Marmot Sidecountry 20 Review
The Marmot Sidecountry 20
is, as its name suggests, a 20 litre pack that is aimed at those who want to explore the lift-accessed ‘sidecountry’ terrain at a ski resort, and so need a pack large enough to carry the essential safety equipment (shovel and probe) plus some additional clothing and food, but aren’t likely to be using it on multi-day tours. Of course, the pack is also useful for those who don’t want to venture off piste and just want a roomy daypack for skiing, or indeed for general hiking use.
The Sidecountry 20 has a number of features which make it ideal for its intended role. First up, it is a low profile pack, achieving its volume through being relatively long rather than deep. This means that the load is kept close to your body, which makes skiing with the pack much easier. In addition (but in contravention of the signs you see on most lifts…!) we’ve found the pack can easily be left on your back when on a chairlift, particularly if it is not absolutely full to capacity. The side straps also allow you to cinch the depth of the pack down further when it is not full.
The pack is based around 2 main compartments, both taking up the full length of the rucksack, and both accessed by double zippers which run from towards the base of the bag. The front compartment is primarily designed to hold avalanche gear, and contains 3 opened-ended pouches to hold these items securely in place. Of course, if you’re not going off piste and don’t have this kit with you, the this space can be used for whatever you want!
The rear compartment is slightly deeper, and is the main pocket for stashing your general ski kit. It contains a large flat pouch along the back panel which is designed to take a hydration pack such as a Camelbak. The drinking tube can be fed out along the left shoulder strap, where a full-length zipper helps to keep it insulated from the cold behind a layer of padding when not in use. The rear pocket also contains two smaller internal pockets which are attached to the lining – one is a small “purse” which is ideal for keeping a wallet and other smaller items in one place, while the other is specially shaped to hold your goggles when the sun comes out and you change to shades, or when it goes dark and you hit the bar! This pocket even contains a bit of microfibre cloth to protect the lens of the goggles- a neat touch.
On the outside of the bag, there are two further pockets, one on each of the hip straps. We’re a big fan of pockets like this, and feel that more manufacturers should incorporate them – it’s great to move small items out of the pockets on your jacket and trousers and into these pockets, but still have them accessible without needing to take the pack off. The Sidecountry 20 also features a chest strap with another neat touch – a built-in whistle on the buckle. Straps on both edges of the pack allow you to attach a ski on each side in an A-frame configuration for when boot packing to the powder, while the compression straps across the front of the bag can be extended to accommodate a snowboard vertically.
Overall, the Marmot Sidecountry 20 is an extremely well thought-out pack for day tours and general skiing use. It has a number of features that – while you can definitely get by without them – are certainly useful for any day on the slopes. If you’re in the market for a new skiing pack this should definitely be on your shortlist!