Fresh of the rack, that’s how we like it. And it couldn’t have gotten any fresher than off the rack of the Lowe Alpine stand at ISPO 2017. A really cool chat with Joe White from Lowe Alpine brought us to the Ascent backpack which Joe explained was the newest offering in the light weght Descent ski/snowboard/freeride backpack from Lowe Alpine. This backpack has not yet hit the stores yet and is aimed at the season 2017-2018.

But we can give our review here because Joe was kind enough to give his own Descent backpack to us for reviewing. The timing, you see, was perfect: directly after ISPO I would be heading to a freeride event in Austria and it was just too good an opportunity to use this backpack “in the wilde” to pass on. Adding to that: when I put on the backpack at ISPO I knew I really wanted to test this very minimalistic, very lightweight pack.

Joe explained the many features to me, (including separate goggle pouch, easily accessible compartment for avalanche kit, a back entry acces and integrated hydration pouch and sleeve (we’ll get to these features later). But most of all he told that the stability of the pack was the most important thing Lowe Alpine was aiming at.

Conditions

I used the pack the following few days in which I joined a snowboard and ski group for some freeriding and back country touring, during which I had to film/shoot quite a lot. Weather was sunny throughout, temperatures around freezing.

Weight and stability

The pack was heavily and unevenly loaded with camera equipement (two camera’s plus a large lens) and quite a heavy tripod to one side as well. Add avalanche equipement, an extra mid layer, spare base layer and other bits and bobs such as some food and water. A real challenge to the aforementioned stability to which the pack rose quite well. During the descents that got quite choppy at times, I never felt the backpack or its weight hindering me in any way.

The shoulder straps and waist bands are of a deceivingly thin and light, but very dense and strong material. Joe’s prediction was that most packs would be using these kind of straps in a few years. Obviously I can’t look into the future that way, but I do have to see the straps adapted very well to the contours of my shoulder. That means more contact between the strap and your body, a tighter and more secure fit. The straps are also supposed to be quite durable; we haven’t used it long enough to comment on that from a long-term perspective. But the material does feel quite well made.

The pack itself feels very light; where back country packs sometimes can get quite heavy, the Lowe Alpine brings with it very little weight of its own.

Features

What I also found quite handy was the back entry zip; having to unpack and repack the camera equipement quite often, it was very useful that the back of the pack folded out completely and I could acces all the gear in the main storage compartment.

Photo: Sophie Cousin

Besides this large compartment there is a separate one for safely storing avalanche equipement in dedicated pouches. This makes for a well organised pack and ensures the equipement is quickly accessible. In moments that every second counts that is of immense value. Really a “must-have” for back country backpacks.

On the top of the backpack Lowe Alpine has provided a dedicated goggle pouch. With a very soft and material that will prevent any scratching to the lens of your goggles.
The backpack also sports an sleeve with isolation liner for your hydration tube which runs over the left shoulder strap. I didn’t actually have one fit to my back pack as a don’t use it too often, but it can come in very handy during high intensity (and high transpiration) activities such as ,…well, splitboarding. So I should actually have take it with..:-{ (When will I learn?)

The pack provides a number of ways you can strap your snowboard or ski’s: vertically to each side, vertically on the pack or diagonally across the pack. I didn’t use this possibility during the event, but have tried strapping my snowboard on and have felt the same stability on the pack whilst walking.

What I found very handy is that when the pack is not fully packed, you can strap down the pack with the compression straps. No bulky or empty flapping around on your back; it almost looks like a much smaller pack which you hardly feel on your back as you go.

The waist bands sport two small pouches for your small stuff,  a candy bar, your action cam or other smaller stuff you want easy and quick acces to.

Helmet Storage?

What I did miss was the possibility to securely fix your helmet to the pack. When you are skinning up the mountain your body temperature rises, and your head is certainly a place where a lot of heat is generated. So it makes sense taking off your helmet (if safety conditions allow); but then you want to pack it away and not have it dangling from your back pack. So if I could suggest an addition or improvement to the pack that would be it.

Last but not least, I think the pack looks really good. I saw two colors at Ispo, a Grey with blue as accent colour, and the one I took with me, which was orange with grey as the accent colour. Looks good, and the material has a a very tough feel to it.

REVIEW OVERVIEW
Overall
Ease of Use
Versatility
Comfort
Features
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Mark Stokmans

Sinds mijn jongste jeugd ben ik een zeer actief sporter in heel veel verschillende sporten: begonnen met honkbal, tennis en paardrijden later nog hockey, voetbal, hardlopen en aikido. Daarnaast sinds twaalf jaar oud into actionsports: als eerste windsurfen, later klimmen, skaten, snowboarden, mountainbiken. Gek ook op video’s maken van action sports. Verder al sinds 1990 werkzaam in de sport, en sportmarketing eerste bij de Judobond en tot eind 2016 bij NOC*NSF. Naast GearLimits in het dagelijks leven part-time werkzaam bij digitaal bureau Infocaster.

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