CAMP X3 600 & X3-Light Rucksacks – Review


This post by WildSnow.com blogger  
Lou with the CAMP X3-Light, head down and eyes on the GPS, Europe, last spring.

Lou with the CAMP X3-Light, head down and eyes on the GPS, self guided Europe, last spring. Click to enlarge.

We run a stable of backpacks here at WildSnow HQ that could outfit a small army. That’s no surprise considering the market battle that rucksack makers have fought for decades. Results: choices, reasonable prices — and the fog of war obscuring just what ruck’ to run. If you’re shopping and need to disolve the fog, consider dividing ski touring backpacks into two main categories:

“Bomber” is a good term for the type of pack that uses heavier materials, thus sacrificing weight for durability. Such packs are common in the North American market; easily spotted in the shop or online by their somewhat heavier weight as well as a sometimes odd looking effort to appear “clean.” They usually lack things such as waist belt pockets and mesh side pockets, and are frequently zippered panel loaders. Bomber category packs often include multiple zippered compartments, sometimes to the point of absurdity.

Bomber category packs have their place. But if you don’t really need one, why haul the extra weight?

Euro-light would be the “Euro” style rucksack that obviously sacrifices durability for a sometimes astounding lack of mass. Along with using lighter textiles, such packs frequently lack internal dividers, thus saving more grams. Conversely, the Euro-light rucksack frequently has more “technical” features than the bomber, diagonal ski carry hooks being one example. Euro-light packs are often 10 or more ounces lighter than those in the bomber category.

We have packs from both categories, but I’ll be the first to admit I’m mostly a Euro-light packer. That works for me because, though I’m out lots of days every season, I’m not throwing my pack down in scree or using it for Cascadian devil’s club farming. More, I’ve made a science out of carrying just the essentials, and a rather lean set of essentials at that (not going so far as the European “shovel and a handy” style of packing, but keeping that ethos in mind). So the weight I’m expecting my pack to handle is minimal.

One huge caveat: In the Euro-light category, construction practices have to exceed the engineering expertise used to create bomber category backpacks, due to a matrix of materials that tend to fail at their weak links. The reality of this struck last winter, when I embarked on one lightweight backpack review only to have seams ripping out after a few hours of use. In other words, a Euro-light backpack that holds together takes a lot more skill to design and make than a heavy packcloth type design.

Happily, the CAMP rucksacks we long-term tested last winter (and even this summer for hiking) held up amazingly well considering their almost tissue-paper like materials. Truly high level textile construction engineeering. Hence, here goes a review of our two CAMP favorites.

CAMP X3 600 rucksack

CAMP X3 600 rucksack

X3 600 is the pack Lisa and I could be fighting over, but in my beneficent glory I let my bride have it for the winter. This 30 liter masterpiece gives what nearly any ski alpinist needs, but nothing more. The only zipper is in the top flap. One simple fiberglas stay runs up the back to help keep the pack carrying correctly when you’re weighed down with rope and skis. Remove the stay, 8 seconds, and you’re 40 grams lighter. Ski carrying is diagonal with dedicated tail loop and upper strap/hook that hides away nicely in a tiny mesh pocket. This type of ski holder takes some getting used to, but it works. Don’t like it? Just add a carabiner or whatever to your own specifications.

CAMP diagonal ski carry is anchored at the top by this strap and hook.

CAMP diagonal ski carry is anchored at the top by this strap and hook. Normally I find this to be totally adaquate, but sometimes I'd rather have a small carabiner holding things instead of a hook that can come off if the skis start shaking around. Such is critical when you find yourself in situations such a as scrambling a summit climb with fall potential. I your skis come off the pack when unexpected, they can cause you to trip and fall.

The X3 600 waist belt pouch is commodious, but not so large it hits your thigh while you stride. Exterior side pouches are tall enough to securely hold anything from a water bottle to your climbing skins (many packs have exterior pockets that are too short). Speaking of the mesh, we prefer closed mesh such as that of the X3-Light, as the open mesh tends to catch too easily on tree branches and other people’s gear — but open mesh is light and you can see what’s in there.

