The Best Winter Travel Gear of 2023
Wintry parking lots and cumbersome ski gear have finally met their match
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The least fun part of a snow-season getaway is dragging your two sets of skis or snowboards from the frozen tarmac to the resort, dodging black ice and kicking up road salt along the way. These travel tools will take the bite out of the winter schlep, whether it’s across town or across the globe.
Read more: The Best Winter Packs of 2023
How We Test
Number of testers: 65
Number of products tested: 47
Highest Elevation: 11,362 feet, Jungfrau, Switzerland
Lowest Elevation: -30 feet, Pacific Harbour, Fiji
Time Spent in Layover: 25 hours
We invited a small army of our loyal testers and veteran gearheads to help us put these travel essentials through their paces. That meant 65 powderhounds from varying backgrounds and ability levels, ranging in age from 23 to 53, drove hundreds of miles, transited through dozens of airports, summited mountains and skied back down them, hiked glaciers, and descended slot canyons. Then they packed up all their gear and headed back to the airport, train station, or snow-covered road to fill out feedback forms back at home. Only the very best travel gear survived the season of international, ice-crusted abuse and made it into this roundup.
Planning a ski road trip this winter? Here are some tips for camping in ski-area parking lots.
Reviews: The Best Luggage for Winter Adventure Travel of 2023
Osprey Women’s Fairview/Farpoint 70L Travel Backpack ($230)
Hauling a week’s worth of gear on your back is no easy feat, but the Fairview (Farpoint is the men’s-specific version) travel pack performed the best of all the packs we tried. As in Osprey’s banner backpacking rucksacks, the Fairview/Farpoint has a frame suspension that transfers weight from the harness to the hip belt. Testers noted that it didn’t feel heavy, even while running through airports or between train platforms loaded up with camera gear and electronics. The pack also makes light work of organizing gear with easy access and thoughtful features: A large main compartment panel zipper was key when trying to access goods without having to unpack the entire bag on a ferry dock, and a zippered rear flap stows the hip belt and shoulder straps for easy bag-checking. When you arrive at your destination, the backmost portion of the main body zips off to use as a day pack (it even has its own lockable laptop sleeve). Engineered with lightweight, recycled, bluesign-approved 210-denier nylon and 600-denier packcloth, the Fairview withstood shoving, slinging, tossing, and thrashing from backpacking and careless baggage handlers.
Bottom Line: A feature-laden pack for every possible outcome while adventure-traveling.
Dakine Fall Line Hardside Roller Bag ($300)
Whether you’re a touring purist or a resort regular, you’ve likely spent a lot of money on your set-up—so protect it. Made with 100 percent recycled ABS and polycarbonate shell material, this hard-sided roller can hold two pairs of skis (up to 190 centimeters), two poles, one pair of boots, and a few pairs of puffies and ski pants. After years of seeing ski bags turn up damaged in baggage claim, we appreciated the extra protection that comes from the laminated foam interior and anchor straps to keep your gear from shifting inside. Testers also lauded the Fall Line’s oversized wheels and grab handles, which made for easy maneuvering. Thanks to a connecting handle, you can pair this bag with non-matching rolling luggage for easier, one-handed shuttling. It has a TSA-approved combo lock for added security, and tie-down passthrough points so you can attach it to your vehicle’s rooftop crossbars.
Bottom Line: Seriously secure armor for your precious ski or snowboard gear, with practical touches that make for easy hauling.
Thule Aion Carry On Spinner ($349)
Thule’s Aion Carry-On Spinner is tailor-made for transitioning from ice-packed gravel parking lots to the airport. We rolled this 36-liter carry-on and its rugged oversized wheels through snow, mud, and sand, pushing the limits of its capacity without broken wheels, soiled fabric, or snagged zippers. The shell, fabric, lining, and mesh are made of water-resistant 100 percent recycled waxed polyester canvas fabric, with a polycarbonate back panel (50 percent recycled) that sheds snow and slush. For hurried exits, a removable compression packing cube with a TPU lining separates dirty gear from the rest of the bag. This came in particularly handy when contending with sweaty clothes after a big day in Idaho’s Sawtooths followed by heading straight to the airport, while others found its transparent material useful for finding toiletries. A large zip down the front offers easy access to a jacket in transitional moments, while a smaller front zip holds keys, phone, and wallet.
