7 of The Best Technical Backpacks Under $250
Accumulating all the necessary kit for serious mountaineering adventures can be a costly business. With ice tools, crampons, cams, clothes, helmets, ropes and various other bits and bobs on the non-negotiable list, most of us find our chances of experiencing moderate poverty rising in tandem with our stash of gear. Buying your most favorite pack, can often time leave a fairly large dent in the bank account. But, fortunately for those of us on a budget, there are plenty of options available that are technically designed and lightweight, rugged and efficient, offering both comfortability and performance. Let’s take a look at seven of the best out there in 2017…
1. Black Diamond Speed Pack 50 ($189.95)
Reasonably light, full of very user-friendly features and about as comfortable as a true mountaineering pack gets, the BD Speed Pack 50 is pretty much a winner on all fronts. While a bit pricier than similarly sized competitors (it’s BD, after all!), for your extra few dollars you get everything an alpine ascent demands of a pack, including a ton of gear storage options, nice load distribution and a very rugged build. When it comes to buying technical mountaineering gear, Black Diamond sets the bar high.
- Removable waist-belt, lid and frame sheet
- Very comfortable
- Ice-tool PickPockets
- Removable crampon straps
- Framesheet doubles as a bivvy pad
- We’re still looking…!
2. Mammut Trion Guide 35+7 ($149)
It’s rare that we come across a piece of gear that we wouldn’t change at all should we be given the chance, but in the incredibly functional, comfortable and generally climber-friendly Trion Guide, we think Mammut just might have done it.
Made with super-tough, water resistant nylon and packing a just the right amount of features and storage for everything you could possibly need on an alpine ascent, this is a technical pack that ticks every box without having any superfluous or fiddly add-ons. The aluminum frame and EVA back padding boost comfort levels, side and back access makes locating gear easy and effortless, and the padded hip belt can be removed when wearing a harness. For external storage, there are side straps for skis, snowshoes, crampons or poles, a daisy chain and two gear loops for ice axes.
- Top and side access
- Balances load well with Motion Butterfly suspension system
- Daisy Chain gear loops
- Integrated raincover
- 2 ice axe loops, ski-carry straps, rope fixing straps and daisy chain gear loops
- Removable hip belt
- EVA back padding makes it very comfortable
- Aluminum frame
- Fairly heavy for its size (3lbs 3oz)
3. Arc’teryx Cierzo 18 ($75)
For rapid alpine ascents, it’s hard to do a great deal better than the ultralight, feature-rich and very streamline Cierzo 18. Although you’d struggle to get any overnight gear in here, the Cierzo will pack everything you need for summit day and is very functional to boot, including a hydration sleeve, ice-tool loops, a duo of daisy chains on the front panel, a removable sternum strap and a handy drawcord to tighten you load and prevent any material flapping around. As far as minimalist day-packs go, it’s in a class of its own!
- Light (13oz)
- Tough N210P nylon
- Water repellent finish
- Tuck-away ice-tool loops
- Front panel daisy chains
- Low capacity – you might have to leave that second sandwich at home!
4. Black Diamond Mission 75 ($179.96)
Big enough to store all of your gear for a week or so and even take on some of your buddy’s gear when he/she starts tiring, the Mission 75 is a true contender for the best ‘big-load’ mountaineering backpack out there. And that load isn’t going to cause you any balance or comfort issues, either…The Mission 75’s reACTIV XP suspension system stabilizes heavy loads nicely and the top-loading design makes packing and locating gear a cinch. Not only is this pack big, it also includes a host of desirable features that make it high-performing and alpine-specific too. Most notable are the ice-tool PickPockets, the removable top pocket and hip belt, hydration sleeve and ladder-lock crampon straps.
If you’re headed high for more than a few days or happen to be the ‘pack everything barring the kitchen sink’ type of mountaineer, you can look no further!
- Huge capacity for a mountaineering pack – 75l
- Handles big loads well
- Ladder-lock crampon straps
- Removable top pocket and belt
- Ice-tool PickPockets
- Climbs well for its size
- A touch on the heavy side (3lb 9oz)
5. Arc’teryx Alpha FL 45 ($259)
Sometimes, on big mountain routes, many of us get around to wishing that certain aspects of our gear and gear storage could just be a little more simple. The Alpha FL 45 obliges us nicely in this regard, doing everything you could need a pack to do without any of the fuss, superfluous material or straps or frills that are so prominent in other packs in its field. Weighing in at a very kind 23oz and boasting a maximum capacity of 45 litres, the Alpha has a great weight-to-volume ratio and can be stripped down a further few hundred grams for summit sprints.
- Great weigh-to-capacity ratio
- Fuss-free – no niggly straps floating around
- Can be stripped down for day use
- Foam suspension pad not removable
- Quite hard to balance load
6. Gregory Alpinisto 50 ($167)
Weighing in at a tiny 10oz and boasting a healthy 2,929 cubic inch capacity, the Alpinisto 50 was off to a very good start before we even started inspecting the finer details. And these, we found, were none too shabby either… With a tough, thermoplastic crampon pocket, a drink reservoir and tube, a removable foam bivvy pad, side zip access, various removable parts and a helmet space cut-out, the Alpinisto is a pack made with the climber in mind.
- Can shed 35% of weight by removing various parts
- Drink reservoir and tube
- Heavy duty crampon pocket
- Helmet storage space
- Only 10oz
- A few too many straps
- Lacks hip belt pocket
7. Mountain Hardwear 40L Trad Pack ($130)
Have we saved the best ‘til last? Quite possibly. The top-loading MH Trad Pack is a frill-free, heavy duty workhorse that keeps your load very stable and well-balanced throughout your climb. While a little bit heavier than other items on review (3lb 4oz) the Trad Pack comes with superior durability thanks to it use of 210D HexNut Ripstop Nylon, 420D HD Nylon and 840D HT Ballistic Nylon and plenty of straps allowing you to attach skis, a snowboard, snowshoes, ice-axes and pretty much anything else you could need. When not in use, the straps can be tucked away inside the front external pocket to avoid any excess clutter.
- External daisy chain for gear attachment
- A bit heavy
- No detachable components