Columbia Bugaboo Ranger Backpack

Ski Carry

Another highlight of the Bugaboo Ranger is the ski carry system. The first few days we hiked Cerro Martin, I decided to forgo using the ski carry system and just shouldered my skis to the top. Frankly, I didn’t want to take the time to mess with the ski carry for a 30-40 minute booter. When I finally decided to give the ski carry a try, I realized I had been an idiot. The skis were incredibly easy to load, and the strap placement, combined with the low-profile nature of the pack, virtually made the additional weight disappear. It felt like someone else was carrying my skis for me.

At the base of the pack is a small-diameter loop of cable, which can be positioned to exit at either side. The cable can also be lengthened to create a huge loop for pow boards, or shortened by two nylon straps inside the avalanche gear compartment.

The top ski carry straps are a section of webbing attached at two locations along each shoulder strap. This system allows skis to be carried diagonally in either direction (another uncommon feature), vertically, and supposedly will carry a snowboard. This system has been flawless so far. It is the easiest to use, most adjustable, and secure feeling ski carry I have used to date (others include the Dakine Ridge, Dakine Heli Pro, Black Diamond Convert, and the Arva Rescuer 27).

Most importantly, the Bugaboo Ranger made its biggest impression when it was time to throw it on and go ski. I have to admit, I usually hate wearing a pack. Most of them feel like an entirely separate entity this is usually one step behind every move I make. They also have a significant impact on my center of gravity. With the Bugaboo Ranger, I noticed none of these ill effects.

Jason Hutchins, Columbia Bugaboo Ranger, Blister Gear Review
Jason Hutchins, Las Leñas Ski Resort.

Instead, I could instantly tell how incredibly close any weight felt to my back because of the low-profile shape. Loaded up with my avalanche gear, an additional upper-body mid-layer, sunglasses, wool hat, water, sandwich, and bars, it basically felt like each item was strapped directly to my body. Whether skiing in challenging terrain or spinning laps through the terrain park, for the first time ever, I could forget about the extra weight on my back.

Columbia Bugaboo, Blister Gear Review
The external flap unbuckled and folded down, exposing the open nylon sleeves.

Snow Safety Storage

The Bugaboo Ranger does have a dedicated snow safety section, and this is where the pack runs into problems. The shovel blade, shovel handle, and probe have dedicated external storage locations, with only a flap covering them that buckles into place. While the shovel blade is held in place exceptionally well, both the shovel handle and probe are only held in place by a nylon sleeve. With enough jostling, or a flip of any sort (whether intentional or not), the handle and probe quickly become flying objects no longer available for use in an avalanche crisis or jump building session.

I remedied this by running the shovel handle up the sleeve from the bottom, therefore locking it in place, and stashing my probe inside the main compartment. This method of loading avy gear however, does delay how quickly you’re ready to probe and dig in an emergency.

Bottom Line

While the shovel handle and probe issue are cause for thought when purchasing this pack, bare in mind the Bugaboo Ranger is otherwise an exceptional pack. It is ideal for resort, sidecountry, and quick-access backcountry. It would also be a phenomenal pack for Heli and Cat skiing. The main purpose of wearing a back of this size is to carry avalanche safety gear, however, so Columbia needs to address this issue. If they do, it will complete this little gem of a pack making it downright perfect for its intended use.

2 comments on “Columbia Bugaboo Ranger Backpack”

  1. Read your review of the Columbia Bugaboo Ranger pack. You mention the ease of attaching large skis diagonal. But I can’t seem to figure out how to attach at the top when the pack is loaded. Do you have some pictures of this pack with the skis attached and closeups of how you secured them? Thanks.

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