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Osprey

My experiences with Osprey.......

 

 
Testing the original Ceres in Canada, 2001. Photo Ian Parnell.JPG

Early days – testing the original Ceres Alpine pack in 2000:

I was fortunate to get the chance to test this iconic pack, which was one of the first Osprey models to come into the UK back in 2000. The Ceres was faultless in design and really jumped out as a product that had been engineered by people who really understood climbing. I used that pack on so many trips and expeditions, from Scottish and Alpine Winter, to exploration in Mongolia and Cuba, to UK cragging. 

 Mark Garthwaite, stubbornly refusing to retire his 15-year old Osprey pack in Arctic Norway in 2014.

Mark Garthwaite, stubbornly refusing to retire his 15-year old Osprey pack in Arctic Norway in 2014.

The indestructible Ceres!

My regular climbing partner, Mark Garthwaite, who is one of Scotland’s most accomplished winter climbers, was also given an original Ceres pack at the same time as me, back in 2000. He has used it solely for all his climbing for the subsequent fifteen years, including the North Faces of the Eiger and the Grande Jorasses in winter. He’s very hard on his equipment and I presumed this pack would finally have bitten the dust, but I couldn’t believe it when he showed up with it on our recent trip to Arctic Norway and it looked almost brand new!

Approaching Central Icefall Direct VI 6, during the Welsh Triple Crown, 2013.jpg

‘The Welsh Triple Crown’in 2014, with the iconic Variant 37

In the winter of 2014, I managed to complete Snowdonia’s mythical climbing challenge: a one-day link-up of three contrasting climbs: a 100m vertical ice climb - Central Icefall Direct VI, a 40m vertical trad climb - Lord of the Flies E6 and a fiercely overhanging boulder problem called Jerry’s Roof V9. In preparation, I knew I was going to have to be at the top of my game in all three disciplines and also that equipment choices would be critical. I had to carry a lot of gear and make seamless switches from rock to ice like a triathlete at a changeover station. I decided to use the awesome Variant 37 (Osprey’s statement alpine pack at the time) and this enabled me to transport and access an array of kit such as axes, crampons and helmet, and the carrying comfort was a blessing towards the end of the day when fatigue started to kick in. But little did I know just how important this trusty pack would prove to be. As we reached the top of Central Icefall, there was a deafening roar and half the route collapsed, sending a shower of car-sized ice blocks crashing down on to the slope below. As we descended, hearts in mouths, I spotted my pack halfway down the hillside, with its contents strewn everywhere and was incredulous to discover that it was still in one piece!’

 
 
 Loading up the Variant 37 in Arctic Norway. (This pack has now evolved into a pack called the Mutant)

Loading up the Variant 37 in Arctic Norway. (This pack has now evolved into a pack called the Mutant)

Arctic Norway in 2014 with the Variant 37 & Escapist 20

The Lyngen Alps lie on a remote region of indented coastline in Arctic Norway and in the winter of 2014, I joined a small team of British climbers in a quest to explore its incredible potential for ice climbing. This is undoubtedly one of the toughest trips I’ve ever been on. A typical day involved a 5am start, with a 4 hour snoe-show approach up never ending, waist-deep powder slopes, followed by 5 or 6 pitches of unchartered steep ice and then a delirious torch-light stumble back down to the car. We went climbing every day and didn’t see any other climbers in two weeks. Once again, my Variant 37 proved to be a key accomplice, enabling me to load up my snowshoes and the full spectrum of winter hardware. On the days when we needed to carry our packs up the route I would simply compress it right down and this was so effective that I would virtually forget I was carrying it.

 Pushing the Escapist 20 pack to its limit in Arctic Norway on Ormadelfossen WI 6.

Pushing the Escapist 20 pack to its limit in Arctic Norway on Ormadelfossen WI 6.

The great thing about Osprey packs is that many of them can’t be pigeon-holed for specific usages and they’re sufficiently versatile to cross-over into different activities. The Escapist is designed more as a commuting and low-key hiking pack, but it worked perfectly as a lightweight day-assault pack for carrying up ice routes on our Norway trip. The easy-access front zip made it really easy to stuff our belay jacket in and out whilst hanging on cramped ice-screw belays, and the front pocket, with its handy organization was great for stashing cameras gels and snacks. This pack really enabled us to push the climbing hard, with the minimal fuss or restriction. Of course, our requirements were fairly specialized, but regardless of your chosen activity, it’s important to use a pack that won’t cause limitations when you push yourself in the mountains. 

NB: Osprey packs are constantly evolving and current versions of these packs would be the Mutant alpine pack and Talon/Tempest day series.

 Exploring the boulders of Glendalough, Ireland, with the Talon 22.

Exploring the boulders of Glendalough, Ireland, with the Talon 22.

