Ski Holidays, Skiing

Off-Piste Backpack Essentials

by Fiona Bell | 29th January 2024

If you are venturing into off-piste terrain, it’s essential that you have the appropriate equipment with you, both to handle the un-groomed terrain and powder descents, and in case of emergency.  The size of your bag and what you should put in it, depends on the duration of the trip and how far off the beaten path you are heading. We asked our 3 Valleys resident and seasoned off-piste boarder Ben what backpack essentials he wouldn’t go without!

If you don’t know have advanced knowledge of the area, you should always have a guide with you when heading off-piste, and always pay particular attention to the avalanche risk.

Have you got the right ski/board gear!?

  • Skis: Make sure you have the correct skis for going off-piste and/or touring.  Off-piste skis are typically wider than a standard piste ski and the camber is tailored for enhanced off-piste manoeuverability.  If you plan on ski touring, you’ll need a specific ski with an articulated binding to allow the heed to move up and down when set to tour mode.
  • Skins: If you are ski touring, you’ll also need adhesive-backed ‘skins’ to attach to the base of your skis to provide traction on the snow when moving uphill.
  • Poles: If you’re a skier, having the right poles for off-piste is also essential – large baskets and good grip below the main handle are ideal for touring and skinning uphill!
  • Splitboard: A an essential for snowboarders!  A splitboard is essentially a normal snowboard which splits into two halves to work as skis for touring/travelling uphill.

Backpack essentials for an off-piste day!

  • Safety Equipment: Probe, shovel and your transceiver. Safety should be your number one concern in the backcountry, and these 3 come together as an essential trio – a probe and shovel are next to useless if no one knows where to dig!  Make sure your equipment is good quality, and that you know exactly how it all works.  Test all of the equipment with your group before you start your outing – carefully check the search mode on your transceiver and that you are transmitting correctly!
  • Water and food.  You might pack your whole lunch, but also bring some high energy and sugary snacks too (energy bars, trail mix/nuts etc.).
  • Insurance.  Make sure you are fully insured and that you carry proof of your insurance with you at all times.Hand warmers, extra gloves, knive.,
  • A multi-tool can be very handy!
  • Extra clothing.  Layers are always best – they generally keep you warmer and thin layers should fit nicely in your bag.
  • Sun protection: sunscreen, lip balm, sunglasses & goggles.

Overnight trips (or even multi-day!)

Recommended size of backpack: 18 to 32 litres volume

What to pack:

All of the above!  Our recommended backpack contents for a day trip also apply to overnight trips.  In addition to this, you might find some of the below particularly useful if you’re venturing further off the beaten track:

  • Straps to carry ski’s or your split board when required
  • Extra gloves – a lighter pair to wear when touring.
  • Navigation equipment – a map, route description, guidebook, a compass, or GPS / multifunction watch with altimeter.
  • Light – headlamp, flashlight, extra batteries, matches or a lighter.
  • First aid supplies
  • Repair kit – a knife or multi-tool and duct tape.
  • Food and drink – As above – make sure you have plenty to keep you going, plus a few extras in reserve!  Snacks like sandwiches, power bars, nuts, gel, fruit, chocolate etc. plus plenty of drinking water or tea.

Overnighting in a refuge?  Plan Ahead!

Make sure you arrange and sort out your bag the night before you depart.  A last minute rush compromises safety and you may forget something essential.

Don’t forget to plan ahead and book your refuge if you are staying the night.  Some refuges are public and available to book, whereas others are private and not open to the pubic.  They are often based on an honesty scheme – some simply request for you to pay a donation, others may ask for you to help bringing in or chopping wood.

Should I have an ABS backpack?

An avalanche backpack is a backpack with an integrated avalanche airbag system.  They were founded in the late 1980’s by Peter Aschauer from Germany, and have advanced well over time with the development of new technologies.  The main idea of these bags is to help prevent complete burial in an avalanche and to survive the accident as unharmed as possible.

98% of all avalanche accidents with activated ABS avalanche airbags survived nearly unharmed. Good statistic!

Whilst weight and design have improved over the years, you need to consider that it will add around 2kg compared to a standard empty sac weight based on a canister for a rucksack around 25-30 litres in size.

Ben Butler

Resort Operations

As a resident of the 3 Vallées, Ben takes responsibility for company operations across our Tarentaise resorts, including the delivery of our product and service, and applies his common-sense approach to get the best from our teams.

Other reads

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience. Read more Accept