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The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Blue Ice, the new Warthog alpine pack!

Finally back to some alpine climbing content!  It is almost August after all...skiing has to stop some time right?  Well for the moment anyway...I want another run from the top of Rainier before I am done skiing for the season!

If you have seen this:

You know I am into really basic climbing packs.  And I continue to use really simple climbing packs.  Once in awhile I get side tracked and try the newest options that interest me.  Of course I have used the older Blue Ice packs, the 45, the 30 and the Mono among others.  But I am pretty set in what I think works.

The Mono has kept my attention but I've been too lazy to get that review done.  Some how it seems a conflict of interest since I sell Blue Ice gear as well.   And the fact my wife has stolen my personal Mono.  Hard to write it up.  I'll work on that review when she is out of town and I have my hands on the Mono again.

But the new Warthog is hard to ignore (as you can see by the color).   No way anyone is sneaking this one off without me knowing.  So I am going to give you my take on it now before it happens.   

If you look at the custom CCW packs I have Randy make for myself (30L) you'll likely notice the similarities of the Blue Ice Warthog (27L) my custom packs and the original, stellar CCW Ozone.  First is they are very close in size, with the Warthog being the smallest of the bunch..  Second they are are really simple packs with very complicated and intricate patterns, which takes a high degree of  skill to sew.

I'd really like to take credit for some of the Warthogs design work.  But sadly I can't.  Not even a tiny bit.   I first saw the early prototypes of the Warthog at the Blue Ice offices last March.  I was impressed then because it is a pack I might have designed if given the chance.  More impressed now that I have one in hand.

I probably mentioned this once before.  Back in March one of my partners was looking in Snell's (all over Cham actually) for a new climbing pack.  Randy wasn't interested in more pia custom work.   So Matt was out of luck on a custom CCW piece.  Of the two walls full of new packs at Snells' only one Grivel and one Blue Ice offering interested him.  Which should tell you a lot about the currently  available climbing packs.  He made a trip to the Grivel factory first.  And his choice in packs was eventually found worthy on the Ginat among other climbs that winter and spring.

As good as the pack he has is, too bad he didn't get to see this one.

I try lots out a lot of gear.  But having a full set of made to order custom sacs kinda limits my interest in other climbing sacs.  It isn't easy to live up to my admittedly harsh and very critical standards for a climbing pack.  I have put a lot of thought and money into what best works for me.  There is no reason to take second best into the mtns.

Enter the newest, Blue Ice pack, the Warthog!

Love the color.  I Iike that the pack is small, light and simple.  It actually fills the "small pack" gap in my pack line up.  Same kind of sac both Randy and I like a lot but no one seems to be able to sell consistently.   Good shoulder straps on this one and a easily adjustable sternum strap on sliders.

the Sternum straps misaligned on purpose

Two different thicknesses on the foam used  in the shoulder strap.  The thicker stuff is set high in the strap where it can take the bulk of the load.    Straps are attached to the bag via small wings sewn to the pack body.  And sewn cord loops on the straps as well. Nice detail.  The narrow and unpadded waist belt is tape with a buckle and easily removable.  The perfect choice for this pack.  The bottom of the bag is reinforced but not dbl. layered.  All the tie in points are reinforced and ARE dbl layered.  Nice detailing.  I'll say that a lot in this review.  It is worth repeating.

reinforced sewing and taped seams

All the seams are taped internally.  Shoulder straps tighten by pulling them down. There is a full size (water bladder)  internal hydration pocket that has been pleated and bellowed.   It makes a full badder easy to fit.

Hydration pocket and more taped seams

Again nice detailing.  A Velcro hydration hose holder as well.
Thin foam pad is sewn into the pack.   Call it a bivy pad or just pack padding.  Either would be accurate.  But it is not removable.

The packs back has a definitive "S" cut to the back panel.  Huge advantage for fit on a simple climbing pack.
The rather pronounced S shaped bottom of the back panel from the side 

Single lid strap for hold down.  Lid is sewn on tightly to the pack's top hem.  And the straps are the right length.  Elastic keepers on every strap, shoulders, waist and lid.  Another great detail.  Lid is perfectly sized to cover a fully loaded pack with the skirt drawn tight.  None of this stuff is easy to do or more importantly, easy to do right.  There is a hole for your hydration hose through both pack and lid.  And a single rope strap that is fixed via a Fast Tex style nylon buckles made by Duraflex.  Pack is actually sewn in Vietnam under Blue Ice's and  Giovanni's personal supervision..  The lid has three (yes three) pockets all YKK zippers   Two of them are on the out side and one underneath the lid.

