Ski and Snowboard Pack
Sierra Designs Ymir 55
$190, 55 L/3,300 c.i., 4 lbs. 4 oz. (S/M)
Sizes: S/M and M/L (60L/3,600 c.i., 4 lbs. 9 oz.)
sierradesigns.com

Finding an all-purpose backcountry skiing and snowboarding pack that excels at full-day tours and multi-day trips is a tall order. But after carrying the Ymir 55 with up to 35 pounds on a four-day backcountry ski trip to a yurt in Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains—including skiing downhill with the pack partially loaded—I think it’s possibly the most comfortable, versatile, and well-organized, big ski pack I’ve used. A plastic framesheet and two aluminum stays deliver the support and vertical rigidity needed when I skinned with it fully loaded (food and gear weight) a few hours in to the yurt. But it also flexes side to side, so it moved with my torso when I made telemark turns downhill with a lighter load (which the pack’s compression straps shrank down fairly well). Likewise, the hipbelt and shoulder straps offer just enough padding and support without getting in the way when I’m skiing downhill. Channels in the back padding allow some air movement to cool your back when climbing uphill under a hot sun.

Its organization is exactly what I want in a backcountry skiing pack. Most critically, it has a quickly accessed front pocket for snow-safety gear (with big wire pull tabs that you can grab while wearing gloves). But I also love the deep side zipper for instant access to the main compartment for a jacket, snack, thermos, or climbing skins without having to open the pack’s lid. There’s one roomy hipbelt pocket for snacks or a GPS, and gear loops on the hipbelt’s other flap (useful only to climbers and ski mountaineers). It has two roomy lid pockets (one for goggles, with a stretchy helmet-carrying system inside); and the ability to carry skis A-frame or diagonal on the front (or a snowboard vertically). Side pockets are big enough for a liter bottle. Sierra Designs nails the details right down to the winterized hydration built into the right shoulder strap (bladder purchased separately). There’s also a top strap for compression or carrying a rope—although it’s not otherwise designed primarily as a climbing pack. The Ymir 55 has enough capacity for a multi-day yurt trip or a two- to four-day spring ski tour if you’re going moderately light, yet weighs in at just over four pounds—not excessively heavy for this category and its features. My one minor complaint: I wish the top lid closed with one strap instead of having to release and close two clips. But the side panel zipper alleviates that inconvenience.

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.

—Michael Lanza