Winter OR 2018: Packs

If you’ve been reading this site for any length of time, you probably already know that I have a bit of a pack problem — from tiny 10-litre lead packs to 100-litre behemoths, I currently have about two dozen different packs at home, and at least another half dozen lent out to friends. Not to mention all the packs I’ve bought and sold. And, obviously, this doesn’t include duffel bags, which are a separate collection. Given that, it’s fair to to say that packs, duffels, and other bags are one of my favourite things to check out at OR.

While not altogether new, but as we don’t see them often on this side of the Atlantic, I thought I’d mention Mountain Equipment’s Tupilak packs. These are lightweight but fully-featured climbing packs, and wonderfully simple in design.

The Tupilak is made of a laminated, near-waterproof main fabric yet maintains an incredibly low weight thanks to minimalist hardware and some cool design features. It comes in three sizes — 45, 37 and 30 — all of which ME claim are ‘true’ sizes, unlike many other packs on the market which use ‘maximum’ capacity or some other volume for their size rating.

The neatest design bit on these packs has to be the main closure buckle, which is an open-ended metal tab that ‘catches’ on specifically sewn bits of webbing. It looks a bit odd but appears to work very well. Naturally, I tried to trip up the system and force it to slip but couldn’t — at least not in the warmth and comfort of the show floor. I should be getting a sample to test out soon and am curious how this buckle system will fare in the real world, though given that ME has a few top British alpinists on their athlete roster, I’m sure they’ve sussed it out past the point of reasonable failure.

The main compartment is secured with a small flap — that is to say, there is no ‘traditional’ lid to the pack, and underneath it there’s a roll-top extension collar. This collar is sewn somewhat lower into the main pack bag than you’d expect, and functions as a separate ‘compartment’ of sorts (i.e. once all your main kit is inside the pack, close the roll top and the space above it but below the main flap can function as a quick stow pocket for on-route necessities, say a belay parka or mitts). It’s a cool system, and makes me want to revisit some other packs to see if I can use their extension collars the same way!

There’s also a floating internal pocket, accessible from either outside or inside thanks to dual zippers.

Being purpose -designed climbing packs, all the main bits like framesheet, straps, hipbelt, etc can be stripped off to reduce weight, which is already respectably low. According to ME, their weights are, max and fully stripped, as follows: 45, 815-grams, 600-grams; 37, 780-grams, 570-grams; 30, 730-grams, 520-grams. Prices are $330, $320 and $290, respectively, all USD.

The tool attachment is the familiar aluminum toggle for the tool head, and a simple and straightforward elastic loop for the shaft. There’s also a little sleeve to secure your picks through — a welcome detail that keeps sharp picks from poking holes in everything.

Osprey makes some of the best carrying backpacks on the market, and their climbing packs are no exception. For FW18, the Mutant climbing-pack series merges with the Variant ski-mountaineering packs into do-it-all packs under the Mutant name. The new Mutants will come in three sizes, each with slightly varying features, but all three will come in just the one, dark-blue with orange accents, style.

The 22 is the smallest of the three, and has apparently already become a favourite among Osprey employees. Versatile enough to be used as a daypack, the 22 has all the climber-friendly features you’d expect on a larger pack, including solid tool holders, rope strap, strippable hipbelt and removable framesheet. The main closure is a large, robust zipper that wouldn’t look out of place on a duffel bag. Weight comes in at a respectable 570-grams and price will be $100 USD.

In the middle sits the 38. In addition to the larger volume, it adds a removable top lid with built-in helmet carrier, A-frame ski loops, and compression straps. While the framesheet and stays are removable, unfortunately the waistbelt is fixed, but does wrap-around backwards for climbing duty. Underneath the top lid, there’s a stow-away FlapJacket lid that protects the pack opening when used without the top lid in place. My pre-production sample in a M/L weighs 1245-grams, which drops down to 814-grams when stripped of the framesheet/stays and top lid. MSRP for the 38 will be $170 USD.

The biggest pack is the 52, and is even more ski-friendly than the 38 thanks to additional wand/picket pockets on either side. The hipbelt is also removable for more comfortable climbing, while just as on the 38 the framesheet, stays and top lid are strippable. Total weight for the 52 is 1470-grams and MSRP will be $200 USD.

Osprey also introduced a new series of rolling duffels called, somewhat unimaginatively, the Rolling Transporter. They’ll come in a carry-on 40L size, and two larger load-hauling 80L and 120L capacities. Weights are very respectable 2740-grams, 3530-grams and 3850-grams, respectively, and prices will be $240, $270 and $290 USD. The main zipper is a massively-oversized #10 YKK that secures the huge primary compartment, while there are large external pockets on the top (handle) end. Having spent several months living out of my truck last year — road-tripping, camping, etc. — I’ve come to really appreciate large duffels for easy gear transportation and organization, and these new bags from Osprey look awesome!

Also falling squarely into the massive load-hauler category is The North Face’s Prophet 100 (new for Spring 2018, I believe). Designed out of the need for expedition athletes to haul gear on skis while on glaciers, the Prophet 100 has a quick-access avy-gear pocket on the outside, a unique feature as far as I know. There’s also a unique ‘floating’ webbing system for the shoulder straps and waistbelt that moves along with the user, facilitating comfort and load carrying while skiing or hiking. The pack also has a side-access zipper and massive side pockets, all while weighing almost 500-grams less than packs of comparable size. $439 USD and approx. 2600-grams.

Finally — and I’m not sure how I missed it at the last show — there’s Blue Ice’s new Koala rope bag. It’s a super-simple rope bag with a built-in tarp and a shoulder-bag style carrying system. There’s a small accessories pocket, and it’ll cost all of $40 USD when it goes on sale later this spring.

3 thoughts on “Winter OR 2018: Packs

    • Raf says:

      The Mutant doesn’t. But… stay tuned to tomorrow’s post as there’s a new Arc’teryx pack that’s designed for skiing, it might fit your needs?

  1. Chris says:

    Thanks, Raf for taking the time to type these recaps/reviews! I look forward to them every year! The mutant line looks sweet. I wish they kept the front crampon pouch my Variant 52 has. I’ve come to really like that pack for winter cragging!

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