The small back pocket also holds a net of sorts that is easy to deploy or store back in the pocket when not in use.  It is made to attach your helmet easily to a full pack.  Helmets aren't the only item the net will hold, just the most obvious.  Jackets pants, skins or crampons can just as easily be stashed under the net  Slick design work on this one. Did I mention I like the color combo.  It is going to be great for pictures :)

The "hair net" on top of the pack

Crampons can go under the lid, with the rope strap holding them in place with the pack body offering some protection from sharp points.  There are two traditional ice axe holders on the pack..both with reinforced dbl layering sewn through attachments.  Easy enough to securely lash on a tool a little less traditional.   A small quick link in place of the mini biners would be even cleaner but I was going with a quick "green" solution.  A little imagination here will go far if you are using the newest technical tools.   Should be little worry on that one.

Wow!  Some sweet looking Nomic hammers there :)

The pack closes on a 3"  skirt with a single draw string closure.   The haul loop is flat 3/4" nylon tape that is folded in thirds and sewn to make an easier to manage haul loop which can be connected to the axe upper tabs as well for a 3 point lift.  Again a nice detail.  The back panel on my early production pack is a full 18".  Surprisingly, it is a size I can work with on this pack.  Long shoulder straps and a good pattern on the back panel allow it to fit my long back.

Short or tall most will be able to get a good fit with this pack.   It is a climbing pack, and there is plenty of head clearance while looking up with the helmet of your choice when the pack is fully loaded up.

Cost:  78 Euro
Directly from Blue Ice (it should be close to that here in the US)
Weight is 1# 10.4oz or 750g...on my digital scale.  Right on!
Pack material is Cordura, with a pack cloth externally and a smother material against your back and skin on the shoulders.
I can carry 20 to 25 lbs this one.  That is more than I want to climb with for weight.  Less is always better given the option.

Rope strap, hydration hose hole and short skirt

How big is 27 Liters?  The pack will just hold two 60m 10.5 ropes in the main bag.  With two ropes you can still get the cuff closed, if only barely.  A one liter water bottle, will fit in the top lid pocket with a tiny bit of space to spare for the odd packet of GU to keep you running or the odd bite to eat if you pack small.  Pull out the net for your helmet or other pieces of gear/clothing as required.

John Bouchard BITD with a Karrimore climbing a new mixed route on the Grands Charmoz,  August 1975 with Steve  Zajchowski.

I need to add a few words about Blue Ice.   I am pretty sure everyone in the office climbs.  Easy when you live and work in the best alpine climbing environment i nthe world!   Easy to see the influence by the design work, like the Boa, the Chouca and now the Warthog  that the designers know what they are looking for.  By my acocunt some serious energy and effort went into this pack.  It is the first off the shelf,  production, alpine pack I have seen in several decades that I will climb with.  For those that do remember the old Karrimore Joe Brown pack or a Chouinard Fish pack, the Warthog is better done than either and in modern materials but very similar for what they were designed for.   It is a simple sac.  And for those that actually know what it is to be used for (single push alpinism) it is simply a stellar design, with a great attention to detail and sewn very well.  It is obvious to me it comes from  a group of climbers serious about making good kit...not just any bit of kit.  Bravo to Blue Ice for the effort!

The party line?


720 gr.  (mine came out a bit more @ 750g)
■helmet holder
■top lid with external & internal pocket
■chest buckle with security whistle
■rope attachment under the lid
■dual ice axe holders
■removeable hipbelt
■safety pocket with key holder

■high quality Duraflex buckles
■durable YKK zipper

Main: 500 denier CORDURA®
Reinforced bottom: 1000 denier CORDURA®
Lining: Nylon ripstop 210D

To build a highly resistant pack we have chosen to work with CORDURA®. CORDURA® is one of the most durable nylon fabric manufactured to date and it is widely used for high end applications and for producing gear where tearing and abrasion resistance are crucial. Moreover, the CORDURA® we use, is certified by Blue Sign, which is an important factor for our philosophy of minimizing our impact on the environment. Read more about CORDURA® on our technologies page.

