With all the ski packs on the market these days, it's tough to stand out from the crowd. The Indigo Rhide ($155) does so with two unique features: a hydration pocket for water bottles and a fast ski/snowboard carrier.
At first glance, the Rhide appears to be a fairly normal mid-sized internal frame daypack (regular: 2,400 cubic inches/36 liters; large: 2,700 cubic inches/40 liters). It has all the standard features you'd expect in a nice pack such as a plastic frame sheet with two aluminum stays, a good hip belt, contoured shoulder straps and beefy construction. Unlike some packs, the fabric of the back panel is easily brushed free of snow.
The large external pocket with waterproof zipper is specifically designed to carry an avalanche shovel, probe and climbing skins; the front has a layer of closed cell foam to keep the shovel from wearing a hole in the fabric. This "toolbox" is also a great place to carry your lunch since the shovel prevents your sandwich and banana from being crushed into a gooey mess.
Looking inside the zippered main compartment is where you notice the first oddity -- a rigid plastic shelf in the lower portion. This forms the "CafÃ© Pocket," which is an externally accessed storage space for a wide-mouth water bottle. Although this wastes some usable space, it has two advantages over hydration bladders: there is no tube to freeze solid and you can tell how much fluid you have remaining. Those who prefer the convenience of a bladder still have that option since the plastic shelf is removable and there is a bladder pocket and tube port. (Without the shelf, the CafÃ© Pocket is no longer usable.)
The other interesting feature of the Rhide is the stowaway "Lariat Ski Strap" that offers a very quick way of attaching a pair of skis with bases together (there is a snowboard attachment included, but we didn't evaluate it as our testers are all backcountry ski buffs). The skis strapped to the back aren't as stable as the traditional A-frame method along the side, but you have that option also for longer hikes.
After 10 days of backcountry tours, we were impressed with the way the Rhide carries and performs. At 4 pounds, 6 ounces (2 kg), it's a bit on the heavy side but not so much that you really notice. Nice touches include a comfortable top handle and a bottom design that keeps the pack upright when you set it down.
One thing lacking is a method for attaching a helmet on top while hiking since brain buckets take up too much room inside. Pockets on the hip belt would be nice too for carrying sunscreen and munchies. And a light-colored interior fabric would help with finding things buried inside.
Overall, this is a great pack for serious backcountry skiers. However, it is so specialized that you wouldn't want to use it for climbing or even summer day hikes.
SNEWSÂ® Rating: 4.5 hands clapping (1 to 5 hands clapping possible, with 5 clapping hands representing functional and design perfection)
Suggested Retail: $155
For more information:www.indigoequipment.com