Alpine tools are attached using a minimalist system of bungie and drawstring clamps.

Alpine tools are attached using a minimalist system of bungie and drawstring clamps. While this system doesn't allow 'reach behind' access to your axe, when used correctly the attachment is secure.

Provision is made for a pair of minimalist lashing points for alpine tools or trekking poles. Consisting of a tiny double wrapped bungie and drawstring clamp, these work better than they look, though you may yearn for “real” tool holders if you tend to put your ice axe through multiple use cycles.

Two small lashing tabs are provided under the top flap if you want to rig custom rope or garment stowage. One simple buckle holds the flap.

CAMP X3-Light is actually heavier than the X3 600, click image to enlarge.

CAMP X3-Light is actually heavier than the X3 600, click image to enlarge.

CAMP X3-Light (actually significantly heavier than X3 600) adds a somewhat more rigid aluminum frame that I liked for larger loads. The frame is easy to remove. A dual-zippered back panel gives you that convenient access when your pack is lying on the snow after shrugging it off. I’ve never felt a yearning need for that, but I’ll admit it’s sometimes nice. Main difference to me is the x3-Light external side pockets are made with a tighter mesh. You can’t see that errant GU pack down in the bottom of the pocket, but they don’t catch on things like open mesh does.

While X3-Light and 600 are essentially the same shape and volume, their respective waist belts and shouder straps are constructed differently. In testing, that meant they looked different but felt the same, so no need for scientific exposition on that.

There you go. How to decide between the two? If ultra weight savings are your thing look no farther than the X3 600. If you like back panel access and a slightly more rigid frame, shop the X3-Light (which is harder to find). Don’t expect ultra durability from these sacks, but do enjoy significant weight savings over “bomber” category offerings.

Last word in terms of durability: After quite a bit of use, we didn’t see any poorly engineered failure points in these sacks; the only damage was to the lightweight fabric itself from things like abrasion from poorly lashed skis (hint, stick a hat or something between ski bindings and pack). Oh, and one more thing, don’t expect major water resistance from Euro-light rucksacks. People who use them duck into huts when it’s raining, or watch ski racing at a pub.

Skiing down Sahale Peak, Cascade Pass, Washington with Camp 4

Lou on Sahale Peak, Cascade Pass, Washington, CAMP X3-Light rucksack.

Weights (both packs about 30 liters capacity):
X3 600 is 21.8 ounces, 1616 grams.
X3-Light is 30.6 ounces, 870 grams (typical, call the heavier pack “light,” don’t you love it?)

It’s sad, but availability of these packs appears to be limited. Here are some shopping links to try.

Shop for CAMP rucksack..

Or try this link.

Comments

45 Responses to “CAMP X3 600 & X3-Light Rucksacks – Review”

  1. Karl Faulkner October 8th, 2012 8:52 am

    Really nice kit by the looks and sound of it, my last two rucksacks have been Millet but this might persuade me to try something new… I tend to prefer short sharp missions in the mountain so the lightweight design will suit me perfectly.

  2. Andy Jensen October 8th, 2012 9:28 am

    We all love light gear, but I’d like to “weigh in” on the side of durability to weight . I operate a gear repair shop in Bariloche and in the last couple of years I have seen a sharp rise in repairs of almost brand new gear that has made me question the advantages of the industry wide shift away from “reasonable durability” towards ultra light weight. Jackets with no sewn seams including heat sealed zippers that last less than one hard season and can stand no bushwhacking without fear of tearing brambles & branches. It’s fine for you guys and sponsored athletes who get gear for free to tout the super light weights, but for most of us living in the real world a little more balance between durability and weight would seem to be a better value. Please don’t get me wrong. I think there is a place for super light gear whether for ski race or summit scrambles, but when competition between manufacturers drags the whole market away from durable good value gear toward high priced light weights with questionable working life then it sucks to be us little guys.

