BCA Alp 40 Skiing Backpack Review


Post by WildSnow.com blogger | November 10, 2005      

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Over the past couple of seasons Backcountry Access (BCA) has re-designed their top line backcountry skiing and alpinism pack. Called the “Alp40,” the pack is a leaner and more attractive version of their original toploader. It includes BCA’s excellent zippered shoulder-strap hydration tube hideaway, dedicated ski carrying systems, and a current color scheme that might breath new life into my drab ensemble.

Taking a cue from those of us who keep razor blades at the ready to eliminate “strapomania” from our backpacks, the Alp40 comes off-the-shelf with a lean waist belt, a reasonable pair of daisy chains on the back (rather than four like the older model), and lighter fabric. It has a slightly more compact profile, resulting in less volume but better comfort when carrying smaller loads of today’s minimalist gear.

Of course, I’ve got my reputation to uphold and have to find a few things to gripe about. It’s too bad BCA went to a snow sponge system on the back panel, rather than the clean-and-mean flat fabric panel of the older model. Sponge systems look good on the store shelf, but they don’t work during long days of cold winter powder, when they eventually become wads of ice. Another bummer is the elimination of the flap over the probe pocket. Get caught in even a moderate spring rainstorm, and water will be flowing down there immediately. Why am I concerned about getting rain on my avy probe? I’m not, because I don’t keep my probe in there, but rather my backcountry skiing emergency hardshell (sorry BCA), which needs to stay dry. One other concern is that the excellent rigid backboard forms a hard wear-point at the bottom of the pack, but said point is only thin fabric, with no wear protection. One fall backwards on a scree slope and it’ll be time for a patch when you get home. Of course, just make that patch out of Cordura and you’ve solved the problem. Or put some duct tape over that area if you’re scree scrambling. Homebrew rules.

Above are minor grips, more excellent features: While they might seem like a gimmick, we like the reflective “glow stripes” built into the Alp40 pack. During last winter and spring’s dawn patrols I was amazed how useful this feature is. You can glance around with your headlamp and easily spot folks up ahead of you. More, it’s an excellent safety feature if you get caught out in the evening, hiking a highway shoulder back to your rig.

While I’m not a big fan of dividing backpacks into compartments (because of added weight), BCA does a good job with this. They didn’t go overboard, and simply provided a skin or shovel compartment on the back, probe pocket on the side, and a place for your water bladder next to your back (where it gets warmed by your body heat). And speaking of hydration, the Alp40 now comes with a Nalgene bottle sip-tube top instead of a bladder. This is a cool feature I’m excited to try, as hydration bladders have never been totally acceptable to the Dawson crew (mostly because of freezing problems). With a Nalgene tube system, you sip if it works, if not just open the Alp40 side zipper, pull out the bottle, unscrew the lid, and take a nice long drink while your companions are cursing their frozen bladder tubes (then give ’em a drink, of course).

In all, the Alp40 is a super functional ski mountaineering sack that’s my pack of choice for this season’s full day trips. And as I said in a previous BCA backcountry skiing pack review, I’m honored that someone would build such a nice pack and design it specifically for our sport.

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  Your Comments

  • Terr: Thanks for the objective review, Rachel! Sounds like a good harness - almo...
  • Lou Dawson 2: Bill and Karl, we'll try to hit it tomorrow before we leave town. Just had...
  • Lou Dawson 2: Chet, now that I'm off my messed up phone for making comments, I wanted to ...
  • Karl: The Frontier: cinnamon rolls!...
  • Bill: I highly recommend breakfast or lunch at the Grove on Central. http://www...
  • ptor: Ueli is obviously much smarter gaining the advantage of avoiding French cof...
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  • Chet Roe: you could have done it at DIA for less of a drive...is a $100 and the appli...
  • Jah He: Thank you for sharing your story! Currently studying abroad in Vina del Mar...
  • Rick: Phil, I run the Power Wraps in my Radiums, two pair, my originals and a br...
  • Lou Dawson 2: Andy, not off topic at all, Plum demonstrates how variable the tech gap and...
  • Mark Worley: Take it to ISPO! Guaranteed conversation starter....
  • Mark Worley: Stunning views. I have to agree with Lou; many trails in such places are n...
  • Andy Carey: Probably will get lost here with all the comments--a little off topic. The...
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  • Pablo: As always Lou, Thanks! As you say, there are a lot well formed engineers...
  • Lisa: Beautiful! I'm always impressed how you and your crew get after it....
  • Lou Dawson 2: Pablo and all, I keep making changes and additions to this post -- and it's...
  • Lou Dawson 2: Hi Phil, unless you are quite demanding on your boots, my take is the Dream...
  • Lou Dawson 2: Hi Pablo, there is no exact number. The more flexible the ski and the longe...
  • Phil: Hi Lee, Looking to replace liners in my Garmont Radium. Hesitating between...
  • Pablo: and what about the opposite to heel gap? How many mm do you consider as th...
  • joost frakking: OK thanks a lot. I will wait with modifications until after the first snow...
  • Lou Dawson 2: This looks so wonderful, nice to see a multi-use trail in that type of loca...
  • Lou Dawson 2: Hi Mat, I truly appreciate you dropping back by with your report! Glad to h...
  • Scott Allen: As close to making turns in the alpine as it gets..in summer..love that las...
  • Mat: Hi Lou, I got my boot back from dynafit here is what they did: -they cha...
  • Lou Dawson 2: Where did you measure the pins from? From the bump on the binding housing, ...
  • joost frakking: Thanks for the suggestions! I seem to have found the cause. My pins on the...
  • Lou Dawson 2: Getting serious here in the workshop, I measured some pins. On a classic TL...

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Welcome to Louis (Lou) Dawson's backcountry skiing information & opinion website. Lou's passion for the past 50 years has been alpinism, climbing, mountaineering and skiing -- along with all manner of outdoor recreation. He has authored numerous books and articles about ski touring 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 ski touring news and information here.

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