"Life is brought down to the basics: if you are warm, regular, healthy, not thirsty or hungry, then you are not on a mountain... Climbing at altitude is like hitting your head against a brick wall - it's great when you stop."

Chris Darwin

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In search of a perfect pack

Credit: Ari Paulin, (c) (c) 2010 Ari Paulin, licensed under: (c) 2010 Ari Paulin.

I need to find a alpine climbing pack for trips where I need to carry a tent, sleeping bag, pad and few days worth of food on top of all the gear needed for technical climbing in mixed alpine terrain.

My approach is to take as small a pack as possible so that it will be easy to carry while on the climb as possible. For this goal, I am willing to compromise during the approach by overpacking and attaching gear outside if necessary. I figure the size that is just large enough would be around 40 liters.

Other than the correct size, the features I am looking for are:

  • Lean-and-mean single compartment design
  • Reasonably durable fabrics
  • Low weight
  • Side attachments for ice tools
  • strap for rope
  • floating lid for overpacking

Some models worth consideration:

  • Arc'teryx NAOS 45Arc'teryxNAOS 45 (ridiculously expensive)
  • Berghaus Arete Pro 45lBerghausArete Pro 45l (too large?)
  • Black Diamond Sphynx 42lBlack DiamondSphynx 42l (Very narrow design, seems fine. Doesn't have fully floatable lid. Much more durable than Speed.)
  • CiloGear Dyneema 45CiloGearDyneema 45 or CiloGear Worksack 45lCiloGearWorksack 45l (looks very interesting, expensive)
  • Cold Cold World Cold Cold World Backpacks made by Randy Rackliff. Very nice looking line of backpacks with realistically priced possibility to order custom made. Should be great for climbing, as Randy's personal experience actually out using the gear as intendeded is pretty much second to none (including stuff like 3rd ascent of of Moonflower and 1st ascent of Reality Bath come to mind...early solos of Slipstream..Tear Drop etc.). For us Euros the ordering though the company website means that the price gets bumbed up through shipping, customs and VAT though. See also introduction/review)
  • Crux AK47 XCruxAK47 X (Lean and mean design, light for the size.)
  • Haglöfs Ascent 38lHaglöfsAscent 38l (too gimmicky, heavy)
  • Lowe Alpine Mountain Attack Pro 45+10Lowe AlpineMountain Attack Pro 45+10.
  • Mammut Granit 40lMammutGranit 40l (no floating lid, crap chest strap)
  • Mammut Ice Pack 45lMammutIce Pack 45l (Alpinist Mountain Standard. Looks like it has the same crappy chest strap as Granit though.)
  • Millet Prolight 45lMilletProlight 45l.
  • Mountain Hardwear Dihedral 40lMountain HardwearDihedral 40l.
  • PODsacs Alpine 40PODsacsAlpine 40 (Looks good, probably the closest thing to my wishlist so far. Not perfect though. I don't particularly like the classic ice tool loops, IMO Black Diamond PickPocket type of attachment is far superior. Even bigger downer is that they seem to be using same crappy chest strap fastening system (plastic clamp sliding on plastic rail) that I positively hate after breaking that same system in two previous packs.)
  • PODsacs CragsacPODsacsCragsac (looks good, but unnecessarily large in sizes suitable for taller person (47+10l))
  • PODsacs Black IcePODsacsBlack Ice (looks good, but unnecessarily large in size suitable for taller person (53+12l))

Layering done right

In his book Extreme Alpinism: Climbing Light, Fast, and High, 1st edition.Twight, Mark & Martin, JamesMountaineers Books1999* The most advanced climbing how-to on the market * Techniques and mental skills needed to climb at a more challenging level * Illustrated with full-color photos throughoutBig, high routes at the edge of a climber's ability are not the places for inventing technique or relying on old habits. Complacency can lead to fatal errors. So where does the hard-core aspirant or dreamer turn? The only master class in print, Extreme Alpinism delivers an expert dose of reality and practical techniques for advanced climbers.Focusing on how top alpine climbers approach the world's most difficult routes, Twight centers his instruction on the ethos of climbing the hardest routes with the least amount of gear and the most speed. Throughout, Twight makes it clear that the two things he refuses to compromise are safety and his climbing ethics. In addition to the extensive chapters on advanced techniques and skills, Twight also discusses mental preparedness and attitude; strength and cardiovascular training; good nutrition; and tips on equipment and clothing.08988665450898866545HouseNon-fictionen Mark Twight pushes forward the idea of layering on top, which contrasts with traditional layered clothing approach. While layering under works very well in theory (and in some activities in practice as well), it isn't at home on climbing. Hanging belay is hardly a place to start removing your jacked to be able to add extra insulation layers. This layering on top works very well, as long as the kit used for it are appropriate. For example, layering belay insulation on top of shell jacket means that the shell jacket doesn't have to (in fact, it must not) be very loose. Furthermore, as the insulation jacket is bound to get wet, synthetic may be a better option than down.

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