Ask Me: Can You Recommend a Good Winter Pack?

Hi Mike,

I have been hiking in the Presidential Range, N.H., for approximate 15 years and have used your New England Hiking guidebook as my bible. I have always snowshoed, but recently started going above tree line in winter and plan on doing much more.

I am looking for a great winter pack, 50 to 60 liters, and read your review of the Sierra Designs Ymir, although it is more for snowboarding and skiing. I was hoping you could give me your choices (I would really like straps for snowshoes). Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Can you also recommend a good pair of crampons (not too expensive), considering I do plan on spending a lot if time above tree line? Also an ice axe?

I have subscribed to your e-mail list and I am so glad I came across your website.

Thank you.

Michael Russell
Everett, Mass.

Hi Michael,

Thanks for the nice words about my New England Hiking guidebook. I love hiking the Whites in winter, especially the Presidentials and Franconia Ridge, but I’ve been all over those mountains in winter, they’re beautiful and challenging.

I’d recommend looking for some of the same design features in a backpack for snowshoeing as you would for backcountry skiing: winterized hydration (which is useful in temperatures in the 20s, even though a hose will often freeze in colder temps); quick access to the main compartment and pockets (like hipbelt and side pockets in reach while wearing the pack); a goggles pocket; zipper pulls and buckles you can manipulate with warm gloves on; and avoiding delicate external features like mesh that can freeze and tear in the cold.

Gregory Targhee 45L
Gregory Targhee 45L

I do think the Sierra Designs Ymir would be a good choice for you, although I did not carry snowshoes strapped to it, so you should confirm that it could carry snowshoes (I think it could). I’ve used an Osprey Variant 52 for some years for climbing, and it’s an excellent technical pack for any season; but it’s not specifically designed for carrying snowshoes.

You should also consider a new pack, the Gregory Targhee 45L, which is slightly smaller than you’re looking for, but may fit the bill for you. It’s an all-around winter pack that carries well and has numerous features.

As for crampons, for the Whites in winter, all you really need is a good traction device for ice and firm snow, like the Kahtoola Microspikes. In fact, you’ll walk on snow and bare rock as much as ice, and the Kahtoolas are easier for walking on rock than any full crampon. If you decide you prefer a crampon, get a flexible crampon that fits just about any boot. I’d recommend either the Black Diamond Contact or Grivel G12 (I have both). But there are several good models out there in that category and you might find any one of them on sale.

For an ice axe, I’d recommend any one of the Black Diamond Raven models, which I use.

I hope that’s helpful. Let me know if you do more research on these packs and have other questions I might be able to answer.


Hi Mike,

Thank you for getting back to me. Your advice was great.

Michael Russell

[In Ask Me, I share and respond to a reader question. Got a question about hiking, backpacking, gear, or any topic or trip I write about at The Big Outside? Send it to me at or tweet it to @MichaelALanza. I will answer the ones I can in a post, using only your first name and city, with your permission.—Michael Lanza]



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