We’ve always liked the Backcountry Access (BCA) “Stash” pack line. BCA’s numerous models keep a sane relationship between weight and features, with a steady stream of innovations to satisfy our geek nature. The company sold the first pack with a hydration tube storage system in the pack strap, and they’re the first to provide a drinking tube system based on a Nalgene bottle.
One sign of a good product is when it stays in production and gets incremental improvements. BCA’s Alp40 is a case in point.
We reviewed the first BCA Alp40 model back in 2005 and liked it as a mid-sized top loader, but felt it could have weighed a bit less and perhaps included our favorite ski pack feature: small zippered pockets built into the waist belt. BCA’s excellent Valhalla pack has this, so why not the Alp40?
Low and behold, when I unpacked our sample of the 2006/2007 Alp40, it appeared the boys at BCA had contact with one of those swami mind readers who set up shop near BCA’s home base in Boulder, Colorado. The new Alp40 trims a bit of fat, cleans up strapomania with shorter straps and a nice clip system for loose ends — and has the sweet little waist belt pockets we know and love.
What else? The new model has a simpler compartment for your hydration bladder or bottle, and the opening where you insert the tube is easier to work with (the old one was difficult to thread into the pack strap). If you carry skis in the aframe position the edges sometime cause undue wear on pack fabric. Alp40 has a couple of wear patches to prevent this. These add weight and are unnecessary if you carry skis diagonal, but they’d be fairly easy to remove.
|Excellent sidepockets on waist belt will hold sunglases or smaller digicams. I love having two of these, one for the camera and one for my sunscreen and a gu pack.|
As for negs, we can’t find much crit for the Alp40. Parts of the pack use double fabric construction when one layer would weigh less and work just as well, why not design that out? We wish one of these pack companies would make a series of small accessory pouches and associated non-jiggle fastening system mounted on a shoulder strap. Such would be useful for a 2-way radio, cell phone, GPS or camera. A minor but potentially important gripe is that the backboard in the pack tends to form a hard wearpoint at the bottom of the pack. This needs a small patch of the same material used for the ski edge protectors. Without that, if you take a “sit down” fall while scree hiking or rock scrambling, this area will quickly wear out. Interim solution is to smear with urethane seam sealer once you notice any wear.
Another accessory we’d like to see is a built-in Avalung — we encourage Black Diamond to license their Avalung to other pack makers. The only way we’ll really see if the Avalung works is if it’s in use by most backcountry skiers, and the only way that’ll happen is if it’s available in a broad choice of configurations from different companies, as seatbelts are in automobiles.
In all, we can easily recommend this pack and will add it to our pack quiver for this winter’s adventures.