Product overview:Minimalist backpack for fast and demanding one day ascents.

Design & features:The Warthog 26L is a light, extremely resistant backpack with all the essential accessories you need and nothing more. This is the ideal backpack for light and fast one day climbs on technical routes: it is compact to allow freedom of movement and it is super resistant for the most demanding conditions.

As the larger Blue Ice packs the Warthog can hold two ice axes. The simple system of webbing loops and cord locks allows not only a quick attachment but also a steady hold. Additional features are rope holder, helmet holder, exit for hydration tube and a removable hip belt.

Thanks to its stability, shape, volume and comfort it has proven an excellent pack not only for climbing but also for back country days when skis are to be kept on the feet during the whole ascent.
Ideal uses: single day climbs, mountaineering

(Agreed 100% btw on that observation and bet you'll see some Cham ski guides using the Warthog next winter.  Might be a wise color choice if so ; )

No way it could be just this easy though to put ski on this pack...or could it?  My Se7en Summits strapped right on like the Warthog was made for them.   Next test is to see if the axe loops can haul a 6# ski set up.


Max said...

Thanks Dane, excellent review! What's your opinion on cilogear packs? After reading this I'd say they're not worth the hype, obviously you can score similar for 80 euros...guess cordura isn't quite NWD, still though! Please update on how the warthog works for AT fun!

Dane said...

Max I think you have it covered. Rave reviews of free packs doesn't make them good packs. Decent Cordura or the right grade of nylon packs just don't seem to wear out. Poor quality stiching and or poor designs do. Look for an AT "version" update soon. The modern tool attachments were a pretty easy problem to solve :)
Looks like the AT issue will be as well.

carolyn said...

any thoughts on the Wild Things Guide pack. i like that its a lil smaller at 26L and has a compression straps.

Dane said...

Hey thanks for the bump and compliment on the Blog! Wild Things stuff is simply awesome..just try it on first to make sure it fits you well.

Dane said...

Here is a comment from another new owner of the Warthog off the UKclimbing web site.

Softlad sez: "thanks for bringing my attention to this brilliant new sac. It looks like the perfect minimalist multi-pitch / alpine daysac. I really like the "less is more" approach Blue Ice have taken in terms of aesthetics and features also the net result of this on the weight of their products.

Lakes Climber in Ambleside are one of the few UK Blue Ice stockists, so I popped in there to check the Warthog out for myself this morning. As Dane suggests, it's not easy to pull off products that are this simple really well, but Blue Ice appear to have done it. I bought one there and then, but be warned: I gather there aren't that many in stock out there.

I've loaded it up to check out whether the volume is ok, and it comfortably swallowed: my harness; chalk bag; rock shoes; light shell and fleece; half a rack; a half rope under the lid; a guidebook in the lid pocket; and a helmet under the 'hairnet'. Seems like a little belter."

Johnny Bravo said...

Very, very nice looking piece of kit. Been looking for a minimalist pack for winter fellrunning, for quite some time, this could be the one...
Great work!

Jeremy Bauman said...

Great review! I'm just wondering how this pack compares with the Mountain Hardwear Scrambler 30 which has many of the same features, yet is a full 130g lighter. Any thoughts?

Anonymous said...

also tried this one?

Andy M said...

I'll be using this pack for day hikes and some other non-alpine uses. Does anyone have any experience with fitting some kind of rain cover on the Warthog? I wouldn't mind having that option if I needed it.

So far, I really enjoy the size and minimal nature of this pack.

Anonymous said...

Blue Ice packs are now available in australia at

Unknown said...

Great review, definitely worth looking at. Have you seen the Crux 30 litre sac, I think the RH30, 850g? V simple design, Kevlar construction, highly waterproof. I love mine.

Dane said...

I have. At €199.00 bit over the top for me. Or $ postage!!! Even the $250 UK price seems pretty steep. Twice and then some compared to a custom CCW. Plus not a fan of roll top packs which seem to be all the range now. The Warthog is a full € 80.00 in the UK.

Unknown said...

Fair points, Dane; sounds like the price has shot up since i got my RK30. When it finally dies there will be some thinking to be done....