#106 – ” …. Sack it to me ….!”


My wife doesn’t understand me (as the saying goes).  Is it so difficult to understand that an outdoors chap needs more than one rucksack?  Well, this one does anyway.  I’m also a ‘label’ man – I tend to stick with brand names that have proved reliable in the past on my hill trips, and when it comes to rucksacks, Berghaus is the brand I’ve come to trust.

A small part of my modest ‘rucksack collection’

A small part of my modest ‘rucksack collection’

My first Berghaus ‘sack’ was an early version of the ‘Cyclops Roc’ in Military Olive Green.  I had it for 4 years in the Royal Marines, where it was used and abused, thrown into landing craft, dropped out of helicopters, stuffed into the back of Bedford 4 ton trucks, and used to carry silly weights all day without discomfort.  As I said, it’s a brand I’ve come to trust.

Berghaus ‘Powder’ rucksack - Curved Ridge, Buachaille Etive Mor, Glencoe  (MB)

Berghaus ‘Powder’ rucksack – Curved Ridge, Buachaille Etive Mor, Glencoe (MB)

The right size rucksack for me  - on the Rhyd Ddu Path, Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon)

The right size rucksack for me – on the Rhyd Ddu Path, Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon)

The Berghaus ‘Powder’, a great 3 season rucksack, now sadly discontinued

The Berghaus ‘Powder’, a great 3 season rucksack, now sadly discontinued

I’m still using Berghaus Rucksacks.  My general pack for 3 season use is the Berghaus ‘Powder’, one of the ‘Extrem’ range.  For some reason Berghaus dropped this model from their UK range shortly after introducing it – they must have been crazy, because it’s a fantastic small rucksack that is big on quality (hope you are listening, Berghaus!)  Originally designed for skiers, it also makes a great all-round mountaineering sack – their Powder Keg 30 is the nearest current equivalent.

Winter – a bigger rucksack …

Winter – a bigger rucksack …  (JB)

…. carries more kit

…. carries more kit  (JB)

The Berghaus Arete 40 – a good winter rucksack with lots of room  (JB)

The Berghaus Arete 40 – a good winter rucksack with lots of room (JB)

A rucksack around 30 litres or so works fine for me in summer, but winter is a different matter – I’ve used the Berghaus Arete 40 Tour for a couple of winters now, and it does all I want.  It’s another bag originally designed for skiers, but a narrow profile, attachments for ice axes and other equipment and 40 litre capacity for extra winter gear, make it as near perfect for winter use as I could wish for.  Unfortunately this excellent pack has also been discontinued, but lives on as the Berghaus Tour 35.

The Berghaus Freeflow 20 in use – Cwm Idwal

The Berghaus Freeflow 20 in use – Cwm Idwal

A good day for testing gear!  Everyone else bailing out and going home ….

A good day for testing gear! Everyone else bailing out and going home ….

…. but the intrepid party carry on in the opposite direction!

…. but the intrepid party carry on in the opposite direction!

As well as failing to understand my need for a collection of rucksacks, my wife also believes that even my summer weight rucksack is ridiculously heavy.  She may have a point, so when I received a Berghaus Freeflow 20 to try out a couple of weeks ago, I stuffed a few things in it and gave it to her to carry.  To make the photographs more interesting I suggested a walk round Llyn Idwal, and visitors Ros and Michael were also coerced into coming along to make up the numbers.

Rucksack testing – walking round the lake of Llyn Idwal

Rucksack testing – walking round the lake of Llyn Idwal

The Berghaus Freeflow 20

The Berghaus Freeflow 20

Note the gap for ventilation

Note the gap for ventilation

Pressing on towards Idwal Slabs

Pressing on towards Idwal Slabs

The Freeflow range has a useful feature – an integral frame that fits comfortably against the back, making a gap between the rucksack and the wearer to allow airflow and reduce sweat.  I didn’t take to that immediately, as I prefer a closer body-hugging pack for mountaineering, and I am prepared to put up with a damp back.  Chris thought it was great though, and the gap meant that hard, lumpy objects could be carried comfortably without having to pad them.

