UKC

GROUP TEST: Mountain packs around 40 litres

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For year-round climbing, mountaineering, hillwalking and even overnight backpacking, packs around the 40 litre mark are a versatile do-it-all size. Here we put ten of the best mountain all-rounders through their paces.

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In reply to UKC/UKH Gear:

Thanks for the review, but it's a shame you haven't included any smaller British manufacturers, like Crux, Summiteer or Aiguille.

 crayefish 20 Jul 2021
In reply to pancakeandchips:

Agreed.

In reply to pancakeandchips:

It's a fair question. The short answer is that we could never review every pack on the market; a line has to be drawn somewhere. This review was over six months in production, which represents a major investment in staff time. Adding more models would increase that workload, and time has to be paid for somehow. With that in mind, we have prioritised companies whose advertising helps support the site. Our door is open to any brand. 

In reply to pancakeandchips:

I don't think Crux manufacturers in this country. The owner of the company lives, or lived in France when I corresponded with him in the past. 

There was a Crux pack in a previous group test, because I reviewed it, although oddly it would have fitted much better in this test as it's 40 ltr mountain pack not a backpacking one.

 crayefish 20 Jul 2021
In reply to TobyA:

Crux is UK based again, but indeed makes most stuff in China (as with almost all manufacturers these days).  The few exceptions being Aiguille Alpine and DMM, as far as I know.

Would be interested to hear if any of the other major brands don't do the bulk of their manufacturing in the far east...

 Andypeak 20 Jul 2021
In reply to crayefish:

Summiteer packs are UK made

In reply to Andypeak:

I think it's great what Summiteer is doing - I really like his designs and the vibe of the company (not actually tried one but they look simple and well put together). But I think it's just mainly one chap? So not really a "major" brand like crayefish said.

Aiguille make stuff in the UK don't they? And some of Alpkit's bags are UK made - although not most of their rucksacks from memory. My Alpkit bikepacking bags are all UK sewn though which is nice somehow!

 JB 20 Jul 2021
In reply to TobyA:

Atom is another Lakes based firm making packs...they look amazing though alas I can't justify the outlay right now. 

 Grahame N 21 Jul 2021
In reply to UKC/UKH Gear:

I've got two Scottish Mountain Gear - Cuillin 2 rucksacks. One about 40 years old and the other about 35. Both are still going strong despite being used almost every weekend, they are practicably indestructible. They are still made (in Musselburgh) and are half the price of some of the rucksacks reviewed. Highly recommended  https://www.scottishmountaingear.com/

In reply to UKC/UKH Gear:

> For year-round climbing, mountaineering, hillwalking and even overnight backpacking, packs around the 40 litre mark are a versatile do-it-all size. Here we put ten of the best mountain all-rounders through their paces.

Good value at £135. What a crock. 

> With that in mind, we have prioritised companies whose advertising helps support the site. 

There we go. Please your advertisers all you want but don't take the most expensive range of bags and then just peg the cheapest two 'good value' because you haven't actually tested any good value bags. 

 Glyno 21 Jul 2021
In reply to Grahame N:

> I've got two Scottish Mountain Gear - Cuillin 2 rucksacks...

Which reminds me of a question I've been meaning to ask, how does the back length on the SMG sacks compare with other brands? The website gives the length of the sack, but not the back length - ie, the length between where the shoulder strap connects and the hip belt. I'd be grateful if anyone could advise.

Cheers,

Glyn

In reply to UKC/UKH Gear:

A prohibitively expensive list or rucksacks, could you review at least one at the budget end of the market please.

It begs the question.. are there any 40L rucksacks in the under £100 range that can hold their own against the ones in the £150 to £200 range.

That'd be a more interesting article

 bpmclimb 21 Jul 2021
In reply to Dan Bailey - UKHillwalking.com:

> With that in mind, we have prioritised companies whose advertising helps support the site.

