The Blue Ice Reach 8L is a lightweight, performance-oriented pack for rock and ice climbing, mountaineering, and adventure travel.
Well-designed shoulder straps keep contents tight against your body // Lightweight (12.5 ounces), with attachment points for anything // Climbs very well, even on difficult terrain
Material on chest straps could be softer for when they’re rubbing against exposed skin. // Side straps are awkward for rope carrying
This lightweight, nylon-exterior-with-Spectra-grid pack has an innovative, vest-like carry and broad shoulder straps that keep it anchored very close to the body—key for hyper-mobile sports like trail running, rock climbing, ski-mountaineering, etc. It’s a small pack, sure, but for fast-and-light excursions and multi-pitch climbs on which you don’t need to carry much, it’s been a hard-wearing dream.
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For the past year, I’ve used the Blue Ice Reach 8L for ice, rock, and varying mountain adventures. In the genre of small, lightweight, performance, on-route packs, it’s by far my favorite. I’ve taken the 12.5-ounce pack up Bridalveil Falls, a three-pitch WI 5+ in Telluride, Colorado, and then, in spring, up the Scenic Cruise (5.10; 9 pitches) in the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. In between, the Reach 8L has been on ski-mo trips and up Fourteeners. I also just took it on a big enduro day—some running and some hiking—in the Elk Mountains, near where I live. Why do I mention all this? On these trips, I only take the good stuff. The Reach 8L is an excellent pack, thoughtfully designed, and relevant for just about any mountainista.
What I Liked
Here’s what I like about the Reach 8L: First, it carries high on your back, which means a harness doesn’t mess with it. When you’re wearing it, it has an ultra-running-pack feel—i.e., it’s anatomically designed to aid and enable efficient movement. With a slight taper from top to bottom, this pack is meant for moving. Could you run 20 mountain miles in it? Yep.
Second, it carries like a dream. The shoulder straps are wide, snug, and flat, which means they feel more secure on your chest. It feels like you’re wearing the Reach 8L, rather than carrying it. I was able to lead demanding 5.10+ trad with a double rack with the pack on. One innovative design is that the main shoulder straps connect to pack’s base on its outside (farthest from your body), not the part of the pack nearest your lower back. That means that any are held in place firmly, with tension, as opposed to more traditional pack design. As a result, when the pack is empty, it lies even closer to your skin. This might sound like a trivial point, but it isn’t. The strap design is intended to get rid of the bobble effect you get with so many backpacks
Third, the front strap pockets (which also zip) can hold a phone, soft bottle, or a snack, all of which you can access very easily while on a long pitch. That the front pockets zip is great for the phone. The pack does have small gear loops on the side, but I haven’t used them yet.
Fourth, the Reach 8L has ample straps for attaching just about anything, for a variety of sports, though I do wish the side rope-carry straps were not the kind you cinch down, but rather snapped: The reason being you have to shove your rope through the straps, rather than just loop your rope around the top and snap it on.
A Few Bells and Whistles
The inside has a zip pocket for valuables and a hydration pouch, and the optional helmet carry is another great design. As for durability and material, it is what you expect from Chamonix-based Blue Ice, a high-end alpine brand. I have run mine through the wringer for months now, and it’s showing no signs of letting up.