At the OutDoor Trade Show in 2019 Lowe Alpine unveiled their rock range, tailored specifically towards the rock climber as opposed to the mountaineer. I have felt for a few years now that there was a gap in the market. All the crag packs I had tried that had modern accessibility features like wide-opening panels seem to suffer from being uncomfortable carries often resembling the dreaded 'sack of potatoes' that dangles uncomfortably around your waist. The marketing material we had for this new range suggested that this might be exactly the problem that Lowe Alpine designers were trying to address.
The range consists of three packs: The 48L Rogue, the 44L Outcast and the Misfit 27L. We will be reviewing all three separately since they have specific appeals.
The Rogue is the big daddy of the set with a whopping 48-litre capacity. It is marketed a trad sack which means it takes more of a big bucket approach than the hinge-fold Outcast.
Fit and Comfort
To show how much thought has gone into this range, the back system is completely different on the three sacks. On the Rogue, the wide-opening panel doubles as the actual back panel. This has been a flaw in many of these easy-access packs since opening via the back panel on many of the designs is the feature that contributes to them losing rigidity and becoming the dreaded 'sack of potatoes'. In this case though Lowe Alpine have got it spot on, which they call the Tri-flex carry system. This consists of an aluminium frame on the main sack to give it strength, a moulded EVA foam back panel for comfort and an extra metal support within this back panel to keep its shape. The shoulder straps attach above the opening and it also has a good wide hip belt made from dual-density foam and mesh outer.
In carrying the pack is an extremely comfortable fit. I have used it on a range of long walk-ins and it has given an excellent stable carry with good adjustability to switch the load between your shoulders and hips as required. Whether this is the case for those who have a short back length might be an issue since it is perfect for me but I am relatively tall at 1.80m - it claims a back length of 19"/48cm. Having said that, there is a fair range in the shoulder straps that can effectively be synched up a bit to create a shorter back fit, or to carry the pack a little higher on your back.
There is limited breathability in the back system which is the trade-off with this extra close-fitting back panel. This does result in a sweaty back but few crag packs have successfully dealt with this problem without a major compromise on pack volume or often a lot of over-design. The hip belt is a decent size which is another essential feature and missed by some other packs that pitch for the same area.
The Rogue 48L is marketed as a trad pack and is slightly larger than the Outcast 44L. As noted in our review of the Outcast (watch this space) there is no real reason that you should define your use because of a marketing message and, since most people will only buy one pack, you probably want one that will suit all your climbing needs. The main difference is the way the packs open to allow access to your gear. For the Rogue the stiff back panel has a sturdy two-way zip all the way around it. With this flipped back, you get the whole sack open although the stuff right at the top under the lid pocket is still a bit tucked away.
You could get 15kg to 25kg in the Rogue if you packed it carefully, so comfortable and flexible carrying is essential. In use, it carries beautifully when full, keeping the load high on your back with a good balance between the shoulder straps and the weight belt.
The appeal of the Rogue over the Outcast appears to be just 4 litres in capacity but I suspect it is, in reality, a bit more than that. Rucksack volume figures have always been a bit of a mystery. I have vast 30-litre buckets and tiny 40-litre day packs. In this case, the Rogue definitely fits in the 'vast' category and is significantly larger than the majority of standard day cragging and small alpine packs I have used. Having said that, I am assured that the volume is correct but I think the fact it is a big open pack makes it feel much bigger than the Outcast with its internal compartments.
In use, I have usually been able to get a rope in the main pack although I haven't tried with a monster 80m. As with the Outcast, there is a clever system to loop the rope over the shoulder straps and cinch it in. With the pack very full I find this slightly uncomfortable and it does push down a bit on your shoulders. It might have been better to have loose straps going over the lid pocket to hold a rope. It works better when the main pack is not stuffed to the brim.
Overall the Rogue should definitely prove large enough for all except the most extreme gear freaks; in fact it could be a little too large for those who like to travel light.
