The Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2003 came to Salt Lake City from Jan. 30 – Feb. 3, 2003. We were on-hand to cover some of the newest products of interest to both our readers and us. With everyone venturing in the backcountry these days, we thought it wise to cover the piece of equipment that allows you to carry the other important pieces–the pack.

Backcountry ski packs have been around for years as smaller backpacks with the ability to carry skis in an A-frame style. That’s pretty much all you needed. Well, for short bootpacks, resort backcountry or even moderately long treks back up to the ridge, nothing beats the ease of the cross-carrying ability of DaKine’s line of backcountry packs. So, DaKine pretty much pioneered that design and with that, injected some new energy into this market segment.

It seems like other manufacturers are stepping into the fray and finally offering backcountry-specific packs with the day-trip or in-bounds/out-of-bounds treks common at today’s resorts. Surprisingly, many mainstream backpack manufacturers like Mountainsmith and Gregory do not offer their packs with cross-carrying capability. It seems like a small detail that many people appreciate so much.

Here’s a sampling of the packs that made the list of innovative, backcountry-friendly designs.

Backcountry Access

Backcountry Access, a company who made its mark as the purveyor of the “pocket copter”, or what’s commonly known as Alpine Trekkers and the Tracker DTS digital avalanche beacon (a first of its kind) also manufacturers some of the most innovative packs in the industry. Their revolutionary Stash pack was the first pack to address the freezing hydration tube issue with a real-world solution. Why not zip the tube into the shoulder strap? That design has pushed other manufacturers to attempt similar designs.

This innovative method of insulating the tube from freezing also protects the bite-valve from getting dirty. How many times have you set down your pack only to take a swig from a dirt-covered bite-valve? Let me tell you… this feature is awesome by itself. All packs also feature the less bulky waterproof zippers to add to their simple solutions.

Some big new features for BCA packs for 2003-2004 will be an expanded line to target mountaineering and snowboard-specific designs. As is standard with all BCA packs, they are built such that all your gear is stashed neatly inside the pack–a nice feature!

Stash Pack | Retail: $109 | Product Review
The Stash Pack offers a manageable design for short backcountry trips, yo-yo’s or out-of-bounds trips from your local resort. With nearly 1200 cubic inches of storage capacity, this pack has just enough size to accommodate your safety gear, skins, lunch, a camera and not too much else. But, for most backcountry tips, what else would you really need? The first pack in the industry with built-in hydration-tube protection, and is a perfect light backcountry companion. Included is a great 70 oz. bladder with insulated tube. This pack is also available as the Stash Rider for our one-planker friends.

Stash BC Pack | Retail: $145 | Product Review
The Stash BC Pack is a slightly larger version of the Stash pack–offering larger capacity (2400 ci.), more pockets, daisy chains and a beefier suspension system to carry the load comfortably. With cross-carrying capability standard, A-frame ski carrying is also an option–a benefit on longer treks. This pack offers the best of both large and micro-pack worlds with a large main storage compartment containing a seperate pocket for a probe, skins or the shovel handle. Again BCA throws out all the stops and includes a beefy 100 oz. bladder with the Stash BC with an easy-fill top.

For more information, visit

Indigo Equipment

Based in Carbondale, Colorado, Indigo Equipment is a relatively new brand in the outdoor gear market, but is headed by outdoor gear savvy individuals with plenty of experience and equipment know-how. Their line of packs offers many new and innovative features exclusive to Indigo like their Indi-Wrap ski carrying device and Tool Box design to keep your stuff organized.With some innovative features and a commitment to building the best equipment available, Indigo should gain a loyal following in the backcountry crowd. These packs are light, considering they have a frame sheet and aluminum stay–a nice touch in this market. Next to DaKine, they definitely offer the most stylish packs. Why is that? Why do some backpack companies think people don’t care about colors and design? Well, Indigo combines good looks with best-in-class functionality and smart pricing.

Elvn | Retail: $120
The Elvn is a great short-haul touring pack with 1500 cu. in. of capacity neatly organized with the Indigo Tool Box System. Some other features that are standard on the entire line include a sweet suspension system with a back panel that will vent easily, hydration pocket, and bombproof Indi-Wrap ski carriers (A-frame only). To extend the capacity of this pack, it also features a shock-cord system to store outer layers while skinning. The Elvn is offered in a single size.

Twlv | Retail: $136 | Review Soon
The Twlv offers a solidly sized pack (2200 cu. in.), but not too big. In fact, this pack just might be the ultimate size for daytrips and resort backcountry. Offered in both a regular and long, the Twlv should win over the hearts of many backcountry travelers.

For more information, visit

Black Diamond

Black Diamond has built it’s reputation on bomber rock climbing equipment and more recently has expanded thier expertise to the realm of packs. Thier approach has and continues to be creating ski packs that are all about essentials. Clean, light and affordablility are what they preach and with the introduction of the Slide Pack, they’ve nailed it. For it’s size, features, and it’s ability to be “light on the wallet,” the Slide Pack might be the heavy wieght of the pack reviews.