Bottom Line: A go-anywhere carry-on that transitions from the backcountry to the frontcountry and beyond.
Thule SnowPack M Ski/Snowboard Rack ($330)
This medium-sized ski and snowboard carrier is the best value for the money lightweight rack we tested thanks to its accessibility and gas-saving design. The SnowPack’s 20-inch clamp securely carries up to four pairs of skis or two snowboards (or two skis and a snowboard). Extra soft rubber arms protect fragile surfaces, and a locking option keeps your high-ticket gear safe while you après. It fits with Thule’s crossbar sets, round bars, and most factory racks so you can attach it to almost any setup and it took two people about an hour to install. Beefy release buttons make it easy to open and close while wearing thick gloves. Thanks to its lightweight aluminum construction and low-profile aerodynamic design, we never felt (or heard) drag while driving up and down canyons or at high speeds on the freeway.
Bottom Line: Intuitive ski and snowboard carrier that won’t slow you down on the road.
Cotopaxi Allpa 60L Tote ($90)
This robust 60-liter tote is ideal for everything from ski and snowboard accessories to a week’s worth of groceries. Thanks to a zippered front pocket, gear loops, and interior organizational pockets, we hauled helmets, goggles, balaclavas, gloves, extra layers, snacks, and water bottles back and forth from the car to the ski lodge countless times. We also used it as a shopping bag around Vancouver, B.C.’s Whistler Village, and even carried bags of ice for our coolers at our end-of-season parking lot party at Utah’s Alta ski area. The nylon and polyester tote is made from factory remnant scraps and folds down to the size of a Jetboil stove.
Bottom Line: A robust, good-looking replacement for that decaying Ikea tote you’ve had in your trunk for a decade.
Mystery Ranch District 24 Backpack ($165)
The District 24 is a casual, lifestyle-oriented daypack with impressive carrying chops—and without the overengineering characteristic of many other small hiking bags. It has two, padded sleeves large enough to hold a laptop and tablet, a large internal compartment for stashing bulky hard drives and headphone cases, and various smaller internal organizational pockets for dongles, cords, and a mouse. Interior water bottle pockets on either side of the pack and dual stretch woven external pockets that are big enough for a 16-ounce Hydroflask but not a standard Nalgene bottle. Despite this lifestyle focus, the District 24 has load-lifters that allowed our testers to haul heavy spellbooks and magic cloaks in Orlando’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Open-cell foam-padded breathable shoulder straps and body panels made the District 24 a comfortable carry while hustling between gates, but we would probably switch to a different pack for working up a sweat while hiking. Extremely durable Cordura Recor—a super yarn that’s made entirely of reclaimed pre-consumer waste—survived tossing, shoving, and dragging without a scratch.
Bottom Line: A heavy hauler with everyday carry features.
Fjällräven Tree-Kånken Pocket ($45)
The Tree-Kånken is perfect for those awkward moments when you don’t have quite enough pocket space but don’t want to strap a fanny to your waist. The five-by-eight-inch pouch has a zippered one-liter main compartment that’s big enough to hold keys, wallet, lip balm, and even an oversized iPhone. The smaller zippered front pocket can fit small, flat, easy-to-lose things like credit cards, room keys, and tickets. It works by itself as a shoulder sling and also pairs with the classic Kånken backpack with a loop and snap button system. It’s made from 100 percent lyocell sourced entirely from pine trees in Sweden.
Bottom Line: A hyper-functional fanny pack replacement with eco-cred.
Pakmule Sway-Back with Porch Package ($1,280)
Deluxe winter tailgating demands a serious front-porch setup. This fully-welded hitch carrier weighs just 42 pounds but adds a whopping 12 feet of storage space and 500 pounds of cargo-carrying capacity to the back of your vehicle. One tester who attached it to his camper and took it to a remote area near Robbers Roost, Utah, was impressed by its handling and durability thanks to a locking, threaded anti-wobble mechanism for rough roads and rustproof, 70 percent-recycled aluminum construction. Bonus: An optional set of “Stirrup” stairs ($125) offers easy access to your backcountry porch.
Bottom Line: Looking to out-tailgate all the other campers and trucks? Slap an off-road-friendly porch on the back of your mobile home.