How To: “Belaying in the Gym” by PETZL

Petzl is a well known industry leader in climbing gear and safety. When I first started climbing over 20 years ago I looked forward to each annual Petzl catalog for the wealth of technical information they would include, along with some of the most stunning and inspirational photos! I probably learned as much about climbing from these catalogs back in the day as I learned from that timeless classic Freedom of the Hills!

Petzl Gear Review
The author on the summit of Forbidden Peak, North Cascades, wearing the Petzl Sirocco Helmet and Petzl Sitta Harness

Now Petzl has just launched a new series of downloadable “ACCESS BOOKS”, basically a collection of technical tips centered around one particular aspect of climbing. In their first PDF “booklet” Petzl focuses on indoor climbing.

Petzl Access Books
Petzl Access Books- Download your own copy here.

As always the illustrations are clear and to the point. The techniques described are considered “best practices” throughout the industry. Whether you are a new climber or a salty veteran a little review of the basics never hurts!

Download your own copy here

See you in the mountains!

Northeast Alpine Start

P.S. Speaking of Petzl here are some recent reviews I’ve posted of some of my favorite Petzl gear!

Petzl Sirocco Helmet (2017 model)

Petzl GriGri+

Petzl Sitta Harness

Petzl Hirundos Harness

Petzl Ice Screws (comparison review)

Petzl Bug Backpack

All links are affiliate links and making a purchase through one of them supports Northeast Alpine Start at no additional cost to you! Thank you!

Gear Review- Black Diamond Cirque 45 Backpack

The Black Diamond Cirque 45 Backpack is designed for back-country skiing and ski mountaineering. This streamlined model also comes in smaller 35 and 30 liter options. I started testing this pack while teaching avalanche courses last winter and after a couple more trips this season I’m ready to share my opinions on this model.


Black Diamond Cirque 45 Backpack Review
Skiing “the Sherbi” with the Black Diamond Cirque 45 Backpack- photo by Alexandra Roberts

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Capacity

Black Diamond Cirque 45 Backpack Review
Black Diamond Cirque 45 Backpack Review

At 45 liters (2746 cubic inches) this is one of the largest ski packs I’ve tested. It can definitely handle carrying my full avy kit along with my technical gear on ski mountaineering trips. If just sticking to skiing it can easily accommodate my sleeping bag and ultra-light tent for lightweight overnight missions. There is an external helmet carry system that frees up space inside the pack. The dedicated internal avalanche gear pocket is quite large easily accepting my avalanche shovel in my fleet along with my avalanche probe and snow saw. Four side compression straps and the top strap help the pack compress down to bullet size when going on less gear intensive outings.



Fit/Comfort

Black Diamond Cirque 45 Backpack Review
Black Diamond Cirque 45 Backpack Review

The Black Diamond Cirque 45’s carrying system is simple, well designed, and snow friendly. The back panel has a gel-like foam (not a removable pad unfortunately) and perfectly contoured shoulder straps along with a well fitting thin foam waist belt. It comes in a “S/M” for torsos from 16-19 inches and a “M/L” for torsos 18.5 to 21.5 inches. I went with the “M/L” for my 19 inch torso 5’9″ build and it fit great. The pack rides well both when climbing (plenty of clearance for helmet) and while skiing (hugs body nicely).


Durability

After a dozen or so ski tours the pack is holding up great. The main pack material (Dynex (210 denier) feels soft to the touch and bottom is heavily reinforced (with PE 200 denier). I’ve packed ice screws, mountaineering crampons, and strapped my skis diagonally and “A-frame” and there is not a single noticeable wear point anywhere.


Features

Black Diamond Cirque 45 Backpack Review
Black Diamond Cirque 45 Backpack Helmet Carrying System

There’s some things I really like about this pack and some areas that could use some improving. Let’s start with the good!

