How to pack your backpack for a ski-touring trip?

What the hell is in the backpack?! I often ask myself this when sweating under a weighty backpack on a ski tour. Over time I’ve come to pack lightly, i.e. cutting out the extras, but some things are essential items on your "What to pack in your backpack for a ski tour" list. Let’s check them out.

How to pack your backpack for a ski-touring trip?
How to pack your backpack for a ski-touring trip?

Basic gear

Emergency equipment (for off-piste ski tours in mountains)

Essentials not to leave home without. The following are absolute musts for off-piste mountain ski tours:

  • Avalanche gear: shovel, probe, finder

  • First aid kit, including insulating foil

  • Headlamp

Other equipment depends on the conditions. How long is the hike? Just going up a hill above a village, or across a glacier? Weather conditions? Snow and avalanche reports? Don’t overestimate your strengths, and carefully evaluate your abilities. Regular ski tourers know which items to pack for what conditions. But here’s a list of essentials for newbies.


Both worn and packed. At the summit you’ll need dry clothes, or extra layers if the weather worsens.

Base layer

Mid layer and top layer for ascent

Top layer for summit and descent


  • Cap, headband

  • Multifunctional neck scarf

  • Thinner climbing gloves

  • Thicker, warm, windproof downhill gloves

Other key accessories

UV protection is essential in the mountains. So pack UV filter sunglasses, sunscreen, and SPF factor lip balm. And you’ll appreciate:

  • Thermos/insulated hydro bag

  • Food, energy bars, etc.

  • Ski tape

  • Mini repair tools

  • Swiss army knife

  • Map (paper), GPS, compass

  • Bivouac bag

  • Documents (in small, ideally waterproof bag) + mountain insurance

  • Cash

  • Fully-charged cell phone. Be sure to bring - you may need help at any time.

Additional equipment for difficult terrain

  • Crampons for ski boots

  • Ice axe

  • Rope - to secure yourself or for abseiling during the hike

  • Seat harness

Ski tours are in open terrain. So respect safety, don’t overestimate your strength, take an avalanche course, and monitor the weather and local avalanche situation before each hike.

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