One of these days I will find the perfect pack. That is not today, however, because as much as I like the Mammut Trion Nordwand, it is not perfect (though keep in mind that perfection is subjective).
The Trion Nordwand is the flagship of Mammut’s alpine oriented packs, and it shows in the materials and attention to detail. I’m not that tech-savvy so when Mammut say this pack is made of a fabric with a very high UHMWPE fibre mix, I google it. UHMWPE stands for Ultra High Molecular Weight Polyetyhlene, which near as I can tell is the scientific description for stuff like Dyneema and Spectra. I know both of those are tough fibers, so consider this pack’s material to basically be part Dyneema / Spectra. Bottom line: it’s tough. There’s also a whole bunch of Cordura in there somewhere (the straps, I think). Let’s just say it’s overbuilt and leave it at that, ok?
All the damage I’ve managed to inflict on the pack in over six months of use, most of it coming when I fell down some ice and rocks (story here, warning, graphic images).
It’s feature-rich, as well. The compression straps double as ski straps. The ice tool attachment is faultless, and securely straps in every shape and size of tool I’ve tried. The hipbelt is easily removable, and features a racking loop on either side. The lid has the typical two compartments, but the under-lid one is made of some kind of clear-plastic-mesh-stuff so you can easily see what’s inside. Nice. There’s even a removable rope strap, with enough strap length to fit at least a couple of ropes. Add in four additional gear loops and you have a pack with every feature I look for in a climbing backpack.
So why isn’t it the perfect pack for me? Two reasons.
The biggest issue for me is the fixed lid. Fixed lids limit how much stuff you can shove into the pack, and at the same time keep hanging around when the pack is mostly empty. While it might be a slightly lighter and simpler choice, I’ll always take a floating / removable lid over an attached one. For me this is the biggest issue with the Trion Nordwand, though I know a lot of climbers who don’t mind this style of top lid. It’s all personal preference, after all.
The second issue I have is the lack of top compression strap / attachment point for the rope strap. The rope strap itself is fantastic: lots of length, it’s removable and has an easy-to-use quick release buckle. What it, or rather the pack, lacks is a point through which you can loop the strap to compress the top of the pack. It’s easier explained with images but what I ended up doing is passing a tiny Edlerid 19G carabiner through the drawstring closure cord-lock loop. This gives me somewhere to loop the rope-strap through, which in turn compresses the top of the pack better than the drawstring closure alone.
So, those are the two points that keep the Trion Nordwand from being a perfect pack in my book. Everything else, I really like!
The fabric, as mentioned above, is very durable. It’s biggest test was when I managed to slip and tumble down some approach ice / rocks / trees / snow and it didn’t burst or tear. A few small holes, but nothing really worth mentioning. Regular use hasn’t put a scratch onto it.
Ice tool retention is among the best I’ve seen, while staying simple and easy-to-use. There’s a sleeve and buckle for the pick and head, and a regular velcro strap for the shaft/handle. Quick, easy, simple.
Should you wish to strip some weight, or make the pack more climbing-friendly, the hipbelt detaches from the pack body with a velcro tab. You’re left with a 2-inch wide webbing strap that’s low profile on your waist or easy to wrap around the pack to keep it out of the way.
The compression straps show fantastic attention to detail: the buckles are configured such that you can buckle them together for compression either on the sides or the front of the pack. Or, use them to strap crampons across the front. Not sure this makes sense, check out the photos.
Internally, the Trion Nordwand has a pre-shaped one-piece stay made of a tube of 6mm aluminium. This is one of the few packs in which I leave the stay in, as it is flexible and comfortable enough for climbing. The stay is supportive with heavy loads, and because I leave it in this pack carries heavy loads better than most others I have, without needing to be stripped down for comfortable climbing.
There are reinforced haul loops, also handy for hanging a helmet off of, and there’s even a hydration bladder port and sleeve (mostly useless in an alpine pack as far as I’m concerned). One neat feature is a small loop near the top of the internal compartment meant to hang your unused gear from so you’re not searching the bottom of the pack for those extra cams or that random biner.
The shoulder straps are comfortable and the back panel, though sparsely padded, keeps all the angled pointy bits from grinding into your back.
The Trion Nordwand is a great pack. One of my favourites, and often the one I reach for. I wish it had a floating lid. I try to take as small a pack as possible, which often means that the pack is stuffed to the max. A floating lid can be extended to accommodate all this gear, and then cinched back down, or put away into the main compartment, when climbing. Which brings me to the second downside: the lack of a top compression strap. The rope strap can easily be used for this, but there’s nowhere to hook it through. I’ve come up with a workaround, but the fixed lid bugs me more. Maybe someone at Mammut reads this and the next version will go back to a floating lid? (The previous version had a floating lid!)
But other than those two points, I love this pack. It’s comfortable yet tough, and is one of the best I have at keeping my ice tools attached securely when bushwhacking. I find myself reaching for it more often than I thought I would. It might not be perfect but maybe it’s close enough?
Pros: tough, comfortable, carries loads well, great tool attachments
Cons: fixed lid, lack of top compression strap
Overall: A near-perfect alpine pack.
Mammut NA sent The Alpine Start a sample for review but as you probably know by now, this doesn’t influence our opinion of the product.