Established in 1967, Lowe Alpine has a reputation for making high quality and long lasting climbing packs, backpacks, and travel bags. So when I got the chance to try out their new duffle, the 90l AT Kit Bag, I was keen to see how it fared on my upcoming trip to northern India.
The Lowe Alpine 90l AT Kit Bag is marketed as a robust duffle bag, designed to endure the tough conditions of ‘adventure travel’. It’s highly water resistant (having now experienced a torrential downpour in the foothills of the Himalayas, I can attest the truth of this claim!) and the external fabric can withstand quite a beating from being dropped on, scraped over, and dragged across various surfaces. It has an extensive list of snazzy sounding features such as stashable shoulder straps; aluminium encased grips; internal compression straps; an internal pocket; two external pockets; and tamper proof zips. As an added bonus, it will make you look like a super sophisticated mountain type, which is always important.
The 90l Kit bag is very light (1.10kg / 39oz) and packs down incredibly small, to the extent that when it first arrived in the post I was sure I had been sent the wrong thing. That said, when it comes to adventure, bigger is almost always better! For this reason, I would - in an ideal world - have liked to have seen a size above the two that are currently available (60l or 90l). Lowe Alpine offer a similar wheeled version of the bag, which is available in 120l, but I would have liked to seen this in a duffle option too. Whether I’m off on an exotic foreign adventure, like India, or just popping over to North Wales for the weekend I like to throw everything I need into one bag, keeping things simple. Yet, I struggled to fit a months worth of stuff into the 90l option (and that was without packing any climbing gear).
The stashable back system worked well for me. I found the shoulder straps to be really comfortable; I was able to carry the bag for an hour or so uphill without any major discomfort (although, you have to be a bit careful about what you put in the internal lid pocket – anything metal or sharp makes for a pretty uncomfortable ride). I also liked that the straps packed away quickly and easily for flights.
When contacting Lowe Alpine to discuss the matter direct they offered the following feedback:
I’m still undecided about other features of the AT Kit Bag. One minor complaint I have concerns the external compression straps, of which there are four (one at each corner). The buckles are designed such that it’s difficult to access the contents of the bag quickly, presumably with the benefit of deterring potential thieves. While they are fairly easy to adjust, this can be frustrating in a moment of haste. Also, if you decide to leave the buckles undone they dangle in an especially irritating fashion, clinking noisily and generally getting in the way.
Another feature I don’t quite ‘get’ is the aluminium encased external grips. Presumably, these are designed to make it easier to pick the bag up, or to drag it from place to place. This is a feature I quite like in terms of aesthetics, but I feel they are slightly gimmicky. In terms of functionality, I doubt they make much of a difference, either way. Also, in colder temperatures you’d need to wear gloves to move the bag, which could be annoying if you just wanted to sling the bag into the back of a car, say.
I found the Lowe Alpine AT Kit Bag to be good overall and at £80 it’s very reasonably priced. The neat appearance of the bag and the stashable back system worked well for me. Despite being let down by the stitching fault on one of the side handles, the bag endured biblical levels of rainfall with only minimal seepage. I would, however, like to see a larger range of sizes available. In my eyes, the biggest advantage of a duffle bag is that you can carry (and access) all of the stuff you need for a big trip in one place. I feel that a 130l addition to the AT Kit Bag collection would make the range more complete.
What Lowe Alpine say:
Key features on the AT Kit Bag include a stashable harness, internal pockets and internal load compression. Tamperproof zips help keep your gear secure and three grab handles make for flexible carrying. Made from a combination of TravelShield® amd N630 fabrics, the Kit Bag is built to withstand the harshest terrain.
WEIGHT: 1.10kg / 39oz
DIMENSIONS: 74 x 41 x 36cm
COLOURS: ANTHRACITE AND ATLANTIC BLUE