The Quest for the Holy Gra…. er… Rucksack

I am heartily sick of looking for a rucksack now, I am in danger of just saying “bollocks to it” and buying the next one I see. But I have steeled myself to the task in hand and will not waver in the face of overwhelming odds 🙂

My shortlist for tents was 4 long, for sleeping bags it was 2 long, for stoves it was a shortlist of one! For a rucksack my current list includes 10 different packs, from 8 different manufacturers. There is a bewildering choice out there – and most of them are not what I want – yet still I can only bring the list down to 10. The problem is getting access to them!

My target weight for the rucksack was no more than 1.5kg – its only going to be carrying about 8 or 9 kg of stuff at any one time, so why the hell would I want to get one that weighs 3kg, which most of the 60 litre packs come in at.

The first thing I did was to check the Trail gear list and sure enough they had done a recent test of 40-50 litres packs. The packs placed number 1 (Berghaus Extrem Guide 45) and number 2 (Crux AK47) both fell within my 1.5Kg limit (well, the Berghaus was 1.6kg), so they went on the shortlist. To them I added the fourth placed bag (Mammut Granit 40) and number five (Osprey Atmos 50). I also hand picked a number of other packs from other reviews and articles, the key additions being one of the brand new X-Lite range from Karrimor (the Vapour 45) and a lightweight Berghaus pack (Arete 45).

I prioritised my list based on weight, price and how well they did in any reviews I found for them. The list came out as follows:

1. Crux AK47 – 1.2kg – £120 – not a bad word from anyone
2. Karrimor Vapour 45 – 1.2kg – £90 – no reviews
3. Berghaus Extrem Guide 45 – 1.6kg – £90 – rave reviews
4. Marmot Vapour 45 – 1.5kg – £70 – no reviews
5. Osprey Atmos 50 – 1.4kg – £120 – excellent reviews
6. Berghaus Arete 45 – 1.3kg – £40 – one or two positive comments
….plus 4 others

As I’ve already mentioned, I’m 6’4″ and not the slimmest of chaps, so trying these packs on for comfort and fit was a key consideration. There’s no point spending money on something thats going to be uncomfortable, or worse still, doesn’t fit me at all.

I looked for local stockists for all the 10 bags on my list – those that listed stockists on their websites – one or two only listed online emporiums. This produced a list of about 7 different shops – another case of no shop holding more than two different manufacturers bags.

I started at the top of the list with the Crux, to find only 1 highstreet stockist in the Manchester area, Snow and Rock. Off I toddled to find not a single Crux bag in the whole place – none of the assistants had even heard of them. Not being prepared to travel to London or Newcastle (Tyne, not Lyme) I reluctantly crossed my first choice off the list.

The quest for the Karrimor was not so easily thwarted – I really wanted this bag. Light, clean lines, modern and sexy I drove to Chester to try and track it down in Field and Trek, one of only two named stockists in the North West. They told me they had none in yet as the bag was so new, but to ring back in a couple of weeks. This I did, only to be told that they had the bag in, but it was only in the regular back size and that they would not order a tall one without an order from me first. I explained I needed to try it for size, to which the guy said, “try the regular and if thats too small get the tall”, “that’s not much help really is it?” I said.

So, I rang Karrimor, thinking they could help me locate a tall back model somewhere. I spent 20 minutes on hold and being bounced from one person to another, before the line went dead. I was almost at the point of scratching it off the list when I stumbled across a Karrimor advertisement in Trail magazine and there was a contact phone number of a distributor on the page. I rang Eurotech and spoke to a very helpful lady called Tracy, who found me another retailer in the area. I rang them and explained my quest – they put me on hold for two days then rang back and said they couldn’t get a tall back size unless I placed an order. BOLLOCKS!!!! I gave up on that one too.

To cut an increasingly long story short I could not find anyone in the North West who was stocking a Berghause Extrem Guide or a Marmot Vapor 45. Scratch 3 and 4!

I found an outlet in Chester – can’t remember which one, they all blurred into one after a while – that stocked the Osprey Atmos. Now thats a nice pack, its a tad expensive, but its light and comfortable with nice space and pockets etc etc. The only problem is the hip belt would not buckle around my hips – its was too short, or rather I’m too fat! Scratch choice number 5.

I found the Berghaus Arete in about 3 stores (Blacks and Go Outdoors being two I can remember). It was a little way down the wish list – but it was cheap and light, but more of a climbers pack really. However, it has a good hip belt – which as a bonus fits around me – and plenty of gear loops and compression straps. Its comfy on me and at £40 (in Go Outdoors) I thought why not?

Berghaus Arete 45 – £40 – 1.3kg – nice lightweight, cheap pack!

So the moral of the story is, you can produce the best bag in the world, get everyone salivating and adding it to their wish lists, get rave reviews from the walking magazines, but unless you get the damn things in the shops – what’s the bloody point?

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