I Ski, You Ski, Khamski? Backpack Review
My back is like the town bicycle for backpacks, it gets around. Wait, that could get misconstrued. What I’m trying to say is I’ve used my fair share of backcountry ski packs in my day, and I’ve recently landed on a new favourite – Arcteryx’s Khamski 31.
I’ll start with the disclaimer that I didn’t pay for it, but the same goes for most of my other packs so we’re on fair turf here. At $280 it’s not for bargain hunters, but I’m hoping it’ll last as long as my previous Arc’teryx pack, a Bora 40 I’ve been cragging with since 1995! 22 years baby, she’s still got it. So really it’s yearly usage is the same cost as 3 coffees. Count me in.
Who/What’s It Best For
The Khamski came into my life at just the right time, aka when I turned into a backcountry nerd and can stop pretending I need a low volume ‘resort bag’ for slack country days. The Khamski 31 tightens up into a pretty low-profile package, so when it’s half empty on slack country days it’s still a good backpack choice. But with 31 L capacity and solid loops for skis, ice axes, and other mountain goodies, it’s got you covered for big ski touring or ski mountaineering days. With the extendable collar for overflow capacity, you could get away with this being an overnighter pack for hut weekends. Or hell, just take it on a huge mission and give your buddies that ‘what the hell is in your pack?’ look when you show up.
What I Like
Dare I use that cliche ‘versatility’ word here? This pack is all about it. As mentioned, it packs small for resort ripping but has you covered for big mountaineering days too. So you can just stuff all your junk in it and use one pack all season long. No more ‘my beacon is in my other pack moments.
Hallelujah for the full length side zipper. Top access packs get annoying without it, especially when you keep taking things in and out frequently, like booze on Gaper Day, or something more useful perhaps.
The big front pocket fits avi gear nicely, plus room for skins if you’ve got a sexy black G3 ‘skin wallet’ like I do. I don’t dare look up ‘skin wallet’ on the urban dictionary, it could be so many things. This pocket also helps you keep wet items away from the rest of your gear.
There’s plenty more to boast about, but just read the pack’s full feature list if you really want to get in on it.
Things I Don’t Like
Gotta nit pick about something right? If this pack is mostly empty but you stuff the top pocket full of easy access items, the top pocket flaps around awkwardly. Lesson here is just stick things in the side zipper of the main bag.
On those same lines, my least favourite part about top loading extendable backpacks is that the adjustment straps always loosen off while you’re skiing, and then you’ve got a real top-pouch-flapper to deal with. Luckily Arc’teryx knows this and provided the little metal hook (image below) to solve this dilemma, but alas with my bad habits of stuffing the top pouch, this clip just comes undone all the time. My fancier solution has been to just duct tape the hook into place forever. Everything looks more legit with a bit of duct tape.
This one isn’t really dislike, more like me getting busted. The side straps for A-frame ski carrying are really good, so you can get lazy and forget to strap your tips together. Way to blow that nice photo Jamie…
If you want a one-stop-shop backpack to bash resort laps and bag backcountry peaks, this one has your back (pun unintended). Apparently I’m a slow learner, cause I’m realizing most of my friends already had this pack.
If you’re only ever going to use it for resort and slack country, something like the Quintic might serve you better. If you like buying bomber gear to last you a lifetime, the Khamski might be the way to go. I’ll update this in 22 years to confirm or deny the durability claim.