Slide Pack | Retail: $78 | Product Review
The Slide Pack is a skier or snowboarder friendly day pack. The clean clamshell design rides nicely on both the uphill and the all important downhill. It offers easy to access pockets with a more than supportive syspension system. This pack really shines with it’s well thought out added features. Essential gear storage (shovel, probe, etc) is optimized to leave room for the other essential gear (trail mix, digi camera, windshirt). Don’t let the affordable price scare you into thinking this pack won’t measure up! For more information, visit

Osprey Packs

Osprey, long known for mountaineering and climbing applications, introduces three new packs to serve the backcountry skiing and snowboarding crowd. Dubbed the Switch Series, these packs are built around a small, central hydration pack system–called the AquaSource, or +5–with detachable secondary pack systems. The Switch Series should hit retail stores in late 2003. This gives the ultimate in flexibility on longer outings–allowing you to doff the large pack for a smaller one while yo-yoing in the backcountry.

The AquaSource allows a totally custom fit for any of the packs in the series by simply swapping it out for one of three torso sizes. This greatly simplifies the fitting process since retailers do not have to carry all three sizes of all three packs–only of the AquaSource.To tackle the problem of keeping your liquids, well… liquid… they have come up with an insulated zipper sleeve integrated into the right shoulder very similar to BCA. The main difference is that the zipper is on the inside of the shoulder strap for more ergonomic access to the tube. The AquaSource system retails for $49 alone, but is included with all three packs in the line.

All three packs offer back panel access to the main compartment. This feature is absolutely key to allowing easy access to your stuff, while keeping snow away from the part of the pack that touches you… comprende? This is an awesome feature! Now, you can set your pack down and access your stuff without having to lay your shoulder straps, waist belt and back panel in the snow.

Switch 25+5 | Retail: $139
This pack is the perfect size for light backcountry trips or resort-accessed backcountry trips. With 1600 – 2000 cu. in. of capacity (depending on size), this pack can carry all the necessary gear for a day trip. One of the coolest features of this pack is the array of ski and snowboard carrying capabilities. For skis, A-frame or cross-carry capabilities are options and for snowboards, both vertical and horizontal options can be used. In addition, the compression wings on the system will accommodate the storage of larger items such as snowshoes or simply strapping your jacket on the pack.

Switch 40+5 | Retail: $189
Designed as the workhorse of the Switch line, the Switch 40+5 is built on the same AquaSource platform for the ultimate in customized fit and versatility. With between 2300 and 2700 cu. in., this pack is great for full-day touring adventures. Equally-suited for ski or snowboard touring, this pack can easily accommodate a snowboard horizontally or vertically and skis vertically or diagonally. Everything is stashed away neatly inside the pack or the outsize organizer pocket to reduce flapping straps and shovel handles that may catch on a low-lying aspen branch.

For more information, visit NOTE: These packs are 2004 models due out in Fall 2003.


Our packs of choice for their sexy good looks and bomber functionality, the DaKine backcountry packs offer everything you could ever want in a combo resort/backcountry pack. Some of their larger packs are also well suited for daytrips in the backcountry. Integrated bladder sleeves and improved hydration systems for 2003 allow for easy sipping while hiking. DaKine has always leaned on a good, creative design and input from sponsored athletes. New this year is a Jonny Moseley signature model, the JMP with the same bomber DaKine quality.

PRO II | Retail: $n/a
The Pro II offers everything you could ever want in a larger pack, but stuffed into 1458 cu. in. Some key features are the standard quick-draw holsters for your shovel shaft or ice axe, three organizer pockets and cross-carry snowboard capability. As usual, it is hydration compatible to keep you from peeing nuclear yellow. It also offers a comfy molded back panel to allow better ventilation and load carrying. The Pro II is destined to become a favorite of those who only want one pack that they will use in-bounds and out-of-bounds.

Blade | Retail: $n/a
The Blade pack offers streamlined space for a set backcountry routine. Sitting in at 1824 cu. in., the Blade rides the line between larger, all-day packs and smaller, yo-yo packs. With standard DaKine features and some extra ones unavailable on other models, like back-panel quick access and vertical snowboard carrying capability, the Blade has alot of tricks up its sleeve for a dialed-in daytrip into the backcountry. And with new reinforced buckles and straps, it will last a long time and keep a smile on your face the whole time.

Buy Now: Search for Ski PacksĀ at REI

About Author

A Seattle native, Jason developed a love for the outdoors and a thing for mountains. That infatuation continues as he founded this site in 1999 --sharing his love of road biking, mountain biking, trail running and skiing. That passion is channeled into every article or gear review he writes. Utah's Wasatch Mountains are his playground.

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