We live in a world of solutions in search of a problem, but the new LiftRider pack is that rarity, an actual solution for a problem. Yes, riding a chairlift with a backpack can be problematic and even, as we recently witnessed at Arapahoe Basin, life-threatening. The LiftRider pack is an all-new design. Skiers usually wear warmed-over hiking or backcountry packs, but LiftRider started from the ground up with a shape and design that enables riding a lift in both comfort and safety.
I tend not to wear a backpack: I rarely hike inbounds, and when I do, I toss my skis over my shoulder, so my Dakine Heli Pack does not get much use other than in summer. The other time I wear a pack is when I am shooting photos or video and I have cameras with me. For that, my pack choice has been a Lowepro Slingshot. The Slingshot does slide around easily for getting on the lift but does not sit well on my back and is noticeably cumbersome and shifts around when skiing.
Welcome LiftRider. Before I even got on the lift, I could tell that much thought had gone into its design. The strap design has numerous adjustment points to ensure that the pack sits properly and comfortably on the back. The ingenious two-button cinching mechanisms on the lower straps are attached to additional adjusters, making micro-adjusting the fit a breeze. Belt and chest straps also work well: the lower one is a magnetic clasp while the upper uses a traditional alligator clip with an integrated whistle. I actually would like to see a magnetic clasp here, too, but the traditional clip works well; in searching the web, I could not find a magnetic clasp with an integrated whistle. What is also nice about the LiftRider is that it would be nearly impossible to get into the A-Basin scenario; due to the strap designs, there are no dangling straps or clips to catch on lift chairs.
The shoulder straps have an insulated hydration access over the right shoulder and another insulated pocket on the left. I do think the left one could be a bit larger so it could hold a larger cell phone; it barely held my regular-sized iPhone 7. LiftRider does advertise a special insulated pocket on the back of the pack for phones or electronic devices, but I prefer to have access to my phone on the lift to check messages and emails and even make calls.
Storage is pretty straightforward. There are basically five compartments: two main ones (upper and lower), the aforementioned electronics pocket on the back face, and two lateral pockets (shown as holding a beer in each). The upper pocket is nicely padded and insulated; it held and protected my Canon with its 50-200mm lens and still had room for a few other items due to the adjustable velcro dividers. The main cavity houses the 1.5L bladder for the hydration system, which is actually at the bottom of the pack so any leaks won’t get all of your personal items wet. This cavity worked well for holding an extra pair of gloves, a hat, and a few other slim items. The two side pockets are also insulated and can be used for numerous cylindrical 355ml malt-type beverage containers if you choose.
With any pack, comfort is key. Since it is called the “LiftRider," comfort while on the lift should be at the top of the list. Most packs are designed to have the storage evenly distributed across the back, but that does not always happen: the bigger, heavier items tend to end up at the bottom. When you are on a lift, that can be uncomfortable, unsafe, or even both. Personally, I get a bit disconcerted when I feel I am not far enough back in the chair, but I never felt that when wearing this pack.
While skiing, I never felt like I had a cumbersome pack on, nor did I feel I was being pulled back by the extra weight. The high center of gravity actually works out well in this capacity. While I don’t plan on using this as a backcountry pack, as there is no way to attach skis to it, I do see it replacing my Lowepro Slingshot as a camera bag. I would give up the ability to slide the bag around to access the camera for the comfort of riding the lift and on-snow performance. For a resort bag, I think LiftRider did a very good job.
Since this pack is an early production prototype, we would like to see the following:
- Larger pocket on shoulder.
- Magnetic chest clasp (but not at the cost of the whistle).
- More structure to the shoulder straps, which flip around/twist when putting arms though.
- Pass or ID slot on left shoulder strap.
- Some sort of clip for attaching a helmet.
- Who is it for? A resort skier who wants to carry a pack. Target = direct hit.
- Who is it not for? Hikers who want to attach skis to a pack.
- Insider tip: To maximize the concept, only pack flat items in the main cavity. You might have to take your phone out of its case to fit into the shoulder compartment.
Individual Review LiftRider Resort Backpack
I got one in February and absolutely love it and been wearing it for at least 40 ski days. I would agree that it is a fine product for recreational skiers and riders, but it may not be well suited for carrying skis or heavy bulky equipment. But again, the manufacturer specifies that it is designed for "everyday skiing", not professional or extreme sports.
While wearing it, I can ride even the smallest chairs without the feeling you're at the edge of the seat and about to fall off due to the bulk at the lower back. The insulated upper compartment is large enough and stable enough for sandwiches, fruit, energy bars and snacks and they stay undisturbed until lunch time. I can also place the velcro divider in the middle or wherever to bring a camera in addition to lunch. Side pockets are an amazing idea and so are the strap pockets. I had given up on backpacks after reading several incidents (and actually seeing one) of people wearing backpacks trapped in the chair upon offloading. I consider that money well spent. Looking forward to seeing a new batch coming out (it's sold out now) and purchasing a few more as Holiday presents.
Since the backpack is still a development item, buyers get a nice email from the manufacturer asking their opinions. I wrote to the maker upon his request and told him my only two recommendations were a protective flap for the water bag to avoid punctures by zippers or other metal objects, and to make the water bite valve compartment a little larger.
Other than that, it is just what I needed.Last edited: Apr 25, 2017