Ice Pack Review: Just back from Nepal

Ice Pack Review: Just back from Nepal

Hyperlite Mountain Gear just heard back from Marko Pujic who tested the Hyperlite Mountain Gear Ice Pack on a 30 day trip to Nepal. Here’s what he had to say:

Just before I took off to Nepal in the end of last January, I got my hands on a Hyperlite Mountain Gear Ice Pack. I’ve taken a look at these packs in the shop a couple times and was curious about them, and with a trip to the Himalaya coming right up I had a good opportunity to try one out. The pack arrived to Bozeman the day before my trip. I packed up and flew to Kathmandu, gathered supplies I would need over the next month, and took a bus to a small town we would start a four day trek from. By the time we reached our village high in the mountains I had a good feeling about the pack. Over the next month I would test the pack, as well as mind a body, and find that the pack is truly fast and light, designed for people pushing their limits of possibility. The Ice Pack is essential. Everything you need is there and highly functional; all the other crap has been left out. This is the essence of alpinism itself!

My partner Tim Stabio and I came to the Rolwaling valley, in search of big and steep waterfall ice to climb. The Hyperlite Mountain Gear Ice pack was the perfect tool for the job. Its 2400 cu/in capacity was the right size to fit all our gear for craging around the valley and its feature set well adapted for ice climbing. Not only did we find amazing ice and mixed lines, some never climbed, but we were also presented with the imposing Himalayan skyline that surrounded us everywhere we went. We knew we were going to have to climb higher than just the top of our ice routes. Mid trip we dedicated some time to acclimating and finding a route to the base of a 6000 meter peak we first set eyes on the day we walked into the valley. On our summit push the Ice pack shone line a champ again. Its narrow body allowed for free movement while climbing, and like with everything Hyperlite Mountain Gear does, the weight was kept to a minimum. On a long push at elevation like that, every grams count.

Ice climbing in Nepal
Photo: Tim Stabio

Let’s talk about the pack’s feature set. Now I’m typically not a huge fan of most bells and whistles you find on packs because I see them as added weight and not always as added function, however, there are a few features that are important. If you have any features on an ice/alpine pack that must be dialed, it is how the crampons and tools are attached to the pack. When I’m on the move I don’t want to spend time taking crampons off and on or fiddling around with ice tool attachment. I want the tools or crampons on, or I want them off, no fuss. It can seem like a hassle sometimes just having to stop to change modes. The Hyperlite Mountain Gear Ice Pack is dialed for quick attach and release of your ice tools and crampons, minimizing time spent messing with gear, and getting you back to movement on the mountain sooner. There was a learning curve with the crampon bungee, but it proved to be efficient and reliable once you got the hang of it. The pack also carries tools real well. The bungees are quick to tighten and release, and the pick pocket holds the tools snug. Earlier this winter I was trying out another ultralight pack and the biggest complaint I had was how badly they dropped the ball on the function of these two simple and common features. Having found a true top-end pack now, I was happy to pass along the other pack to someone else.

The roll-top design goes right along with the highly functional bare essentials idea. I don’t need a lid with all my tidbits a zipper pull away all the time. If I’m cragging with the pack I’m not stopping just to grab a Gu or pair of shades. The crag is probably not too far away and those items are already in a pant or shirt pocket so I don’t have to stop. If I’m on a long alpine route and I need to grab water or a bar, chances are I’m stopping for more than just a minutes and I’ll be getting into the pack for a puffy jacket anyways. The roll top compresses really well for when the pack is only half full and there are just enough compression straps to snug the rest of it. The 3-way strap on top of the pack is highly functional. It holds a helmet really well, compresses to a low profile when the pack is half empty, and holds a rather large load when over-loaded. On our trek out of the Rolwaling Valley we were looking to make good time. My partner and I took the heaviest and densest items to give our porters the lightest load possible. Even with a loaded pack, the 3-way strap was able to secure a rope, tent, and small summit pack on top.

The pack is undoubtedly the lightest out there for its size and function. The stripped weight of the lightest packs on the market are what the max weight is on the Hyperlite Mountain Gear Ice Pack! This pack is called Ice Pack, and it crags real well as an ice climbing pack, but I see its unique potential as an elitist alpine pack as well. I see this pack as being most valuable for people who are climbing in alpine style on huge routes. These people are going lighter, faster, and farther than the rest. They cut out anything that isn’t absolutely essential, and then cut out a bit more. We trimmed our kit down to bare essentials, cutting even our rack down to half of what would have been typical. Normally taking about 3 days to climb the peak, our style allowed us to travel much quicker and we completed it in just over 30 hours. The pack was essential in this style of climbing. I’ve taken good packs and cut pockets, fabric flaps and miscellaneous straps off, ripped padding out, and left behind lids, just to try and get to the essentials. The Hyperlite Mountain Gear Ice Pack already does that and is equipped with the highest performance fabrics and efficient design. It is made for serious alpine pursuit.

I’ve found my new favorite fast ice and alpine pack and I was stoked to have had a chance to use the it on this trip. It has quickly earned its place in my essentials kit and will remain for a long time.

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