  • Stretch woven hip pocket (only on 35 and 45 liter models). I’m always looking for the best place to put my sunglasses when it is time to switch over to goggles and this pocket fits them perfectly! I’m not sure that Black Diamond intended for this waist belt pocket to hold sunglasses but it is the perfect shape and has a little rigidness to it that makes them feel quite protected even when not in a dedicated case.
    Black Diamond Cirque 45 Backpack Review
    Black Diamond Cirque 45 Backpack Stretch Hip Pocket
  • Stow-able Helmet Carry (also only on 35 and 45 liter models). On less gear intense missions I like to carry my helmet inside the main compartment but when I have more stuff to carry this helmet carry system is quickly deploy-able freeing up lots of internal space.
    Black Diamond Cirque 45 Backpack Review
    Black Diamond Cirque 45 Backpack Helmet Carrying System
  • Compatible with the AvaLung Element for additional protection in avalanche terrain.
  • Side zipper access! Not mentioned in the description or in any other reviews I’ve seen for this pack is the side zipper access. I love being able to pack top-loading packs like this to the brim yet still dig out my water bottle or first aid kit without dumping the whole pack. Side zipper access rules!

Improvements

I really only have one small gripe about the design of this pack, and it’s related to the avalanche gear pocket. Accessing it requires opening the top main compartment, then unbuckling the internal pocket. This isn’t a huge deal breaker but I really prefer avalanche gear pockets to be accessible without entering the main pack. External avalanche gear pockets are much more convenient if you access these tools throughout your tour when making observations (it’s not just about rescue speed). Other than that this is a really well put together ski touring/mountaineering backpack and one worth a close look!


Other Media

Buy on Backcountry

Thanks for reading!

See you in the mountains,

Northeast Alpine Start
Affiliate links support this blog at no cost to you!

Gear Review: Cassin Eghen 22 Backpack

This past September I was excited to receive the new Cassin Eghen 22 backpack to review. This alpine style pack had won “Editor’s Choice 2017” from Climbing Magazine who called it a “super tech summit pack”. Indeed this relatively small pack has a long list of features designed with both practicality and convenience in mind.

Cassin Eghen 22 Backpack Review
Cassin Eghen 22 Backpack Review
Cassin Eghen 22 Backpack Review
Huntington Ravine Trail, Mount Washington New Hampshire- photo by Matt Baldelli

Buy on Amazon


How I tested

Over the Fall I took this pack rock climbing in both crag settings and alpine. I was able to get over 30 pitches of climbing in with it before switching gears to ice climbing and have since tested this pack in Huntington Ravine (Pinnacle Gully), Mount Willard, and Cannon (Black Dike). I’ll share the manufacture specs and description then get into my personal test results.


Specifications

  • 22-liter technical pack for rock, ice and mixed mountain ascents
  • Very strong fabric with reinforced Cordura bottom
  • Technical ice axe holders with a head-locker system on the bottom and Velcro straps on top
  • External helmet carrying system can be stowed away when not in use
  • Frameless back is lined with a removable 6 mm rigid pad that can be used as an emergency bivy pad
  • Connection points for the bottoms of the shoulder straps is higher for better weight distribution while climbing
  • External rope carrying system
  • Innovative new fast pull cord closure system has been optimized for use with gloves
  • External waterproof pocket for maps, phones and other essentials
  • Zippered inner pocket for valuables
  • Inner gear loop for organizing
  • Fixed daisy chains with compression straps for securing gear to the outside of the pack
  • Buckles are optimized for use with gloves
  • Removable waist belt with two adjustment points
  • Removable chest strap is height adjustable
  • Burly handle on top for hauling and clipping
  • Hydration compatible
  • WEIGHT

    915 g, 32.3 oz

    SPECS

    ID: 2446
    Volume: 22 L

    Cassin Eghen 22 Backpack Review
    Northeast Ridge of the Pinnacle, Huntington Ravine Mount Washington, New Hampshire- photo by Matt Baldelli