  3. Blide October 8th, 2012 9:36 am
  4. Lou Dawson October 8th, 2012 9:45 am

    Andy, the packs held up for us, free or not. Lots of folks out there can use the “Euro-light” type gear just fine. It depends on your needs. That’s why I introduced the review by trying to sort out some categories. If you’re in the “bomber” category, that’s fine and important to know for your shopping!

  5. Bill October 8th, 2012 9:58 am

    I absolutely love my 600!.
    Has held up well. Being able to put my skis on the pack and take them off in seconds without removing my pack really makes it especially sweet It is designed for use, not for image.You can carry what you need where you need it. I do handle stuff with sense though and make sure it is protected from any sharp edges on gear.

  6. jim knight October 8th, 2012 10:12 am

    Spot on Lou. My X3 is now 6+ yrs old, still going strong, and I’ve used it year ’round, with little pampering. It remains my favorite (of two Camp packs) for speed, comfort, and simplicity when touring and fastpacking. I’ve also enjoyed the XLP290, shamelessly using/abusing it for racing and speed missions. After some 5 years, it begs retirement. Not bad value in my book.

  7. Lou Dawson October 8th, 2012 10:14 am

    Thanks Blide, too bad availability seems to be limited for the U.S. etailers. ‘best, Lou

  8. Tim October 8th, 2012 10:20 am

    I’ve got the 600 that I won at a rando race. Carry system is fine for light and skinny skis, but heavier skis such as kilowatts deform the pack too much for my taste.

    Also, durability is definitely a problem, the fiberglass stay wore a hole through the bottom of the pack so I had to significantly reinforce and resew this area. Also multiple abrasion holes in mine from a year of use.

  9. Toby October 8th, 2012 12:25 pm

    I love my X3. No tear and wear anywhere after first full season. No abrasion holes even after diagonal ski carry.

  10. Andy Jensen October 8th, 2012 12:49 pm

    Hey Lou & Co. My issue is not with these packs, but with an industry wide obsession with super light weight materials which tend to wear out faster and require more care/repair than previous generations of gear. I know , we can’t and don’t want to go back to wool knickers and leather pack straps. I also allow that some company’s and some product engineering are better than others. I followed your blogs last winter about the Dynafit TLT 5 performance and the problems with the pivot point on the carbon cuffs. A $1000 pair of boots that need a fairly major refit after less than a seasons wear?? I’m curious to hear if there are other’s out there who feel that we may be loosing something in our headlong race for the lightest piece of gear. I love to cut the ponds and ounces when and where I can, but as we used to say if you don’t have the legs, the gear won’t matter much.

  11. Chet Roe October 8th, 2012 1:12 pm

    Lou…as a tall skier there are two things that Love vs miss on ski packs….I LOVE having mesh side pockets for sticking things in as I tour….power bar, water bottle, gloves, hat etc they come and go…of course they are useless when skis are being carried A Frame syle, but reality most of the time touring is with skis off the pack……the other as a tall skier is a large or tall size…..I have not met a one sized only pack that fits well enough for me………………anyway, I won’t buy a pack if it is not tall and if no side mesh pockets FYI…..keep that in mind “pretty please” in your evaluations….thanks! Chet Roe

  12. Jimmy October 8th, 2012 1:16 pm

    Interested in the X3 600, will the skicarry work for wider skis (DPS 112?) And do you think the pack will fit a tall guy, 190 cm?

  13. DaveC October 8th, 2012 1:21 pm

    Andy, I think you’re correct, to a certain extent, though it’s often poor design more than too-light materials. One example would be the 600: I’ve seen two with broken shoulder straps (ripping right above the webbing which attaches the lowest buckle), but this is only because the nylon backing the foam is too light, and because the bar tacking over-preforrated it. Easily fixable. Same with the lack of some webbing reinforcing the bottom of the stay pocket.

