Xe·ro·sto·mi·a (zeer-uh-stoh-mee-uh) n. Medical term for dry mouth, caused by excessive respiration through the mouth and dehydration; can lead to halitosis. Lest you become parched in the back bowls—or worse, that guy in the slopeside bar with seriously bad breath—you’d be wise to keep yourself hydrated throughout the ski day. But conventional water bottles are impractical when skiing, gumming fistfuls of snow to quench your thirst is ill advised, and frequent trips into the lodge are inconvenient. Enter hydration packs—hands-free human irrigation systems that originated in the cycling world and migrated to the slopes. Today’s ski-specific packs are designed to carry a hydration system (usually sold separately) as well as extra layers, gear, tools and provisions for a day at the resort or several in the backcountry. When shopping for a ski pack, consider its load capacity, fit and ergonomics. Will it be stable and comfortable over your ski gear? Easy to use while skiing or riding the chairlift? Also pay attention to the size, location and design of pockets, straps and compression webbing. Most important, buy a reservoir-and-drinking-hose system that’s compatible with the pack, resists freezing and is easy to fill, carry and clean.
Hydration System A 70-ounce reservoir is plenty for a day at the resort. For longer trips beyond the gates, go for 150 ounces or more. Look for a reservoir that’s coated on the inside to resist bacteria and fungus and that has a bite valve on the drinking tube that’s easy to use, closes securely and has few moving parts.
Capacity A pack with 700 to 900 cubic inches of internal storage (in addition to the reservoir compartment) is ideal for lift-served days. Upsize to 1,200 to 2,100 cubic inches for backcountry
Load Consider the pack’s cargo-loading methods (top, front hatch, back hatch, etc.) and how easy they’ll be to use on the hill. Flytrap and webbing-strap ski-carry systems are useful features for travel.
Straps Look for padded shoulder, hip and sternum straps that sit comfortably over your ski parka and fit your frame. Straps should be easy to adjust while wearing gloves and should hold the pack securely against your body.
Pockets Stash pockets on hip belts and shoulder straps are easy to access on the move and are ideal for multi-tools, lip balm and other frequently used accessories. Internal pockets keep small items organized.