By Lisa Dawson
Sometimes whining works. I try to control myself but gear envy is inevitable when you live with two males who are constantly trying out the latest and greatest, and when every dinner conversation is dominated with discussions about how to modify the new thing that came in the mail that day.
Last fall I told Lou I didn’t have a good pack. We have a closet full of packs but mine are either too big or too small or too heavy or too light. I needed something more mid-sized but still light, roomy, trim and with just the right lashing system. Lou gave me that “You’re from Venus” look and withdrew to the garage.
But ol’ Lou has a mind like a steel trap. When he returned from the OR show months later he tossed the Backcountry Access Squall my way. Impressive! (Lou and the pack) The Squall looked nice and I was anxious to try it out.
Opportunity for a test came this weekend when we slogged up two thousand vert through two feet of slush in wet snow and rain squalls. I packed the aptly named Squall with all the essentials for a long day in the backcountry: extra layers, food, survival gear, shovel and large water bottle. Everything fit nicely with room to spare. The Squall hugged my body all day and never felt too heavy. At the end of the day, my legs were tired but my shoulders didn’t ache. The Squall passed the test.
Squall is a mid-sized top loader without an internal frame or stiffner (the back is padded with foam which helps keep the pack shaped). At first glance, I thought this was a minimalist sack but it is packed with nifty features. Most obvious is the dual zipper back entry access hatch. When we stopped for a break, this was just the right size to fish around for food without emptying the pack in the wet snow. The pack has three main compartments: a large compartment accessed through the top and back entry, a top flap compartment, and a large skin compartment that is separated from the main compartment and accessible when you unzip the top flap. I hate it when my emergency layer gets wet, and that won’t happen with this pack because my wet skins will never touch my jacket again.
Designers cleverly used heavy stretch material strategically throughout this pack. The bottom of the skin pocket is bordered with stretch material allowing even a large shovel blade to fit. Along side the skin pocket are two long sleeves for probe poles. Thanks to the use of stretch material, a water bottle can also fit although the fit is tight. Skis can be carried via a diagonal Velcro strap system or they can be carried vertically on the sides of the pack in the traditional A-frame configuration.
About the only thing missing from this pack is a hydration system and shoulder strap sip tube compartment. While we use hydration systems in the spring and summer, we tend to use water bottles when it’s cold because our sip tubes have frozen so many times. So no worries about that — we’ll just retrofit a hydration system during the warm months.
I have scrawny shoulders and I was skeptical about the shoulder straps. They are not very cushy and may be uncomfortable if only wearing a tee shirt. But even with light winter layers, they were fine. On test day I wore a lightweight shell, and the shoulder straps were comfortable.
To sum it up, the Squall is a sweet, fully featured ski touring pack with a nice diagonal ski carry system, back panel access flap, combo zipper/topload opening, stretch panels and more all for about a $50.00 street price! Of course the latest dinner conversation was about how to modify my Squall. Hands off boys, it’s fine just the way it is!!
(Available late summer 2007.)
|One of the Squall’s excellent features is a small but cleanly engineered back panel access flap. On some packs these are too large, this one is just right.|