Backcountry Skiing Pack
Mammut Spindrift Guide 40L
$190, 3 lbs. 3 oz.
One size, adjustable
For all the backcountry skiing packs on the market, it’s hard to find one that’s comfortable, well organized without being over-engineered and too heavy—and that’s large enough for multi-day yurt trips and gear-intensive users like guides, yet with the versatility to shrink for smaller loads. I know this, because I’ve spent literally three years trying out packs for my good friend Chago Rodriguez, a ski guide and avalanche-safety instructor. Mammut’s Spindrift Guide 40L is the first backcountry skiing pack that we both really like, simply because it met all of our admittedly picky criteria.
With a load of up to 35 pounds (including four days of food) on a recent backcountry yurt trip in Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains, it carried very comfortably, thanks to a removable plastic framesheet that flexes with your upper body while lending the pack good stability. The shoulder straps and removable hipbelt find a nice balance between support and unobtrusiveness when telemark or AT skiing. The side compression straps squeeze a small load down, so the pack remained stable when skiing on day trips with less stuff inside.
Its design delivers the kind of organization a backcountry ski pack should have. A top-loader that opens with one buckle instead of two, it has a long side zipper that provides instant access to the main compartment for pulling out a jacket, climbing skins, or a camera. A deep front pocket holds all snow-safety gear, with space for a large shovel blade and zipper tabs you can grab wearing warm gloves. It has a reasonably roomy lid pocket, a separate goggle pocket, one hipbelt pocket big enough for a GPS unit or a couple of energy bars, and a helmet carrier. It will carry skis (on the sides), poles, and ice tools, and has a rope strap under the lid. Plus, the pack is made with a mix of really tough 420-denier and 1680-denier nylon, so it crosses over as a climbing or ski-mountaineering pack.
The adjustable harness has four settings, small to XL. I found the small setting just slightly long for my 18-inch torso; and although it still carried remarkably well and comfortably, this is not a pack for a very small person. The load-lifter straps (over the shoulders) have a tendency to slip when the pack’s full. Otherwise, the Spindrift Guide is just about perfect. The 30-liter version of the pack sells for $180.