With backpacks, it’s horses for courses. If you’re going into the wilderness on a two-day splitboarding adventure, you might need more than adjustable straps and a laptop sleeve. Likewise there’s no point in having one with rescue whistles and an Avalung if you’re just using it to stash your lunch while you lap the rail line.
"Features like goggle pockets and carry straps will make you glad you went for something snowboard-specific"
Finding the one that’s right for you is easy once you consider the following things: capacity, material and functions. You’ll be surprised what you can get into a narrow ‘heli’ pack, although if you’re taking lunch for the family then you might want something more substantial.
Packs with thicker, more durable outer shells will hold up for longer, especially if you spend a lot of time in the backcountry, and features like goggle pockets and carry straps will make you glad you went for something snowboard-specific.
Here’s our pick of all backpacks great and small for 2015/16:
Scroll through the list to your heart’s content, or skip to your favourite brand using the links below.
All photographs by Sami Tuoriniemi
Production: Ed Blomfield / Mike Brindley / Andrew Duthie / Sami Tuoriniemi
Burton [ak] 31L Snowboard Backpack 2015-2016
As you’d expect with products in Burton’s backcountry-specific range, the Burton [ak] 31L backpack is a serious bit of kit. Encased in the multi-layered Ripstop fabric, you’ll find an intricate system that you’ll really want to get to grips with before you set off on your next mission.
- PRICE: £130
- CAPACITY: 31 litres
True to the Alaskan traditions of hiking and sledging to hard-to-reach spots, the [ak]31L pack features vertical board carrying straps as well as a slot behind the solid back padding where you can slide your board in and carry it horizontally.
The main part of the pack has multiple access points, from the simple side zip on the right hand side to a full length zipper that runs across the top of the pack, and all the way down the left hand side. Internally there’s then a drawstring-enclosed compartment, as well as labelled slots for all your avalanche gear, and a long side pocket offers even easier access for poles, water bottles, or any other essentials. On the top you have a handy fleece-lined goggle pocket, and then there are even a few secure external draws for poles or ice-axes if you need them.
Ergonomic shoulder straps and waist-strap padding make the whole thing hug your body in a way that many other packs don’t, and with that selection of features there’s no doubt that this will deliver the goods when circumstances turn against you.
DaKine 12L Snowboard Heli Pack 2015-2016
If you’re looking for a super-low-profile back for single day expeditions, the DaKine 12L Heli Pack definitely provides.
- PRICE: £130
- CAPACITY: 12 litres
As the name suggests, it’ll hold exactly what you need when you’re dropped at the top of your line without cramping up the whirlybird. A combination of a sturdy external shovel carrier and easily-accessible slots inside mean that your probe and shovel will always be easy to reach, and there’s even a whistle on the shoulder strap if you do get into trouble.
An internal insulated slot to hold a water bladder is a handy feature if you’re venturing into lower temperatures, and there’s enough room to pack a few lightweight layers should you need them.
Finally, the options on external straps enable you to carry your board using the pack should you need to, as well as offering plenty of support with chest and waist fastening too.
DC Gunner Snowboard Backpack 2015-2016
A great-looking resort backpack with capabilities for a few backcountry adventures too, the DC Gunner is sure to be one that you’ll get a lot of use out of.
- PRICE: £60
- CAPACITY: 23 litres
Slightly less technical than the super high-end Alaska-dedicated packs, it’s 100% Polyester Oxford outer houses a very reasonable 23 litres of space, with multiple stash spots for all the kit you use day-to-day, as well as a dedicated space for your shovel and probe when you need it. There are a few sturdy external straps for carrying your board, and a padded waist strap which is removable if you’re wearing the bag in more casual conditions.
The main compartment is roomy with a sleeve for your hydration pack, and as well as the good-size avy kit compartment there’s a third zip-up space on the outside, as well as two buttoned cargo pockets.
Jones Higher 30L Snowboard Backpack 2015-2016
Jones’ reputation for backcountry goods is understandably up there with the best. They’re designed around the needs of riders like Jeremy Jones himself, which means they need to be ready for some of the most intense conditions in the world, and the Jones Higher 30L backcountry pack is no exception.
- PRICE: £140
- CAPACITY: 30 litres
It’s unlikely you’re going to find yourself wanting here, regardless of the situation. 30 litres of space will be suitable for most riding situations without being too bulky, and the strap and storage options provide pretty much everything you could need from a bag.
Moulded padding in the back panel and slim padded S-shaped shoulder straps provide plenty of comfort, while two padded hip pockets on the waist strap give support as well as a handy additional storage slots for small objects.
A super-lightweight aluminium frame supports the body of the bag, and the main compartment is accessible via the back panel as well as through the full length zip. Inside it contains an insulated hydro pocket with a sleeve that runs down to a zippable pouch on the front of the shoulder. The two front pockets provide a fleece-lined space for goggles, and a separate space for avalanche tools – all encased in PVC-free recycled 450d fabric.
