Filed under:News, Product News, ISPO 2019, Lowe Alpine 2019 climbing packs
Trade shows are a great place to contemplate evolution. The process where rough corners are ground away from products, unnecessary features laid to rest and new ones introduced. Survival of the fittest. Sort of. At this year’s ISPO the process was in full flow on the Lowe Alpine stand. The current alpine pack range has been swept away by the tides of progress and a completely new Ascent range of climbing packs is lurking waiting to emerge into the thin winter sunshine come September time.
What’s interesting about the new packs is that they’re both evolution and revolution in one. Something for everyone. Lowe’s traditional bombproof build quality dusted liberally with some sort of stardust on the one hand. And on the other, a more cautiously-polished take on traditional packs for the more conservative climber. There are also fewer of them, making the whole range a little easier to choose from than the current slightly complicated array.
Let’s start with the glittery, futuristic stuff shall we. The ones that look forward rather than coyly over their shoulder.
Uprise, Renegade and Rebel
There are four of them, the two Uprise Packs, one sized 40:50 and one 30:40 and the smaller Renegade 28 and Rebel 18. What they have in common is the lack of a conventional lid-based construction and a stripped-back ‘carry system’ called X-SHIELD, which sounds like something out of a Marvel comic. The FLEXION straps are loosely based on the super-thin, but surprisingly comfortable ones used on the fast-and-light Aeon daypacks, but with added EVA foam to cope with heavier climbing loads.
The back-panel itself uses the tough fabric from the main body of the pack bonded to an EVA sheet with further support and shape from a 3mm thick, spring steel perimeter frame – you can take it out to save a little extra weight. It’s all very minimal and stripped back, but judging from the ‘stop by and try me’ loaded packs on the stand, still reasonably comfortable and supportive. Load it up with ropes and hardware and that might be less the case, but in the words of pack designer Dan, the packs are aimed at ‘faster, lighter types’, the sort of ‘go for it’ climbers who don’t mind a little discomfort in exchange for some gramme saving. And besides, if the X-SHIELD works as well as its Aeon equivalent, it should still stay reasonably comfortable, particularly with the steel frame in situ.
The use of the pack fabric on the main back panel is a little bit of genius. It should be tough – ideal if you’re hauling using the three-point loop system – non-absorbent on warm days and snow-shedding when it’s cold. The ingenious minimalism carries on elsewhere on the Uprise packs. The base is a double layer of the main fabric, with the extra thickness laminated onto the inside of the pack. Tough but light and unobtrusive. Up top, there’s an ingenious roll-top closure system that allows an extra 10L of overloading capacity – unusual for this type of layout – a recessed pocket with water-resistant zip takes care of valuables and you can stow a rope under the top-tensioner straps.
Where stuff works, it’s been left alone – evolution see – so there are twin head-locker ice-tool carriers, simple straight compression straps and thin-but-strong webbing daisy chains for adding random accessories. It’ll carry skis at a pinch and take a hydration system if needed. Basically everything you need, nothing that you don’t. Weights? It says here just 970g for the 40:50 and 940g for the 30:40 version, which is quite impressive. RRP come next winter will be £150 and £140 respectively.
The other two packs in the avant garde tendency are the Renegade 28 and Rebel 18. Same principles as the Uprise twins, but with zip-accessed ‘bucket entry’ instead of the extendable roll-tops. They weigh in at 760g and 320g respectively and are aimed at people who don’t want to carry much and move fast with it. Prices will be £120 and £80.
Packs with lids
If, on the other hand, you’re someone who doesn’t really fancy these new-fangled, roll-top abominations, but wants a ‘proper’ rucksack with a lid and pockets and stuff, don’t despair. Lowe has you covered.
The Halcyon 45:50 and 35:40 are neat, evolved, traditionally-spec’ed packs with lid openings and a more conventional snow-shedding back system called TRI-FLEX. You get a more supportive hipbelt, that you can remove when your Uprise toting climbing partner taunts you about your overweight backpack along with the removable spring steel frame. The lid gets a single Loadlocker-fastened strap and an extension, fabrics are a little tougher and, in all honesty, there’s nothing radically different here, they’re just well-developed, modern packs on traditional lines that should be happy in Scotland or the Alps. Weights are still reasonable at around 1400g for either. Prices will be £130 or £120 respectively.
Something for everyone?
So it looks like Lowe Alpine’s giving climbers the choice between stripped-back, thoroughly modern, cutting edge minimalism and more traditional, but still decently light lidded packs. Hard beans if you want a super lightweight, cutting-edge pack with lid access, but there you go. The one thing missing from the range is a replacement for the Metanoia 65:80 full-on expedition mountain pack, so if you want one of those, best buy it before August. Otherwise we reckon Lowe has done a good job of slimming down a slightly bloated, confusing selection of technical packs into a smaller, neater range.
Check out the current Lowe Alpine climbing pack range at https://lowealpine.com/uk/mountain/mountaineering