Made in Nottingham, and built to last, Alpkit's Chamois has a stripped-back, simple design that's ideal in a pack for cragging, fair weather walking and general outdoor use. Its 45 litre capacity, single compartment and near full length zip mean gear can be stored and accessed with ease.
So far this summer and autumn I've had the Chamois out on over 30 days of cragging and walking, and it's been a brilliant rucksack, providing all day comfort and stability on the back even when fully laden. The Chamois' outer back support is a thermo formed material that evenly distributes the weight, and allows the rucksack to mould specifically to your back. With a lot of flat foam in contact with your body it's not the best vented back system, but I think you'd need to be working hard in hot weather to really notice.
There is an adjustable waist belt that also uses this thermo formed material, and once the buckle is fixed it noticeably helps take the load from the shoulders to the hips. Both the back panel and the waist belt feel very high quality. An additional chest buckle helps keep the bag tight and stable on your back.
The harness size is fixed, but depending on what height you are the Chamois comes in 45cm or 50cm back lengths. For the purposes of this test we had the 45cm bag which I think should fit most smaller people. If you are tall it's good to have the option of a 50cm version - though the very tall may find even this a bit limited, and a 55cm model might not have gone amiss.
The Chamois comes in at 1148g with its back stiffener in place, and 880g without. While it's not at the extreme end of ultralight, that seems a very respectable weight for such a solid and comfy pack. If weight saving is important, removing the back plate does knock off a decent amount, however there is unsurprisingly a noticeable change in back support. Thanks to the padding, I've still found it comfy in stripped-back mode, but for heavier loads and longer walk-ins I'd keep the back stiffener in place.
Its cordura fabric is thicker on the base - where the pack gets the most abuse - and thinner elsewhere to save weight. This abrasion resistant fabric has shown very little sign of wear so far, and it's been pretty well used! Overall build quality is high, with double-stitched seams and a chunky, reliable zip. A heavy duty zip is really a must on a pack like this. I've found you can really load the thing up and use the force of the zip to close the rucksack without worrying about the zip bursting.
This durable feel is reflected in Alpkit's 25 year warranty, which really suggests they have confidence in their product. In terms of quality control and general standards, making this bag in the UK seems to have paid off.
"The full zip-around design is a brilliant convenience when out at the crag as there's no more raking around in the pack trying to find your belay device"
The capacity of 45 litres makes this pack ideal for day walks where space is required for extra layers, food and whatever else you may need. For cragging it's the perfect size of pack too, holding a rope, rack, harness, shoes and helmet in its single compartment. If you find you've got extra space after filling, effective compression straps allow the capacity to be reduced and the contents of the pack kept closer to the back. If you do fill the sack to capacity I have found it possible to carry the rope on the outside of the pack using the compression straps to secure it. This has the advantage of freeing space for other items within the pack, however it's a less than ideal solution as accessing the contents of the pack becomes far harder. Alternatively you might strap the rope to the external webbing ladders, though you'd have to use your own straps as none are provided for this purpose.
I've traditionally used mountaineering style rucksacks for carrying gear for cragging, so this was my first experience with a backpack that folds completely open. It's a brilliant convenience when out at the crag as there's no more raking around in the pack trying to find your belay device or sandwich. You just dump it on the ground, unzip and take whatever you want out. I'm sold on that now for cragging.
The Chamois is unapologetically simple, which a lot of people are going to like. But there are still a few things worth mentioning. The zip to access the main compartment runs almost the entire length on either side of the bag, allowing you to expose all the contents of the pack while it is lying on its back on the ground - I've already given that a thumbs up, but I like it so much that I can't help mentioning it again. There is only one drawback: since the zip isn't water resistant, and is largely exposed to the weather, it is inevitably a major point of potential water ingress. For cragging this is no big deal, since you'll mostly go out on a dry forecast; but it does limit the Chamois' use for walking. Thanks to the full zip, otherwise so handy, I'd consider this primarily a fair weather pack.
Inside is the spacious single compartment where all the day's kit can be stored. If you want to keep the odd item separate from the main contents, there is a large zipped pocket in the interior front facing portion of the pack where I tend to store my phone, keys or other valuables. It's quite a large and deep pocket; something a little smaller might have actually worked better, as when the pack is fully loaded and on your back, a lot of pressure from the contents of the pack is directly loaded onto the contents of this pocket. Not ideal if you have a delicate smartphone screen in there with an entire trad rack pushing on it.
If space becomes an issue, two sewn-in webbing daisychains run the length of the front of the bag, allowing stuff like water bottles or helmets to be attached to the exterior. Since the 45 litre capacity suits single day use well I have rarely needed to use these, but they'd be useful if you had something bulky like a sleeping mat.
Alpkit have done a cracking job with the Chamois. If you're looking for a pack for cragging or walking, with a simple feel and super easy access, then this is a real contender. There is a high quality feel about the construction of the bag, especially the back support system, waist belt and shoulder straps. Its features are minimal but function excellently. There are only two things I can fault: firstly, the fact that the zip-around design is a weakness in the rain; and secondly the size and position of the interior pocket, which if storing delicate items (smartphones) will put pressure on them. Overall comfort is good and it sits secure on the back. Alpkit obviously believe in the longevity of this bag as they offer a 25 year warranty with the Chamois! Given its quality, the £85 price tag seems more than fair.
Climbing involves carrying a lot of heavy and cumbersome things to remote and inaccessible places. Say hello to Chamois 45, a veritable tardis for your climbing and trekking gear that's spacious enough to carry your rack, ropes, extra layers, and a burrito, yet light and streamlined enough not to hamper your efforts on a rugged and rocky walk-in. A 45 litre climbing sack, thoughtfully designed to be simple yet practical for cragging and trekking.
For more info see alpkit.com