If you’re looking for the same backpack but with a dedicated space for an airbag system, the Jones Higher 30L RAS variation does exactly that.
Patagonia Snow Drifter 30L Snowboard Backpack 2015-2016
Patagonia are known the world over for producing high-end outdoor gear, and although you might find yourself facing a higher premium than other brands, there’s little doubt that the prices are reflected in the quality of their product. The Patagonia Snow Drifter is their backcountry pack, and as well as this versatile 30-litre version there are 20 or 40-litre models available too.
- PRICE: £120
- CAPACITY: 30 litres
In short, we found this to be a simple, high-end pack that’ll make things easier for you out on the mountain. As with many backcountry specific packs, the Patagonia Snow Drifter has a front pocket for avy kit with slots for your shovel, handle and probe. Moving back you’ll find a fleece-lined pocket for goggles, and the main compartment is accessible from both the top and the back panel, so you can get at your gear without unloading.
Externally, the pack is covered in DWR (durable water repellent) treated, 420 denier Cordura nylon that should hold off as many scrapes as you can get yourself into, and Air Flow mesh in the shoulder, back and waist straps will help with any overheating issues you might have. Cam locking straps help provide options for strapping your board or splits to the outside of the pack with no worry of it ever working loose.
Quiksilver Nitrited Snowboard Backpack 2015-2016
The Quiksilver Nitrited backpack is a compact 20-litre unit for days out on the hill, that could easily be used around town too.
- PRICE: £60
- CAPACITY: 20 litres
It features three asymmetrical zip pockets, as well as board-carrying straps and lightweight padding throughout. The shoulder straps are comfortable without too much complication, and a stripped-back waist and elastic chest fastening will come in handy when you’re riding.
The main storage space has room for a hydration pack/laptop, and the front pocket could easily house a shovel and probe. Or a whole bunch of stationary; there are slots for both! Finally, a fleece-lined pocket provides adequate space at the top of the pack, so you can stash your goggles with ease.
Quiksilver Platinum Snowboard Backpack 2015-2016
Travis Rice’s model of choice, the Quiksilver Platinum backpack is sure to be a winner. It comes this year in a new Military Green colourway, but retains all of the features that have helped it win awards in years gone by.
- PRICE: £60
- CAPACITY: 24 litres
The low profile designs spreads the 24-litre capacity of the pack evenly across your back, with a well-padded panel between you and the contents to keep everything comfy. Then a substantial but slim padded waist support helps to hold everything in place, as well as housing a small zipped pouch for items like your phone.
On the shoulder straps you’ll find a neoprene sleeve on the right that’ll keep your radio to hand, and a zippable slot on the left that leads into the main compartments – ideal for use with the mouthpiece of a hydration pack. The chest strap even has a small whistle to help you find your buddies.
The main storage space can either be accessed using the full-length zip (dispelling the need for rummaging in emergencies) or through a smaller top zip that also houses a padded, fleece-lined goggle pouch. Inside you’ll find a sleeve for a hydration pack or laptop, and one for your avalanche probe too, as well as an easily-accessible zip pocket for smaller items. The secondary pocket then offers a perfect spot for smaller shovels, and is even lined with tips on how to build a kicker.
Finally, on the outside you’ll find two straps for board-carrying, as well as a strong selection of loops for holding all the extras you could possibly need.
Ride Messiah Snowboard Backpack 2015-2016
The Ride Messiah pack could well be the perfect solution for riders who want a day-pack that’ll take you to the hill, and then hold it down when you’re there too.
- PRICE: £55
- CAPACITY: 23 litres
Velcro-down side straps flip out to provide room for your boots on approach, and there are horizontal and vertical board-carrying options to get you to your drop point; then once you’re there, the 23-litre capacity pack should provide adequate room for your street wear.
Unlike the more backcountry-orientated packs, this doesn’t have a dedicated spot for avalanche protection gear, but a back panel zip into the main compartment does offer quick and easy access to your gear should you need it, and there’s a space for a hydration pack in there too. A separate lined goggle pocket also provides a spot to keep your optics at hand, while the panel on the front will take the weight of your board when hiking.
Volcom Automation Snowboard Backpack 2015-2016
Volcom’s Automation pack fulfils the stylish simplicity slot in our backpack choices. You won’t find specific avalanche kit storage here, or back panel access, but if you want something for day-to-day use that you can still take on the hill, this could well be for you.
- PRICE: £100
- CAPACITY: 37 litres
Designed with two main pockets and two side pockets, you’ll be able to stash almost anything in its 37-litre capacity shell; and handy extras like a chest strap and sunglasses pocket on the shoulder strap are sure to give added value when you’re in resort.
The padded back panel and shoulder straps keep things comfy, and the large top loop makes it easy to carry even if you’re in mittens.