Description

Pizzo d’Eghen is the wildest and most remote mountain in the Grigne group in the Central Alps above the town of Lecco, the home of Riccardo Cassin. In 1932, Cassin first climbed one of his great routes on the Pizzo d’Eghen, ascending the huge chimney in the middle of the wall. The Eghen 22 is a tribute to this historic climb, the very kind of adventures it has been designed for. Elite alpinists and multi-pitch climbers have long been asking us for a purpose-built pack with the Cassin touch. It is here with the Eghen 22. The Eghen 22 is designed for fast and light missions on multi-pitch rock and ice routes. The bottom is constructed from super strong Cordura 500D and the side walls are constructed from strong, lightweight PU coated 210D HD Ripstop nylon. Maxed out, the Eghen 22 has 22 liters of capacity. When not full, the pack is designed to be compressed so it maintains a trim profile. The frameless back gets some rigidity from the removable 6mm rigid foam pad that doubles as an emergency bivy pad. Other cold weather features include a new fast pull cord closure system and new buckles all designed for ffective use with gloves, and streamlined technical ice tool holders that can be stowed away when not in use. Essential multi-pitch climbing features include a removable waist belt, external waterproof pockets for the route map, an external rope carrying system that allows the rope to be carried on the top or bottom of the lid and an external helmet carrying system that stows away when not in use.

Cassin Eghen 22 Backpack Review
Fairy Tale Traverse, Northeast Ridge of the Pinnacle , Huntington Ravine Mount Washington New Hampshire- photo by Matt Baldelli

Review

Durability: While difficult to gauge long-term durability when I’ve only put about 20 field days on the pack I can attest that some of those days were quite rugged with tight chimney squeezes and others had plenty of exposure to sharp pointy things (ice axes, screws, crampons). As mentioned in the description the bottom is built from a strong Cordura but not called out is the added durability gained from the innovative external waterproof pocket on the top “lid” of the pack. This favorite feature of mine makes the top of the pack feel as durable as the bottom and gives me a bit of confidence if I need to haul this pack up through a tight chimney. At the end of the test period the pack still looks great with no punctures, abrasions, lose seams, etc.

Comfort: For a 2 pound summit tech pack this one rides really well. That’s due in part to the nicely contoured gel-like shoulder straps and the 6 mm removable foam back pad that doubles as an emergency bivy pad (or a great splinting aid). Since this is a frame-less pack I wouldn’t chose to remove the back pad for any reason other than a first aid/bivy need as you would feel and rigid objects quite acutely. The thin waist belt (also removable) helps keep the pack centered when rock hopping the shifting talus field below Cannon cliff, and the sternum strap fully stabilizes the load.

Features: For a pack this size the list of features is incredibly long. I won’t relist everything already mentioned in the specifications and description but want to draw attention to both my favorite features, and what I feel might be missing or need improvement.

Waterproof Pocket

High on my list of favorites is the waterproof pocket. Interestingly Cassin calls this “external” but it is only accessible through the top draw-cord closure system so I think it should be considered “internal”. Regardless I don’t always carry my iPhone in a waterproof case and having this pocket that easily fits my phone, field book, headlamp, and lighter, has provided a nice bit of assurance that stuff that shouldn’t get wet won’t. If they made it accessible from the outside it would be even better and could actually be called “external”.

Helmet/Ice Tools Lashing

With multiple options for strapping on this equipment it took me a couple trips with my Cassin X Dream ice axes to figure out how to properly use the bottom straps. If you don’t run the straps through the “eye” on the head of the ice axe they can feel a little awkward when attached. However the redundancy of both a Velcro and a shock cord fastener for my ice axes assures even if I don’t use the bottom attachment correctly I am unlikely to lose my axe while glissading down off a climb. The shock cord fasteners also make a quick helmet attachment as the stoppers easily fit through the ventilation holes on my Petzl Sirocco helmet for quick securing.

Pack Closing System/Access

There is only one entry point to this pack and that is through the top via a type of “fold over” lid that covers a draw-cord “tube” style entrance. The draw-cord closure works well with gloves on both while opening and closing. Where I could see improvement would be the fastening strap that secures the “fold over” type lid. It’s upper attachment is at the bottom of this lid so if you strap a rope under this lid it carries pretty far away from you. If this strap was attached closer to the back panel I could carry the rope closer to my body, where I prefer.

UPDATE: Soon after posting a reader clued me in to the fact that the internal strap that I hadn’t found a use for could be threaded through the hydration port hole and provide an excellent way to keep the rope closer to the back, and directly over the waterproof pocket. I can now see this works great and wish there was more instruction either included with the product or available online!

