The Light 69 pack, photo by Bask
This pack was sent to me from Russia at the instigation of a BPL member. The review of it has been sadly delayed by a system crash that wiped all my disks. Some recovery was eventually possible, six months later.
Bask is a Russian company and has a very high reputation for its sleeping bags. So, I was happy to field test their Light 69 pack when it was offered. This is a single compartment mountaineering pack, and the design shows it. The exterior has a very clean design, but with adequate anchorages for ice axes and rope. Yes, it does have small side pockets at the bottom for catching the bottom end of poles, etc.
This is a single compartment pack of traditional design: straight sides, side compression straps, a short throat, conventional lid with single pocket, and webbing attachment points running up two sides. It is quoted at 69 L capacity, and mine weighed 1.18 kg. The lid pocket is quite large.
First, I took the pack on a local day trip, just to make sure it was comfortable. The load was lumpy but not heavy.
Next, I took the pack on a 5-day, rather fast trip in the Australia Alps to climb the Big Dargal.
The photo to the left shows Mt Jagungal and the pack in front. It was a bit cold and misty: I had a windshirt on over my normal shirt. The photo on the right shows morning tea on the second last day, in gorgeous sun. The pack is on the right, opened up so I could get the stove out. A bit of gear spread around - it was, after all, fine weather.
We woke up the next day on top of the Great Dividing Range to find a foot of snow on the ground. Fortunately, we didn't have too far to go as we were both wearing light joggers for this trip. But that sort of turn-around is quite common in our mountains.
I was quite pleased with how the pack performed on this trip. I probably had about 12 kg in it all told, and it rode well with no sway and no pressure points.
Via Alpina route in Europe for 2 months.
I was sufficiently happy with the pack at this stage that I took it to Europe to walk the Red Route of the Via Alpina for two months. I would normally take my external H-frame pack for such a trip, but handing the very light H-frame over to the airport baggage handlers for an international flight has always worried me. So, I went with this pack instead.
I started with 14 kg total in the pack. That is probably just a bit high for the design, although it was quite manageable. If the majority of weight were food, it would soon sort itself out. I reduced the load to about 11.5 kg halfway through the trip by posting some gear that we were not using back home. That did seem to make a lot of difference in comfort.
In the composite here we have, from top left clockwise:
- A via ferrata route above Wolayerseehutte, Austria (note the cable) - Sue wouldn't let me climb too far though.
- Early morning above Obstanseehutte, Austria - it was a lovely day.
- Sue climbing up to MeilarHutte in limestone country - 3,000 metres of up and down that day ending up on a tiny col barely wide enough for the hut. For some reason Sue was not interested in taking a photo of me and the pack just here.
- Finally, lunch on Feldernj÷chl pass at 2,045 m near Zugspitz, Germany's highest mountain, looking at Gatterl Pass in the middle of the photo. That is a tiny gate on that narrow spur between Germany and Austria.
Okay, some spectacular photos (in some spectacular country), but the pack performed very well for the whole trip.
The body fabric is a light but quite strong proofed nylon, easily as good as anything available elsewhere in the world. The base fabric is strong, although a slightly tighter weave would be nice if that was possible, as I could see spots of light through the weave. However, many tough pack fabrics are like that. The buckles are by National Molding, one of the two major USA brands (ie not Chinese). The nylon webbing is, well, standard stuff.
It has a couple of interesting features, as well. The lid can float if you wish. There are two webbing straps by the shoulder to adjust its position, or to detach it. Normally when this feature is offered (and I don't like detaching lids) you end up with a gap between the lid and the pack above the shoulders which lets rain in. Well, in this pack they have added a storm shield to handle that. It is the rectangle of fabric marked with a blue cross. It works very well except that the fabric used has a sad tendency to lose the coating after a lot of heavy use. The 'white' areas show where that is starting to happen. The throat fabric is similar. A better fabric for the two would be nice, but remember that I gave this pack a lot of use.
If you remove the lid, you can still use this flap as a sort of lid. The two buckles marked by green lines can be secured to the conventional straps on the outer face of the pack to cover the throat. I haven't used this feature myself.
There are no straps over the throat under the lid. As I often carry a tent on top of the throat and under the lid, this concerned me a bit. So, I added two straps as marked in red. They proved to be essential in the field for me.
Between these two added straps, you can see a little loop of yellow cord. There are a few of these scattered around the pack. You can use them as anchors for extra cords to attach gear if needed. They are quite strong but very unobtrusive. I thought they were clever.
Lunch near Falken Hutte
The throat is made of a medium-weight fabric - no silnylon here. It was adequate. I would have preferred it to be slightly longer, but never had a problem as the lid covered the throat very well. In the photo here, the throat is open and only partly covered by the lid, and the sides of the lid are tucked up inside. When walking there is a complete seal.
The buckle at the waist did tend to slide very slowly: I would have to readjust it every couple of hours. To add some friction I added a bit of soft webbing to the main webbing and doubled the excess webbing back through the buckle. That worked. The problem lies with the design of the buckle: some have a more aggressive bite on the webbing than others.
There is a single pocket in the lid. I added a small security pocket inside the lid pocket to hold money and passport. Some packs have a security pocket under the lid, which is a very good idea.
The D-rings on the shoulder straps worked very well as anchor points for my camera case. The sternum strap is not long, but it was adequate.
The internal frame sheet.
This is an internal frame pack. The frame consists of a sheet of stiff plastic foam tucked into a sleeve on the back panel, as shown here sticking out a bit. This foam is light but served well to add strength and shape and protect my back from hard lumps. It had an unfortunate curl about the horizontal axis in it, which made the pack curl up a bit when empty. Perhaps if they had oriented the roll of plastic foam the other way when cutting the sheet out it might have been beneficial. Once I got some gear into the pack, this ceased to matter. Even after the two months of continuous walking in Europe, the foam showed no particular signs of wear, just a faint curl in the corners.
The back has two padded strips down the full height: they sit on either side of your spine. That seemed to work fine, although it did get a little warm in very sunny weather. But, in the mountains, sunny weather is unreliable!
Bask makes good packs. This one gave me no trouble at all. I liked it. This might sound like 'faint praise', but praise it is, and I don't give praise easily. It handled our 2-month European walk just fine.
|Outer fabric||210D DuPont Cordura 2000 PU coated|
|Reinforcing||1000D DuPont Cordura|
|Frame||high-density 3 mm foam sheet|
|Volume (quoted)||69 Litres|
|Weight (measured)||1.18 kg|
|Hipbelt and sternum strap||adjustable|
|External pockets||none (good)|
|Side compression straps||2 each side|
|Attachment points||two vertical webbing chains on back|
|Ice axe attachments||2|
|Buckles and fitting:||Duraflex|