Weight and Build Quality
The Rogue weighs 1.36kg which is slightly lighter than the smaller Outcast. This is a result of it having fewer internal features, but still doesn't put it in the lightweight category. What it actually means is that it is made of solid materials and durable fabrics. The stripped-down look of the back of the pack means that you aren't carrying any extra weight for features that you don't use.
In old-style top-opening buckets, often only the base of the pack came into contact with rocky or muddy surfaces. One important aspect of wide-opening packs is that you have to lay them down on their back in order to access the opening panel. This means you need extra durability in the back panel which tends to get flopped down when you arrive at the crag onto whatever is below. The Rogue presents a full seamless panel of 840D nylon which will repel gritty surfaces and be easy to clean if muddy.
Traditional trad packs tend to take the big bucket approach - dump your metalware at the bottom and build everything up above that. The Rogue acknowledges this by having a wide opening top and few internal features to get things snagged on. You can load it in the same way as any conventional pack and then get the unload benefit of the back panel access. The only extra feature in the main pack is a pocket on the back of the back panel which makes a useful location to store your rope sheet. For being able to get hold of any bit of gear, including the belay plate that slipped to the bottom and would have normally required you to unload everything from a conventional tube pack, this is job done. The inside might have been improved for some people with the addition of some racking loops although I must say that I seldom use these.
I already described the rope carrying system of tucking it above the main straps, which works but isn't perfect. For me, the one main feature omission I would have really liked is two straps across the lid panel. I always find this useful not just for a rope, but also for a jacket to be quickly stuffed when you warm up on the approach walk. You could use the side straps for this though.
The rest of the pack has plenty of useful features, as you might expect: A large A5 'Rockfax-sized' side pocket. Two side mesh pockets with straps for holding water bottles, clip-sticks or walking poles. Two lid pockets including a secure one with a key clip. There are no straps on the back of this pack including nothing to strap an ice axe to, nor the daisychain straps that some packs have and which I have never really found a purpose for. There is a single very solid grab handle. The reason for there only being one is obvious when you look at the design, however if you have 25kg of weight, then you will need two hands to manipulate it if not putting it on your back. The position does make it easy to grab with one hand, and the shoulder strap with your other, and heave it up onto your shoulder.
The Rogue is a brilliantly designed crag pack - in fact I'd go as far as stating that this is the pack I have been wanting for my entire climbing career. It is big enough to easily take all your gear without a stuffing struggle and extra bits dangling off the sides but many packs have achieved this over the years. The ability to comfortably carry heavy loads with a well-balanced strap system isn't new either. Packs with innovative methods of opening to allow access to the full contents have also existed. But this is the first pack I've seen that combines all three in a stylish and well-designed package, at a reasonable price.
Lowe Alpine say:
Perfect for trad climbing, the Rogue 48 crag pack is built to keep you comfortable and organised on long, fully loaded approaches to the cliff.
The Rogue 48 climbing pack offers the ideal balance of lightweight construction and heavyweight carrying capacity. Featuring the Tri-Flex™ carry system, an internal aluminium frame helps transfer the weight to the lumbar and hip belt for a supportive carry.
The rear entry combined with 840D ballistic nylon front means you can throw your pack down at the crag and get rapid access to your ropes and trad rack. Reinforcement in high-wear regions combined with a sleeker aesthetic and minimal seams increases durability. With its integrated top tensioners, the Rogue 48 can easily transport an additional 60 or 80m rope. It also features upper and lower compression straps, as well as stretch mesh side pockets, an internal stretch mesh sleeve and a quick-grab rear-handle so you can move between routes with the minimum of fuss.
- Volume: 48L
- Weight: 1.365kg
- Rear grab handle
- Zipped side pockets
- External zipped guide book pocket
- Stretch mesh side pockets
- Internal security pocket
- Zipped rear entry
- Internal HDPE stiffener
- Key clip
- SOS panel
- Zipped top loader entry
- Moulded back panel
- Forward pull padded hipbelt
- Sternum strap with whistle
- Top tensioner rope holder
- Dual density foam harness
- Internal aluminium frame
- Easy to use zip sliders with cord pullers
- Internal stretch mesh sleeve
- Upper and lower side compression straps with retainers
For more info see lowealpine.com