Compression/Bells & Whistles

The pack comes with two compression straps and a helmet strap not installed and the literature with the pack provided no instructions on how to install these straps so they have sat unused in my gear room. None of the manufacture photos show these straps in use and I could not find any direction on their website, so that could be addressed! And while I don’t like “bells” on my backpacks I certainly like having a sternum strap whistle on all my technical backpacks. It’s come in handy to often to not always look for it!

Cassin Eghen 22 Backpack Review
Black Dike, Cannon Cliff, New Hampshire- photo by Peter Brandon
Cassin Eghen 22 Backpack Review
The Black Dike, Cannon Cliff, New Hampshire- photo by Peter Brandon

Summary

The Cassin Eghen 22 is a remarkable backpack. It’s not a true “bullet” pack and is more featured than your typical minimalist “summit” pack making it quite versatile. Designed for “alpinism, rock climbing, multi-pitch climbing, and ice climbing” this pack certainly performed well when tested during all these endeavors. If you are in the market for an advanced technical climbing pack take a close look at this one!

 Buy on Amazon

See you in the mountains,

Northeast Alpine Start

Affiliate links above help support this blog at no cost to you!

Best Gear Deals for Climbers (Backcountry)

While I’m not super excited about how commercialized our holidays have become I do get stoked on seeing big discounts on gear that I own and love. I subscribe to quite a few gear companies emails and I’m combing them all for the best upcoming sales on specific items I have either reviewed or would love to own. I will also be specific on what the actual discount offered is! None of the “up to x percent off”… I hope you find this list more personal than your average marketing email, and if you have any questions about any of my suggested products please let me know in the comments!

Part 1- Backcountry.com

Their campaign 30% off Select Arc’teryx! Some of the specific items on my list:

30% off Arc’teryx ACRUX AR Mountaineering Boots! (use code ARC30 at checkout) My current favorite ice climbing boot with a very detailed review here!

Arc'teryx Arcux AR Mountaineering Boots
The author testing the Arc’teryx Acrux Mountaineering Boots- Photo by Brent Doscher

30% off Arc’teryx FL-365 Harness (use code ARC30 at checkout)

30% off Arc’teryx Acrux FL Approach Shoe

Their campaign “Up to 30% off Scarpa, LaSportiva, Petzl & Prana

My personal picks:

25% off LaSportiva Boulder X Approach Shoes– I reviewed these this Fall here!

25% off LaSportiva GS 2M Mountaineering Boots–  On my short wish list

25% off Scarpa Phantom 6000 Mountaineering Boot– I am currently reviewing these

Scarpa Phantom 6000 Boots
Author testing Scarpa Phantom 6000 Boots on Mount Washington- photo by Brent Doscher

25% off Scarpa Phantom Tech Mountaineering Boot– Lighter version I hope to review!

25% off Petzl GriGri+– This is the lowest price I’ve seen on this awesome device I reviewed here.

Petzl GriGri+ Review
Petzl GriGri+ photo by Alexandra Roberts

25% off Petzl Sitta Harness– This is my go-to harness and I reviewed it here.

25% off Petzl Actik Headlamp– My current everyday headlamp

25% off Petzl Sirocco Helmet– My favorite helmet of all time (thus far!) Review here.

Petzl Sirocco Helmet
Petzl Sirocco Helmet- photo by Matt Baldelli

25% off Petzl Nomic Ice Tools– Save $150 on a set of these!

33% off the new Black Diamond ATC Pilot Belay Device– I want one.

25% off Black Diamond HiLight Tent– I used this for two weeks in the Cascades this summer and it was perfect!

Black Diamond HiLight Tent, Mount Rainier
Black Diamond HiLight Tent, Mount Rainier

45% off Women’s Black Diamond First Light Hoody– I reviewed this great piece here!

30% off Men’s Black Diamond First Light Hoody– Bummer not same deal as women’s!

25% off Black Diamond Express Ice Screws– A standard in the category!

I will add more from Backcountry as I find deals but these are my current “top picks”. If you missed my “20 Holiday Gifts for the Mountain Lover” you can check it out here!

