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

  • Lou Dawson 2: Al, indeed, personally I prefer just a regular non-adjustable pole for near...
  • Lou Dawson 2: Thanks Bob, I finally got back to editing this. Appreciate you seeing it. D...
  • Doug G: Had the pleasure of attending the Exum climbing school in the middle 70s. C...
  • Al: Had 2 poles replaced under warranty after both failed while touring. First ...
  • Lou Dawson 2: You think that thing could ever happen? Sounds pretty far fetched at this p...
  • Jim Milstein: Could be, Lou, but Red doesn't believe in global warming, so would not be c...
  • Lou Dawson 2: Jim, you're probably right along with the other locals, 10,300 feet in Col...
  • Hacksaw: Colorado First Tracks Heliskiing worked out of Marble back in the day.pack...
  • Jim Milstein: This reminds me of the ill-starred Village at Wolf Creek, which we locals a...
  • John Coulter: I started working construction on 1972 when I graduated from high school in...
  • Brian Lindahl: It looks like the 20L model can't use the refillable cannister. The cannist...
  • Patrick: well for gosh sakes, and thank gawrsh, you've got some Colorado back-countr...
  • Mitch R.: What GPS app for iPhone do you use?...
  • Rick: More winter Denali ascents ... http://www.adn.com/uncategorized/article/win...
  • Martin: For my Canon DSLR I have a 3rd party charger that can charge from USB, 12V ...
  • See: I’ve been playing around with a “6000 mAh Lithium jump starter.” Results so...
  • Louie III: Yeah, luckily the A7 can charge via the micro-usb port on the camera. Unfor...
  • Lou Dawson 2: Caspar, Louie mentioned to me that he was charging the camera with USB and ...
  • Caspar: Hey, how did the Sony a7 charge? With an external AC charger for the batter...
  • Lou Dawson 2: Thanks Mattia, a report here would be valuable. I'd imagine you'll have suc...
  • Mat: Thanks for the reply Lou, I think that the easiest think I can do is to ...
  • XXX_er: "An insider also told me that the litigious nature of the U.S. as opposed t...
  • Dominik: Mattia, Just from curiosity - what size khion do you own? Dominik...
  • Lou Dawson 2: Mat, you are not the first to share with me that their European Khion had a...
  • Mike Marolt: JW had a massive influence on my brother and I. He set the benchmark of wh...
  • Mat: HI Lou, thank for your post, I'm an italian skier and I own a pair of Khio...
  • Wookie: does anybody make climbing shoes that cover the ankle anymore? They used to...
  • ptor: Lou...Just like an avalanche death (another one in Chile yesterday), the so...
  • See: Granted, the chemical stuff tastes pretty foul....
  • See: In my experience you need to put mineral sunscreen on thick, reapply freque...

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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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