Next season's packs go on and off piste

Increased sidecountry use boosts the number of wintersports-specific haulers from popular manufacturers.
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Throughout the month of February, SNEWS will recap its coverage of Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2012 with select stories from the O.R. Daily we published at the show Jan. 19-22. It’s an opportunity for you to catch up on stories you might have missed in O.R.D., and for us to update and upload the articles to our searchable archives.


Mobility, durability and suspension — those are the buzzwords for the latest wintersports-specific packs, which increasingly are designed for both on- and off-piste performance. Manufacturers are tinkering with sidecountry storage features, with many packs that are better at harboring specific gear such as probes, shovels, goggles and other mountain essentials in separate protected compartments.

“More and more people are skiing and riding with packs these days with the growth of sidecountry skiing,” said Mike Aicher, USA product manager for Salomon, which unveiled its Quest 30 pack (MSRP $125, photo, left) at this year’s show. “We haven’t really gotten serious about packs in the U.S. market until this season.” The lightweight (2.4 pounds) Quest 30 has a 30-liter capacity and features soft contour shoulder straps, adjustable belt, goggle pocket, two internal side pockets for probe and shovel handle and ice axe, poles and ski carriers.

Long a player in the snow safety field, Backcountry Access introduced its 35-liter Stash BC (MSRP $135, photo, right) with claimed freeze-proof Stash hydration for a three-liter reservoir, stowable helmet carry system, and independent ski and snowboard carrying systems. “We’re seeing lots of energy in sidecountry and slackcountry riding,” said vice-president of marketing Bruce Edgerly. “Our new Stash packs all come with systems for carrying helmets and burly, rockered skis — standard equipment for this agro demographic.”

Another player entering the category is Helly Hansen, whose 40-liter Cross Back Pack (MSRP $175) marked the company’s first-ever technical daypack. The top-loader features a top pocket and rope strap, thermoformed back panel, adjustable hip belt, water reservoir-specific compartment and ice tool attachment

Suspension is also garnering increased design attention. Black Diamond borrowed its new ErgoActiv suspension platform from its backpack line and applied it to its ski pack line in the Alias, Outlaw, Covert, Agent and Bandit (MSRPs $250). The patent-pending system comes with shoulder straps that can swing left to right on a connected cable with the wearer’s movements, plus a central ball joint on the hip belt connection for multi-axis movements. The packs have front and back panel zippered access, diagonal and A-frame ski carrying options, tuck-away snowboard carry, a helmet holder, a fleece-lined goggle pocket, hydration sleeve and dedicated avy-tool organizer pocket.

Others, like The North Face and Dakine are hopping on the avalanche airbag bandwagon in their packs.

Focusing on durability, Marmotdebuted its new Backcountry 30 (MSRP $149), made from 210-denier mini-diamond ripstop and 1,680-denier ballistics nylon with front shovel and probe pocket, back panel access, diagonal ski/vertical board carry system, DriClime-lined goggle pocket, storable mesh helmet carry system and insulated hydration shoulder sleeve.

Throughout all these bells and whistles, weight continues to be a priority for some brands. Dynafit’snew RC20 (MSRP $120, photo, right) weighs just 360 grams, making it the lightest pack in its line, built especially for rando racing. Features include diagonal ski attachments, breathable shoulder straps and an air mesh back contact system.

Sierra Designsis taking advantage of the surge in backcountry sales, debuting three new packs for 2012 — the Freyr (MSRP $99, photo, left), Ullr (MSRP $169) and Ymir (MSRP $199) — all named for Norse gods of winter. The Freyr is a light-and-fast entry (one pound, 11 ounces.) that can still fit shovel, skins, goggles and more; the Ullr is designed for all-day tours, with a dedicated skins pocket designed to be used without removing the pack and dedicated snow-safety compartment with glove-friendly zipper pulls; and the Ymir, available in two sizes (3,300 and 3,600 cubic inches) is for trips with a backpack suspension system.

Arc’teryx remains committed to the ski-touring category with its new 28- and 38-liter Quintic pack line (MSRPs $199/$250), each sporting a wide, flat profile to keep the load low and centered over the hips; a new suspension system to control side-to-side motion; separate, narrow compartments to keep gear sorted; and external strap configuration for A-frame, diagonal, horizontal or vertical ski and board carry. 

The North Faceis also hot on new wintersports packs. The largest, the Prophet 65 (MSRP $229) tops out at 68 liters, and is built with proprietary automobile airbag fabric; a radial, tubular aluminum frame; reinforced tool attachment zones and crampon pockets; foam-molded back panel and adjustable ski carry stabilizers. The 35-liter Patrol 34 (MSRP $159) is a smaller backcountry version made from the same material with a dialed/Hinch ski/board carry system; large avalanche tool, skin and crampon pockets; a tricot-lined electronics and goggle pocket; and zippered, side-entry main compartment. The smaller 30-liter Recon (MSRP $89) is built for breathability with FlexVent injection-molded shoulder straps with PE foam; padded air mesh back panel with a spine channel.

–Eugene Buchanan

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