So far I have used this pack twice.
Once at an informal weeknight race. I used a 1.5 liter bladder in the hydration sleeve, where there are 2 velcro loops that hold the bladder securely. You can run the tube out of either shoulder, but doing it on the right might get it tangled up with the ski attachment loop, so I went with the left shoulder. I put my glasses in the water bottle holder on the shoulder strap in case I needed them, since I didn't have a bottle in it. You could also fit a pair of very light gloves in there. Other than that just my phone/keys and a puffy jacket and gloves were in the pack. There was a booter and I was able to attach my skis pretty quickly as I had practiced at home.
It's worth noting that the skis may be harder to attach when the pack is full. I am a big guy, 41 inch chest (bought the Large), and when I have the pack full the skis will not easily lay diagonally across the center of the pack. They end up sitting mostly on the left side of the pack and I can just barely attach the shoulder loop on the right shoulder with it extended to maximum length. It works fine, I can still attach the skis, the only downside is that the weight is not distributed evenly and the skis and particularly the bindings dug into my back a bit. I paused partway up the booter to adjust them for a little more comfort. All that said, I am using skis with an 80mm waist, so using race skis probably makes this less of an issue.
The second time I took the pack out on some XC trails on a very cold day with high winds, with tentative plans to head into the backcountry, but we ended up bailing due to nasty ice crust. I took all of this in the pack:
- BD Transfer 3 shovel (blade BARELY fits in the hydration sleeve. Transfer 7 blade does not fit.)
- BD Guide probe
- Arcteryx Atom SV jacket large
- OR Helium jacket large
- OR Stormtracker gloves
- OR lightweight hat
- Hammer gel tube
- Two ~700ml bottles (instead of a bladder, because the avy stuff fills up the hydration sleeve)
- Small first aid kit, UL emergency bivy sack, personal locator beacon, head lamp
It took some experimenting to make everything fit but it worked and you could probably fit a little more. It was comfortable except that the part of the shovel blade where the handle attaches poked me in the back because the pack has no padding down the very center. I stuffed part of a jacket in between to make it more comfortable. I stowed my 2nd bottle in the lower crampon compartment with some other stuff and I was able to swap it for the empty one with a little fussing without taking the pack off.
On the final downhill back to the car I stowed my skins in the outer mesh pockets. They fit alright despite being a bit bigger than race skins.
The pull-tab openers for the chest buckles seem gimmicky and I don't find them to work well or be any easier to use than a normal buckle, so I will probably snip them off.
The helmet attachment system, as designed, will pretty much only work on the CAMP Speed I think, as the plastic pieces are meant to slip between the ventilation slits. I found a few other reasonable ways of attaching my CAMP Pulse though, without it flailing around too bad.
The ice axe attachment system works fine. The only bummer is that removing the axe with 1 hand would not be easy due to the axe being slipped through a loop at the bottom rather than having a buckle like some other packs.
The construction of the pack is fairly light weight but not paper thin. Should stand up to plenty of use.
Overall I love the pack and I will be using it for any races I do. Depending on the weather and your preferred margin of safety, it may be a bit small for backcountry use. I will continue trying to use it in the backcountry whenever I can though, particularly in the spring. It's a great pack that accommodates efficient travel on skis.
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