I’ve now had a couple months to test the new Salewa Ortles Guide 35 Backpack and I’m ready to publish my review!
TLDR Version: The Salewa Ortles Guide 35 Backpack is a rugged lightweight technical backpack that is an excellent pick for general mountaineering, waterfall ice climbing, and ski mountaineering.
How I Tested:
I’ve taken this pack on a half dozen trips so far. Two general winter mountaineering trips up Mount Washington, a few waterfall ice climbing trips, and on one ski mountaineering objective.
What I Really Liked:
Hard to pick my favorite feature as there are a few of them. Let’s start with the roll top closure and removable “brain”. Around the rim of the roll top Salewa added a stiffener that reminds me of those wrist snap bracelets from yonder years. This stiffener creates a great seal that makes rolling the top of the pack down easy and makes a great seal to keep snow out of the pack in inclement weather. A magnetic “over the roll” strap helps secure climbing ropes and slim the profile of the pack if I’ve decided to remove the “brain” for a more streamlined climbing pack.
Both of the two external zippers on the pack are the high end waterproof zippers I prefer, the Salewa does not claim the pack to be waterproof I found it to be one of the more “snowing hard out”-proof bags I’ve tested. The horizontal zipper near the top accesses a pocket that was big enough to carry my avalanche shovel and probe on a recent ski mountaineering mission. The diagonal side zipper gives the user another access point to reach their water bottle without having to go through the roll-top access point.
The backpack features reinforced side carry loops for A-framing your skis. The upper compression straps have a nice “separator” straps for securing any type of ice axe from mixed climbing tools to general mountaineering axes.
The “Dry-Back” back panel and molded shoulder straps felt awesome for both carrying heavier loads while ski mountaineering or while climbing vertical frozen waterfalls.
I found the 35 liters to be generous and was easily able to pack my for guide kit for a technical day of ski mountaineering (post coming soon to show that gear list).
Salewa is definitely a safety orientated company at the sternum strap whistle is the best quality I have seen for a sternum strap whistle. Beneath the removable lip is also information relating to the “Alpine Emergency Signal” which includes a diagram showing how to put an injured person into the “recovery position” and the numbers for contact emergency services in Europe and US & Canada, along with SOS morse code instructions.
Finally, I love the color. I’m a huge fan of bright colors in backpacks from both a Search & Rescue perspective and a general preference.
What Could Be Improved:
There is not too much here I would change but a few things did come to mind while testing the pack. Probably the biggest is the reinforced lower compression straps do not have releasable buckles. So if carrying a rope coiled in a single strand butterfly coil (quite common these days) you’ll need to “tuck” the rope into the ski carry loops if you want the rope fastened securely. A minor issue for sure but I do like packs where all four side compression straps can be opened.
While this pack was designed and marketed toward “ski mountaineering” vs. backcountry touring the avalanche tool pocket could use one small drain hole towards the bottom. It was also a bit tight for my super light carbon avalanche probe and shovel (what I carry on more technical tours vs. general backcountry skiing. My larger shovel and probe may not have fit in this pocket.
Summary/Who Is This For?
In summary this is a very well designed backpack made by a great company. I had way more great things to say about the pack then the couple of small nitpicks I mentioned. Who should consider purchasing this backpack? This backpack is best designed for an ice climber who occasionally goes touring or a winter above tree-line type hiker. I did not rig snowshoes to the outside of the pack but it shouldn’t be hard with a couple straps to easily fasten them to the outside. So if you are into ice climbing, winter hiking, and maybe do a little backcountry touring on the side, maybe this could be the backpack for you! You can find it in the US at these retailers:
See you in the mountains,
Northeast Alpine Start
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