Scrambling and day excursions – Talon 22

When I’m zipping out locally in the Lakes to explore a mountain crag for new route potential or do a bit of low-key scrambling, the Talon 22 is my pack of choice. This legendary Osprey product has won countless design awards and is the pack by which all other daypacks are judged. I love the comfort and breathability of the Airscape back and am constantly using features such as the Stow-on-the-Go stash system for trekking poles and the Inside-Out compression straps.  

With my trusty Shuttle 100.jpg

Air travel - Shuttle 100

I always used to struggle with my luggage on major climbing trips abroad until discovering Osprey’s amazing travel series. I’d never managed to find a wheely-bag that was robust enough to cope with the demands of a climbing trip. As such, the Shuttle 100 has been the answer to my prayers. The signature Osprey ‘Straight Jackets’ mean you can compress the bag flat when it’s partially full and the 'high wheel base' means you can wheel it across gravel without it grounding out. Bomb-proof in construction, simple in use. Superb.

Using the Poco AG in the Lake District 2015.jpg

Poco AG Premium

Like every parent who loves the outdoors, I find it challenging to divide my time between work and recreation in the hills with my family. The Osprey Poco AG Premium proved to be a great facilitator at that fun stage when my children were tricky to transport! There are no compromises on safety and comfort for the child and the level of incredible Anti-Gravity back-system makes them really comfortable to carry. With an integral sun-shield, detachable rain cover and loads of storage options, the Pocos really are the ‘Ferraris’ of child carriers. They'll do everything apart from guarantee a decent night's sleep.  

Training clinic at Taunton Leisure Bristol, 2017.jpg

Training clinics at specialist outdoor stores in the UK

Part of my role as an athlete ambassador for Osprey Europe is to run clinics for some of our key retail partners in the UK. There is a wealth of fascinating background technical information to learn and I always look forward to discussing the nuances and benefits of Osprey products with fellow enthusiasts. 

 
 
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Product testing with athletes from the Osprey Europe team

One of the best parts of working with Osprey Europe is spending time with some of my fellow athletes on the international team. Osprey work with a diverse range of athletes from Mountain bikers to fell runners, skiers and of course, climbers such as Florence Pinet and Gerome Pouvreau from France. In 2017, I climbed with Florence and Gerome on Peak District gritstone and at Malham cove in Yorkshire Both these climbers are renowned for their big expeditions and their go-to packs are the Atmos and Aura. Florence and Gerome were really impressed with the quality of the crags in the UK and hope to make a return visit.

 Multi-pitch climbing in the Lake District with the Mutant 28.

Multi-pitch climbing in the Lake District with the Mutant 28.

Sport and trad climbing in the UK – Mutant 28

Many rock climbers underestimate the importance of having a decent, well-designed rucksack, but when you’re making a two-hour slog up to a Lake District mountain crag, it proves to be the piece of kit that makes the biggest difference to your day. There are so many non-negotiables here - above all else, you need a precise fit, excellent carrying comfort and the pack needs to feel compact and streamline on your back. Next you need the option of being able to fold-back or remove the hip-belt and compress sides, so you can climb with it on multi-pitch routes.....

 Testing the Mutant 28 and Variant 52 with Charlie Woodburn in the Lake District in 2017.

Testing the Mutant 28 and Variant 52 with Charlie Woodburn in the Lake District in 2017.

.... A further consideration is how you're going to carry your ropes and a pack with a poorly conceived lid won’t enable you to load it up high. If you’re using a rope-bag then this will force you to sling it over your shoulder and curse it every step of the journey. The lid on the Osprey Mutant has a huge extension range and it can also be detached altogether if you're looking to save on bulk and weight. It also features a handy helmet stash facility, which is hidden in the top pocket, for those occasions when you run out of space. When it comes to designing climbing packs, there is always a fine balance to be struck between lightness and durability, and also between simplicity and functionality. It is always possible to argue that something should be done a different way, but the bottom line is that Osprey have over fifty years of experience in this field and they have firm reasons for every last design detail. 

 Transporter duffels doing the business in Norway.  Photo: Gerard Smith

Transporter duffels doing the business in Norway.

Photo: Gerard Smith

Ice climbing trips with the Transporter Duffels

Expedition duffels need to be totally bombproof and easy to lug around and that's about it; yet it's amazing how so few are up to the task! Rather than jumping on the bandwagon, Osprey have gone their own way and sourced a stand-out fabric which is supple, yet sets new standards in durability. I love the  multiple grab handles on the Transporters and the internal packing bag is really useful for hardware such as ice-screws, and quickdraws. These bags were superb on an ice climbing trip to Norway where we were constantly travelling around and re-packing and loading our kit it into a vehicle. 

 Product testing in Norway 2018.  Photo: Gerard Smith

Product testing in Norway 2018.

Photo: Gerard Smith

Testing the new Mutant 38 in Norway

 

More information coming soon.....!

 Product testing in Norway 2018.  Photo: Gerard Smith

Product testing in Norway 2018.

Photo: Gerard Smith

 

See this space for more of my experiences with Osprey and pack reviews. Happy climbing!