|I’ve been working on my winter ensemble. Avalung packs by Black Diamond are beautifully made and intriguing, so I thought I’d give one a try in long-term test. A Covert model arrived yesterday — here is a firstlook. (Click image above to enlarge.)
Avalung packs come in two models. They’re from BD’s overall pack line, but include an Avalung integrated with a clean and effective tube and vent arrangement. Anarchist is a top loader with a bit more volume than the panel loading Covert, which is reviewed here. Avalung is built the same way in both. I’ve got a love/hate relationship with panel loaders. They’re easy to load and look cool in photos, but weigh more than top loaders for a given volume and do a poor job of keeping your gear dry in rain or wet snow. We’ll see what I’ve got to say after a few months of use. Promise, I’ll try to love it.
|Black Diamond’s attention to detail is evident everywhere. The obligatory key clip hides in a possibles pouch that’s commodious and easily accessed under the inside panel zipper. Tool loops retract inside with an easy finger pull, and strapomania is kept to pre Prozak levels with just four compression (and snowboard) straps and a pair of ski mounting straps on the back. Overall fabric and consequent weight are a bit on the hefty side for this guy, but I’ll live with it — and might even find a bit of razor blading that’ll make the Covert’s mass more acceptable.|
|One shoulder strap has a zipper compartment for the Avalung bite tube, while the other strap holds your drinking sip tube. Other packs with built in hydration can be a challenge when it’s 2:00 AM and you’re trying to weave your tube through multiple holes and fabric layers as your buddy waits in his car outside your house. Covert has one clean hole that leads your tube from main compartment to the shoulder strap. In seconds you’ll have your tube installed and be zooming off with your bud for that big adventure. A built-in pouch holds the bladder, with a tie-tab above if you like suspending your drinking bladder so it stays flat against your back instead of folding up in a back stabbing wad.|
|Most interesting for last: Black Diamond’s ingenious and somewhat controversial Avalung breathing device is built in. You deploy the breathing tube from a zippered pouch in the left shoulder strap. Idea is to keep it out and handy whenever in avalanche terrain, and even keep it in your mouth if you’re in an extremely dangerous situation (e.g., skiing a touchy slope.) Excellent instructions are included, as is a nose clip to satisfy government requirements for a safety breathing device, though most users will be leaving this at home. (Tests indicate the Avalung works without a nose clip, so fine. )
I’d be remiss to not offer my opinion about the Avalung as a life saver. I’ve said it before: the device is a good idea and I’ll frequently use one when climbing or skiing possible avalanche slopes. On the other hand, from personal experience I know it will not only be tough to get the mouthpiece inserted in some situations, but the mouthpiece could easily be ripped from your mouth in larger more violent avalanches. Which brings me to an idea I’ve had for some time. How about a passive Avalung? One that turns on automatically and blows fresh air in your face after you’re buried? Such wouldn’t be that hard to build…
Another avalanche safety related feature of the Covert is a nicely constructed organizer for rescue shovel, probe etcetera. This is in the rear compartment, which can thus be dedicated to carrying your rescue gear and making it quick to access. Speaking of safety and gear access, I prefer my pack’s backboard and padding to be removable for splinting and such. Covert’s is sewed in, but could easily be removed through a few quickly cut slits.
Overall impression: It wasn’t long ago that ski packs were a rare breed. That sure changed. Now an ocean of ski/snowboard packs can keep a shopper treading water for hours. But look first at the Covert and Anarchist and perhaps you’ll save some swimming time. They’re as true to being real ski packs as I can imagine…
Weight size L/XL: 55.9 oz, 1584 g
WildSnow.com publisher emeritus and founder Lou (Louis Dawson) has a 50+ years career in climbing, backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering. He was the first person in history to ski down all 54 Colorado 14,000-foot peaks, has authored numerous books about about backcountry skiing, and has skied from the summit of Denali in Alaska, North America’s highest mountain.