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Marmot Alpinist 55, $179
The Alpinist should be called the Backcountry Cragger. It’s an impressive pack, very comfortable to carry, and very light, but the design has complexities, features, and downright shortcomings that render it less than ideal for the alpine arena. The large, gussetted, bungee-laced exterior pocket was too shallow and the fabric too fragile for most
, as well as being poorly placed for a hydration bladder. The plastic-covered loops placed high on the sides of this pack are great for hauling, but we’d have preferred this set (or another) on the hipbelt as racking/holster loops. The bungee-based tool- and crampon-attachment systems are ill-conceived — the idea of trusting essentials to lightweight rubberized cords and squeeze toggles (one of which broke) is folly. The good news is that across the board the Alpinist was our favorite pack in terms of comfort and stability. The contoured internal framesheet strips out easily (although there is no removable foam padding). Also, the winged snap-release buckles on this pack were the most glove-friendly of the lot.
Lightweight. Internal frame. Very comfortable. Brightly colored interior.
Large front pocket is overbuilt. No hydration sleeve. Bungee-dependent axe and crampon attachments.