Climbing Packs

Summer OR 2018: Packs

There were some really cool alpine and mountaineering packs to check out at OR this summer though not as many as usual. Companies like Osprey, Deuter, Gregory, etc. seemed to have focused their efforts in other areas such as cycling and hiking this year. However I met up with the Arc’teryx crew in Vancouver before the show so I can include their new alpine climbing pack below. So in alphabetical order, here’s what’s headed your way for 2019.

Arc’teryx Alpha AR:

Arc’teryx Alpha AR 20 Pack

Arc’teryx will be adding to the Alpha line of alpine climbing packs with the new Alpha AR. This new pack will come in 20 and 35L versions though there’re rumors of a larger 55L version as well. These climbing specific packs utilize a cool new hook system instead of buckles and offer a few more features than the streamlined Alpha FL packs. They also feature a band-new fabric utilizing Liquid Crystal Polymer (LCP) technology to improve durability. Both packs will come in two colors: Beacon (orange) and Robotica (grey).

Arcteryx Alpha ARNow the idea of LCPs have been around for a while but it’s taken time for the technology to develop to the point where it could be economically used to create a fabric. It was only recently that Arc’teryx and their textile partners were able to fine tune the weaving process to combine the LCP with nylon 66. The resultant material (N315r fabric) utilizes the LCP in a ropstop grid giving it amazing tear and abrasion resistance. It also has a higher heat tolerance than materials like Dyneema allowing it to withstand the application process for high performance coatings. I’ve been playing with the 20L version a bit and have been very impressed with just how tough it is.

The Alpha AR 35 is a standard top-loader. The top-lid has a main pocket as well as a smaller under-lid pocket while the main body has a drawstring closure. The pack also has dual side compression straps, vertical daisy chains with shock cord along the back for lashing crampons, etc. and of course dual ice axe attachments. Unfortunately the pack doesn’t have a helmet attachment system or a side access zipper, two features I really like in an alpine pack. The removable framesheet allows the weight to be dropped from 1170g down to 825g and it seems to be sized a bit bigger than the lean FL series of packs. MSRP $219.

Arcteryx Alpha ARThe Alpha AR 20 is a simple multi-pitch climbing type pack with a drawstring top under a slick top flap that acts as a seal against rain while creating a snag-less top. It has the same vertical daisy chains with shock cord along the back for lashing crampons as the 35L version and can also accommodate a pair of ice tools. The interior of the Alpha 20 has a small interior pocket against the back and a surprising large exterior pocket hidden under the shock cord. It does not have a helmet attachment system either. MSRP $129.

Arcteryx Alpha ARArcteryx Alpha ARArcteryx Alpha AR


Black Diamond Distance:

Black Diamond Distance

With sports like sky running, a blend of trail running and alpinism, becoming increasingly popular it’s not surprising to see companies blending alpine and running gear as well. The new BD Distance pack line is one such blend. Basically a cross between an alpine climbing pack and running vest the Distance comes in 8 and 15L versions. The pack (vest?) is designed to accommodate the necessities of the alpine such as trekking poles, ice axe, crampons, water and extra clothing layers but still provide a snug fit to reduce bouncing. Made from UHMWPE (like Dyneema just not a brand name supplier) I expect it’ll be quite durable.

Both the 15L and 8L versions seem to have the same features just with a different volume pack. The main compartment has a Quick-Blitz style opening with a small pocket to tuck away the excess draw cord.  The interior of the pack has a small zippered pocket for keys, etc. and a mesh divider that serves as a hydration pack sleeve or pouch for smaller items. The harness has an elastic cord side compression system for fitting the pack securely when running. The vest-like front features dual flask pockets, dual zippered nutrition pockets and even a pocket for the new ultra lightweight deploy shell. MSRP will be $150 USD for the 15 L version and $140 USD for the 8L version.

Black Diamond DistanceBlack Diamond Distance


Mammut Trion Spine 50:

Mammut Trion Spine

Mammut will be expanding the Trion line of alpine packs for 2019 with the new Trion Spine 50. While on the surface it looks like a normal top-loader there’s some really cool tech hidden away. This includes a new suspension system that Mammut is calling Active Spine Technology™ as well as the new Mammut Connect.

The Active Spine Tech is basically made up of an amazingly strong and stiff glasfiber rod that runs along the spine of the pack between two pivot points. One pivot is at the shoulder while the other is at the hips. This allows the pack to rotate at the hips (been done before) and at the shoulders (this is new). As a result the pack can rotate one way at the hips and the other way at the shoulders providing a natural and very free feel. I especially noticed this freedom of movement when reaching up or forward with my arms.

