Do You Need a Backpack for Snowboarding? Here’s What You Need to Know 

 December 26, 2023

By  Keith Terrell

Picture this: You're halfway down a pristine, snow-covered mountain on your snowboard. The adrenaline is pumping and the wind is whipping past you in a euphoric rush. Suddenly, you realize that the trail map and emergency gear are still at the lodge and not where they should be with you. It seems like your dream day has just skidded off. Don't let this scenario become a reality. To avoid it, you need to be well prepared—and that starts with a snowboard backpack.

Although a backpack isn't strictly necessary for snowboarding, it can be very useful for carrying essentials such as food, drink, and sunscreen. If you want to snowboard outside the lifts, a backpack is also essential to carry extra clothing, safety gear, and emergency supplies.

However, carrying a heavy backpack can affect your performance on the slopes, so it's important that you weigh the potential benefits against the added weight.

Types of Snowboarding Backpacks?

When choosing a backpack for snowboarding, it is important to consider what type of backpack is best for your needs. There are two main types of backpacks: shoulder backpacks and snowboard backpacks.

Shoulder Backpacks

Shoulder backpacks are the most common type of backpack used for snowboarding. They have two straps that go over the shoulders and can be worn on the back while riding. These backpacks are typically smaller, but they are more versatile than other backpack types. They are suitable for carrying essentials like snacks, extra layers of clothing, and sunscreen. If you plan to snowboard on groomed trails or off-piste, a shoulder backpack may be the best choice for you.

Snowboard Rucksacks

Snowboard rucksacks, on the other hand, are specifically designed for snow sports activities. They have a unique design that allows them to carry either skis or a snowboard on the back and still have enough space for all the necessary items. These backpacks are usually larger than shoulder backpacks and offer additional padding and support when carried—making it more comfortable to carry heavier loads such as an avalanche kit, first aid supplies, or ice tools.

Choosing Between Shoulder Backpacks and Snowboard Rucksacks

Whether you choose a shoulder backpack or a snowboard backpack depends on a number of factors, including your skill level, your experience with backpacking in general, and your personal preferences. While both types of backpacks are good for snowboarding, snowboard backpacks offer better support and comfort for longer trips but can also be bulky and difficult to store on the lift or when not in use. Shoulder backpacks, on the other hand, are light and very portable. This type of backpack suitable for advanced snowboarders who have good mobility and can cope with different terrain.

A backpack is like a snowboard accessory – it should match your snowboarding style, just like a new pair of boots or bindings would. Whether you prefer the versatility of a shoulder backpack or the specific features of a snowboard backpack depends on your needs, your comfort, and what you intend to do on the mountain.

Now that we have discussed the two main types of backpacks typically used for snowboarding, let's look at the advantages and disadvantages of each model, starting with shoulder backpacks.

Shoulder Backpacks

Shoulder backpacks come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. They are designed for those who want to stay light on their feet and move effortlessly around their surroundings. They usually sit higher on the back than snowboard backpacks, allowing riders a greater range of motion for the upper body and shoulders.

Shoulder backpacks have many advantages compared to other styles. First, they are easy to carry as they can be quickly removed when you are riding the lift - so you can carry them by your side while you are riding uphill. This allows you to move freely without worrying about the straps getting caught or tangled, making them more versatile in crowded areas such as lodges, cafes or buses. Secondly, their size and weight make them easier to carry than larger bags, making them a perfect option for a quick escape from the resort during a lunch break or a visit to the hot tub.

However there are disadvantages: size is one of them. The smaller size means less space for carrying larger equipment, such as avalanche safety gear, which can sometimes limit riders' options for exploring beyond the ski resort boundaries. For this very reason, many touring skiers use a combination of shoulder backpacks and vests to carry the necessary equipment and still remain light. Also, shoulder backpacks tend to be less padded and put extra strain on your back and shoulders if you carry something too bulky or heavy for a long period of time.

