying is also essential.
Your guide – if you have one – will carry an array of ropes and shiny bits from crevasse rescue tools and repair kit to various climbing and belaying devices together with maps, compass and a first aid kit. Your technical list should include a harness (with sling and carabiners), ice-axe, crampons (usually light aluminium although for harder ski tours you definitely need the steel versions), fitted skins, ski crampons, shovel, probe and avalanche transceiver (with spare batteries).
Ski touring skis, bindings and boots are essential. There are loads of ski setups out there and this subject warrants further discussion in a separate article. Poles ideally should be telescopic: I skin uphill with my poles at least 10cm longer than when skiing downhill.
For hands – a pair of good quality ski gloves supplemented with some thin, lightweight gloves which are useful when skinning.
For your head – pack a warm hat and a pair of wrap-around sunglasses. You must also carry glacier quality googles with flatlight lenses – skiing in a white-out without them is torture...and dangerous.
Leave your Camelbak at home – the bladders and tubes often leak or freeze – and bring instead a water bottle. Also, a waterproof case for maps, money, passport, cards and a stuffsac for clothes are useful.
For the huts – silk sleeping bag liner, ear plugs, toothbrush, wet wipes, suncream, lipblock, book, ipod, a head-torch and some teabags and milk powder - if you enjoy a proper cuppa! Snack food is a personal thing, but I usually take some cereal bars, dried fruit, nuts, chocolate and jelly sweets.
For clothing check out the Berghaus 'Extrem' range – excellent technical kit that will cover all the bases and most of what you need is the same in both winter and summer.
For my upper body I carry/wear a lightweight waterproof Gore-Tex jacket, soft shell windproof jacket, fleece top, thermal t-shirt or long-sleeve top. If the weather's cold I’ll include a light insulated synthetic jacket and another fleece. On my legs - soft shell trousers and lightweight overtrousers with 2-3 pairs of Icebreaker or Smartwool socks.
Remember, when packing: heavy and spare stuff goes at the bottom and light, regularly used stuff at the top or in pockets.
And there you have it! Hopefully this has shed some light on the mystical art of packing your rucksack!
1. Light touring skis and bindings
2. Extendable ski poles with large baskets
3. Light 7.8mm 30m rope (Guide)
4. Ski rucksac 35-40 litres
5. Ski touring boots with walk mode
6. Lightweight harness
7. Ski skins (that fit!)
8. Water bottle
9. Ski crampons
10. Silk sleeping bag liner
11. Goggles and sunglasses
12. Ski belay cord 7mm (2m) (Guide)
13. Crevasse rescue Kit (Guide)
14. Metal shovel
15. Food, teabags and milk powder
16. Hut kit: ear plugs, toothbrush, wet wipes, sun & lip Cream
17. Very light head torch
18. Map in waterproof case (Guide)
19. Basic first-aid Kit
20. Compass, wire, ski basket, ski tie, skin wax, scraper
21. Book, Ipod
22. Waterproof container with, money, passport, cards
23. Avalanche transceiver with spare batteries
24. Lightweight aluminium crampons
25. Avalanche Probe
26. Waterproof stuff sac for clothes
27. Lightweight aluminium ice axe
28. Very light Paclite Gore-Tex waterproof jacket and trousers
29. Woolly hat, sun hat
30. Ski gloves, thin gloves
31. Light synthetic duvet (down if its cold)
32. Soft shell jacket
33. Thin fleece, long sleeve thermal
34. Soft shell trousers