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

  • Louie III: I was referring to the Alien. I haven't tried on the Alien 1.0 recently, so...
  • Lou Dawson 2: I made a Backland Mountain mounting template. https://www.wildsnow.com/b...
  • Lou Dawson 2: Hi Dave, that's a good suggestion. I'll see if Louie can go back through a...
  • Dave E: Hey Louie(s) and Scott Mellin, When you guys are referring to the Alien ...
  • Lou Dawson 2: Updated this post with claimed release values for the two new bindings....
  • Bill H: How about a theoretical head-to-head shoot out between ROAMr 108, 108, Kufo...
  • Brad Fowler: Thanks both Greg and See for the suggestions....
  • See: Brad, you could also put a piece of loop side velcro over the exposed hook ...
  • Greg: Brad F. check skimo.com. They have Dynafit boot parts....
  • Lee: Nice looking pack. Sure do seem to be borrowing heavily from their former ...
  • Lee: Nice looking pack. Sure do seem to be borrowing heavily from their former ...
  • See: Re. Memory fit, Vacuum fit: I can see how it might work for some people wit...
  • Lou Dawson 2: Personally, for a real ski mountaineering boot I'd rather start with thick ...
  • Lou Dawson 2: Added Salomon Mountain binding with brake to delta chart, is uses base plat...
  • Brad Fowler: Thanks Louie for the detailed info! I appreciate that my question was a b...
  • Tom Gos: Anybody know if you can successfully replace/mod the new Mirage style ski/w...
  • benwls: Brian, I had to use a razor blade to trim the lugs under the toe fittings o...
  • Brian: Looks like a smart upgrade to the boot line for Scarpa. Would have liked to...
  • Max: How does the SENDr compare to the G3 District 112 of a few seasons ago? I s...
  • Jacob: About the 109 synapse, read on friflyt.no that it won't be apart of next ye...
  • Andy M.: What's the last width on the Synchro? I like the elimination of the fr...
  • Dan: I've used the ski (ZG 85) with TLT6Ps and La Sportiva Syborgs. Both boots d...
  • Drew Tabke: So which boot will you mainly be skiing this winter, Louie? Myself pers...
  • See: (Oh, and Louie… That’s some fine photography and reviewing. Thanks.)...
  • See: Given the variation in binding ramp angle, the lack of adjustable lean is b...
  • reukk: I know this is an old post but seeing how these skis haven't changed for th...
  • Louie III: Yep, the SENDr has much more camber than the Empire, much more like the Fin...
  • Steve: Phil - Its not a full-rocker ski. Has the profile like the FINDr, but with...
  • Lou Dawson 2: Nice work Aaron, it's mystifying as to why boot companies don't provide mor...
  • Stewart: What about the Synapse 109?...

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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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