The path by the lake below Twll Du (Devil’s Kitchen)

The path by the lake below Twll Du (Devil’s Kitchen)

My other problem with this pack is the ‘teardrop’ shape – it surprised me by having more capacity than appearances suggested, but everything sat at the bottom of the pack, and it was difficult to utilise the space at the top and still be able to close the zip – there’s a new model of the Berghaus Freeflow 20 on the market now, and the new shape suggests that this issue has been addressed.

On the way home for tea and medals

On the way home for tea and medals

To summarise, I found this pack too small, but Chris says that I carry too much anyway.  For serious mountain walking or mountaineering I go for about 30 litres, with 40 litres in winter.  I’ll probably use the Freeflow 20 locally when walking the dog, where it’s smaller size will be ideal for a set of waterproofs, a doggie Frisbee and other dog stuff.  In the meantime, it made a good excuse for a walk round Cwm Idwal.

Daddy, Mummy and Baby Rucksack

Daddy, Mummy and Baby Rucksack

When we got back to the car I couldn’t resist taking a pic of the three sacks together, like the Three Bears, Daddy, Mummy and Baby – I didn’t half get some funny looks!

Text and images © Paul Shorrock

Except image tagged (MB) © Mark Bradley, and images tagged (JB) © John Bamber

About Paul Shorrock

I've been mucking about in the mountains for longer than I care to mention. I started out by walking my local hills, then went on to rock climbing, mountaineering and skiing. Still doing it, and still getting a buzz. I'm now sharing the fun, through my guided walking business (Hillcraft Guided Walking) and by writing routes for other publishers, mainly Walking World and Discovery Walking Guides. Just to make sure I keep really busy, I am also currently a member of my local mountain rescue team.
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25 Responses to #106 – ” …. Sack it to me ….!”

  1. Never had a Berghaus. My boots and rucksack are made by Gelert (which I bought outside Criccieth in North Wales). I have had the boots about 8 years and have walked hundreds (maybe thousands) of miles in all weathers and terrains and they cost me about £24. The ruckackcost me about £20 – same with that – good in all weathers and very strong. Both will probably see another 10 years or so.

    • Haha … you would get on great with Chris – She often pokes fun at my ‘label’ mentality, and sometimes she has a point. I like modern ‘techy’ type gear as it sometimes out-performs more traditional kit, but the question has to be asked – how long will it last?

      I have an ancient Karrimor sack that’s over 30 years old, and for years it was my only sack – eventually it started to fray where the base fitted to my back – I sent it to Karrimor asking could they do anything with it, and it came back, not as good as new but better than new, with extra reinforcing, and all for no charge! (Don’t touch Karrimor now – they were taken over a couple of years back, and much of their current stuff is cheap tat)

      Will my modern gear last that long? Probably not, but it’s generally lighter and performs better. I suppose it’s people like me that have made the outdoor gear industry an ‘industry’ 😀

  2. You find things that suit over the years don’t you? I’ve generally used both Berghaus and Lowe Alpine, but my current backpacking sack is Osprey. I do have to try them properly though, as the ‘backs’ don’t always suit my back – and thank goodness ‘women’s’ rucksacks were introduced some time ago; no more sore and painful hips and base of spine………….

    • The introduction of women’s specific gear has revolutionised the outdoor world IMHO.

      It’s more than just adding a fuchsia waterproof with shorter arms to the catalogue as a token gesture – it marks an acknowledgement in the outdoors world that women can perform at an equal standard to men.

      • … except I have to buy the men’s specific gear to perform at an equal standard to men as my arms and legs are probably longer than theirs! I usually get women’s boots though as I believe the heel is narrower and mine are certainly narrow.

