Last year Mountain Equipment released the Tupilak Pack to much fanfare. It was at the absolute cutting edge in terms of design, material and technology. However, it came at a cost - because, lest we forget, premium products come at a premium price. Perhaps unsurprisingly there were calls for a more affordable alternative and those calls have now been answered in the form of the Ogre. At first glance you could even mistake it for the Tupilak, but on closer inspection it's clear that a) it is different and b) it's much easier on the pocket!
However, this is where the comparison to the Tupilak stops for two reasons: the first is because I'm reviewing the Ogre and the second because despite having seen the Tupilak, I haven't used it. Furthermore, the Ogre stands up well on its own two feet and constantly referencing it back to ME's flagship pack would risk undermining what is fundamentally a very good pack in its own right. For the relatively modest price, I think you'd struggle to find a better technical pack than this. Whether it's alpine climbing, Scottish winter, UK mountain rock or scrambling, it's a solid performer at an affordable budget. What's not to love?
Size and Capacity
The Ogre is available in three sizes: 33+ and 42+ in a men's back length and a 33+ in a 'women's' back length. The one we've reviewed here is the 33+.
The idea behind 33L vs. 42L is that the smaller pack should cover you for all your spring/summer activity, whereas the latter will take you through the trials, tribulations and bulkier loads of winter. Pack size is always a very personal choice and for me, despite the additional weight, I tend to opt for a larger pack that I can fit everything into. As such, I do find myself cramming the 33+ full quite frequently. If you're out for a big day in the mountains, climbing somewhere such as Cloggy, Scafell, or the Ben, then a full rack, ropes, jacket and food will likely bring this bag to the brim (either that or I'm just carrying way too many sandwiches…). If you're 'cragging' somewhere a little more recreational/accessible such as Stanage, or if you're sport climbing, this is less of a problem, but just be aware of how much (or how little) you tend to take to the crag before making a decision either way. If you're like me you may lean towards the 42+.
If you do like to go overboard as far as kit is concerned, then fear not. The pack has two compression straps on each side, which you can use to ratchet down volume or attach extra layers/ropes/poles etc... There's also a bungee cord supplied, but not fitted, which could provide additional external storage - but personally I've enjoyed the pack's uncluttered feel. The actual lid of the pack is integrated - not floating - hence there isn't a great deal of space to be gained here, but is is possible - just be prepared to lose a bit of space behind your head... and potentially not to be able to shut it proplerly.
Either way, most of what I've described above is simply representative of the fact that I would probably use a larger pack, which is ultimately my fault.
One of the best things about the Ogre is its simplicity, and hence any features it does have are refined, uncluttered and essential, which is what keeps its basic weight down to 920g (910g on our scales). Whilst this may not be the lightest on the market, it's not designed to be. I see the Ogre as a bombproof workhorse that could be used in virtually any environment, summer or winter. Whilst I haven't used it in winter, I have given it a good thrashing over an eight-month time frame, and despite the odd scratch here and there it's stood up impressively well. If you want both light weight and durability you should maybe think about investing in the Tupilak, because that is one of those rare beasts that offers both.
On the other hand, a lot of weight can be also shed from the Ogre by removing various components.
- Base weight: 910g
- Stripped weight: 630g
When it comes to features, let's start with the closing system, which comes courtesy of the 'Grappler' buckle. This elegant system works without moving parts, simply by sliding the buckle over the area of vertical stitching. I've tried and tried and tried to get this to fail, but once under tension it firmly remains in place. This, coupled with the design around the lid, which neatly folds down with the pull of a single cord, makes for a really strong top half to the pack. This 'one pull' system really helps in keeping out snow and rain too, as well as keeping closure quick, simple, and snag free.
The Ogre's lid features two pockets: one on the topside and one on the underside. The latter is best for valuables such as keys, phone, and a spare head torch. The former is a tricky one, insofar as it's just about large enough for a pair of gloves and/or a small guidebook; however, if you've got the bag packed up to the brim it's worth keeping this pocket empty, as it can start to impact the back of your head.
