Gearbox: Packing for Anything

Editors’ Choice: Scott Patrol E1 30L

The Tech: Available this year in a 30L short length for smaller individuals, Scott’s Patrol E1 relies on the Alpride E1 airbag technology: an electronic system that charges within 20 minutes and has no airplane-travel restrictions. Scott touts the Patrol E1 30L, at just under 3 lbs., as the lightest electronic pack available. Light weight, however, doesn’t mean the pack is lacking features: an avy pocket and ski, helmet and ice-axe carry systems make the Patrol as practical as it is safe.

The Talk: “The new, shorter length is such a welcomed, natural fit,” noted the Patrol tester, who stands at five feet, four inches. “I have a relatively short torso, and I don’t feel like I’m sacrificing comfort for safety with the smaller iteration.”

scott-sports.com, $1,100

Black Diamond Equipment Cirque 22 Ski Vest

The Tech: New this year, the Cirque 22 Vest focuses on practicality and ditches everything else. Like a skimo pack, the vest is designed to sit close to the body, and an external pocket for skins and crampons and diagonal ski-carry straps allow the pack to stay on for smooth, quick transitions.

The Talk: For our tester, the pack’s functionality shone. “I thought it was going to be a little too small, but it’s actually perfect for day tours,” the Cirque tester said. “The internal avy pocket was well placed, and the external pocket for skins made stashing them a breeze.”

blackdiamondequipment.com, $160

Patagonia Descensionist 32L

The Tech: Patagonia designed their Descensionist pack—also available in a 40-liter size—to be a no-frills touring option. On longer days, expand the roll-top closure for additional storage; or simply roll the top tightly for compact carrying. Straps allow for A-frame, vertical and cross ski-carry options, and the easily accessible front pocket is designed for avy tools.

The Talk: “This is one of the more comfortable packs I’ve tried out,” our veteran tester said, impressed with the back panel that was, she found, “breathable on warmer days.” The recycled nylon shell “withstood some shwacking,” too.

patagonia.com, $179

Deuter Freeride Pro 34+

The Tech: The updated Freerider Pro features a roll-top closure, allowing the compact 34-liter pack to expand to 44 liters. Deuter uses a Delrin U-Frame system—a flexible, tensioned frame in the shape of a U—to keep the pack carrying comfortably, even when the extra 10 liters are maxed out.

The Talk: The ability to adjust the pack’s volume without sacrificing comfort impressed our tester. After several long day trips and overnight excursions, he found the Freerider Pro could capably handle up to 40 pounds, saying, “This is a good piece for someone who does longer day trips but also wants a sidecountry/resort pack that compresses down.”

deuter.com, $180

Mystery Ranch Gallatin Peak 40

The Tech: Mystery Ranch designed the Gallatin Peak for ski patrollers and backcountry guides who need a true workhorse pack. The hard-wearing build includes a highly durable nylon and carbonite front panel and access to the main pocket from both the top and the side for easy organization, even when maxed out.

The Talk: Our tester honed in on the Gallatin Peak’s massive carrying capacity and multiple adjustment points. “It fits everything that I need for an overnight trip,” she said, noting that while it felt like it carried more than other 40-liter packs, it still synched down enough to enjoy skiing on excursions from camp.

mysteryranch.com, $249

Arva Reactor Flex Pro Series

The Tech: Arva builds off its Reactor airbag with the Flex Pro Series: an interchangeable airbag system that remains under five pounds thanks to zippers that double as the attachment point for interchangeable pockets of different sizes. The system starts with a back panel that holds the airbag unit, to which pockets offering 24 liter ($100, pocket only) or 32 liter ($150, pocket only) of storage capacity can be attached.

The Talk: The Reactor tester applauded the straight-forward pocket-switching system, favoring the 24-liter option. “The interior pockets made the bag feel much bigger,” he said. “The low-profile design kept everything close to my center of gravity, and I rarely felt off balance.”

arva-equipment.com, $690 (24L), $730 (32L)


This article was originally published in Issue #136. To read more, pick up your copy at BackcountryMagazine.com/136 or subscribe.

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