Have a great Holiday tomorrow and be sure to #optoutside on Black Friday! I will be standing by REI’s great initiative on Friday and am pledging to myself and family that I will be 100% “radio” silent (and outdoors). I will continue this with Part 2 and be sharing deals I find around Cyber Monday and Tech Tuesday so stay tuned and…

See you in the mountains,

Northeast Alpine Start

Affiliate links support this blog at no additional cost to you!

20 Holiday Gifts for the Mountain Lover

Chances are if you are reading this you have a climber, skier, hiker, mountain biker, or trail runner in your life. You’ve probably already started to see “holiday guides” come from various retailers and bloggers. Here I present my personal hand selected gift ideas for the adventurous mountain traveler in your life. Some are locally hand-crafted ideas from friends and others are time tested national brands so please take a look!

Hydro Flask ($25-$40)

hydro-flask-options

This socially responsible company makes the coolest water bottles and tumblers out there! Super high quality stainless steel technology keeps cold drinks cold for 24 hours and hot drinks hot for 6 hours! Customization and tons of color and style options means there is a Hydro Flask out there for just about everyone! Check out their Holiday Gift guide here.


Friendly Foot Shoe Deodorizer ($11)

Friendly Foot Shoe Deodorizer

I’m pretty sure the 10 seconds of silence from my girlfriend after asking her to marry me was enough time for her to accept that she loved a man with some seriously stinky feet. Luckily she said yes and I would soon find this foot powder, seriously the only product that works on my feet! 7 years later she is quick to remind me if she notices my supply running low. This one is a PERFECT stocking stuffer, pick it up on Amazon here.


Life Straw ($20-$55)

IMG_2395

Life Straw Steel
Life Straw Steel

Another socially and environmentally conscious company Life Straw makes getting safe drinking water possible with innovation and effective products. I have been using the Life Straw Steel model over the last couple months and it’s becoming a standard part of my day kit.


SPOT Gen3 Satellite GPS Messenger ($149.95 Sale $74.89)

SPOT Gen3 Satellite GPS Messenger

This device allows someone to summon help even when they are far away from cell phone service. It provides piece of mind to my wife when I’m out on a week long trip in the mountains by allowing me to send “check-in” messages that show her where in the world I am. This is an excellent gift for the adventurer in your life!


VSSL Supplies ($50-99)

VSSL Supplies Survival Gear Review
VSSL Supplies Survival Gear

I’ve had the VSSL Supplies model for two years now and it’s an integral part of our home emergency kit (extended power-outs) and comes with us on road trips as part of our “on the go” kit. While it’s a little heavy for me to take climbing I know a few hunters that have added it to their day kit and it has a lot to offer the casual back-packer and car-camper. See my detailed review I posted here!


Darn Tough Socks ($15-$27)

Darn Tough Socks
Darn Tough Socks

Possibly the best socks I’ve ever owned and made right over the border in Vermont! For mountaineering and ice climbing check out this model! These socks come with an unconditional lifetime guarantee and make an excellent stocking stuffer!


Mountains For Breakfast Cozies ($18)

Mountains For Breakfast Sweater
Mountains For Breakfast Sweater

My friend Brittni started this hand-crafted company just last year and I’ve been seeing her work at local coffee shops and at the crags! The iconic “drink sweater” is right at home keeping that pre-climb coffee warm or that post-climb beer cold! I’m definitely excited to be giving something handmade to some of my loved ones this season!


MaxxDry Heavy Duty Boot and Glove Dryer ($55)

MaxxDry Boot and Glove Dryer
MaxxDry Boot and Glove Dryer

Every home in the Northeast should have one of these! It’s effective enough that I can easily dry my boots and gloves along with my wife’s in just a couple hours. No balancing them over the floor base heaters or getting them too hot near the wood-stove and risking early de-lamination! You can pick on up on Amazon here.


Anker PowerCore 10000 Re-charger  (25.99)

Anker PowerCore 10000
Anker PowerCore 10000 re-charger

This charger sees almost daily use as I use my iPhone extensively while out climbing and for most of my video editing. What I like most about this charger is that I can get at least 3 full charges from it and it charges much faster than a wall outlet. You can pick this stocking stuffer up on Amazon here.