Overall, the decision to choose a shoulder backpack or another type can depend on several factors, but first and foremost, it depends on your needs and preferences. For an efficient day of snowboarding, a shoulder backpack is perfect, but this style may not offer enough space for more advanced riders who need a larger amount of gear. Therefore, you should consider other models such as a snowboard rucksack or a combination of shoulder backpacks and vests if you're going beyond the boundaries of the ski area.

Choosing the right backpack is similar to choosing the right snowboard length; it depends on your ability, your riding goals, environment, and comfort level.

Snowboard Rucksacks

When it comes to choosing a backpack for snowboarding, snowboard rucksacks are perhaps the most popular option. These backpacks are designed specifically for winter sports and have features that make them ideal for snowboarding enthusiasts.

Snowboard backpacks are larger than shoulder backpacks and have a larger capacity, making them suitable for longer tours and use in the backcountry. They're also designed to be worn on the back, so you can carry all your gear comfortably while riding.

These backpacks are designed to meet the needs of skiers and snowboarders. They feature specialized compartments for snowboarding equipment like helmets, goggles, avalanche safety gear, and other essential equipment. They can also have adjustable straps that can hold your snowboard or skis so they don't slip during the ride.

For example, if you're going on a long trip in the backcountry, a snowboard rucksack will provide enough storage space for all your supplies without weighing you down too much. These backpacks often have multiple pockets and compartments to keep everything organized as usual.

Also, many snowboard rucksacks have padded backs and chest straps that provide extra support to help reduce pressure on your shoulders and back so you can focus on riding. The padded back sections also protect you from bumps and injuries if you fall or collide with something while skiing or snowboarding.

Perhaps one of the most important benefits of snowboard rucksacks is their durability. Many of these backpacks are made of high-quality materials like waterproof nylon or polyester. These materials prevent water from getting into your gear when it snows so your electronic gadgets stay safe during transit.

One disadvantage of these backpacks is their weight. Because they're designed for a lot of gear, snowboard rucksacks can be quite heavy. However, many models have comfortable straps that distribute the weight evenly across your back and shoulders to reduce fatigue.

Features to Look For in a Snowboarding Backpack

One of the most important features of a snowboard backpack is its padding and compartments. You should look for a backpack with padded compartments to keep your gear safe and protected on the slopes. Dedicated storage pockets for electronic devices should also play an important role when choosing a backpack.

Another feature you should consider is waterproofing and insulation. When you're out in the mountains, there's always a risk of getting wet from snowfall or other weather-related conditions. A waterproof snowboard backpack protects your gear from the elements and keeps it dry even in adverse weather conditions. Some backpacks have integrated insulating layers such as neoprene to keep drinks hot or cold.

Capacity and size are another important factor when choosing a backpack for snowboarding. The ideal capacity depends on how much gear you’re taking and how long you plan to be out. If you're going on longer trips or backcountry skiing, opt for larger backpacks like snowboard rucksacks. Remember that bigger sizes usually mean heavier bags!

Good ventilation prevents you from sweating too much. That's why it's important to find a backpack made of breathable materials to stay dry while you're hauling your stuff through the mountains.

Choosing the right snowboarding backpack is like choosing a specific piece of a jigsaw puzzle– everything has to fit into place. The backpack should be the perfect companion by providing the comfort, storage, and protection you need as a snowboarder.

Padded Compartments for Your Gear

When snowboarding, you need to carry a lot of gear, such as extra layers, gloves, and goggles. That's why a backpack with padded compartments is essential. It protects your delicate items from damage and ensures that they are stored in their own designated spaces.

One of the most common injuries in snowboarding is falling on your back and hitting your gear. If you have a backpack with padded compartments, the impact will be absorbed by the padding and not transferred to your fragile items. This not only prevents damage to your gear but also reduces the risk of injury.

I once had a friend who went snowboarding without a backpack with padded compartments. He fell heavily on his back, and his expensive camera was completely smashed. If he had used a backpack with padded compartments, that wouldn’t have happened.

Padded compartments allow for better organization of your items. You can have specific pockets for goggles, hydration equipment, snacks, or electronic devices. This way, you can focus on the slopes ahead of you without fumbling through your backpack looking for what you need.

