The Blue Ice Warthog 26 is the nicest pack I find myself never using. Blue Ice is a Chamonix-based company making some very cool gear, including my favourite leash, the Boa. They also make some very cool packs, and the Warthog 26 is no exception.
Designed as a climbing pack, the Warthog doesn’t disappoint – it is one of the best ‘climbing’ packs I’ve used, becoming virtually invisible when on your back, the shoulder straps positioned just so, the narrow pack body allows for free range of movement and the ultra-durable fabric shrugs off sharp rocks.
The main pack body is made of 500 denier Cordura, a super-tough and durable fabric that is extremely abrasion-resistant. My pack shows absolutely no wear, even after being dragged up chimneys, over sharp Rockies’ spires and even through a cave or two. The bottom of the pack is even tougher 1000 denier Cordura. Despite the heavy-duty fabrics, the 26-litre Warthog weighs in a respectable 740 grams.
The other features are sparse, but functional. The lid is non-removable and has two pockets: one large top pocket with a large zipper opening, and a smaller zippered pocket on the underside. The lid also houses another zippered compartment for storing the attached helmet mesh.
There are two loops for ice tools, with bungee-style top attachments, as well as a rope strap over the main compartment. The minimalist hip-belt (essentially 1” webbing) is removable, and the sternum strap buckle has a built-in whistle.
The best feature of this pack are the shoulder straps, which at a glance don’t appear to be anything special. But load it up and somehow the simple straps distribute weight evenly, don’t chafe, but, most importantly, don’t interfere with shoulder movement while climbing, be it rock or ice.
So it’s simple, light and durable. Why don’t I use it then? And to this question I don’t have an easy answer. I like all the features, and I really like how well it climbs. I think I just find it a touch too small — I like to keep my rope in the pack to minimize snagging on branches during the inevitable bushwhack approaches, and the Warthog isn’t designed to accommodate that much gear. At the same time, it isn’t compressible enough to pack along as a dedicated ‘summit’ pack to bring along in my bigger approach pack. Thankfully, Blue Ice have created a 38-litre version of the Warthog, and I can’t wait to get my hands on one and try it out!
Pros: durable, light, accommodates pretty much every ice tool out there, has effective helmet mesh and rope strap, climbs amazingly
Cons: none I can think of
Overall: If you can live with a rope slung over the top of your pack, this is a fantastic climbing pack. Its focused design has everything you need, and nothing you don’t.
NOTE: The only caveat with this pack is availability of Blue Ice gear in North America – there isn’t much of it to go around, and shipping from Europe is prohibitive. If you can find one, get it – these things are awesome!
Check out more Blue Ice gear at: http://www.blueice.com/en/home/
And Dane Burns is the North American distributor: http://blueicegear.blogspot.ca/