PAUL RACHELE OF THE MOUNTAIN GUIDES walks us through how he gears up for a day of earning turns in the backcountry. Follow his guidelines below or scroll to the bottom of the page to watch a video demonstration.
Inside Your Pack
The first thing I'm going to do before I start packing my pack is go through and open up all the straps. Nothing is worse than packing a pack and having that last item left and realizing that you forgot to open up the cinch straps on the side of the pack.
Inside the pack, the first thing that's going to go in are my heavyweight gloves down at the bottom because I tend not to use those very much. Then goes the water. It's important to pack this right against the back of the pack: the part of the pack that goes against your body. Water is the heaviest thing that you pack, and you don't want it to be too far back because it'll upset your balance and pull you back as you're skiing downhill.
The next thing I'm going to pack are my snacks and headlamp. I pack these inside the pockets of my parka to keep them separated from everything else inside my bag. So, I'll put the headlamp in one pocket as well as a few of my snacks in the other. The rest of these snacks, I'll either put in a hip pocket on the hip belt of my pack, or some packs have a brain, which usually has an attached pocket at the top—I'll put some in there so that they're easy to access.
After I put the snacks in my parka, the next thing I'm going to do is stash my sunglasses case and my goggles. Some ski packs will have a tricot-lined pocket specifically for ski goggles that helps protect the lens from scratches. I like to tuck in my sunglasses case in that pocket as well because I usually have one or the other already on my head.
Then, I load up my parka. To do that, you'll want to loosely tighten the compression straps, creating a pouch that you can stuff the parka down into.
Last in is my lightweight or midweight gloves, neck gaiter, and a warm hat or a sunhat (depending on the temperature) on top of the parka for easy access. Some of these, I put on at the trailhead or in the gondola, if I’m starting at the resort, so it’s best to have them up top, where they’re readily available.
Most ski packs these days have a “wet room,” which is an area for your shoveling probe and other gear that tends to get wet when you're out there digging. The probe goes in first. (If storing the probe in the main compartment of your pack, it must be kept in its sleeve so that it doesn't tangle with other equipment). You can slide it directly into the wet room, but the shovel will need to be disassembled. Place the handle in first and then the blade on top of everything.
If your pack doesn't have one of these wet rooms, the shovel and probe can go inside the body of the pack. They should go against the back and they should be near the top so that they're easy to access.
Last but not least, the helmet to helmet should go on the outside of the pack. Some packs have a “helmet diaper,” which is essentially just a flap of durable fabric that lays over the outer shell of the pack. What you'll do with this is set your helmet with the straps down on the back of your pack, fold the helmet diaper over the top of the helmet and clip it in on the other side.