Sea to Summit Reactor Sleeping Bag Liner ($57.95)

Sea to Summit Reactor Thermolite Sleeping Bag Liner

This goes with me everywhere. It’s super comfy on airplanes as a blanket and in hostels around the world. I also like that it keeps my expensive down sleeping bag clean (extending its life) even after weeks of grimy sleeping!

Buy on Backcountry         Buy on Amazon


Sea To Summit Delta Spork With Knife ($3.95)

Sea to Summit Delta Spork

Simple lightweight option to make meal time easy!

Buy on Backcountry        Buy on Amazon


Petzl CORDEX Lightweight Belay Gloves ($34.95)

Petzl CORDEX Lightweight Belay Gloves

If ropes are involved these come with me. They were perfect for the warmer daytime glacier temps and offer great protection for rappelling, short-roping, etc.

Buy on Backcountry      Buy on Amazon


AMK .7 First Aid Kit ($32.95)

AMK .7 First Aid Kit

I customize mine a little but this is a great base kit at the price!

Buy on Backountry      Buy on Amazon



SOL Emergency Bivy Sack (13-$23)

SOL Emergency Bivy Sack

Super affordable and weighs less than 4 ounces means there is never a reason not to bring this!

Buy on Amazon


Petzl Actik Headlamp ($44.95 sale $33.71)

Petzl Actik Core Headlamp

I recently upgraded from my older Petzl Myo model and this new model is awesome! Up to 260 hours of burn time and able to through light 90 meters! If you’re due for a headlamp upgrade I highly suggest you check out this model!

Buy on Backcountry   Buy on Amazon


Quality Survival Lighter ($14.99)

UST Floating Lighter

Fire-starter is on every gear list, and this one is a good value!

Buy on Amazon


Big Ticket Items!


GoPro Hero 5 Session ($299.99)

GoPro Hero5 Session

A great little HD cam with advanced features beyond this post. You can see some of the footage about a minute into my Forbidden Peak video!

Buy on Backcountry      Buy on Amazon


Garmin Fenix 3 HR GPS watch $300-$700)

Garmin Fenix 3 HR Watch

My current favorite GPS navigation capable smart-watch with optical heart-rate! This is the watch I used to create the GPS tracks linked in the trip report. It also allows one-button waypoint saving and the built in barometer/altimeter was a nice plus to our navigation plans. I would like to upgrade to the new Fenix 5 soon!

Buy on Backcountry   Buy on Amazon


Ortovox S1+ Avalanche Beacon ($489.00 sale $391.20)

Ortovox S1+ Avalanche Beacon
Ortovox S1+ Avalanche Beacon

My personal favorite avalanche beacon with a host of advantages over other beacons on the market. Super fast processor and “Smart Antennae” technology helps you find and be found faster. On sale on Backcountry.com now!


Revo Goggles

Revo Goggles
My friend Bianca sporting the Revo Onix with Blue Water Lens during our trip to Iceland last April! photo by Brent Doscher Photography

These high end goggles out perform every other brand I have ever tried. As a brand ambassador I can share my promo code “ALPINESTARTF&F” which will get you 20% off when ordering directly from www.revo.com!


Education!

Northeast Mountaineering

Perhaps your loved one has been talking about taking an ice climbing course or avalanche safety course for a couple of years now but hasn’t pulled the trigger? Give them the nudge they need with a gift certificate for a course at Northeast Mountaineering! Also be sure to use promo code “DavidNEM” when you book a course for a chance to win a free guided adventure of your choice!


Memberships ($35-$80)

UPDATE: A couple readers pointed out an excellent gift idea is a membership to an organization dedicated to access, education, and conservation. To that end I’m embarrassed I didn’t think of that without the nudge so may I also include a membership to the Access Fund and/or the American Alpine Club, two organizations I have supported through membership for over the last 15 years!


Shop Local!

While I do love these online deals I want to take up this space by encouraging you support local businesses, especially small specialty climbing shops, with your business! To that end if you can physically visit this stores please do!

