The Osprey Kode 30 ($139) may not be the perfect ski pack, but it’s the closest I’ve found in my two decades of skiing and pack wearing. Here’s why.
As expected for an Osprey pack, the light-but-supportive suspension is excellent and the Kode skis extremely well. Load it up with as much weight as you want (I’ve skied it with 25 pounds), cinch it down tight, and it feels like an extension of your body. No bobbing or lurching or feeling like a mischievous pack monkey is yanking you backward. It’s a critical attribute for a ski pack, and nobody likes mischievous pack monkeys.
Backpanel access is another. In other words, you access the pack’s main compartment from the foam-stiffened backpanel, which zips open and makes it easy to set the pack down in the snow and easily get at your stuff without getting snow in the pack. Because it zips all the way down to the bottom, it also changes the way you pack your gear. Gone are the days carefully calculating your packing strata, or having to dig forever to find that item in the bottom of your pack. Everything in your pack is easily accessible and well-cradled — nothing spills out when you zip it all the way open.
A dedicated tool pocket on the pack’s front side features storage sleeves for shovels, probes, and repair kits. Critically, the pocket is easy to open with one zipper. All the zippers on the pack have big, looped zipper pulls that are easy to open with gloves.
Another winning feature is the gaping hipbelt pockets that can hold cameras, bars, inclinometers, dried chicken feet good-luck charms, and whatever small stuff you want to keep at the ready. They’re the biggest hipbelt pockets I’ve ever seen and I love them. A dedicated, zippered hydration pocket sits in the main compartment (against your back) and an insulated sleeve on the shoulder strap helps prevent inconvenient nipple freezing. And nobody likes inconvenient nipple freezing.
I’ve been skiing the Kode 30 for a year and find durability excellent, with no problems so far. The A-frame ski carry system works well. There’s also a slick, stow-able helmet carry system on the top of the pack that holds your lid securely. All in all, it’s a great feature set with few flaws.
“Few” does not mean “none,” however. Here are a few nitpicks.
—The pack could be just a little bit bigger for all-day trips. You can jump up to the Kode 38, which I’ve skied and like, but it features little increase in main-pocket interior space and its buckled lid makes accessing your avy tools a multi-step process.
—I never use the fleece goggle pocket because I find it interferes with access to the main compartment.
—I’m used to it now, but it would be nice if you didn’t have to unclip the shoulder straps to access the main compartment via the backpanel.
—The compression straps on the side of the pack use locking buckles, which makes cinching the pack down a two-step process. This can be annoying and I see no reason for it. Non-locking buckles work just fine.
—Lastly, there is only one very small interior organizer pocket in the main compartment that isn’t nearly big enough. I’d like a bigger interior pocket with room for my compass, lighter, sunscreen, and whatever other random skier crap I want to put in there but don’t want cluttering up my beloved hipbelt pockets.
These are all minor complaints, but they’re enough to make the great Kode 30 fall just short of the perfect ski pack. But unless I need something bigger for an all-day epic or a multi-day ski, it’s the pack you’ll see on my back every day in the backcountry.