    Camp has a long way to go towards convincing me that their soft goods aren’t third tier.

  14. Lou Dawson October 8th, 2012 2:38 pm

    All, yeah, one point I tried to make in the review is that it takes MUCH more skill to make a lighter pack. Making a sack out of Cordura and bar tacking some 2,000 lb test webbing to it is child’s play. Thus, the lighter stuff can easily have design flaws. I tried to review some other Euro-light packs that didn’t hold up and thus did not make the cut. Have another brand here that’s actually looking pretty good so review coming eventually.

    As it is, I challenge any pack designer to make a lighter backpack that holds up. Show your chops. Prove you really are a textile designer.

    RE the mesh side pockets, addictive.

    Lou

  15. Lou Dawson October 8th, 2012 2:43 pm

    Jimmy, the packs are a bit short in my experience so I don’t know about them fitting a tall guy. The ski loop will easily fit a 110 mm wide ski, but know that as was mentioned above, beyond a certain load weight you’ll want a backpack with a bit more vertical rigidity. Lou

  16. Lou Dawson October 8th, 2012 2:47 pm

    Andy, I agree with you that durability vs wear speed is always an issue. Thing is, everything wears out, so it’s often a personal question as to the tradeoff. I don’t believe the industry is obsessed with light weight and selling things that wear out. You can find “tons” of stuff out there that is on the durability side of the equation. In terms of my own bias, guilty as charged (grin).

    But go over to Cilo Gear for example and check out packs that your grandchildren might enjoy after you use them for 2,000 days.

    Lou

  17. TonyBob October 8th, 2012 3:19 pm

    For the folks looking for a modicum of additional durability which the ultra-lites do not provide, I’ve just dropped some dollars on the new (2013) Black Diamond Speed 30. I spend the bulk of my alpine days trying hard to mix adventure on the ascent (moderate to easy ice and rock pitches), with good fun on the descent. Thus far, the pack carries great up to 30 lbs (too much) and appears capable of handling the rough stuff without too much added weight and extraneous crap. I may add a couple fixed straps towards the bottom to handle the tale end of the skis on the way up.
    T-bob

  18. Ben October 8th, 2012 5:54 pm

    Odd question Lou but I’m wondering just how diagonal the ski carry on this pack is. I ask because I love my current Avalung pack but the diagonal carry (my preferred method) is very close to vertical. Nothing I try seems to fix this and the tails have hit my heels during some acrobatic scrambling, which is scary enough to make me think about switching.

  19. Ian October 8th, 2012 6:10 pm

    Is there anywhere to put crampons without damaging the pack?
    I reckon MEC do some good packs. Not as light as these but wear very well and cheap as chips.
    Re x3 600: was that meant to be 616g?
    Plus my 2 cents: As the lighter category gets more competitive, they’ll get more durable.
    Somewhere to put air bag would be good too.

  20. Lou Dawson October 8th, 2012 6:11 pm

    Ben, that’s not so odd, heels (more like calves) getting chewed up by skis is somewhat common. Answer is that depending on how the pack is loaded, you can get a pretty good diagonal out of the skis. The upper lash strap can be hooked in a couple different places, and so forth. I’d say if one pays attention to the angle of the skis, they stay out of the way. Lou

  21. Lou Dawson October 8th, 2012 6:13 pm

    Ian, cramps probably have to be in a crampon bag, that’s how Lisa and I carried them last season in the EU. Lou

  22. George October 8th, 2012 7:47 pm

    Nice review, last year I considered the X3 600 but instead bought the Deuter Pace 20, because they were on sale. I appreciate the small pockets on the belt loops and light weight at 1 lb. 7 oz. for the Deuter, but you get more space with the Camp.

  23. john October 8th, 2012 7:52 pm

    Can you tell us which packs aren’t up to snuff?

  24. Lou Dawson October 8th, 2012 8:15 pm

    John, sorry, nope, because that sort of thing is usually fixed with “inline” manufacturing changes and by mentioning them by name we create a black mark that’s often un-deserved in the end. Main thing to remember is we review what we like, and hardly ever review stuff we don’t like.

