Ski Bag Packing

| October 31, 2009

Whether you like it or not, skis count as a piece of luggage when flying, so I always try to maximize my ski bags utility by both stuffing it full of 49.995 pounds worth of gear, and also using my gear to pad my skis.


My basic strategy is to start with a home-made guide’s tarp which has zippers down the full length and draw-cords on the end.  From there, I place a foam sleeping pad on top of it, then start carefully stacking in gear.  I try to pad around the bindings as much as possible, as well as the tips.  Starting with all the long, skinny stuff, I lay it out, then chink around it with smaller items.  In the picture above, I have two pairs of skis, a pair of poles, an axe, 60m of rope, foul weather gear, a picket, skins, mittens, first aid kit and a few other small items.

Once this is all laid out, I zip it up.


This forms a nice, tight gear burrito.

After this, I slide the burrito inside of a sleeping bag and then add fluffy clothes to bring it up to just below the 50 pound weight limit.  The sleeping bag then goes into an elongated duffle bag made out of burly canvas.

It is a pain to pack and unpack, but I’ve never lost anything with it or had any skis broken.  The ticket agents often give me the stink eye about there being “more in there than skis” but, there are skis in there, and thus it is a ski bag.  On Delta, there is no limit (or perhaps 80″) on skis, so you shouldn’t get charged for an oversized bag.  Arrive early with printed out regulations and be prepared to wait.

I’m off to Antarctica, so I won’t be able to moderate or approve any comment for the next three weeks.  Bob Lee – behave yourself.  No spam my knee-dropping friend, okay?

Help support and pack your pick and Black Diamond Venom Hammer from Click on the photo below…


Category: 14 Travel

About the Author ()

Andrew McLean lives in Park City, Utah and is a gear designer, writer, photographer, ski mountaineer, climber, Mountain Unicycle rider and father of two very loud little girls.

Comments (9)

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  1. Matt Lanning says:

    Andrew, this used to work for me when the weight limit was 75lbs, but as someone who skis on 185s, all I can get in my ski bag is two pair of skis, two poles, a whippet, an ice axe, and perhaps two pair of skins… on the way home from international locales (such as Argentina this summer), they don’t care as much, so I get to stuff the ski bag a bit more (in order to get more Malbec into my boot bag, mainly). Oh, to return to those days of 75lb weight limits… and no, I can’t/won’t bring myself to join the 165cm club… as much as I love the ‘up’, the ‘down’ is just too important to me. thanks for the continued great information!

  2. Andrew says:

    Hi Matt – yes, the 6′ foam mattress fits perfectly with the 167cm skis. ;) but any longer (like, 185’s) will poke out. Bummer! Instead of “It’s all about the down” it is more like “It’s all about the luggage rules.” Not quite as catchy.

    Yeah, getting Malbec back is going to be the crux. I might have to throw away some less essential items, like cameras, harnesses, radios, etc..

  3. Bob Lee says:

    Hey if you’re going to be gone I’ll need to confirm the login and password for this place. You can email me the info.

    This site will be mostly tele most of the time when you get back. Have a great trip.

  4. ptor says:

    A skateboard is handy to wheel it all around!!
    Otherwise there’s a bunch of cozy padded ski bags with wheels that give up a few grams of gear for convenience.
    165 eh? Mclean and tidy!

  5. ptor says:

    Oh yeah I forgot, 165s to keep it safe to avoid those pesky penguins and walruses down there. Have a great trip Andrew!!

  6. David says:

    Those dedicated ski/board bags with the wheels are pretty sweet for sprinting through bus/plane/train stations, but they are also heavy. That 50lbs limit is low and waisting around 15-20% of it on the bag is painful. Your canvas bag is surely much lighter.

  7. rl says:

    I found that small children fit into a ski bag, but only for short flights. It was once possible to put 3 pairs of skis in one bag. One pair was 100cm, the next was 140 and mine were 180 with s’loops. Its those big bulky AT bindings that the boy has acquired that made it necessary to have a new bag just for his stuff. Telebindings are much less bulky, thus more stuff in the bag.

    Don’t drown out there man.


  8. Raili says:

    Thanks! I have a crammed a lot of stuff in my ski bag but this is the best way I have seen to do it!

  9. Brent says:

    Just a grain of salt here… I just got back from a flight on Southwest using this method and something very large and forceful (no, not me) and also possibly hot managed to chop off the tails of my K2 Backlash skis along with everything in the area including the end of my ski bag, my goretex pants, and a couple other gear items. Granted I’m probably the 1 case out of 10,000 where this happens but just putting it out there. Dear skis, you will be missed! :( Southwest denies all liability because I didn’t use a hard case, barf.

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