How do you go about finding a bag that lends ideally itself to each activity? With a summer full of mountaineering and climbing activity planned, I decided to test the Women’s Pack 33L along the rugged sandstone cliffs in the UK to the hidden Riads of Marrakech and High Atlas mountains in Morocco.
33 litre optimum capacity
M840 & M210 fabrics; water resistant and exceptionally durable
On Demand Minimalism; all components removable
Integrated cowl-lid closure for easy packing and weather protection
Durable aluminium Grappler™ buckle
Spacious zipped lid pocket
Zipped security pocket on inside of lid
Side compression straps with thermoplastic Hammerhead™ toggles
Removable women's specific EVA composite back panel
Women's specific EVA composite shoulder straps
38mm webbing hipbelt with removable High Density EVA moulded hip-fins
Dual axe retainers with integrated pick pocket
Weight : 895g / 31.6oz
First Test: Trad Climbing
The first round of testing the pack involved several days multi-pitch climbing in Gogarth. I found the bag was well suited to the short walk-in and ideal for carrying heavy, bulkier items such as the abseil rope clipped in with a strap underneath the lid. As a single, duffel-style pack, it could be easily stuffed full with climbing hardware, harness, shoes and chalk bag and spare layers, with essential items such as phone, keys, wallet and snacks in the zip lid. At a push, my helmet could just about fit squashed in the top, but I noticed the bag was uncomfortable with the heavy load as the hip belt struggled to take the weight off my shoulders. In the end, I found that I was resting my hands against the shoulder straps and using the sternum strap to try and equalise the load as much as I could.
I tried a number of options where I varied the weight, and swapped heavy items in and out e.g. replacing climbing kit with my daily expedition kit. In the end, I decided to bring the pack as my reserve and used it predominantly in Marrakech as my go-to travel pack, where it performed really well as a backpack for exploring the city in. It did manage to fit as a cabin luggage bag, so I was happy to transport kit in the pack secure in the knowledge it was providing a bit more protection from the elements then my normal day pack.
Second Test: Travel Pack
With an expedition trip to the Western Atlas mountains on the cards, the decision on whether to pack my Mountain Equipment Ogre 33+ as my go to day pack or not was a tricky one. The bag would need to be tested as part of a non-technical hiking trip in summer conditions to try it on expedition. The bag needed to be able to withstand testing carrying heavy photography kit (a camera body alongside two to three lenses), 3L of water and the usual normal items such as head-torch, food and layers to be readily accessible.
In the end, I decided to pack it as my spare pack for days out in the mountains, as the less comfortable fit was a factor that I didn’t want to risk for multiple challenging days out in the mountains, hiking up to 4,000m peaks.
Overall, there were a normal of great things about the pack – which included the following features:
Durable M Series Fabric – One of the main features of this pack is the design and construction of the bag’s material. Unlike other alpine style packs, which tend to use fabrics more vulnerable to tearing, the use of the M series fabric is made of a thicker material which didn’t show any signs of abrasion or show scuff marks when brushed against rock or against the ground. It’s also worth noting that the material on the Women’s Ogre 33+ is the same as the Men’s Ogre 33+ pack and feels incredibly tough, meaning the bag could withstand long term use in activities where the bag is in contact with rough day-to-day use such as cragging /mountaineering. During the test there was little visible damage to the external surface, due to the technical properties of the material which had a SWR face-coating added for water-repellency and snow shedding properties and PU coating on the inside to prevent the absorption of moisture.
‘The buckle’ – The ME Ogre pack incorporates the Grappler buckle which offers an ease of functionality unlike other similar alpine style packs. The strap is able to be affixed on and opened with a glove (even doable with a mitt on), so no more faffing with hooks, clasps or potential breakable plastic buckles. Using a simple, durable aluminium Grappler™ buckle custom designed by Mountain equipment, the fang-like buckle slides down a ‘bight’ of webbing and seals the pack shut, with adjustable straps to cinch it all in. It’s so satisfying to do and works even when the bag is full or half empty.