  25. See October 8th, 2012 9:07 pm

    I’m wondering what becomes of the unsold units produced before the inline fix.

  26. john October 8th, 2012 9:42 pm

    So an inline fix is that a few crummy packs are produced, then the issue gets fixed?

  27. Mark October 9th, 2012 4:13 am

    I’m currently looking for a new rucksack, been looking at the X3 for a while now. maybe its time I took the plunge!!

  28. Lou Dawson October 9th, 2012 5:19 am

    John, something like that. They’re all on warranty so it’s not a complete bust. As for us, I’ve said over and over that we’re not a gear review website, we’re a blog with varied content that includes gear reviews of stuff we like. We is what we is, and we don’t do many negative reviews — though we do try to be reasonably critical and not just re-print the company PR.

    As for substandard gear, quite a bit of gear gets sold to people who don’t use it much and end up being satisfied despite design or construction flaws that heavy users might dislike. That’s one of the reasons it’s hard to do negative reviews, as the review ends up focusing on something that might not be an issue for a number or even a majority of users.

    Lou

  29. Lou Dawson October 9th, 2012 5:21 am

    BTW, our gear review policy is here:
    http://www.wildsnow.com/about/gear-review-policy/

    Lou

  30. See October 9th, 2012 10:09 am

    A lot of people probably find that the warranty has run out by the time their gear fails. Not a problem if purchased from a vendor who stands behind their products, but heavily discounted stuff can be a crap shoot. I guess that’s the nature of markets.

    I was interested to note that some skis I weighed recently were 9 ounces lighter than spec. Refinement of a product over time is clearly a good thing (assuming they didn’t forget one of the layers at the factory).

    And one reason I like Wildsnow reviews is that you focus less on subjective impressions and more on observables like weight and design, combined with very extensive experience and testing.

  31. See October 9th, 2012 10:13 am

    …not a problem unless it fails at a bad time, place, etc.. Warranty is perhaps not the biggest issue with certain products and/or defects.

  32. Jimmy October 9th, 2012 11:50 am

    “…not a problem unless it fails at a bad time, place, etc.. Warranty is perhaps not the biggest issue with certain products and/or defects.”

    And that is why you dont use new and untried equipment in those situations, why be a guinea-pig for free when nice folks such as Lou does that for us? :)

  33. Lou Dawson October 9th, 2012 11:58 am

    Jimmy, exactly, and I’ve been royally pissed off a time or two when things didn’t work out! Pretty careful about it.

    BTW, regarding packs on the market that we’ve tried and not reviewed, we’ve not had any catastrophic failures, just little things that made us not want to review the pack. My advice is to get the pack you want, then test by going for a few dirt trail hikes with fairly large loads. By doing that, it’s pretty obvious if any seams are going to rip out and stuff like that. Test all zippers and pull hard on all pockets and flaps, observe stitching. The stitching is the weak point on most Euro-light packs we’ve evaluated.

    Lou

  34. Brian October 9th, 2012 9:02 pm

    I find the image of a skier on Kilowatts with an ultra light pack kinda amusing. Mounted with Dukes? Even funnier. Certainly, it’s fair to cut weight where you can but makes a much bigger impact to adjust the whole package, skis included.

    Anyway, I have a lot of Camp products, including these packs. I love them. It’s hard for me to justify anything else. Once you go this light it’s literally painful to go back. But the failure issue is real and I think Camp has some issues with quality control. One guy gets 6 years out of his and another has the straps rip off first outing. Frustrating.

    Still, I won’t stop using them because they are uniquely light. My solution is an ounce of prevention. I’m a HOOOOGE fan of Seam Grip. Backing up seams with a thick bead as well as repairing tears in the fabric can extend the life of these bags almost indefinitely. And if you do face a catastrophic failure, the guys at the Colorado office stand by the product and typically warrantee these little disasters. Just send it in.

