Force Ten Alpine 25 rucksack
by Keith Sharples
Forty-odd years ago Force Ten tents had one of the best reputations for resisting every kind of foul weather that Mother Nature could conjure up. Force Tens were used on everything from expeditions to casual camping; many believed them to be peerless. It’s a testament to the ruggedness and the design – a simple A-Frame – that the tents are still produced today withstanding not only the elements but competition from the almost ubiquitous ‘dome’ tent. Now, the Force Ten name and the same famous vibrant orange colour feature on a range of newly-introduced Alpine rucksacks. The three 'sacks, which range in size from 25L through 35L to 45L, have been designed by Force Ten for Alpinists as well as adventure sport enthusiasts as both lightweight and multi-functional rucksacks. Two years in the making by Force Ten, their sponsored athletes put these striking Alpine 'sacks through their paces before being released for the 2015 season.
Many who operate in the Alpine environment subscribe to the age-old axiom ‘light is right’. However, whilst being lightweight is an essential aspect it needs to sit alongside a good, read functional, design as well as being well-constructed from robust materials. We have tested the 25L 'sack over the summer. Admittedly, we haven’t yet (there’s time perhaps, however…) had the opportunity to expose it to the rigours of the Alps, but the Force Ten Alpine 25 has been put to the test in the UK mountains as well as some gnarly urban locales.
Made from Cordura (500D) nylon fabric, the Alpine 25 weighs-in at 860g, not dissimilar to many 'sacks of this ilk although certainly not the lightest by any means. The Cordura feels solid and durable and you don’t feel as though it’ll rip at the first acquaintance with a gnarly chimney, should you need to indulge in such things. The outside of the 'sack is well-featured with four top-to-bottom daisy chain strips, the central two of which double as attachment points for two ice-axes and/or sleep mats. These are fastened via four – two for each axe – elasticated and adjustable straps. The four daisy chain strips also act as the anchors for twin compression straps which run down both sides of the 'sack. The compression straps themselves are 10mm webbing with a fastener and adjuster at both top and bottom. Cinching the compression straps up tight on both sides reduces the 'sack to the proportions of a laptop skin i.e. flat as a proverbial pancake, something which you might want to do if you use the 'sack to walk-in and then pull all your techie climbing kit out to climb and you want to climb with your 'sack to walk off afterwards. Cinching the straps half down, say, leaves plenty of volume for a water bottle, a pair of approach shoes, a waterproof, a spare sweater as well as a guide and a few other bits and bobs. Conversely, opening the straps wide open will allow a rope to be draped over the top (outside) of the 'sack and fastened down ‘inside’ the compression straps for security.
The Alpine 25 comes with a moulded EVA back panel which sits outside and pads an internal stiffener. The shoulder straps, complete with a chest strap and a waist belt, provide both a comfortable and ‘high-up’ carrying platform – the latter proving high enough for the bottom of the 'sack to sit above the user’s waist to enable easy access to the back of a harness etc when multi-pitch climbing. The waist belt can either be removed completely or tucked into a ‘pocket’ behind the EVA padding. On either side of the top ‘lid’ there’s two small but heavily stitched loops which can be used for fastening purposes. There’s also a pretty substantial carrying handle. Inside the pack there’s a single half-height open pocket for stowing slim items such as passports of other documents. The 'sack opening – or rather closing – is zipped up by a ‘high strength durable zip’ which helps prevent ingress of moisture. Finally, a ‘lid pocket’ – again zipped with a water-resistant zip – provides storage for small items such as keys and wallets.
The Alpine 25 is a compelling 'sack. We found it to be well-designed and comfortable to use. Given the use of bombproof Cordura it easily shrugged off the knocks we’ve given it thus far. The compressions straps means that the 'sack volume is not only highly adjustable but can be used for rope carrying purposes as well – a nice multi-functional touch. The weather resistant zips and thick Cordura, backed-up with the internally taped seems, easily withstood your average downpour. The ‘lip zip’ shuts nice and tight although the main compartment zip – being a two-way zip – does meet in the middle and doesn’t quite form a water-resistant closing although the chances of much water getting inside the 'sack are reduced if/when the zips are closed in the middle of the 'sack i.e. behind the user’s head. Perhaps the addition of a small Velcro closing tab would be worthwhile addition downstream to further protect against ingress of moisture? The zips themselves are pretty stiff when they’re new and need two-handed operation i.e. one hand to hold the 'sack and the other to pull (quite forcibly) the zip. This eases with use and whilst it’s a bit of a faff at times the increased weather-sealing is welcome when the bad weather sets in.
All-in-all, we liked the Alpine 25 and believe it to be a good compromise between weight and durability and hence suitable for the Alpine environment as well as perhaps a two-day event 'sack also.