Integrated Cowl-Lid Pocket – The top pocket was a super useful feature to the bag, as it was a zipped pocket with a easy to pull knotted toggle , roomy enough to put snacks and key items in the top of the bag. There was also a pocket on the underside of the lid with a useful ‘key clip’ which also helped minimising loosing a set of keys amongst the depths of the bag. On the testing, I did find that if I packed a fair bit of kit into the top of the bag it made it slightly harder to close the lid down, but a bit of careful kit management could help prevent the bag from feeling too bulky against the head and neck.
Weight - At 895g, the women’s bag is streamlined in weight so that the end user can have a durable bag suitable for repeated use at an attractive starting weight. The option to remove the padding also means the bag can be made even lighter – a bonus if weight is crucial to moving fast and light through rugged terrain.
The not so good things:
Women’s Specific Fit – I was interested to see what the Mountain Equipment Ogre 33+ women’s specific pack would perform like, with fit being one of the key features. As a fan of Mountain Equipment women’s clothing, I normally wear a Women’s size 8- 10 in tops and a size 8 short in bottoms. However, I was disappointed with the fit of the bag, as it just didn’t feel right.
Removable hip fins – The first thing I noticed was the adjustable hip belt. With two padded foam hip belt wings, I found the strap was much too long and even on the tightest setting, didn’t seem to tighten any further. Although great in principle, they didn’t really fit and were too rigid to mould properly to me. I also find that with other previous packs a small zip pocket is a useful feature, which allows for quick access to essentials that warrants the marginal weight addition. Simply having padded fins didn’t feel suitable enough. I tried removing the fins but found them fiddly to do and it didn’t make a whole lot of difference, as the hip belt was still too high to be comfortable.
Removable women's specific EVA composite back panel - The length of the pack felt much too short (with the hip belt continuing to ride up and refused to take any of the weight off my shoulders.) As someone who has a fairly long torso in relation to the rest of my body, not having an adjustable back is a limitation on the bag’s fit, but I was surprised that there was no way to lengthen it. I also found the Eva composite back panel didn’t offer any additional padding on the back, or allow more airflow.
Colour Choice - As a consumer who looks out for women’s specific fit, it was frustrating to find that I preferred the colour choices on offer for men, and the differentiation in packs which were made purely on colour (and a mere extra 25g difference in weight.) Personally, when considering purchasing premium bag, I felt it was an important consideration to have the bag made available in the same colours, regardless of gender. The men’s bag was almost exactly the same specification, and when the difference in features boiled down to colour choice and a slightly longer length bag, I would opt to have both bags available in Tasmin Blue / Lagoon Blue (Teal), Blue Graphite (dark grey) and Acid (Bright Yellow.)
Feature wise, the Mountain Equipment Ogre 33+ isn’t short of useful, removable features for those that do more than one sport and have different requirements. For example, for mountaineering and winter climbing, there’s plenty of features to attach ice axes to the outside of the pack. Dual axe retainers – the little metal toggles which slide through the hole in the top of the ice axe come with the bag, along with a built in pick pocket that allows the ice axe picks to sit snuggly against the pack, rather then accidentally catch on the outside of the bag. Two axe-shaft tethers makes sure the axes to stay in place. The combination of features allows the user to secure a wide range of potential ice tools to the outside of the pack. For multi-day explorers, or if an alpine bivvi was required, there’s side compression straps with thermoplastic Hammerhead™ toggles that mean additional items such as sleeping mats and walking poles can be affixed to the sides of the pack.
The removable components are what make the bag feel like Mountain Equipment are making a pack with the end user (predominantly a climber) in mind. For an additional round of testing, it would be great to see if the pack prevented the tools from sliding about and whether it would be easy to attach and remove.
These extra removable features are what the latest Mountain Equipment seem to specialise in, meaning the bag is able to be fully customised for future summer/ winter trips where different activities require a greater versatility.
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