Mid-July saw the huge OutDoor Tradeshow descend upon the town of Friedrichshafen in Germany. This is the event of the year for European climbing and outdoor companies, and there are literally hundreds of brands showing off their shiny new stuff.
As ever UKC/UKH were there in force this year and we have a series of reports about all the new developments on show. The first report covered climbing hardwear. This one covers the container you need to carry it all to the crags or up the mountains - packs.
Since established bag manufacturer Podsacs come from the same parent company, Equip, Rab haven’t started with a totally blank slate here. Indeed their designer Ben Manwaring worked on both rucksack ranges. As a result the new offerings are as functional, well-thought-out and robust as you might expect, bringing together the best of both brands, Rab say, and opening the product to a wider market via the Rab stockist base.
Robic nylon fabric is used throughout the range, tough but light with a PU coating for water and tear resistance. The new rucksack selection spans the sizes, with something for every activity from quick day walks and runs to full scale expeditions. At the top of the pile is the heavy goods vehicle Expedition 70 (£160), a beefy load carrier that does what it says on the tin. Then come the climb-oriented Super Alpine 55 (£140) and the Alpine 45 (£120) and 35 (£100), all of which feature removable lids, hip belts and internal frames for lighter-weight climbing. Stripping back the Super Alpine, for instance, reduces the pack weight from 1600g to a respectable 900g. Hillwalkers, runners and mountain marathon-ers are also catered for with the Dynamo 35 (£65), 25 (£45) and 15 (£35). Even the 35l version weighs less than 1kg, and though they are pared-back simple Rab haven't gone all-out for silly lightness, making no compromises on functionality or durability.
New for Spring 2014, the Epic 35 is part of Black Diamond's updated pack line, a well-made 35-litre rucksack with all the essential features for rock, winter and alpine climbing, and nothing extraneous. It's a simple top-loading bag that minimalists can make simpler (and lighter) still by stripping off the floating lid, internal frame and hipbelt. To that end the lid attachment straps are girth-hitched on so that they're also removable - a nice little touch. But perhaps it's the fit that is the Epic's most distinctive feature. Unusually the shoulder straps are connected via a hidden length of steel cable, so that the whole arrangement moves as one as your torso twists and flexes. Together with the thermo-formed back panel and pivoting hip belt this 'ergoACTIV suspension system' (puhleeze) makes for a comfortable and free-feeling carry, since the pack moves with your hips rather than restricting how you move (if that makes sense?). Hip gear loops, a small pick pocket, removable velcro axe retainers, rope strap and removable crampon 'bikini' strap complete the package. All-in, the Medium size weighs a reasonable 1.49kg.
Billed as a via ferrata sack for the Continental market the Miage also looks to be an ideal UK summer cragging and general hillwalking day pack. The classic top-loading lid is supplemented with an offset zipped front entry to help cut down on bag rummaging, and for the bits and bobs you need on the move like a water bottle or a phone there are additional side pockets (well, sleeves) plus a small zipped pocket on the hip belt. Slimline contoured shoulder straps give a good snug fit, while the back plate can be removed and bent to personalise the shape. Other features include a single elastic axe/pole attachment, under-lid rope tether and zipped valuables pocket. Given its robust construction and features the Miage is pretty light, the 30L version weighing 900g (£75) and the 36L model a reasonable 970g (£85).
To many of us the name Vango may be associated with school DofE expeditions and traditional walking and camping kit, but the Glasgow-based brand have some new technical products for Spring/Summer 2014 that might be worth a look. These packs incoporate a new back system featuring a corrugated foam backing that is intended to keep the air moving across your back for extra ventilation. The Khumbu comes in a 50L and also features a detachable waistband. The Alto is available in slightly smaller 30L and 40L sizes. While there's nothing groundbreaking here these are simple, functional bags.
In this video Clive Allen describes the story behind Geoff Lowe and his ascent of Metanoia in the late 1990s and the new pack that it has inspired.
Lowe Alpine have also developed a new Axiom carriying system for all their load carrier packs. In this video Clive Allen describes the new system in relation to the Cerro Torre pack.
Designer Travis Gaylord and Ueli Steck discuss the development and features of thee new South Col 70 pack from Mountain Hardwear.
Here's a full-on trekking pack from Vango, at a very competitive £120. The body, in a lightweight ripstop nylon, has a 60 litre capacity, which extends to a further 10 litres by means of expandable bellows pockets and a floating lid - giving you a (reasonably) slimline pack when you want it, but more carrying room if needed. There are two ways to access the main compartment, the lid plus a huge zipped entry - a quick way to get at items you've stowed far down in the pack. With a back system that easily adjusts by sliding up or down an alloy bar, and a super-wide hip belt, the Nanga is built for comfortable load carrying. External extras include twin axe loops/pole retainers, elasticated side pockets and a nifty on-the-side handle for plane or train travel. Quite a lot of pack for your money.
Winner of an Industry Award for innovation at Friedrichshafen, the Fourtneener is a neat, well-designed day-bag that hits the shops in January 2014. It features the NV ('new ventilation') back panel, a series of independent raised mesh pads that help the pack to flex with the torso and create plenty of air gaps between the bag and your back for maximum ventilation. Packs with an air gap can tend to feel far out from the body - not great for load carrying comfort or balance - but the Fourteener manages to keep a body hugging fit with a nice close centre of gravity. Entry to the main bag is a zip, and there are several little external pockets and sleeves. A 3-litre CamelBak bladder and tube come as standard with these bags, and one feature we particularly like about the 'reservoir' is the new wider mouth, which is big enough to get your hand in for easier cleaning. The Fourteener 24 (ie. 24 litre capacity) has two axe loops and retails at £124.99; the Fourteener 20 with one loop and rather less external storage is £114.99 - and with these prices bear in mind that you get the bladder as well as the pack.
As a cragging / sport climbing pack, Steve Roberts from Grivel showed us the 45 litre Rocker. This features a large zip opening, lots of pockets/loops for organising gear as well as a tarpaulin/rope mate which you can lay out at the crag. This pack isn't a lightweight alpine rucksack, but is designed for carrying your craging gear to the cliff, and means you can get to all your stuff more easily than with a traditional backpack.