What’s in My… Ski Touring Bag.

Miage Aigle Dave Searle-9

In Chamonix I often see a lot of folk out and about with some pretty monstrous bags!  I rarely take a bag bigger than 30l into the mountains and I often prefer to have a bag around the 25l mark for day tours.  What’s goes into my bag? Here’s a basic list of what goes into my bag and some thoughts/ideas on what to take with you when ski touring/mountaineering.

The Salewa Pure 30 Pro is my current bag of choice.


Avalanche Kit. We all take it into the mountains when skiing and only very rarely don’t I carry it whilst ski touring/ mountaineering. Some I don’t take it like when I’m by myself or when I’m climbing to ski a steep line.  In this case I might leave my shovel and probe at the bottom of a route and collect it on the way down.  I’m talking about routes where it’s steep enough that an avalanche would either be highly unlikely or fatal.

Skins- No surprise there. If your touring you’ll generally need them!

Glacier Kit?

Obviously only needed if you have a glacier to cross or you’re doing any abseiling/climbing.  90% of my days in Cham I’ll have glacier kit with me.

Rope- If you’re skiing on a glacier everyone in the team should have a rope.  I either take a 30m half rope (8.1mm) for rescuing/roping up through crevasses or if I’m doing a route that involves abseiling I’ll take a 60m 6mm kevelar rap line.  If the route involves technical climbing then 1 person in the group might carry a 60m 8.1 and the other carry a 6mm.

Harness- This should be as light as possible. BOD style harness are great for getting on and off with ski boots on but I rarely take my harness off between leaving my house and getting back so the ability to take it off easily is pointless.  I  often find I end up using a super lightweight sport climbing harness as it has proper leg loops which I prefer.

Crevasse rescue kit-  slings, crabs, prusik loops, pulley , Ice screw etc. Know what you need from practice and keep it light.  Consider clipping your kit to your rucksack shoulder straps if you don’t have gear loops or your gear loops are difficult to reach.

Spare Clothes.

This is a hazy area. Some feel like they need a lot of extra cloths in the mountains.  Experience and the ability to suffer the cold can mean you save a lot of weight and space in the bag.  Spare gloves are a good idea. Hands are very important in the mountains and normal life and it’s pretty easy to drop a glove.  I normally take a super lightweight puffy jacket as my spare layer and I’ll often be wearing that in the morning if it’s cold.

Crampons/Ice Axe

Crampons –  If I take them I’ll more often than not take a real pair. Lightweight crampons have shorter points and are prone to breaking.  Not ideal if you really need them.

Ice Axe-One or two?  Am I just climbing snow or will there be black ice or mixed climbing? My choice of axe/axes depends on the route but I generally take the lightest possible.

Accessories/smaller items.

Repair kit – duck tape, multi-tool, knife, tat, bandages, painkillers, any screws that might be useful to fix bindings or boots.

Sun cream – Slap it on and rub it in! Oh please rub it in!

Head torch – Just take it. You’ll want it if you need it.

Food and Water.

Water- Some days I know I can get away with 500ml some days I know I’ll need 1500ml. Know how much you’ll need and take the right amount. Large water bottles eat up space but flexible pouch type bottles are fragile in my experience. Experiment with what works for you.  Good tip is to put boiling water in in the morning. After your first drink fill the space in the bottle with snow and give it a shake.  The heat from the water should melt the snow and give you a few extra mouthfuls.  I do this a lot!

Food – light is right IMO. I often take just a few snickers bars with me when touring.  I’ll have a good breakfast and I can live of my reserves until a big meal in the evening. Big lunches are ok if you’re on for a slow day. If you want to be faster then take less food…it’ll make you get down from the mountains quicker!

Anything Else?

Not that I can think of! For most days in Chamonix we’re back before you’d need anything else!  For multi-day trips the huts normally have blankets and provide food so no extra kit is needed. Sometime a light pair of trainers is a good idea for the spring but only when the snow has melted out of the descent routes.

Final thoughts

Keep the weight down by any means!  It will make a huge difference to your day and make you quicker in the mountains meaning you can go further and do bigger objectives.  Before you pack it think about whether or not you will need it/use it!  certain Items are needed just in case but if your willing to suffer you can cut the weight down a fair bit.

Need more help?

Got any comments or ideas? Add them at the bottom!

6 thoughts on “What’s in My… Ski Touring Bag.

  1. I had a great light weight “fail” a few weeks ago. I lost my 500ml water bottle. Found it a week later with my shovel and probe in my bag – full! I had been carrying an extra 0.5kg around for a week for no good reason…

  2. I accidentally took 500 grams of Barbera Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible up for a quick 1600m yesterday. Forgot it was in the bottom of the bag.
    Great training!

  3. Great blog! Can you give a little more detail about your 6mm kevlar rap line? Are you rapping with a Munter hitch?

  4. Great blog post. I’m a beginner in ski touring, but have done a few glacier walks during the summer in the Alps. In summer, people always go roped up, but on skis they seem to never to that when going down. Isn’t this very unsafe to ski unroped between crevasses ? Thanks.

    • Hi Octavian, The reasons are simple. There is more snow to cover crevasses so it is safer to travel. When you have skis on your weight is spread over a larger area so you are less likely to break through the crevasse also. Also it is pretty difficult to ski whilst roped up. It is a good idea when skinning or going through a heavily crevassed section though.

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