Packed for safety: Whatever the winter sport, packs make room for emergency tools

Next season’s winter packs have a wide variety of applications, from snowshoeing to backcountry skiing to park riding, but they share one thing in common: They feature tweaks to help you access safety tools in case of emergency.
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Throughout the next month, SNEWS will recap its coverage of Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2013 with select stories from the O.R. Daily we published at the show Jan. 23-26. It’s an opportunity for you to catch up on stories you might have missed in O.R.D., and for us to update and upload the articles to our searchable archives.

Next season’s winter packs have a wide variety of applications, from snowshoeing to backcountry skiing to park riding, but they share one thing in common: They feature tweaks to help you access safety tools in case of emergency.

It’s a direct response to last year’s increase in avalanche casualties and media attention. A slew of new avy airbags got most of the attention at Winter Market (see coverage here), but there were plenty of non-airbag winter packs as well. Trends include easy-to-access tool storage, growing use of the AvaLung and, in some cases, snow tools sold with the pack.

Built with sidecountry skiers in mind, Osprey’s Reverb 18L pack (MSRP $99) sports a low profile for a more comfortable ride up the lift. Other features, like zip pockets for easy access to cash or passes, are rounded out with multiple snowboard and diagonal ski carry options and an insulated hydration sleeve to keep water from freezing in the hose. Sleeves carry a shovel handle and probe, and a quick-access pocket allows wearers to get to their safety kit with minimal delay.


Osprey Reverb 18

Black Diamond continues to expand its AvaLung series packs, which integrate a breathing tube to stave off asphyxiation when buried in an avalanche. The technology draws air from the snow then exhales through the back of the pack. The new Anthem AvaLung pack (MSRP $269), available in 26- and 28-liter configurations, has an active suspension system, providing carry comfort and a wide range of motion going uphill and down. A padded hipbelt, breathable backpanel and insulated hydration sleeve are welcome details, as is the helmet holder. It’s also available without the AvaLung (MSRP $159).

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Black Diamond Anthem

One of the more interesting ways we’ve seen manufacturers encourage avalanche safety involves changing the package rather than the pack. Instead of upgrading its Hyak pack, K2 Snowboarding has packaged the 2013/14 version with avalanche safety tools. The Hyak Pack Kit (MSRP $230) includes the K2 the Rescue Shovel and its 230cm aluminum probe.


K2 Hyak Pack Kit

“It’s not new tech, but it raises awareness that you need more than just a backpack in the backcountry,” said Hunter Waldron, K2 Snowboarding’s global marketing manager. “It’s a good one-stop shop. With it, you’re more likely to land in the BC with everything you need.”

Dakine also releases a combo package. Its 11-liter Ally backcountry pack (MSRP $170) comes with a shovel, a snow probe and a rescue whistle integrated into the sternum strap buckle.


Dakine Ally

Walking the show floor, it’s clear that ski packs aren’t just for skiing anymore. With a versatile array of tool mounting options and beefed-up suspensions that can minimize the pain of carrying a pack full of trad climbing tools, more wintersports athletes will be able to find a pack that suits their needs.

Designed for use as a backcountry ski, alpine climb and fastpacking pack, Mountainsmith’s Mayhem 35 (MSRP $130) has a recommended load limit of 45 pounds with a build that’s meant to ease the carry of that weight for the user. Dual density shoulder straps and a lumbar control point pad take pressure off the shoulders, and a polyethelene frame sheet spreads the load over a wide surface.


Mountainsmith Mayhem 35

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Gregory gets back into the winter pack category with an updated and expanded version of its Targhee pack, built to handle everything from snowshoeing and ice climbing to skiing and snowboarding. The Targhee comes in 18-, 26-, 32- and 45-liter options (MSRPs $119/$159/$179/$199), each with Gregory’s Vertiflex suspension system to help carry heavy loads and various ways to strap on a board or a pair of skis.


Gregory Targhee 32

Deuter’s new top-loading Guide Tour 45 pack (MSRP $189) sports A-frame ski carry and vertical snowboard carry options, plus ice tool attachments, making it possible to tweak the pack for use while skiing, mountaineering or climbing. The Guide Tour’s pivoting hip belt takes some of the sting out of hauling gear uphill, while the aluminum x-frame also helps with heavier loads and the air-channeled foam stripes in the back panel keep air moving between the wearer and the pack.

If it’s going to be a shorter day in the backcountry or at a resort without much gear to carry, check out Vaude’s Flaine and Updraft (MSRPs $100) and Mountain Hardwear’s Snowtastic 18 (MSRP $100) packs. They cut down weight and profile with enough room for essential gear plus ski and snowboard carry options.


Mountain Hardwear Snowtastic 18

Other winter-specific packs we encountered on the Outdoor Retailer show floor include CamelBak’s slim-profiled Bootlegger (MSRP $55), designed to be worn under a jacket to keep the 1.5-liter reservoir close to the body, and the bombproof Grivel Marbrees (MSRP $120) made from 100 percent recycled fabric.

--Billy Brown

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