Lowe Alpine Aeon 27 Pack
Having used this versatile little pack for everything from hillwalking and mountain rock to the daily cycle commute, Toby Archer finds he has a lot to say about it.
Montane describe the Torque 40 as a technical climbing rucksack. They say it is designed for carrying heavy climbing equipment to the base of routes, that it packs down tightly when partially empty, works perfectly with a technical climbing harness, is robust enough for abrasion against rocks and is shaped to allow dynamic climbing moves. That's pretty much right on all counts; and it'd be a good tough hillwalking pack too.
"It sits close to the body and the back system is both supportive and firm. It handled the weight of full winter kit and ropes really well"
The pack is constructed from a range of materials. The main body is made from a material called Raptor TL, which Montane describe as lightweight yet tough. The base, part of the front and the upper rear section is made from Raptor UTL which is described in their information as ultra tough and highly abrasion resistant yet still lightweight. Around the top of the lid there's a stretch fabric called Granite Stretch which is designed to give a weatherproof seal to the lid. The final fabric used is called Contact Mesh which lines the shoulder straps while Montane have used their Comfort Back Pad on the rear back panel. These are both soft fabrics that are described as non abrasive to shell fabrics.
The Torque has many features you'd expect on most modern rucksacks, and others that are less typical. The lid has an outer pocket and another small under lid zipped pocket. Down the side there are side compression straps. The harness is fully featured with well padded shoulder straps, a chest strap, comfortable hip belt and gear loops on the waist belt. Less widely seen on other sacks is a slot on the front where ice tools can be fitted in quickly in a way that covers the picks. Given all the features, Montane state a full weight of 1350g and a stripped down weight of 885g, although I personally struggled to strip the rucksack down to below 930 grams.
The Torque comes in two colour schemes (mostly black or mostly blue), and is available in one size.
"There are plenty of useful features that show attention to detail"
The rucksack has been used over a Scottish winter season, for a number of spring and summer mountain days in Snowdonia and Scotland and for general cragging. It's also been on trips to Peru and up Kilimanjaro.
In recent years my benchmark for a comfortable rucksack has been the Crux AK47, the fit and back system of which suits me really well. I found the Torque quite similar in fit to the AK - a great fit for me. It sits close to the body and the back system is both supportive and firm. It handled the weight of full winter kit and ropes really well and was as comfortable to carry as a loaded rucksack can be on lengthy winter walk ins. I am 5' 8" in height so I can't say personally say how comfortable it would be for all heights but I did give it to a couple of friends to walk in to climbs with and they were equally impressed. One is 5' 6" and the other 6' 1".
To give sufficient support Montane have used a rigid back panel. This has channels formed into the moulded back which helps provide ventilation and as a consequence the rucksack was OK on hot trekking days in Africa. The channels are also there to help provide drainage on rainy days. The material used for the outer surface of the back panel is soft but seems to be wearing well. On the test rucksack the shoulder straps and back panel are in a fairly light orange colour and they became quite dirty quickly, and I'd have preferred Montane to use a darker colour for this part of the rucksack.
The Torque's waist belt is well padded and I've found it extremely comfortable in use. The hip fins are well shaped and have certainly been well designed to cope with heavier loads. It does make it bulky if you are wearing the rucksack with a harness but the whole belt unit can be removed by unhooking two metal buckles and sliding it out. Montane's blurb says the waist belt can be used as an additional compression strap around the middle of the pack but I can't really imagine when I would find this very useful. Gear loops run along the top edge of each hip belt fin. Personally I never use gear loops on waist belts as if I'm wearing a harness I have usually already removed the waist belt. But they're there if you want them.
The main body of the Torque is a single compartment with two lid pockets. This is the first rucksack I've had where the pocket lid opens outwards rather than towards the wearer's head. Montane describe this as a 'buddy pocket', designed for easy access by a wearer's partner. It is big enough for OS maps and guidebooks. It opens at the top and the pocket then has a deep lip that stops objects falling out - one of the best pocket designs I've come across. A substantial flap covers the zip and Montane say this provides abrasion resistance for the zip if users are rubbing it over rock. I reckon its main job for most users will be to provide weather resistance. Speaking of this, the Torque has stayed as weather resistant as you could expect of any rucksack on some very wet Snowdonia days this spring (although some water did get into the lid pocket and down the side seams on a very grim day). There is another simple zipped pocket under the lid which is handy for things like keys or phones. It has a small key clip.
The lid closure is very efficient. As I said above, Montane have used a stretch fabric at the pocket sides which seals the lid really well around the main body of the sack. This stretch material is also used at the back of the lid to give a certain amount of extension for extra capacity - something I've found really useful when the sack gets crammed with kit. The lid closure buckle is a single metal hook connected to the main pack which slots into a tape loop on the lid - simple to operate and easy to use with gloves on. Montane have also included an under-lid strap that can be used hold items like ropes in place. Finally, on this part of the rucksack they have used an innovative draw cord system closure.
Another interesting feature of the Torque is the ice tool holding system. At the base of the main sack is what Montane describe as an 'enhanced dual tool' attachment system. Essentially this is a sleeve into which the axe picks can be slid for storage; the side compression straps are then tightened to keep the tools locked in place. For times when axes need to be stored securely this works very well and the sleeve helps keep the axe picks out of harms way. Montane have used the most durable fabric (Raptor UTL) for this section.
There are plenty of other useful features that show attention to detail: a reflective patch on the front panel; an unusual clip on the chest strap that can be unfastened by simply pulling a small cord; side compression straps with reversible buckles; a clip on the shoulder strap to hold a hydration system tube in place; and an interior bladder pocket.
The Torque 40 is a great rucksack that is ideal for its target user. In recent years I've tended to choose simple functional designs and the Torque has more 'bells and whistles' than I would normally choose, but everything Montane has added has its place and works efficiently. The construction quality is excellent and it's great to see British manufacturers continuing to produce such well designed equipment.
More Information: Montane website
Also check out Chris Jakeman of Montane showing the features of the pack in this video that UKC filmed at the huge OutDoor Tradeshow:
About the author:
Paul Lewis is the owner of mountain adventure and training specialists Peak Mountaineering. Paul offers a 15% discount on all courses for UKC users.
Find out more at peakmountaineering.com or contact Paul on 01433 620283.
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