These two packs were designed by Carol McDermott, a New Zealand climber now in Europe, and must be seen as alpine climbing packs for Europe, not as mainstream American walking packs. This has greatly influenced their design: they are made of some extremely tough fabric and are almost entirely lacking in all the frills normally found on American packs. Why? Because they have to take being hauled up cliff faces on the end of a rope. The weather in Europe (and especially the UK) is never as reliable as in America either - unless you count a very high probability of wet weather as being 'reliable.' So in addition to being made of tough waterproof fabric, the majority of the seams and fittings on the back of the packs are welded and sometimes taped, not sewn.
The harness consists of an 8.0-mm diameter 7001-T6 aluminium alloy U-shaped rod, the same as is used on the Lightwave packs (Lightwave is a sister company), plus a very firm foam back. The hip belt is simple, with 50-mm (2-in) webbing and buckles. Even the draw cords on the light waterproof nylon throat are climbing-oriented: they are 4-mm Rivory-Joanny accessory cord and can be used in an emergency as abseil slings. Despite all this strength - or perhaps because of it - Crux do not quote a recommended load for these packs. I guess if a climber can get the gear in, he'll carry it?
The clean exterior means no mesh pockets on the sides or the back and no bulging back pocket. The outer surface is essentially a smooth tube of almost indestructible Kevlar/Cordura fabric, the lid is of the same fabric, and the base is a double layer. Anchor points are reinforced with bonded patches (for sliding over the rock). The insides of the attachment points are all waterproofed. There are 'side pockets,' but they are low-cut and designed to take tent poles and glacier wands. They are not big enough to actually hold gear. The website claims the side pockets are 'stretch,' but the only stretch is the elastic binding along the top edges. They do have grommetted drain holes. The throat is light, waterproof nylon, but is hidden under the lid and not exposed. I know some American packs boast about their strong fabric, but this combination is in a class of its own.
Internally the frame consists an 8.0-mm diameter 7001-T6 aluminium alloy U-shaped rod frame. It looks like Easton tent pole material, but lacks the brand and is a bit more bendable. Getting it out is a bit of a wrestle, but quite doable. You don't need to get it out to alter the tilt at the base though. The back has a good slab of Lycra-covered moulded foam, but no sheet of hard plastic. The lack of a plastic sheet does not seem to be a problem, however: the foam is quite solid. The shoulder straps are not wide, but seem quite adequate with well-padded edges. The hip belt has wiggles in it to try to conform to waist lines and is only 70 mm (2.75 in) wide. The webbing and buckle are 50 mm (2 in) wide.
There is a bladder sleeve inside the main bag. The lid has fully-taped seams and a pocket with a solid waterproof zip - but then, it does rain in the UK. There is a key hook inside the pocket and a not-hugely-obvious zipped security pocket on the underside of the lid. The lid is removable and can be raised up above the nylon throat on its straps should you wish to tuck a tent or a rope under it. There are two ice axe attachments on the back of each pack.
The measured values for weight and volume for both the AK47 and the AK57 came out very close to specification - close enough to make no difference.
These are not packs for the casual walker of easy trails: they just wouldn't make sense. But for anyone looking for a serious alpine pack, or a pack for some very serious arguments with sabre-toothed jungle, these are very good. You might need to pay more attention to picking the appropriate torso length than you would otherwise expect, of course, and it would be best to try one on and check the length before you buy. We have included them in this survey because they meet the selection criteria, and it is always interesting to see the opposite end of the spectrum from the silnylon creations.
Crux AK47 Pack
|AK47||Above average||Very rugged alpine pack|
We found this pack to be very small in torso length, which caused us a bit of a problem until we understood what was going on, and our trouble was compounded by the selection of a Size 1 version - essentially a Small. The torso length is short compared to most other packs because it is designed to have the hip belt up around your waist, leaving room for a full climbing harness around your hips below the pack. Once you adapt to this, it all makes sense. However, a size #1 is probably a bit small for most people, except for serious climbing.
Crux AK47, 1.17 kg (2.58 lb), 45 L (2800 cuin), #1, #2, #3
The hip belt seemed quite adequate - except that it did not really sit down on Sue's waist very well, and was marginal on mine. The attachment points for the load lifters seemed a bit close to the pack as well. Both of these problems are entirely due to the size of the pack, as described above. When used as a climbing pack (ie with a harness below the pack) it started to work much better, although I would still prefer a size #2 if I needed to carry a lot of gear. However, it may be noted that I was able to get the full load of Test Gear into the pack, despite the apparently small size.
Both packs include two ice axe attachments. The top straps for these are partially covered by the lid straps when not in use, but I don't think this matters in practice. What is nice is that the bottom loops are well clear of the bottom of the pack, so the ice axe head does not dig holes in a wooden floor when you put the pack down.
Crux AK57 Pack
|AK57||Above average||Very rugged alpine pack|
This is the big brother to the AK47 - and we tested a size #2 rather than a size #1 just to be sure. With the larger size, the torso length was fine, and the hip belt sat on my hips and Sue's hips rather better. The load lifters also worked much better. Quite definitely all this was a result of getting the right torso length. The bag swallowed the Test Gear quite easily too, even though the measured volume was not that great. I think the shape of the bag was better able to handle the lumps. There was nothing put in the lid pocket, although there is quite a bit of room available there - about 3 litres, in fact.
Crux AK57, 1.30 kg (2.87 lb), 52 (3200 cuin), #2, #3
This larger unit has an extra feature over the AK47. There are what look like extremely tough 'panic handles' at the bottom on each side. You can see them in the right hand photo, especially the one on the right hand side of the pack. No, they are not really for panic :-), they are for holding skis. You drop the ski into this loop and use the top of the compression strap on the side of the pack to hold the top end of the ski. This is easy to do because the top end of the strap is attached with a side-release buckle (just visible in the other two photos). The loops are tough because skis do often have metal bits and edges which can rub, although I doubt skis could do much damage to this pack fabric. The loops are not shown in the company photo at the left: I suspect they may be a recent addition to the design.
The middle photos for both packs show the haulage loop. This is wide - wide enough that one person holding the pack can easily pass it up to a second person to grab. Function drives design.
This is a mini-review in the 2010 Lightweight Internal Frame Pack State of the Market Report. The articles in this series are as follows (mini-reviews can be found in Part 2), and a subscription to our site is needed to read them.