Admitting to this bias does you credit; nevertheless, at the end of the day your review is not a fair overview of what is available - which is rather implied by the title "Group Test". Perhaps it should be called something else?

 Wainers44 21 Jul 2021
In reply to CantClimbTom:

Prohibitively expensive? I have the Deuter Guide,  it has about 35 overnight trips done so far, looks like new and I expect it to last 15+ years. 

If you don't replace kit that often (I don't cus I'm tight) then maybe your perspective might be different? 

In reply to bpmclimb:

> Admitting to this bias does you credit;

It now says at the top of all the group reviews in a little box: "We receive free products for review from brands, many of whom advertise on the site. We work on strict condition of editorial independence, and no guarantee of endorsement"

So it wasn't really Woodward and Bernstein levels of investigative reporting that dragged this out of Dan!

> nevertheless, at the end of the day your review is not a fair overview of what is available - which is rather implied by the title "Group Test".

It doesn't claim to be a fair overview of what's available, and from what I remember UKC group tests never have been, it's a review of similar style of packs from different manufacturers. It is a group of similar products, hence a group test.

This issue seems to comes up every time, and has been doing so for years. Dan and Alan have explained lots of times that because UKC is free, there isn't a way they can think of doing gear reviews beyond the way they do them now.

I've never used one so don't really know, but I suspect if people want a pack in this size range but don't want to spend 120 and up like these ones, then either https://www.decathlon.co.uk/p/mountaineering-backpack-70-litres-makalu-45-70-red/_/R-p-136625?mc=8360592&c=ORANGE_RED or https://www.decathlon.co.uk/p/mountaineering-backpack-40-10-litres-alpinism-40-10-black/_/R-p-309745?mc=8558677&c=BLACK will be your best bet https://www.decathlon.co.uk/p/mountaineering-backpack-40-10-litres-alpinism-40-10-black/_/R-p-309745?mc=8558677&c=BLACK

Post edited at 19:56
In reply to TobyA:

> It now says at the top of all the group reviews in a little box: "We receive free products for review from brands, many of whom advertise on the site. We work on strict condition of editorial independence, and no guarantee of endorsement"

Not sure when this was added but it looks like it has been retrospectively added to all group tests. A step forward anyway. As long as we know we're having the highest margin products sold to us (i.e. the ones advertisers are most inclined to send for review) then that's fine.

I don't think UKC can afford to give the likes of Black Diamond a couple of scathing reviews nor would they buy products themselves if they weren't sent to them. 

I think the review team do the best they can under the circumstances but the above does lead to ridiculous outcomes like glowing reviews of £100+ climbing jeans and reviewers contorting themselves into the 'buy cheap buy twice' line until the next product comes out 6 months later and you're now due an 'upgrade'. 

They have to pay the bills, and there is still useful descriptions and the pulling together of information in one place which is useful even if they're on a fairly tight leash. It is what it is. 

Post edited at 20:24
 crayefish 21 Jul 2021
In reply to r0x0r.wolfo:

> I don't think UKC can afford to give the likes of Black Diamond a couple of scathing reviews nor would they buy products themselves if they weren't sent to them. 

I think that (the first part) is why many of the reviews on any site, not just this one, are often not nearly as helpful as they could be and ultimately of limited value.

Fully independent reviewers (DC Rainmaker for outdoor electronics springs to mind) are much better in this respect.  Nature of the beast I guess.

In reply to crayefish:

> I think that (the first part) is why many of the reviews on any site, not just this one, are often not nearly as helpful as they could be and ultimately of limited value.

> Fully independent reviewers (DC Rainmaker for outdoor electronics springs to mind) are much better in this respect.  Nature of the beast I guess.

I completely agree.

Just to address this point above from Toby...

> This issue seems to comes up every time, and has been doing so for years. Dan and Alan have explained lots of times that because UKC is free, there isn't a way they can think of doing gear reviews beyond the way they do them now.