      • Haha … Now I see how you cover those monster mileages on your walks – it’s yer longer legs 😀

        Joking apart, what I meant was that that women are now acknowledged as being equal to men in the outdoors, covering the whole range of activities working down from serious rock-climbing, winter mountaineering, white water canoeing, etc. And a good thing too!

      • We sure are! I always make sure I race men on the hills just to ensure they know it! 😉

      • I’m always amazed to see the gear the women wore in old film clips – they did some tough walks, climbs etc – and often in skirts! The ones you see gallivanting around are to be praised for their courage at the time, but they no doubt had a bit of money. I don’t suppose ‘ordinary’ women had much opportunity. Having said that, I nearly had a fit when I went into an outdoor shop recently in search of a new fleece and saw the prices.
        Re women’s gear – am I the only woman who doesn’t want to be swathed head to toe in bright pink??
        Boots can be a problem – ladies boots are generally too narrow at the toe for me, and mens boots too wide at the heel. Thankfully I eventually found some Dolomites that are really comfy.

      • ” …. am I the only woman who doesn’t want to be swathed head to toe in bright pink??”

        In a word, no! Most of the gear that Chris wears is in a fetching shade of … black 😀
        As for expensive gear, us ‘label freaks’ tend to be a bit superior about kit – Chris loves a bargain, and once set herself the objective of finding a Gore-tex jacket in her charity shop explorations. I said ‘Forget it, no one will send Gore-tex gear to a charity shop”. Before too long she came up with a perfectly serviceable ‘North Face’ jacket, followed a year or so later by a ‘Lowe Alpine’. Neither of them in bright pink …. 🙂

      • Being serious about clothing colours for a minute though – I don’t necessarily buy ‘girlie’ colours but I nowadays insist on something bright which isn’t white (can’t see it in snow), black (can’t see it in snow as it matches the rocks or low light conditions), green or brown. If I fall and break more bones, i want someone to be able to find me!

      • Yep, I’m with you in that one – I’m sure readers of the blog will have noticed by now that my top (fleece/waterproof/whatever) is almost always red, a trademark of mine now. Yes, even the rucksacks are red 🙂

  3. Sad or what – your post inspired me to check out our current rucksack collection. Oldest is a Karrimor O Bound ll, tall and heavy (like it’s owner ha ha). I used to have a heavy canvas one in a lovely khaki colour that had a proper frame – quite handy when you stopped to eat, which was often, and you could rummage without it falling over. It must have been chucked out or rotted away.The biggest one we have now is a Berghaus with ventilated back support and it’s very good. I have my own minor collection of smaller rucksacks – a Karrimor (comfy but the strap is broken), a North Cape, and a Vango. They all have different pocket arrangements and I can never decide which is most convenient. The North Cape, appropriately enough, has it’s own built in rain cape. Now that is handy!

    • What a Pandora’s Box I have opened, with rucksack collections being surveyed from Cumbria to Cornwall!

      I was rock climbing in Langdale once, and this drunk staggered up to Raven Crag from the ODG Hotel. He reckoned he was going climbing, and his gear was in a carrier-bag – apparently he didn’t need a rucksack 😀

  4. We’ve still got our family canvas rucksacks – Goldilocks ones – large for Dad, large and framed for Mum, pretty small for my bro and tiny for me! We keep wondering what to do with them and whether a museum or something would want them?

    I manage to cram everything (and I mean everything, even in winter), into, or onto, my 10L bumbag. Groups Leaders and guides have challenged me in the past as they’re sure I must be missing some essential kit but, after they’ve run through a checklist and I’ve said “yep” to all, they look surprised but go silent. It helps that it has 2 external flask pockets so that’s all the drinks sorted before I put anything in it. Crampons and microspikes are fitted externally via its straps and I always carry my ice-axe in my hand if I’m taking it. I only take a rucsac if I’m bothying really – but then I have to have an air-back system!

