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How to pick the perfect winter backpack

Now that you have determined the length of your outdoor adventure, you can decide which backpacks have the characteristics you need for you winter excursions.

For the winter day hiker, you will likely be hiking in less dangerous conditions and you won’t stay out for longer than 3-4 hours. You will still need to bring along extra layers, and extra hat and gloves, but you may not bring a shelter or stove. For the advanced hiker and the overnight winter camper, what you need in a pack will be different.

What To Look For In A Backpack For Serious Winter Adventures:

  • Capacity and Weight: Somewhere in the range of 65-85 liters internal capacity is best. Look for a pack that weighs no more than 5 pounds.Winter camping requires more gear such as your -25 below down sleeping bag and sleeping pads, a free-standing winter tent, extra dry inner layers, socks and shoes. All of this extra weight adds up fast. Add the strenuous hike and overnight camping and you’ll be glad you choose a lighter pack. Snow Shoe rentals
  • External attachment points: These are for carrying your extra gear, like avalanche shovel, snowshoes, axe, and more! Some of the most common types of external attachments we find useful are Daisy chains, compression straps, belt loop webbing, and Webbed Ice axe loops. Compression straps serve to compress the load, removing the extra air and bulk of your pack. Another helpful tip is to keep the bulk of the weight closer to your core so that you can carry the weight more easily. Compression straps also allow you to attach sleeping pads, snowshoes, avalanche shovels, and even skis. Packs with 2 or 3 rows of adjustable compression straps running horizontally across the pack offer a lot of options for carrying gear, so look for these.
  • A floating pocket lid: This pocket is especially useful for winter hikes. It’s a detachable top pocket that is attached to the pack usually by 4 straps. This pocket provides extra carry room for items such as a coil of rope. A floating pocket lid can also be useful for keeping the extra capacity extension of your winter pack in position.

Many winter packs with the features we’ve described are known as mountaineering packs or climbing packs. But the characteristics a climber is looking for are many of the same characteristics an adventure hiker and winter backcountry camper would be interested in as well. Finding a great fit in a comfortable winter pack is key to making your winter hike enjoyable. Remember, with Outdoor Geeks you can see which pack is best for you risk-free with our Rent it, Try it, or Buy it program!