As a neophyte to the world of ski touring, I had been re-purposing gear from my trail building and mountain biking collections — with less-than satisfactory results. My trail building pack was way too large for my slack-country missions, and the hydration pack that served me so well on local summer mountain bike laps was stuffed to overflowing with the extra layers and gear that ski touring necessitates even on short yo-yo laps.
Balancing the ethical, and the affordable in gear selection is just as much a crux as choosing between technical performance, and minimalism. The production ethics of the gear we use to go play outdoors highlights a First World moral problem: How does one enjoy the peace and tranquility of the outdoors if the gear you are relying on was created by exploited labor? Cotopaxi offers a solution to this dilemma by offering clothing and bags sustainably sourced at a price point for working class recreationalists.
At a retail of less than $100, Tarak 20L from Cotopaxi hit a sweet spot between utility and minimalism that surprised me. Multitudes of pockets and compartments are how I usually prefer my packs, but I soon came to appreciate the “just enough” design, which gives it a broad-ranging utility. It is not a ski-touring specific pack, so it doesn’t have a separate compartment for avy gear or shovels, but the basic layout made it handy for packing a few extra layers, and additional food and water while still having space for miscellaneous storage.
The elegant simplicity of the drawstring main compartment and pocket top lid made me realize how much of my life I had wasted in frustration at trying to get zippers around curved openings. It provides quick and fumble-free opening and closing even with bulky gloves; and as the hook and webbing loop cinches down the top lid, it automatically compresses the pack when adding or removing layers of clothing, or stowing skins.
Now into my second season with the Tarak 20L, I’ve found it to be a simple, and functional piece of gear that adapts well to mellow ski touring, day hikes, and longer mountain bike rides. The bright colors are just as endearing to me as their “Gear for Good” ethic, and the utility of the basic design gives it a broad-ranging versatility.
(Guest blogger Aaron Mattix grew up in Kansas and wrote a report on snowboarding in seventh grade. His first time to attempt snowboarding was in 2012, and soon switched over to skis for backcountry exploration near his home in Rifle, CO. His skill level is “occasionally makes complete runs without falling.” In the summer, he owns and operates Gumption Trail Works, building mountain bike singletrack and the occasional sweet jump.)