International Mountain Equipment, North Conway, NH

Ragged Mountain Equipment, Intervale, NH

Outdoor Gear Exchange, Burlington, VT

Well that’s my list! I guess it was 25 items. I hope this helps you shop for your loved ones this holiday season!

See you in the mountains,

Northeast Alpine Start



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Gear Review- Mystery Ranch Scree Backpack

The Mystery Ranch Scree is a mid-sized rugged backpack capable of hauling heavier and awkward loads better than most packs this size and could easily find itself in the gear closets of photographers and craggers alike. I tested this pack over the course of 3 months while day hiking, sport climbing, trad-climbing, and alpine climbing and I’m ready to share my opinions on it.

Mystery Ranch Scree Backpack Review
Mystery Ranch Scree Backpack Review

Buy from Mystery Ranch   Buy on Backcountry.com   Buy on Moosejaw

Capacity/Weight

At 3.1 pounds this 32 liter (2000 cubic inches) pack is a little heavier than most of the packs in my quiver but that extra weight is attributed to a very robust suspension system that distributes heavy loads very comfortably and protects the back from feeling bulky camera gear or that #4 Black Diamond Camalot.

Comfort

This heavier suspension system, the “Load Carriage™”, is the cornerstone of Mystery Ranch packs and allows for total customization of the suspension system to fit anyone’s torso as if the pack was custom made. The demo model I tested fit my 17 inch torso perfectly out of the box so I did not need to make any adjustments but for those who do Mystery Ranch explains the process in this video (note different model in video but same process).

Storage/Access

Quite a bit of the design of the Mystery Ranch Scree is focused on storage and access to the gear you are hauling. The main compartment can be accessed like a traditional top-loader by unzipping the top pocket or by unzipping a centered vertical zipper that runs the length of the pack and allows for convenient panel loading access. The main advantage of having these two access options is when packing I can really stuff a lot of gear in by just using the top loading option. If I need something that I packed near the bottom of my pack the vertical zipper allows access without having to empty most the pack.

Mystery Ranch Scree Backpack Review
My friend Katie, an AMC Hike Leader @intothe_wander helping me test the Mystery Ranch Scree Backpack after a 9 pitch rock climb on Whitehorse Ledge.

An internal hydration sleeve can hold a 100 ounce reservoir and a hydration port is well concealed behind the right shoulder strap. The top pocket has two zippered compartments, a large one with see through mesh and a smaller one at the very top of the lid. Two water-bottle pockets made from a stretchy nylon can hold 32 ounce Nalgene’s but do not have a draw-cord or compression strap to help secure them so care should be used when using. The padded waist belt has a zippered pocket on each side providing a convenient place to store some energy gels or lip balm. Two daisy chain down the back round out the storage options.

Durability

Mystery Ranch has a lot of experience building packs for military and fire fighting and you can tell they carry this bombproof type philosophy over to their expanding recreational lines. Made of 420 Denier Robic™ nylon fabric and waterproof YKK zippers with a double layered bottom you can expect a long life and many miles from this pack. After about 15 days of field use my demo model shows no signs of wear.

Summary

The Mystery Ranch Scree is a solid option for travelers hauling heavy gear in the mountains. The compression system allows it to cinch down to carry-on size for most airlines making it suitable for travel. While the suspension is a little too heavy for multi-pitch climbing this pack worked great hauling the whole trad rack for a day of single pitching at Cathedral Ledge and Sport Climbing at Rumney, NH. The impressive carrying capacity and unique access options would make this a solid choice for nature and adventure photographers as well as those who like compartmental organization. The only improvement I might suggest is the addition of a sternum strap whistle, a feature I like on all of my packs. If you are in need of a robust mid-sized pack for your mountain adventures take a look at this one, it might be a perfect addition to your pack quiver!

Buy from Mystery Ranch   Buy on Backcountry.com   Buy on Moosejaw

See you in the mountains,

Northeast Alpine Start

Disclaimer: This pack was provided to the author for purpose of review. Affiliate links in this post help support creating content here at no cost to you.