In terms of independence, you get most of the way there once you switch your main source of income and thus power away from the companies you're reviewing. 

Plenty manage this and it usually involves one or multiple of the following and it's quite a well worn model now. 

1) Allowing advertising for products in different but related disciplines (you'd probably do well with mountain biking / cycling or other outdoor brands on here). I've got all the climbing stuff under the sun but I don't have XYZ.

2) Some form of crowdfunding (Patreon, 'UKC supporter' etc.)

3) Selling merchandise. 

That's not to mentiom stuff like affiliate linking (I know UKC use skimlinks) but I'll leave that out as it could incentivise overly positive reviews. 

The one good outcome relating to people moaning about the same thing over and over is the disclaimer that they now add to all of these reviews. This is something that is coming to the fore with dodgy influencer reviews and the ASA stating that declarations should be made if someone has so much been provided with the free loan of a product.

"they must make it clear if they've been paid to promote it, or have been gifted, loaned a product or thanked in some other way by a brand. No one should be left thinking that a Tweet or Instagram post is just the person's opinion when it's not."

Edit: I will just say that Dan is (IMO of course) one of the more objective reviewers on here, and I find his reviews better than most. I've seen the 'this is the cheapest of what we tested' badge before so my assumption is that is just part of the UKC review formula. 

Post edited at 00:11
In reply to r0x0r.wolfo:

This all does beg the question, do those with the largest advertising contract get the most favourable reviews?

For greater independence, climbing gear reviews is very good, but even there, they get free kit, a couple of poor reviews and I guess the tap would stop. 

In reply to Presley Whippet:

>  a couple of poor reviews and I guess the tap would stop. 

I don't think that's true, at least not in my experience. I kept 'breaking' (coreshots) a top of the range very expensive Edelrid rope 7 years ago and said so in the review, we also said their advice on what belay device you should use with this rope was contradictory and confusing. I know the company in Germany weren't very happy with the review, but Alan published it, and they still advertise here, and I've been asked to review further Edelrid gear since. 

The main thing is there isn't much terrible gear, nothing that I've been asked to review anyway - beyond the rope, and one poorly designed camping stove about 15 years ago (!) I can't think of anything that didn't work as it should. It's normally just little things that are annoyances that I will also point out (the otherwise nice jacket last winter that's chest pockets were all too small to fit my phone in! Genuinely annoying - personally I wouldn't buy one based on that, but if you have a smaller phone, or don't use a phone as camera and gps out on the hills then it won't matter).

 galpinos 22 Jul 2021
In reply to TobyA:

I know one of the Climbing Technology guys and he was quite miffed after a UKC review (Click Up+) but I don't think that affected their advertising!

In reply to UKC/UKH Gear:

Look, I get it that UKC needs advertising revenue and definitely I'm not suggesting they're rude to anyone but they could be more independent and represent the interests of readers. Don't we want to encourage people from all backgrounds and ages. By perpetuating marketing myths that everyone needs all the top end gear by not reviewing "normal" kit then the site is excluding people. 

> This issue seems to comes up every time, and has been doing so for years. Dan and Alan have explained lots of times that because UKC is free, there isn't a way they can think of doing gear reviews beyond the way they do them now.

Odd because my £50 a year subscription is up for renewal tomorrow (Edit: no sorry, Thurs next week), now I'm not saying that for a pat on the back or getting some medal (or that I don't realise it goes on all sorts of other good work, guidebooks etc etc) but come on!  UKC does get financial support from readers and it should act primarily in the interests of subscribers rather than only butt-kissing big brands.

I do own some big brand kit and yes I paid a lot for rucksacks (my Berghaus Cyclops ROC is still going ALL these years later despite going in the back of trucks, rolling in mud, up mountains, down mines for near 30 years so quality is important) but I recognise there's also a time and a place for a range of kit and brands and that doesn't seem to get represented on these gear reviews.

