Guest Blog – BCA Squall Pack is a Winner

Post by blogger | February 13, 2007      
BCA Squall backcountry skiing pack.
Squall pack in action. Straps on back are for diagonal ski carry system. Black fabric stripes are the stretch panels.

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.)

Shop for BCA Squall backpack here.

Rear panel of Squall backpack.
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.


12 Responses to “Guest Blog – BCA Squall Pack is a Winner”

  1. Tim Carroll February 13th, 2007 11:23 am

    Thanks for that review, Lisa.

    Is there accommodation for a hydration bladder?

  2. Lou February 13th, 2007 12:10 pm

    No compartment in shoulder strap for bladder tube, but there is a tube hole above the left shoulder.

  3. Steve Seckinger February 13th, 2007 5:26 pm

    This looks like a great pack and you can’t beat the price. If I recall, the early-day JanSport Supersack went for $50. It had integrated ski slots (with leather tabs for a cinch-strap) but not many other features. The Squall looks have many more features, but for the same price from 20 years ago!

  4. Tim Carroll February 13th, 2007 6:41 pm

    Thanks, Lou.

    What about a pouch or similar for the hydration bladder? I understood that it doesn’t come with a bladder, but I’m wondering how compatible it is. Of course, the bladder can just go in loose too, I’ve done that with other packs. I’m really just curious.

  5. Lou February 13th, 2007 7:24 pm

    No pouch for bladder, but could easily be rigged as with other packs that don’t have a pouch. Also, remember BCA likes their Nalgene bottle sip tube rig, and that would work in this pack just fine.

  6. RobinB February 13th, 2007 7:40 pm

    Can you fit the shovel handle and a probe in the skin/shovel pocket as well as the blade? I am looking for a pack for avalanche control work, and we need to keep all metal items separate from the charges in the pack. The back access zips make for easy access and that or a side zip is essential IMO.

  7. Lisa Dawson February 13th, 2007 8:55 pm


    Yes, with the Squall you could keep all metal items separate from charges in the pack.

    What I call the skin/shovel compartment runs down the entire face of the pack, so it’s quite large and is completely separated from the main compartment. Dimensions are approximately 11.5â€? wide by 19″ high. The side pockets run along the length of the skin/shovel compartment and are wide enough to fit a Nalgene bottle. These three compartments are partially constructed with stretch material so there’s some give.

    Our biggest backcountry shovel head, the Black Diamond Deploy (volume .7 gallons) easily fit in the middle skin/shovel compartment with room to spare for rope or skins. Probes and shovel handle fit in the side compartments which can be cinched down with handy compression straps. Your charges could be kept separate in the main pack. I think this pack would work nicely for you. Let us know and be careful with the fireworks!

  8. Dave February 14th, 2007 11:30 pm

    Where can one purchase this pack? No reference to the Squall on the BCA site that I can find.

  9. Lou February 15th, 2007 7:01 am

    Hi Dave, as mentioned in the review, it’ll be available late summer 2007. I usually don’t review gear that’s not on the market (though I mention things, such as boots), but since I had a production sample of this pack and it was to be such a good deal, I thought it fun and useful to get the info out there.

  10. Dave February 15th, 2007 11:02 am

    Ah, missed that bit. I guess I’ll have to wait 🙁

  11. Rob April 14th, 2011 12:16 pm

    Useless pack. Heavy, doesnt hold much, way to big and boxy considering the low volume. I really dont get what all the hype is about for BCA. Seems very trendy to me. I am selling this stupid pack and buying a low profile, high volume climbing pack. 🙄

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