Osprey All the WayYour thread it timely. Infact, I recently completed this same excercise.
In my case, I commonly become the "sherpa" for carrying my two young daughters extra gear and clothes, so I was looking for a pack that had your same basic needs, plus the desire to have a pack without a lot of external straps to get caught on the lift chair (lift friendly).
I started my research from an old thread on this site (from 2003, I think). I searched under "pack" or "ski pack".
I fondled packs from:
Back Country Access (BCA)
Granite Gear, and
I agree that the BCA, Stash BC is a well constructed, great pack, in the 2200 cubic inch range. If I was looking for a pack this size I would without hesitation buy this pack. The BCA Stash (maybe around 900 c.i.) is just too small period! I wish BCA made a pack sized between these two - BCA makes outrageously good products.
My next favorite was the Granite Gear - but again it was too large for my needs - but would make a fabulous back country pack.
In my opinion, the Dakine packs (Heli Pro and Poacher) are nice but do not have the build quality of some of the others - lots of bells and whistles to break). If I wanted a top-loading strictly backcountry pack I would get a Poacher or Guide.
I was very disappointed in the Marmot and BD designs and sizes. For my needs I would have liked a BD Revelation is a size smaller than those avilable and with a insulated shoulder strap for the hydration tube. Now that would have been a huge winner. This pack is definiely worth a look if a larger, strictly back country pack is wanted.
In the end, my selection was the Osprey Switch 18. Bomber build quality, great customer service that will probably not be needed and somewhat more chair friendly that other packs I reviewed. Osprey also make a Switch 25, for larger capacity. Both packs have, goggle pocket, probe pocket, shovel pocket, hydration compatable. Also, because of two compression straps the pack will go quite small, as needed. Osprey understates their pack capacities.
One slick thing about the pack is its ease of fitting the hydration bladder in its own sleeve and a "copy" of the zippered shoulder strap that BCA promotes. Their system is definitely better than Dakine. Dakine's, hydration system, tube protection on the new packs seems to be an after thought. NOTE: most the deals, around, on the Dakine packs are older models that do not have the hydration tube in the pack strap. On the up side, the Dakines are relatively inexpensive compared to some of the others.
The Switch 18 has been to the field on three trips: one hike and two resort oriented ski days. In short, the pack rides nicely on the back even when busting at the seams. The pack is a little thick (front to back) when fully loaded to be as lift chair firendly as I had hoped. I like the way it rides so much that it will also probably replace an Arc'teryx Bora daypack that I use in the summer for baggin' 14er's.
What don't I like about the Switch 18? It is a panel loader - that will take getting use to - It replaces an old top-loading Lowe "Klettersack" that lived a long, blissful 20 year life.