Gear Review- Montem Diadema 18L Backpack (and contest)

This simple yet well designed backpack easily crosses over from an everyday gym bag to a ultra-light multi-pitch rock climbing pack. I received a media sample to demo this past summer and ended up quite impressed with a pack in this easily affordable price range. Let’s take a close look at this model and see if it would be a good addition to your pack fleet!

Montem Diadema 18L Backpack Review
Hard to believe this pack only weighs 4 ounces! The author at the top of Whitehorse Ledge, White Mountains, New Hampshire

Buy on Amazon


Capacity/Weight

Montem Diadema 18L Backpack Review
This was the gear stuffed into the Montem Diadema 18L backpack for a trip up a 9 pitch route on Whitehorse Ledge this Fall.

At 18 liter (1,100 cubic inches) this pack is 2 liters larger than the popular Black Diamond Bullet and the same volume of the Petzl Bug (my review). The Diadema is a few inches longer than all three of those models which allows internal packing of many styles of trekking poles like Montem’s own award winning line of ultra-light trekking poles. Where this model really stands out in the field of “bullet” packs is in its weight. The Montem Diadema 18L only weighs 4 ounces! This is 14 ounces less than both the Black Diamond Bullet and the Petzl Bug and 7 ounces less than the Mountain Tools Slipstream that I reviewed here.  This weight combined with being able to compress into the size of a grapefruit makes this a great choice for stuffing into a larger multi-day backpack during expeditions or in luggage for international travel.


Durability

Montem Diadema 18L Backpack Review
Lightweight but durable fabrics help this pack cross over from “gym bag” to multi-pitch trad pack!

Montem uses a high denier supple waterproof ripstop nylon in the Diadema’s construction. The material feels very soft in hand which helps the pack compress when storing inside a larger pack. Being made of a waterproof fabric is a nice boon with a pack so moderately priced however the seams are not taped or sealed in anyway so I would not consider the pack to be completely waterproof, but highly water-resistent. After a couple weeks of cragging, trips to the gym, and 20+ pitches of alpine climbing the pack has not incurred any noticeable wear or damage. I would assume that over a few years of hard use packs made with heavier fabrics might outlive the Diadema but some sacrifices could probably be made when choosing a pack that only weighs 4 ounces!


Comfort

This is where we have a bit of a double edged sword. The contoured mesh shoulder straps are super breathable and distribute the weight well. A height adjustable sternum strap helps keep the load centered and thin waist belt secures the pack to the body for better balance while rock hopping and climbing. The actual “comfort” level of the pack varies with how, and what, is packed inside. There is no foam back panel or padding so if you pack your #2 Black Diamond Camalot right up against your back you are going to feel its edge digging into your pack on the approach. The solution here is to pack wisely. I stuff my extra layer, a light puffy jacket, in first and flatten it out along the back to serve as padding before stuffing my hard wear into the pack. With a little bit of thought you can certainly carry a full pack, first aid kit, puffy, headlamp, etc. and everything should carry well over a long approach. Once you’ve racked up and started climbing you will quickly forget that you are even wearing this pack!


Features

Montem Diadema 18L Backpack Review
Features that are at home at the climbing gym, crag, or big wall!

Rounding out the features of this pack the author appreciated the single external zippered pocket that easily fit my snacks and lunch or my first aid kit, headlamp, and other “essentials”. The internal hydration sleeve can hold bladders from 1.5 – 3 liters in comfort and a hydration port allows the hydration tube to exit easily. The minimalist drawcord closing system obviously saves a lot of weight and bulk over zippered closing systems and the inclusion of a whistle on the sternum buckle always gets a “tip of the hat” from me!


Summary

This relatively new entry into the field of steam-lined “bullet” packs has a lot going for it. The most impressive features are its insane lightweight and packability. The inclusion of waterproof fabrics and adjustable carry system make it more than a simple gym/tote bag. With careful packing it is excellent for approaches and feels non-existent when technically climbing with your hard-wear out and on your harness. The style and design also lend it well to less extreme uses like travel and a gym/yoga pack. If it sound like a good addition to your gear room check it out at the link below!

Buy on Amazon

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Montem Diadema 18L Review
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See you in the mountains!

Northeast Alpine Start

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