    • My view is that once you have the experience to make an informed decision on what you wear or carry, then it’s up to the individual. There are too many smart-arses in car parks ready to challenge the amount of kit we either carry or don’t carry.

      I started carrying loads of stuff in the Royal Marines, ‘cos you needed loads of kit! When I joined Penrith MR team in 1981, I again carried quite a bit of extra gear, and once I started with a search dog I found that I needed to carry more, for me and the dog and for the person I was searching for, as I was usually working alone.

      Chris got me into carrying less, mainly by laughing at the amount of stuff I used to carry, but it started creeping up again when I started doing guided walks – you wouldn’t believe the size of first aid kit I carry when I’m with clients!

      I’ve got to say though, some of the best days I’ve had in the hills were when I was running regularly, and I would go out for a day with a bum-bag with a fleece top and a pertex smock – the feeling of freedom was sublime, and safety was in speed!

      • I’ve never tried Pertex but I know it’s supposed to be good.

        I have to admit to being selfish and only carrying for myself and not anyone else – I know I carry Richard’s flask but he carries the cake 😉

      • Pertex is a bit like Gore-tex insofar as people tend to expect more than it can deliver. The latest incarnation of the fabric can shrug off showers, and if it does get wet it doesn’t chill you as it dries out,but it has limitations. I’m lucky enough to have a fairly broad range of gear to suit most conditions.

        I don’t think it’s selfish just carrying for yourself, especially when you are self sufficient – what IS selfish is not carrying enough then expecting someone else to come and bail you out.

        Chris and I employ a form of division of labour – I carry the heavier flask, and her bottle of juice, as well as a bladder of water for me and t’dog – she carries the sarnies, lighter but a bit bulky. If I want me lunch I have to make sure she is there with me, and not lying in a bog somewhere 🙂

  5. May as well add to the women’s clothes bit then…….
    I buy men’s shirts, jackets etc more often than not for two main reasons:

    1) The Berghaus, North Face etc type of makes seem to think that all women have a beautifully proportioned pinched-in waist, the likes of which I could only ever achieve whilst wearing a surgical corset…..

    2) The same ‘expensive’ makes also seem to think that the average female in the mountains seems to want to wear tops that are barely long enough to even reach their trousers, thereby making for rather cold and draughty tummies……….look good on the High Street though (as long as you’ve got the aforementioned flat, pinched-in tummy of course)……..

    If I sound a bit cynical and bitter about this, it’s because I am!!!

    • Hahaha … Nowt wrong wi’ being cynical 🙂

    • Both me and Richard find jackets way too short nowadays. I’ve just bought a Paramo softshell jacket (Pajara maybe?) and, while it’s a great jacket, it’s shorter than I would like (and it’s the men’s one) and, when I have my waist belt done up, it’s a struggle to get my hands into the handwarmer pockets so I have to keep putting my gloves on instead.

  6. Paul, my wife doesn’t understand me either about gear. I have I think 5 rucksacks and probably use 3 on a regular basis, one backingpacking and a summer and a winter day sack. This means that I can sell the other 2 and buys some new gear with the proceeds 🙂

  7. LensScaper says:

    I’m late on this one, Paul. Had to go away and count them all up! So far I’ve counted six! A Lowe Alpine back-packing sac, a Karrimor that went up Kili and back and has since been to K2 with my son, and occasionally goes to the Alps. A neat lightweight Vaude sac for days out that can carry an axe for day climbs, A Black Diamond and a Dakine that I’ve used skiing – the Dakine was a waste of money, over heavy as a sac, and the Black Diamond was much the better in terms of fit, (but I really haven’t got the use out of it as I’ve decided I’m too old to start ski-touring) and then a thin-profile North Face sac I always wear when skiing – slim so I never have to take it off when riding a Chairlift. The secret to a good sac is one that doesn’t leave your back soaked in sweat and the ones I’ve got, apart from the Lowe, are all good in that respect. You can never have too many sacs: horses for courses as they say.

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