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Backcountry

Gearing Up for the Southern Hemisphere

Ski essentials that scored high in versatility and packability on a trip to Portillo

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For most, skiing in the summer means traveling across the globe, taking off in 80 degrees and landing squarely in winter. The long-haul and drastic change in climate can prompt skiers to try to pack everything but the kitchen sink. But if you’re traveling halfway around the world to say, Portillo, Chile, you don’t have the luxury of packing your entire closet. Instead, you’ll need to whittle down to a few but worthy pieces that will cover all your bases. Here are some essentials that scored high in versatility and packability on a recent trip to Ski Portillo.

The Douchebag
Photo courtesy of Douchebag

The Douchebag

If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years traveling with ski bags in tow, it’s choose your ski bag carefully. You need one that will not only protect your precious skis from the baggage handlers, but also one that will make your life easier on the go. Though it may seem counterintuitive, go for The Douchebag. This snow roller can comfortably fit two pairs of even the longest skis (or three, if you’re really motivated), and will protect your goods with a durable polyester outer shell, polyester lining, ABS protection ribs that reduce weight yet keep your skis from being crushed. Favorite features: length adjustability and hook-up system. If you have shorter skis, you can adjust the length of the bag by rolling and cinching the top down to snuggly fit against the tips of your skis—no more floppy top. And DB’s hook-up system allows you to attach other DB bags (like the Hugger 30L) for piggy-back rolling. [$249, douchebags.com]

DB Hugger 30L
Photo courtesy of Douchebag

DB Hugger 30L

This 30L blend of small duffle and roomy backpack features a lightweight rib cage construction ideal for overhead bin storage, a secure laptop pocket, and an easy-access top pocket to house all your quick-grab essentials like chargers, travel documents, snacks, etc. At 11.2-inches wide and 21.7-inches long, the Hugger is the perfect carry-on for short or long hauls. [$159, douchebags.com]

DPS Alchemist Uschi 94
Photo courtesy of DPS

DPS Uschi 94 Alchemist

Snow conditions and winter weather in the Andes can range from deep winter with abundant snowfall, to warm temps and spring-like snow, so it pays to travel with a pair of all-mountain, all-condition skis—something you’re happy to ski in pow, crust, corn and on hardpack. Sound like a unicorn ski? The Uschi 94 Alchemist fits the bill. Featuring DPS’ new C2 Chassis sidecut design to balance aggressive edge-bite with a giant sweet spot, the Uschi is designed to handle mixed-snow like a champ. She loves to carve shorter-radius turns on groomers but is also keen to butter medium-radius turns in the crud and bumps. And featuring the Alchemist pure carbon core construction, the Uschi 94 is a great lightweight one-quiver ski. In fact, this ski is such a jack-of-all-trades that I didn’t need another set of boards in Portillo—the Uschi comfortably transitioned from firm groomers and chalky off-pistes to the Super C. [$1,299, dps.com]

Bight Gear Swelter Jacket
Photo courtesy of Bight Gear

Bight Women’s Swelter Jacket

After missing a flight connection and being rerouted, I arrived in Santiago without my ski and boot bags. So, for the first two days of my trip, I had only the clothes in my carry-on, which included the Bight Swelter Jacket. And it turns out, if you only have access to one jacket for a few days of a ski trip, the Swelter Jacket is the one you want. With synthetic Polartec® Power Fill and weather resistant ripstop fabric, the Swelter is designed to be worn alone or over a couple of light layers, and with an athletic fit, drop-tail hem, plenty of exterior and interior pockets, and helmet-compatible hood, can function as stand-alone ski jacket when the need arises (like when your bags don’t show at the airport). [$329, bightgear.com]

Strafe Women's Sunnyside Alpha Anorak
Courtesy of Strafe

Strafe Sunnyside Alpha Anorak

Key word: “Alpha.” It tells you everything you need to know about this ultimate midlayer. Alpha® is a highly breathable, active insulation fabric that feels as light as air, provides warmth when you need it, and dumps it when you don’t. A lot of midlayers feature this miracle fabric, but I challenge you to find one as comfortable and practical as the Sunnyside Anorak. Favorite features: raglan sleeves and extended side panels, zippered kangaroo pouch pocket with integrated media port, and a side zipper for easy on-and-off. This was my go-to layer for everything from boot-packing 3,000 feet in 42 degrees to the top of Portillo’s infamous Super C, to lounging out in the sun at Tio Bob’s slopeside restaurant. Superior functionality and style make the Sunnyside Anorak top-dog in the realm of midlayers. [$269, strafeouterwear.com

Coal Atlas Hat
Photo courtesy of Coal

Coal Atlas Hat

I’ve always been a big fan of wide-brim hats in theory. They’re stylish, hide bad helmet-hair, and protect your head and face from the elements. But in reality, I’ve often found the wide-brim hat to be impractical. If you decide to wear one, you’re committed—there’s no stashing the hat in your purse or pack if you get tired of it. Or so I thought. Then The Atlas came into my life, and I was proved wrong. This wool felt fedora is packable, making it an ideal travel accessory. Simply roll up the crushable felt and secure with the hat’s built-in leather strap to pack The Atlas down into a neat cylinder that will easily fit into a small tote, pack or duffle. When you’re ready to wear it again, the hat will spring right back into shape. Five stars for ingenuity. [$110, coal.com]

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Technica Cochise 105 W DYN Ski Boots

Ladies, if you’re flying south and have both backcountry and resort lines on your agenda, pack the Cochise 105 W DYN boots and be on your way. The one-quiver boot trend has been gaining traction among all-mountain skiers as a way to avoid schlepping multiple boots on trips where you may dabble in and out of the resort. The women’s Cochise 105 DYN is a burlier freeride boot with a perfect balance of downhill performance and uphill mobility to keep lady shredders happy whether ripping Super G turns down the piste or touring/bootpacking up to get the goods in the backcountry. Featuring tech inserts and a rubber sole, these babies are compatible with tech- as well as downhill bindings, so bring both ski setups and leave the second pair of boots at home. [$600, skimag.com]