Tom from our Weymouth store tests the Carrion 65L rucksack on a walking trip to Snowdonia.
WHAT A BAG!!!!!! This truly is a backpack that can compete with the big brands out there. I know it is shallow but when I buy a new piece of outdoor clothing or equipment the first thing I look at is the style of the product and this bag has some serious style! Admittedly the lime green might not be to everybody’s taste, it would be nice to see it in some other colours maybe orange, blue, or purple? I am however quite a fan of the lime.
Once I find something I like the look off I tend to try it on first and this bag does not disappoint. The adjustable back system has a nice ergonomic curve to it so the bag hugs your back without any awkward and uncomfortable gaps. The back system can be a bit tricky to adjust due to the height straps being tight to the back board. However with a bit of gentle persuasion (and in my case a kitchen fork!) it soon went into the right gap and through the right exit. It is amazingly comfy without the need of excess padding. It is also worth noting just how snug the padded waist band is. When I fitted the waist band it reminded me of the ‘adaptive fit’ waist bands that Lowe Alpine add to some of their high end rucksacks. The waist band also has two mesh pockets (one on each side) which can fit a compass in quite nicely.
After I have fitted a bag correctly to myself I like to fill it out with clothing and gear to see how it handles weight distribution. My standard weight test for a 65L bag is to put my 3-4 season Mountain Warehouse Extreme Everest sleeping bag in the bottom section, my Mountain Warehouse Extreme 3-layer active jacket and downpour trousers at the bottom of the main section of the bag. Then I put my entire climbing kit into the bag. This consists of 50 metres of dynamic rope, 30 metres of static rope, a large ‘Trad’ rack, 2 harnesses, 2 pairs of rock shoes, a helmet and a climbing guide. This weight totals to 3 stone (just under 20kg). Yet, even with this level of gear, due to the shape of the back support it was not putting too much pressure on my back and was distributing the weight evenly. It is here I know some readers will say that this is due to whether that bag has been packed correctly and I agree to some extent, but this back system truly is brilliant.
Another great feature of this bag is that it has an extendable hood section which, personally, I love on backpacks and rucksacks. The only disappointment with the extendible hood is that there is no rope strap. This is not a huge issue and most people will not even notice it does not have one. For us few climbers it would have just been a nice extra bonus to a great bag.
The actual hood of the bag has a HUGE pocket on the topside, large enough for me to easily fit one of my climbing helmets and chalk bag. On the underside of the hood there is also a mesh pocket which could be good for either toiletries or a first aid kit. Carrying on down the bag you find a nice little semi-circle pocket. Sadly it is not big enough for an Ordnance Survey map but it can fit in some cereal bars for quick and easy access to energy. Just below the semi-circle pocket there is a vertical zip which is a great place for another compass.
At the bottom of the bag you reach the deceivingly large lower section. Inside there is a draw cord to allow you to open both main sections into one large open space bag, or keep the cord pulled and keep the sections apart. This is the way I prefer my bags. This lower section happily fits in my sleeping bag which means I can keep it separate from my other gear. On the front of the bag there are also two fairly standard bungee draw pole/ice axe holders. They have no fancy way of using them, they are however very good at stopping the poles from moving or falling out (an issue I have had with many different brands of rucksacks in the past). Down both sides of the bag there are lovely big elastic pockets which effortlessly can fit a map. Also on one side there is a fantastic zip which goes down the majority of the length of the top section of the bag. This allows for quick and easy access to all your gear without having to pull everything out of the bag to find something you need tucked away at the bottom.
To test this bag, I took it out for the week to the Welsh mountains of Snowdonia. Needless to say the weather came in hard and fast and it rained for the entire week (let’s be honest though, mountaineering is always more fun in the wet with poor to no visibility)! Anyway the rain was not so much the issue, more the driving strong winds; this cut our week short by a few days.
However we were still able to put the Carrion 65L through its paces. We chose a selection of different routes up and down the mountains we wished to summit with the intention of testing the bag over a variety of terrains. Over the time we were out we covered steep inclines, steep declines, scrambling, scree walking (incline and decline), and some ridge walking. Throughout the walking the Carrion 65L remained very comfortable to wear and very practical to use. The large side zip made getting gear out quickly in the rain and wind very easy. Having so many small pockets on the bag also became very handy for storing all the little bits I need during my days out walking. It would be nice however to have a dedicated zipped pocket on the bag for an OS map, it was one of the only things I truly missed on the bag.
All in all this bag is a great piece of kit. The ergonomic fitting, the easy to access side zip, and the multitude of pockets make it comfortable and practical, which in outdoor equipment and clothing can sometimes be a very challenging thing to find. It does have a few things I would like to see improved, added, or changed, however these are small minor things that most people using it would not notice. I would (and do) recommend this bag to customers who come into the Weymouth Branch who are participating in the Duke of Edinburgh challenge, Ten Tors, and other challenges. With a bag like this you can forget worrying about your kit and get on with enjoying and completing your outdoor aspirations.