In the last few years, rucksacks seem to be have come full circle, with todays simple stripped designs bearing something of a resemblance to the iconic Whillans and Haston Alpiniste rucksacks that served on the great Himalayan ascents of the 60s and 70s, a few of which are still going strong today.
Founded in Chamonix a few years ago, Blue Ice went straight for the simple robust design ethic – their Warthog 26 (the green one) seemingly becoming standard issue among the jog up a north face before breakfast valley residents. Last autumn, Blue Ice issued its bigger brother – the bright red Warthog 38. As with the “26”, the features list of the “38” is short and sweet:
- A single main compartment.
- A fixed lid with a big pocket (easily fits a water bottle, goggles, mitts, guidebook, camera and hill food).
- A fixed length back.
- A removable webbing waistbelt.
- Structure comes from a torso length (unfolded) 4mm thick foam bivy pad folded into three fitted into a zipped slot.
- There's also a bladder pouch, and a couple of internal gear loops allowing gear to be racked by the over-obsessively organised.
- Inside the lid there's a small zipped valuables pocket, while another pocket on outside-front of the lid hides a stretch helmet mesh helmet holder. While a bit fiddly to fit, this securely holds modern foam helmets away from the dangers of pointy things inside or swinging around on the outside.
- A single strap, which cleverly tightens upwards making it easy to pull tight from above, closes the lid.
- A rope loop.
- 5 burly rear attachment points.
- Ice axe elastics and a slot that keeps freshly sharpened picks out of harms way round off the package.
- A pair of ski/snowboard straps.
As with it's smaller sibling, the whole package has a very neat and uncluttered feel, without lacking anything crucial. The Warthog is made from heavy duty cordura Nylon, with a bombproof ballistics (the clue is in the name) base, with all load bearing joins bar-stitched. All this burl adds some weight compared to ultra-light rucksacs, but at just under 900 grams the Warthog is far from hefty and robust enough to shrug off season after season of Chamonix granite.
So, what's it like on the hill? Size-wise, the Warthog 38 is spot on for Scottish or alpine winter – neatly swallowing rope, rack, crampons, belay jacket (and if needed bivy kit), and also makes a great throw everything in summer cragging pack. The axe straps easily and securely attach any model of winter weaponry. Skis are similarly well carried, though unless the rucksack is fully packed, I found attaching the upper ski strap (easy to move) to the back grab loop gave a snugger hold and better balance.
The shortish back and webbing belt don't obstruct harness access when taking it up the route, while the bright red colour makes it easy to spot if left at the bottom. All in all, pretty much perfect. However, there remains a little room for improvement. Keeping things simple involves compromise, but unlike its smaller brother the “38” could do with a little more structure – as unless it's stuffed full it can be a bit formless. A slightly wider (as supplied the bivy pad is a few inches shorter top-to-bottom than the back panel) and stiffer/thicker bivy pad and some top-tension straps on the shoulder straps would go a long way to addressing this, keeping the load closer to the back when not fully laden. The other possible improvement, principally for summer use, would be to use the grey skin friendly fabric on the inside of the shoulder straps on the back panel as well (the “26” already does this), though this would make a “38” a little less robust for hauling. Despite these (minor) criticisms, the 'chuck stuff in and go' reliable simplicity of the Warthog wins out every-time the hills beckon be it ski-touring, winter climbing or cragging. Summary: A simple, bombproof rucksack, well-sized for Scottish winter, alpine overnighters, summer cragging and any other mountain adventures.
What Blue Ice Say:
The Warthog 38L is tough and light like its little brother, the Warthog 26L, but added volume and features make it suitable for longer adventures. Like its smaller sibling, it features a helmet holder, rope carrier, and internal pocket for valuables. The front compression straps can be used to transport skis or a snowboard, and the ice tool holders are perfectly designed for carrying a set of technical tools. Additional features include a three-point haul system, a removable bivy pad and two inner gear loops. This pack is incredibly durable, and its compact design ensures maximum freedom of movement when you’re climbing. The Warthog 38L is the perfect companion for all of your most demanding alpine adventures.
Guiding, alpine climbing, backcountry skiing, mountaineering, expeditions
- Helmet holder
- Dual ice tool holders
- Front compression straps for skis or a snowboard
- Rope carrier under the lid
- Three-point haul system
- Hydration bladder-compatible
- Removable three-fold bivy pad
- Removable hip belt
- Double reinforced bottom
- Safety whistle
- Weight 890 gr
- Volume 38 L
- Material 500 denier CORDURA® and 850 denier ballistic CORDURA®, 210 denier ripstop Nylon. Acetal Duraflex® buckles. YKK® zippers.
- RRP £110
For more information visit Blue Ice WEBSITE
About Viv Scott
I've been climbing for a bit over ten years, and am currently based in Edinburgh having escaped from the southern flatlands. Climbing highs include Scottish winter climbing, a couple of trips to the Alaska Range, classic alpine routes, sunny ski touring, cragging in the UK and abroad, and beers and craic in the pub afterwards. Lows include Scottish winter climbing, alpine bivies, base camp blues, midges and the UK weather... I guess I'd like to be a jack of all trades and I'm definitely a master of none, but most enjoy the great variety of climbing and look forward to trips back to old favourites and hopefully many new and different places.
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