Backcountry Skiing/Riding Pack
Gregory Targhee 45L
$199, 4 lbs. (medium)
Sizes: S-L in 45L/2,746 c.i. and 32L/1,953 c.i. versions (fit torsos from 16-22 inches); one size in 26L/1,587 c.i. and 18L/1,098 c.i. versions
For a multi-day backcountry skiing, riding, or snowshoeing trip to a hut or yurt, you need a pack with a split personality: It has to be big enough to fit all the food and gear you need for at least four days, yet morph into a smaller pack when you fill it only partially for day tours. The new Targhee 45L assumed both personalities convincingly on a four-day, backcountry skiing trip to the Baldy Knoll yurt in Wyoming’s Tetons, thanks to superior stability and a highly versatile design.
It carried nicely whether overstuffed for the 5.5-mile, 2,000-foot skin to the yurt, or under-filled for all-day tours. I hauled 35 pounds skiing in, though I think it would handle 40 pounds comfortably. I hardly noticed it on my back when skiing downhill—it’s that stable, thanks to a flexible, plastic framesheet supported by a wire frame that lends it enough rigidity for load-hauling, but allowed the pack to move with my body as I skied. The hipbelt and shoulder straps strike a medium balance between stiff and soft, delivering comfort and support without getting in the way.
I’ve not always been a fan of rear-panel access to a main compartment, because often the shoulder straps impede access, and I’ve seen where that design has compromised how well the pack clings to your back in high-speed sports like skiing. The Targhee eliminates both of those concerns. First, the shoulders straps attach directly to the pack bag instead of the hipbelt, which makes it easy to flip those straps aside (and helps transfer the load to the hips). Also, the framesheet and hipbelt are built into the huge back panel that opens completely, killing two birds with one stone: You suffer no loss of pack stability, but gain this big barn door to get inside the pack. I yanked that zipper open constantly to grab a jacket, thermos, and climbing skins, and liked how convenient it was to just lay the pack down and open its belly without snow getting inside. The tough, slick nylon pack fabric readily sheds snow, too.
The Targhee has a perfect feature set for backcountry skiing, snowboarding, or climbing, including a spacious snow-tools pocket on the front that’s accessible no matter how you attach your boards to the pack. With hypalon reinforcements for durability, the pack carries skis with tails up to 130mm wide in A-Frame fashion, offset to keep the tails away from your calves and the tips away from your head; it also carries a snowboard or snowshoes, with super-durable, hypalon-reinforced webbing and compression. There are two modern, easy-to-use ice-axe attachments. A low-profile, insulated sleeve inside the right shoulder strap kept the bladder hose from freezing in temperatures down to the teens while the pack was on me—though, as with any insulated sleeve, the hose will freeze quickly if you take the pack off (and the sleeve is no longer warmed by your body), so I split my water between a bladder for on-the-go convenience and bottles for insurance. The hipbelt sports one spacious pocket and a gear loop. A top compression strap underneath the lid pocket doubles as a rope strap. There’s even a safety whistle on the sternum strap buckle. While a stowable helmet carry is available in all three smaller-volume versions of the Targhee, the 45L, the only top-loader in the lineup, has space to stow a helmet in the pack or under the lid.
Quibbles: I wish the lid was extendable for overstuffing the pack on the first day’s approach to a yurt; I maxed-out its 45 liters that day (so don’t expect to fit winter-camping gear). And the buckles are a little difficult to manipulate wearing warm gloves. All in all, though, this is one of the most versatile and comfortable technical packs I’ve seen for backcountry skiing or riding, snowshoeing, and climbing.
NOTE: I’ve been testing gear for Backpacker Magazine for 20 years. At The Big Outside, I review only what I consider the best outdoor gear and apparel. See all of my reviews by clicking on the Gear Reviews category at left or in the main menu.