If you want creative suggestions on how to include other kit?  ASK.. sure there'll be suggestions, how about ask Decathlon marketing team to send you something for review, how about asking someone to lend you something to review, how about... ... ...

Post edited at 08:43
 BRILLBRUM 22 Jul 2021
In reply to CantClimbTom:

 . . . how about asking readers if they have X or Y bit of new kit, have them review based on a set of guidelines/objective questions, take pics, give pros and cons and a final subjective summary. Proof read, correct spelling and grammar, publish.

We are all buying new kit all of the time from a very, very wide range of manufacturers and retailers and we all love using it and showing it off.

I recall a review of kids gear a while back which although brilliant was very spendy. The better review, or perhaps more comparative review, would have been 'ok, so my kid is growing, they need kit for Scouts, D of E, their growing interest in the outdoors/climbing, how do I buy good but reasonably priced kit that I won't be thoroughly irritated by when it doesn't fit 6 months?' This brings Trespass, Regatta, Mountain Warehouse, Decathlon (even Aldi has the occasional good bit of kit and the cycling mags/sites rave about them the bike stuff), to the fore which is more realistic.

The reviews on UKC & H are fantastic, the detail, the style of writing, the personal likes and gripes (the recent gaiters review being my fave) all go to making for really fair judgements of the products, just needs to be a broader selection of manufacturers/retailers.

Post edited at 08:59
In reply to r0x0r.wolfo:

> I don't think UKC can afford to give the likes of Black Diamond a couple of scathing reviews nor would they buy products themselves if they weren't sent to them. 

Really...?

This was published only last week:
https://www.ukclimbing.com/gear/footwear/approach_shoes/black_diamond_fuel_approach_shoe-13698

In reply to BRILLBRUM:

> The reviews on UKC & H are fantastic, the detail, the style of writing, the personal likes and gripes (the recent gaiters review being my fave) all go to making for really fair judgements of the products, just needs to be a broader selection of manufacturers/retailers.

Agree, the reviews that are done are excellent!

Just a grumble about the range that gets reviewed

 Moacs 22 Jul 2021
In reply to CantClimbTom:

> A prohibitively expensive list or rucksacks, could you review at least one at the budget end of the market please.

> It begs the question.. are there any 40L rucksacks in the under £100 range that can hold their own against the ones in the £150 to £200 range.

Um, dude.  The Speed 40 - which I have, and is absolutely brilliant - is £87 here.  And that's £20 more than I paid in June.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Black-Diamond-Speed-Rucksack-Graphite/dp/B011K8PWK8?pd_rd_w=QMuDu&pf_rd_p=b2f9603e-9a6f-4e3b-a877-9d7289604c4e&pf_rd_r=87JX0XH0PA7AWHEVZ3FV&pd_rd_r=309ebdfe-e6eb-4f6e-99b9-0550bdd3c8f5&pd_rd_wg=GNB8s&pd_rd_i=B011K8PWK8&psc=1&ref_=pd_bap_d_rp_1_i

In reply to Paul Phillips - UKC and UKH:

> Really...?

Well that's actually a great example of my point Paul. 

You would say that an approach shoe that neither does well on rock, or for UK approaches is about as much use as a chocolate fireguard.

You'd imagine the summary would read 'waste of a shoebox, two thumbs down' but instead he has to reach for some... reason... for... someone... to... buy... it... (summary below). 

It's not the reviewer (who is going as far up to the line and winking at the reader as much as possible) but the model which means that the gloves have to remain firmly on.

"Summary

The Fuel must be one of the softer approach shoes on the market, both literally and in terms of ideal use, so if you're seeking something for scrambling or UK mountain crag approaches then look elsewhere. On the plus side however, this shoe combines a light weight and a casual feel with a degree of on-rock ability, so assuming you're after an approach shoe largely for wearing to roadside crags, sunny sport trips, or going to the wall, then it would be worth a look."


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