If you are looking for a snowboarding backpack with padded compartments, you should pay attention to the quality of the padding material used. Some cheaper brands have thin padding that does not provide enough protection for your gear. Look for thick foam or special shock-absorbing pads that will cushion even the hardest falls.

Waterproofing and Insulation

When snowboarding, you're out in the cold for a long time. That's why it's important to wear warm and dry clothes. Many snowboarders rely on top-notch waterproofing and insulation in their backpacks to protect their belongings from getting soaked in the snow, moisture or rain.

I once went snowboarding with a cheap backpack that wasn't properly waterproofed. When my water bottle leaked inside, it caused chaos and soaked my electronic devices, goggles, and other delicate items. That's when I realized how important it is to have a good snowboarding backpack that is waterproof.

Your backpack must be able to withstand heavy snowfall or rain showers while you're on the slopes. It should have a waterproof outer material such as Gore-Tex, which will keep your gear dry and prevent unwanted moisture from entering. Welded seams are best instead of sewn seams that leave holes for water droplets.

Good insulation is also important as it can keep your food and drinks at an optimal temperature even in very cold weather conditions. Look for an insulated compartment that can hold your hydration system or food. Some backpacks even have a separate compartment with heating function—a great option for those who prefer to drink warm beverages while snowboarding.

Although insulation is important, you should not overdo it with over-insulated backpacks as they can become very heavy and bulky—even with the empty weight. The extra weight of the backpack would restrict your freedom of movement and affect your posture. In general, a compact and lightweight backpack with breathable materials such as mesh padding will give you more freedom of movement and better air circulation at the back.

Benefits and Drawbacks of Snowboarding with a Backpack

Snowboarding with a backpack is a popular trend among snowboarders because it gives them enough ample space to carry all their essentials like food, water, clothes, and gear. However, this practice also comes with some drawbacks and limitations that can affect your snowboarding performance. Here are the pros and cons of snowboarding with a backpack.

One of the main benefits of a backpack when snowboarding is that it keeps all your essentials organized and within reach. With a backpack, you don’t need to carry separate bags for your gear because everything can be stored in one place. You can also avoid long queues in canteens by packing snacks and meals in your backpack, saving time and energy.

Another advantage of a backpack for snowboarding is that you can carry extra gear like goggles, gloves, hats, or helmets without feeling weighed down. The additional protection these items provide will keep you warm all day without having to worry about your belongings getting stolen or lost.

Although there are many advantages to using a backpack for snowboarding, there are also some disadvantages that should be considered before making the switch. One of the biggest concerns of snowboarders is how wearing a backpack can affect your balance and performance on the slopes. The extra weight on your back can cause you to lose your balance or have difficulty maneuvering through tight turns.

Compare this situation to carrying groceries home from the store. It can be a challenge to walk straight with heavy bags on both arms. Similarly, carrying a heavy backpack while riding on snowy terrain can affect your balance.

Therefore, it’s important to consider the weight and size of your backpack before using it for snowboarding. You should only take what is necessary and important for your needs.

Note, however, that the effect of backpacks on balance is subjective. What throws one snowboarder off balance may have no impact on another. In fact, wearing a backpack while snowboarding can help some riders maintain balance on the descent, especially if they're carrying heavy equipment.

Another disadvantage of using a backpack when snowboarding is that it can be uncomfortable over a long period of time. If your backpack does not fit properly or hard plastic parts rub against you as you ride down the slope, you may experience discomfort or pain.

Similarly, if a runner is running without proper footwear or tight laces, blisters or sores can form from the friction generated between the foot and shoe.

Therefore, when buying a snowboarding backpack, make sure it is comfortable and fits well to avoid such problems.

