I have been hauling around the same old ski backpack for five seasons, and I love it. It was my first backpack and I opted for a ~30L size so that I could handle any size trip. I realized over time that 90% of trips could be done with a way smaller pack. This season, the Arc’teryx Rush SK 16 Backpack came into my life like a breath of fresh air or a powder day. It’s small, sleek and just the right size for day trips in the backcountry.
Arc’teryx Rush SK 16 Ski Touring Backpack Features:
- High tenacity N210r HT nylon 6,6 LCP pack cloth
- Ultradurable N400r-AC² nylon 6 ripstop waterproof fabric used in areas exposed to snow and moisture
- Skis carry diagonally, snowboards carry vertically
- Reflective white interior makes it easier to see items inside the pack
- Taped seams for added weather protection
- Ergonomic waist belt
- Adjustable, removable sternum strap with safety whistle
- Removable external helmet carry system
- Padded back panel with frame sheet and aluminum stay help carry load comfortably
- Dedicated avalanche tool pocket is easily accessible via main compartment or side zipper
- Stash pocket
- Lid pocket
- Weight: 1lb 10oz
- MSRP: $200
Just enough carry, nothing too much:
I’ll start by saying that this is a really minimal, sparse backpack which is designed to haul stuff for a single day in the backcountry and not much else. If you’re looking for something that can do it all, this isn’t for you. But if you don’t want a Swiss Army knife, this is a great scalpel.
The build is very straightforward. It’s a relatively clean backpack with a slim profile when viewed from the side. There is a single small stash pocket located on the top pocket which is big enough for a smart phone, a handful of bars and your keys – it’s actually pretty roomy. The main compartment is accessed by a generous two-way zipper, which descends nearly halfway down the side of the pack providing huge access.
Along the back of the pack you find a bladder sleeve, and then three specialized pockets for your shovel, shovel handle and probe. I also fit a snow saw into one of the lateral pockets. The rest of the internal compartment is storage, built out of a white reflective fabric that makes it easier to find items deep in the pack. One mystery for me is why there’s no port for the bladder hose – I routed my hose through the zipper like a jerry and it flopped around throughout the day. Finally, a zippered security pocket hangs on the inner front wall of the pack for keys, valuables, bars or cool pine cones.
The outside of the pack is super clean with a characteristic Arc’teryx minimalism. There are two horizontal straps doing double duty for compression and ski/board hauling. The straps aren’t fixed to anything, so if you want to completely remove them to save weight, you can. The flip side is that it’s possible to lose them through carelessness or an accident if both ends are unclipped. The Rush SK lets you carry in an A-frame or diagonally, although I didn’t spend much time with skis on my back since it’s deep winter and I can skin everywhere I want to go.
There’s also a minimalist helmet carry sling, which is a little nylon/elastic bit with four shock cord attachments. I like this and overall it worked well, but I wasn’t 100% sure I was attaching it the way Arc’teryx wanted me to, and there’s no guidance online for how they designed the attachments to work. Maybe I was being dense, but at times a shock cord clip would pop off and I’d check my pack later to find that only three out of the four attachments were in place. I never lost a helmet, but suffice it to say I have seen more stable (and heavier) carry systems.
Arc’teryx chose a sewn-in waist band, which you will either love or hate. Personally I appreciate the hip belt design and thought it was comfortable and provided adequate support for the (fairly light) loads that I could fit in the Rush SK’s 16 liters. Conspicuously absent are any hip belt pockets, which don’t really fit with the Rush SK’s minimalist ethos even if they are convenient.
Using the Rush SK 16 is a classic Arc’teryx experience. The pack is so well designed and built that you mostly forget about it while you’re using it. It’s sleek, and it stays out of your way. On twisty tree runs, it moves with you rather than feeling like it’s chasing you, the way some bulkier ski packs can feel. I also loved the smooth waterproof fabric, and never worried once about my gear getting wet. The ultradurable nylon that Arc’teryx made the main pack body out of is super strong and puncture/tear resistant, and the large-gauge sealed zipper complements its strength.
I also appreciated the pack on the uptrack. Approaches in the Pacific Northwest often mean getting through some shrubs or low trees, and the low profile of the pack lets you duck under obstacles more easily. The shoulder straps are padded just enough to keep that ultralight feel but still offer good support throughout the day. With just 16 liters of storage you do have to be selective about what you put in the pack, and that helps keep the load on the straps lighter.
I generally fit all of my rescue gear, a mid-sized first aid kit, basic binding tools and a GPS beacon, a puffy, warm gloves and a shell in the Rush SK 16. Anything much more was pushing it. The problem with sizing down is that you don’t have as much room to improvise if something unplanned happens. If your buddy’s gear needs to be packed out for any reason, it’s probably not going to fit in your pack.
- Excellent design and manufacturing quality with bombproof fabrics
- Thoughtful integration of features and design, with just enough storage and organization
- Top zippered pocket is roomy and easy to access, doesn’t get compressed by gear in the pack
- I loved the sleek profile and fit of this backpack, it tours and skis REALLY well
- 16L of storage is a perfect size for most day trips
- I wish there was a bladder hose outlet
- Lack of a detachable hip belt (or pockets) will irritate some
- 16L doesn’t leave much room for unexpected events
The Bottom Line: Arc’teryx Rusk SK 16 Backpack
Like so many Arc’teryx products, this one is pretty ‘specialized,’ meaning it’s designed for a narrow purpose. This is a lightweight no-frills but comfortable 16 liter backcountry touring backpack for people who want to pack light for one day of touring. If you fall into that category of users, you will find that this backpack suits all of your needs and keeps you feeling light and fast. I don’t recommend it as a ‘first’ backpack for new tourers looking for a lightweight setup, because there’s not enough room to pack layering options. Lastly, for some users, the lack of a bladder outlet will be a daily annoyance. I don’t mean to be negative here: this is a really awesome pack for its intended purpose. It’s also built like a tank and could easily last a decade.
Buy now: Available from Arc’teryx.com