Sometimes, You Need a Big Pack

The Eddie Bauer Sisu holds everything you need and a bottle of tequila

Gear Locker Details

Details Details

Price: $249

Sizes: One size

Weight: 4 lbs, 9 oz.

Materials: 100 percent nylon

Features: Detachable crampon pocket; Integrated quick-release ice-axe carriers; Interior quick-access snow-safety pocket; A-frame ski carry; top loader and back-panel entry.

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PHOTO: Maggie Kaiserman

Like a lot of skiers, I’ve tried out numerous backpacks throughout the years. The pack has become an essential piece of equipment due to the popularity and pure goodness of backcountry skiing and touring—from either trailhead or resort gate. And though most packs do many things well (like ski-carry systems and keeping your safety tools separate from everything else), it’s very hard to find one pack that does everything—and I mean everything—well.

Eddie Bauer’s newest backcountry ski pack, the Sisu, follows this trend. This thoughtfully designed pack succeeds in many ways and is an excellent choice for skiers looking for a durable, user-friendly pack for big day missions, ski mountaineering, or hut trips. The designers have been able to compartmentalize all your important items into a tidy kit that’s easy to organize and carry. But alas, like every other pack, the Sisu has one or two shortfalls. The search for the holy grail of packs continues.

Let’s start with the positives. At 40 liters, it carries everything you need, and some items you don’t. On a four-day hut trip last spring to the Sawtooths, I filled it with a sleeping bag; shovel and probe (carried neatly in a separate compartment); skins; ice axe; two liters of water; a bottle of tequila; change of clothes and toiletries; goggles with spare lenses; down jacket; camera, headlamp, and spare batteries; and a hefty sack of food. Access is top-load or through the back panel—a huge bonus to have two ways to get after all your stuff.

In Idaho’s Sawtooths, you need a pack big enough to carry all your crap. Dorian Densmore eyes a couloir known as Big Fatty. PHOTO: Matt Hansen

One of the things I loved about the Sisu immediately is its separate—and detachable—crampon pouch that lashes to the outside of the shovel pocket. If you’ve ever shoved crampons into a pack, you know how delicate the procedure can be in order to prevent the teeth from shredding your precious down jacket or roast beef sandwich. With the Sisu, crampons keep their teeth to themselves. And, since you don’t need crampons every run, you can leave the entire pocket back at the yurt—or stashed in the snow at the bottom of the bootpack to be picked up on the way down.

Ski carry is accomplished via a reinforced A-frame system. Though I kind of wished it had the option to carry skis diagonally across the back, carrying your boards upright allows you to quickly access important safety tools should an emergency arise on the ascent.

Shoulder straps and waist belt are minimal, eliminating bulky pockets featured on so many other packs.

And the cons? I found two. The pocket in the top pouch is intended for those miscellaneous, quick-access items we all bring into the backcountry: sunscreen, sunglasses, lip balm, headlamp, snacks. But it’s too small. I felt like I was crushing my sunglasses every time I stashed them away. And, the mesh helmet-carry system places your helmet directly over this stash pocket, which is a bit frustrating.

The second con is probably up for debate, yet it’s important to consider because it’s one of the centerpieces of the pack’s design. Closing the pack is accomplished by hooking a loop of TPU-coated webbing on the top pouch to a lightweight metallic hook on the shovel pocket, then pulling it tight. The idea is to prevent icing or slippage on traditional nylon webbing, and the system works great when the pack is full. Unfortunately, if the pack isn’t completely full—a real possibility since 40 liters means you have to carry a lot of stuff—the hook occasionally fails to hold securely. In those cases, the top of the pack noticeably flops around while you ski. But if you plan to always carry lots of crap—which many of us safety geeks do—this won’t be an issue.

Bottom line: The Sisu is a strong contender for skiers looking to haul a lot of stuff, including ice tools and booze, on extended trips into the backcountry.