The Trion Spine also includes the new Mammut Connect technology, as does a few other items in the spring ’19 line-up. By implanting a small chip in the pack a NFC (Near Field Communication) enabled device like a smartphone allows retailers and customers can be directed to a website with information on the pack, etc. It sounds a little gimmicky now but this technology may grow to be an asset over time.

Other, more standard, features on the Trion Spine 50 include: Dual ice axe attachment points, side compression straps, a padded hip-belt with a pocket on one side and a gear loop on the other, a rear daisy chain, rope strap, etc. One not-so-common feature that I like is a large U-shaped zipper that provides access to main compartment. It sucks digging everything out just to access that one thing packed way at the bottom. The pack only comes in one size but the suspension system is adjustable from S to L. As with all large-ish, well featured packs the Trion Spine isn’t super light at 2200g. MSRP is $350 USD.


Mountain Hardware Alpine Light:

Mountain Hardware Alpine Light
Beta version of the Alpine Light 50.

Mountain Hardware is basically updating everything including their alpine, climbing and cragging packs. However, for this article I’m going to focus on their alpine packs,. If you have any questions about the others shoot me a message. I’ll be sure to respond and may even get energized to add them to a show report.

The new Alpine Light line from Mountain Hardware will come in three sizes: 28, 35 & 50L and are made of a composite Dyneema fabric. Due to the difficulty of dying Dyneema the packs are primarily white but of course the fabric is extremely durable. So they may get dirty easily but are sure to last a long time. Of course the idea of making Dyneema packs has been around for a while having been pioneered by smaller companies like Hyperlite and Cilogear. However, Mountain Hardware will be able to benefit from an economy of scale not available to smaller brands to really bring the price down to something reasonable. Each of the packs in the new line are described below but the features are subject to change as the designs haven’t been finalized yet.

Mountain Hardware Alpine LightAlpine Light 28: A zipper-top pack with external rope strap, dual side compression straps and two ice tool attachment points. There’s a removable internal pocket as well as an external side pocket. It’s hydration pack compatible and has a removable HardWave framesheet. The shoulder straps are lightly padded while the 25mm waist belt is unpadded. The Alpine Light 28 comes in one size and will retail for $280 USD.

Alpine Light 35: Basically a larger version of the Alpine Light 28 with a few additions. The lightly padded shoulder straps have load adjusters and the 38mm waist belt features a pair of small removable pads. The Alpine Light 35 comes in two sizes (S/M & M/L) and will retail for $330 USD.

Alpine Light 50: Basically a larger version of the 35 except that it has a more standard top lid with a drawstring closure for the main compartment. Of course the top lid has an external zippered pocket as well as a smaller pocket on the underside. The external side pocket is carried though into this model as well though it seems like the removable internal pocket was dropped. The Alpine Light 50 comes in two sizes (S/M & M/L) and will retail for $350 USD.

Mountain Hardware Alpine LightMountain Hardware Alpine LightMountain Hardware Alpine Light

Unfortunately none of the packs sizes offer a helmet carry system and the only access is through the top.


Salewa Apex Wall:

Salewa Apex Wall

The big focus on this new mountaineering pack from Salewa seems to be keeping wearer cool and dry. With split webbing on the waist belt and shoulder straps and a heavily vented back-panel the Contact Flow Fit carry system reduces sweating in contact areas. Ideal for climbers that like to go fast and hard.

The Apex Wall comes in 32 and 38L volumes though there’s also a 45L Apex Guide if you want something bigger. The pack has a roll-top that can be covered with a tapered rope strap giving this sleek pack a fairly snag-free top. Other features include a nice side access zipper, side compression straps, dual ice tool attachment points, etc. All the standard stuff.

Made from ROBIC®, a high tenacity nylon, it should be reasonably durable. It’s also fairly lightweight at 950g for the 32L and 1040g for the 38L version. MSRP is €150 & €160  for the 32 and 38L packs respectively so about $170 & $180 USD.

Salewa Apex WallSalewa Apex WallSalewa Apex Wall

I’ll be covering climbing and approach shoes next. Make sure you checked out some of the earlier posts if you missed them: Tents & Shelters, Mountaineering & Alpine Equipment, Harnesses & Helmets, Climbing Gear and Mountaineering Boots.