Were I to have one gripe with the pack it would undoubtedly be with the side straps. Whilst the straps themselves are great, the way in which the buckles unhook is really, really awkward. Even with warm, dry hands they're quite fiddly, requiring a bit of shimmying to get out of their retainer. With gloves on, or in bad weather, this would be a bit of a nightmare and it is the one area of the pack that I didn't find easy or intuitive. I'm not really sure what the answer is here, shy of just trying not to undo them. It's certainly a feature that could be improved upon. We weren't keen on the fiddly compression strap hooks on the Tupilak either; perhaps ME might consider going back to conventional plastic buckles?
The ice axe toggles are - much like the Grappler - simple, durable, and easy to use irrespective of the conditions. Simply push them through the eye at the head of the axe, flip the toggle to its side, and hey presto - they're in. They are, like pretty much every other aspect of the pack, removable too. There's also a 'pick pocket' within which to keep the sharp stuff.
As anyone who's read one of my reviews will know, I'm not one for jargon. Hence whilst it's impressive that the pack features two different 'M weight' fabrics (M840 and M210) I have - like many others - no idea what this actually means.
In layman's terms it's a polyamide fabric and in practise it's pretty damn hard wearing stuff. I've had this pack on long term test and am yet to make an impact on it, despite a whole load of abuse. To qualify that, I'm talking about it being used on my back - not being hauled up the crag after me. If you're after something to withstand that level of hardship either buy yourself a Tupilak, or a haul sack. That said, it's been scraped up/down against countless cliffs and is yet to show any real sign of wear. Clearly this is encouraging…
The Ogre's straps are distinctly slimline, lacking that bulky padding that feels superficially comfortable in the shops, but ultimately leads to chafing, water absorption, and accelerated wear and tear to the pack. Such padding soon beds in, spreads out, and becomes a bit of a nightmare, which is why Mountain Equipment's use of low profile thermo-moulded EVA foam is infinitely superior: it's supportive, it's stable, and continues to feel exactly the same after extended use.
However, it's not the shoulder straps that make you go 'wow' - it's the waist belt. The thermo moulded 'fins' vastly reduce bulk, yet sit right on your hips, providing all the support you need from a pack this size. Given just how stripped back they are in appearance you'd have thought they'd have had a detrimental effect on comfort, but it's completely the opposite - they're great. Furthermore, they can be removed quickly and easily if you want to shed any extra weight - or if you're carrying a particularly light pack.
Finally, within the pack itself there's nothing in the way of airflow or back systems, which is exactly what you want from a pack of this kind. The Ogre is designed to sit as close to your back as possible for better balance and agility whilst climbing. Within the back panel is a single sheet of closed cell foam, which means that no matter how badly you pack the Ogre you don't get those camming devices or water bottles sticking into your spinal column. This can be removed if you're looking to save weight, or to use it as a sit mat, but it takes a while to put back in and isn't recommended. It certainly isn't large enough to bivi on, unless you happen to be out bivvying with a newborn baby.
The Ogre ticks all the boxes, so much so that if I wasn't aware the Tupilak existed I certainly wouldn't be asking one. Dare I say it, but the Ogre is arguably more appropriate for 99% of climbers than the Tupilak, anyway! When it comes to specs and features the Ogre has everything you need. It's built to last; it's slimline, simple and nice to use. The fact you can strip it back even further to save weight is a boon, as is the fact that even when it's crammed full to the brim it can still be carried in comfort. At a very reasonable £120 I think you would sleep well at night knowing you'd made a sound investment, given that the materials and componentry are built to last. With better compression strap buckles it would be practically perfect! If there was one criticism it's of myself, not the pack: I just wish I'd got the larger size...
Mountain Equipment say:
Ideally suited to cragging trips and more accessible mountaineering ventures, the Ogre 33+ is an extremely rugged yet simple and versatile alpine climbing pack.
- 33 litre optimum capacity
- Weight: 920g
- M840 & M210 fabrics; water resistant and exceptionally durable
- All components removable
- Integrated cowl-lid closure for easy packing and weather protection
- Durable aluminium Grappler™ buckle
- Spacious zipped lid pocket
- Zipped security pocket on inside of lid
- Side compression straps with thermoplastic Hammerhead™ toggles
- Removable EVA composite back panel
- EVA composite shoulder straps
- 38mm webbing hipbelt with removable High Density EVA moulded hip-fins
- Dual axe retainers with integrated pick pocket
For more info: mountain-equipment.co.uk