Now that I've gotten A LOT of really great tips about how to go about taking my first steps into the backcountry on a VERY limited budget (I'll be taking my powder setup on my back and snow-shoeing/hiking up, and coming down in my powder skis - not ideal, and not particularly lightweight, but definitely ok for me for now), I've realized that after I invest in an avalanche course and the necessary safety gear, I'm ALSO going to have to get a pack to carry my supplies and gear (and my skis too, obviously). Unfortunately, this means I'll probably have to put off getting the AT setup I have a feeling I'm really going to want after getting a taste of the backcountry experience - but it's going to have to be a "one step at a time" thing.
So, I'm interested in advice about a good pack. The only one I've looked into extensively is the Gregory Targhee, which does looks very good to me. My needs are pretty simple: it doesn't need to be too big, because I'll only be going out for day trips; it needs to be able to secure my skis on the way up, my snow shoes (if I hiked up in them) on the way down. I'll probably wear my winter boots on the way up, and either secure my ski boots in the bindings of the skis, or in the bag (if there's room). So I'm interested in any advice people have about a pack that would fit these needs. Also, I'm interested in any more feedback about the plan of putting the boots in the skis versus in the pack - let me know if you think one plan is better than the other, and if you do advocate putting them in the pack I would be particularly interested in hearing about a pack that would be able to fit them, along with the other stuff I'll need (safety gear, puffy, some food, etc.).