Safety Considerations When Carrying a Backpack on the Slopes

When using a backpack for snowboarding, it's important to consider safety factors. Snowboarding itself has risks and an improperly worn backpack can increase the risk of injury. Here are some essential safety considerations for wearing a backpack on the slopes:

  1. Make sure your backpack fits properly so it doesn't impede your movements or your vision. Securely fasten the straps around your waist, chest, and shoulders to prevent the backpack from falling off during jumps or tricks, reducing the risk of injury to you and others.
  2. If you're using a hydration pack with drinking tubes, place them at the front to prevent strangulation or tangling with objects.
  3. Be aware of the weight you're carrying. A backpack that is too heavy can cause fatigue, muscle tension, balance problems, and other associated issues. Think of the example of a pilot, where every kilogram of extra weight increases fuel consumption and can affect navigation.

Therefore, it's crucial to avoid overpacking and only carry items that are essential to your trip.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can a backpack hinder performance while snowboarding?

Yes, a backpack can affect snowboarding performance if it is not the right size or if it is not worn properly. A bulky and heavy backpack can shift your center of gravity and affect your balance, making it difficult to turn or maneuver quickly. It can also restrict your movements and limit your range of motion, which can impede your ability to perform tricks or jumps.

However, wearing a well-fitting and properly adjusted backpack can actually improve your snowboarding performance. It allows you to carry essentials such as water, snacks, and extra clothing without having to stop at the lodge every time you need something. In addition, some backpacks have special features designed specifically for snowboarding like hydration systems, trauma pads to protect your back, and avalanche airbags, which can improve both safety and performance.

To avoid compromising your performance on the slopes, choose a lightweight backpack that is specifically designed for snowboarding and has all the necessary safety features according to industry standards, such as the backpacks from ABS or Mammut. Make sure it sits comfortably on your back, doesn't restrict your freedom of movement, and doesn't affect your balance so you can concentrate on enjoying the ride.

Is a specific type of backpack recommended for snowboarding?

A backpack with features such as a hydration system, waterproof material, and additional straps to secure your snowboard is highly recommended for snowboarding. Most avid snowboarders use backpacks specifically designed for snowboarding.

Furthermore, using a regular everyday backpack can cause discomfort and possible injury because it doesn't provide enough support and protection. Snowboarding-specific backpacks offer extra padding on the back and straps to reduce pressure points and increase comfort during long days on the mountain.

Although it may seem like any backpack will do, investing in a snowboarding backpack will provide more protection and comfort during your time on the slopes. It's always better to be safe than sorry.

Are there other ways to carry your equipment when snowboarding besides the backpack?

Yes, there are alternative methods to carry your equipment while snowboarding besides the backpack. One of the most popular ones is the use of fanny packs or waist packs.

Fanny packs can be worn around the waist so that your shoulders and back are not strained. They are also compact and lightweight and help you keep your balance while snowboarding. They also usually have several compartments where you can organize your equipment.

Another alternative is to use jacket pockets, especially if you have a jacket with several pockets designed for this purpose. This method is also light and keeps everything within reach without feeling bulky.

Although backpacks are still a popular choice for carrying gear when snowboarding, fanny packs and jacket pockets are good options for those looking for alternatives. It's all about finding the method that works best for you and your needs on the slopes!

What are the benefits of wearing a backpack while snowboarding?

  1. Better storage space: A backpack provides ample space for essentials such as extra layers, snacks, water bottles, sunscreen, and small tools.
  2. Better weight distribution: Wearing a backpack helps to distribute weight evenly and improve balance while riding. This is especially beneficial if you are carrying heavy items in bags or jackets that can interfere with your center of gravity.
  3. Reduces fatigue and exertion: For those prone to fatigue or back problems, a backpack with the right support and padding can reduce fatigue and strain, contributing to a more comfortable and longer snowboarding experience.
  4. Specialized features: Modern snowboarding backpacks often include features such as hydration systems, integrated helmet holders, and pockets for avalanche gear.

Ultimately, the decision to wear a backpack while snowboarding is a matter of personal preference. However, considering the advantages mentioned above, it is worth investing in a high-quality snowboarding backpack. Make sure it fits well, meets your requirements, and does not restrict your freedom of movement.

About the author

Keith is a one bag traveler and the owner of Backpacks Global. His go to backpack is the Osprey FarPoint 40.

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