Mountain Equipment have recently released their new range of lightweight mountaineering packs. The packs have been in creation for the last 3 years and have been vigorously tested by some of their Pro athletes and Mountain Guides. From their feedback the designers have made a range of packs in 3 sizes, 30, 37 and 45 liters. Facewest have been lucky enough to have been given a Tupilak 37 to test out.
The first thing that I noticed about the Tupilak 37, apart from its colour, was the fabric itís constructed from. The PACT fabric that Mountain Equipment have used is really tough and supple. †A 300 denier double rip stop nylon has been used in the main body and 100 denier in the upper body and internal cowl. A double layer of the 300 denier fabric has been added to the high wear areas such as the base.† A nice balance between a durability and suppleness has been achieved with this fabric. Some burly fabrics that have been used on other packs of this style can be rigid and awkward to compress. †At a weight of 730g itís a pretty light pack, however it can be stripped of most of its straps and buckles dropping it to 570g.
The Tupilak has been designed with an hour glass shape which gives the user a really good range of movement and also gives it the ability to stand up on its own when full. I really like this design; it may sound like a trivial feature but after spending years wrestling with my top heavy BD pack whilst stuffing in kit this was a real delight. It has a really good sized opening making it easy to get your kit in and out. Fitting axes and crampons is simple and straight forward too, no weird attachments, just a piece of shaped aluminium to go through the head of the axe and a strap and hook to go around the handle. †There is also a piece of bungee cord to attach to the front of the pack for your crampons.
The lid is not like your standard style rucksack lid. It has two closures, an internal cowl which is a dry bag style roll top closure, and on the outside there is a small flap style lid that uses Mountain Equipment’s Grappler closure system.
This is a simple aluminium hook that attaches to the top part of the lid and cinches down to close. Itís easy to do with big gloves on which is nice, so no fighting with tiny buckles or clips. The Grappler is a very simple and effective way of closing the pack, but it does rely on tension to stay closed.†By giving you the two different closures on the pack the designers have created a nice space at the top to stash wet/dirty kit away from the rest of your gear. After a dayís winter climbing in I tended to chuck my wet gloves and hat here.
The rest of the pack is pretty standard, two compression straps on each side, both removable. There are two haul loops, one on the front and one on the back. You also have one internal pocket, accessible from the inside and outside of the pack. The hip fins on the waist belt are also removable.
Iíve used the Tupilak for a handful of days on the hill so far, whilst this is not the 3 years of testing that ME have put the packs through it has given me a good idea as to how the pack performs. Iíve had a couple of days winter climbing and a couple of days rock climbing in the lakes. On all occasions Iíve been carrying a fairly mid weighted climbing rack with me so the pack was reasonably heavy but by no means fully loaded. For me, Mountain Equipment have really nailed the comfort of this pack.† I found that when full it sits in a really good position on your back and doesnít move around. Each strap on the pack when cinched down brings it closer to your body making it a nice snug fit. Once the pack was less full and I was climbing the hourglass shape gave me lots of room for movement, I didnít feel restricted at all by the shoulder straps when placing gear or making axe placements. Getting kit in and out of the pack at belays was simple and stress free, one buckle and you are in. The back haul loop is positioned well making it easy to clip to belays.
I really like the simplicity of this pack, it has a clean look with no excess straps and buckles and Iím really struggling to find any negative features about it. The one thing I didnít really like was where the internal pocket sat once it was full. I found that it tended to weigh down the back section of the internal cowl making it a bit of a tussle to get into the pack. It would be nice if the pocket was stitched or attached to the lid in some way. There are however two press studs on the inside of the lid so the pocket can be rolled up a stashed out of the way if you donít want to use it.
Overall I really like the Tupilak packs. The 37 litre version is great for day missions and possible over nighters if you are going really light. You may be better with the 45 if you are planning an overnight stop on a cold ledge somewhere in the Alps.