More than perhaps any bit of gear, rucksacks are very much a matter of preference. One persons unnecessary faff may be another's essential feature, and what fits one climber like a glove may give others a sore back just from looking at it. Just glance at the incredible variety of packs that we have in the mountain industry, all of them trying to achieve the same thing - allowing you to carry all your gear whilst being as comfortable as possible – but which use all manner of methods to achieve it. You'd think that mountaineers would have decided once and for all that there is definitively a best way of attaching ice axes to a rucksack, or that side zips are either useful or useless, but it seems not.
I was initially skeptical that the Alpinisto would become an everyday bag, mainly because I have a 40 litre pack which I've used for years and which fits me perfectly, but since getting the Gregory a couple of months ago, I've used it everyday I've been out. Although there are lighter packs out there, Gregory have found that perfect balance between comfort and weight which make the sack neither too light to be comfy when full, nor too heavy to consider for longer days. Furthermore, you can remove the waistbands and part of the back structure (the part that you can remove from the back is sold by Gregory as a “Bivi pad” – a strange claim given that is only as long as your back) in order to make the pack even lighter.
The durability of the Alpinisto is impressive too, and it seems to withstand just about anything you can throw at it. It's even survived completely intact after accompanying me up a granite chimney, which must have been pretty traumatic given how battered I was at the top!
The final general point to make is that the Alpinisto is extremely comfortable, and seems to fit better and better as it gets fuller. However, rucksacks are the same as footwear in that each brand has a slightly different shape and fit, so although I'm probably quite a good tester because I have back problems, I can only say that it fit me well and I'd recommend trying it on before buying. With the amount of adjustments you can make to the pack, I think it would be a pretty safe bet for most people, but you just never know.
The lid is superb – 2 massive pockets which don't prevent the pack from closing properly (even when they're full), and a really simple and easy to use buckling system. The crampon pocket works well too, and the more durable material on the inside of this is a nice touch. When I first got the pack, I had a couple of panicked moments when I thought I'd forgotten my crampons because they weren't in my bag, but otherwise I liked having them easily available and separate from my other kit.
There are, however, a couple of issues that I had with the Alpinisto, and whilst they weren't enough to make me even consider not using it, they are worth picking up on. Firstly, I'm not convinced by the ice axe attachment system. I've never seen what is wrong with the loop of material at the bottom/Velcro strap at the top arrangement that is simple, light and functional. The Gregory system is ok, but my mountaineering axe has an oval eyelet and as a result it isn't quite as secure as it could be on the pack. It is also strange how the Velcro above the crampon pouch, which keeps the axe in place, is integrated with the side straps instead of being completely independent as this means that to get your axe off you have to undo the sidestraps – a potential problem if carrying skis on the sides.
The final small gripe is the side zips – I've never used them on any bag I've had and they seem unnecessary, but others may feel differently.
Despite the two complaints, the overall verdict on the Alpinisto is excellent.
You'll have noted that of the issues I had with the pack, none of them were the “important” issues of fit, comfort, durability or practicality. I've been actively looking for faults rather than having them bother me. This is a superb mid-capacity pack, which will handle just about everything from cragging to fast and light alpine raids.
A perfect alpine pack for a long day on the mountain. The 35L is the pack of choice for ice or alpine pursuits. When you want to be even faster and lighter, simply remove the framesheet/stay, bivy pad and waistbelt to shed more than a full pound.
More Information: Gregory Website
Charlie Boscoe is a skier and climber based in Chamonix. His popular blog on Chamonix climbing conditions is: chamconditions.blogspot.co.uk. He and his partner, Sharon Wray create and run expeditions to the Himalayas, Andes, Alps and Atlas Mountains, and offer bespoke expedition planning. See his website: www.mountainworldltd.com.