  35. Lou Dawson October 9th, 2012 10:48 pm

    Brian, Seam Grip is key… even CiloGear packs get their share slathered on the Kevlar.

    In terms of quality, our review packs didn’t have any problems with basic engineering. The straps didn’t rip off (grin). I would have skipped reviewing them if we’d had any trouble cause by basic design or quality flaws. Sorry to hear other people have had worse.

    Lou

  36. Matt October 11th, 2012 1:11 pm

    Any tool organization on these packs?

    I’d also like to hear more about how well the ski carry system works, which they do a bit to tout

  37. Matt October 11th, 2012 1:13 pm

    ^^^ I mean internal, avy tool org/storage…

  38. Lou Dawson October 11th, 2012 1:16 pm

    Matt, all they’ve got inside are some small elastic loops that hold vertical tubular items such as probes and shovel handles, actually work fairly well.

    The ski carry system is pretty normal for a European style pack, just a loop down by your hip and a strap up top with a hook, as pictured above. With practice it can be used without taking pack off, but I’ve never found that to be something I like doing since ease of doing it it seems to vary according to how the pack is loaded.

    Lou

  39. Jesse October 14th, 2012 9:30 pm

    So the bottom loop for diagonal carry is connected at the hip where the belt meets the pack? I really like the idea of putting skis on my pack without removing it (because I am exceptionally lazy, and also because it seems somehow akin to that wonderful feeling of stripping/applying skins without removing skis) but I can never get my ghetto version to work quite right. Some of your other posts discuss this, but they mostly show the top connection.

    With the da kine style that has an extending cable at the bottom, does that cable actually bear any weight?

  40. Kirt Brown November 26th, 2012 9:41 am

    I did not read all the comments. But in case it hasn’t been mentioned, these packs are available directly from CAMP.
    They are currently having a sale on a heavier version of the X3 here
    ;
    http://www.camp-usa.com/products/packs/closeout/x3.asp

  41. gerry kenny January 14th, 2013 5:04 am

    The lightests lovelyiest most brilliant trecking rucksack I have ever had. At any one time I have 5 rucksacks (rock, alpine, ski tour, general treck, running) and camp X3 is my favourite to date. Yeah the material is very thin but also reasonably durable. I bought it as I had it’s also lightweight orange X4 ski touring/alpine predecessor which I still use even though falling apart now due to age and wear. Buy it. You will love it. Gerry Ireland

  42. David February 3rd, 2013 10:35 pm

    I ski with a helmet pretty much everywhere now. Have any of you folks had experience with how cleanly this pack works carrying a lightweight ski helmet? If so, how well does it go on and come off and how secure is it while it is on there? Thanks.

  43. David May 3rd, 2013 10:42 am

    My girlfriend picked up on my search and just got me the x3 600 from the Telemark Pyrenees folks–I guess it only took 3 days to ship from France! A call to CAMP USA revealed why it has been hard to got one around here (the USA)–it has been discontinued. But wait! They said they are coming out with a new model in September 2013.

  44. Harry August 20th, 2013 11:36 pm

    Hi Lou,

    I wondered if you had also tested/used/compared the Camp M3 and M3 light packs? It is hard to tell the differences in the Camp line-up.

    Thanks in advance!

  45. Plinko February 11th, 2014 5:06 am

    “NEW” version of the X3 600 is out and features stronger fabric. Link here:

    http://www.telemark-pyrenees.com/en/campcampackx3600plus-p-223436.html

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Welcome to Louis (Lou) Dawson's backcountry skiing information opinion website and e magazine. Lou's passion for the past 45 years has been alpinism, climbing, mountaineering and skiing -- along with all manner of outdoor recreation. He has authored numerous books and articles about backcountry skiing and is well known as the first person to ski down all 54 of Colorado's 14,000-foot peaks, otherwise known as the Fourteeners! Books and free back country news and information here, and tons of Randonnee rando telemark info.

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