By Jonathan Doyle
Backpacks are often one of the most underrated and neglected piece of outdoor equipment we use. Their performance can make or break an outing; an uncomfortable, heavy or poorly designed backpack can turn even the most casual day out into an endurance feat. From my experience, it is absolutely worth spending a good deal of time researching the best bag for your needs.
I’ve had the Blue Ice Yeti backpack for quite some time now and I have taken every opportunity to really put it through its paces. I’ve used it for everything from trad climbing in the Lake District, to winter climbing in Scotland, as well as multi-pitch mountain routes in the Italian Dolomites.
The first thing that crossed my mind was how light it was, much lighter than my old Karrimor backpack. It comes in at 1.35Kg and can be reduced to just 900g with the removal of the lid, internal aluminium struts and waist belt. You would perhaps think that this weight reduction would be at the cost of durability, but no, having relentlessly thrown the Yeti around, it shows little sign of wear with no visible scuffing to the rip-stop Cordura (210 denier) body of the bag. Once more, the base has been fitted with extra strong 420 denier Cordura for additional strength. The bag has also been coated with a polyurethane (PU) and finished with a durable water repellent. I can attest that the Blue Ice Yeti has remained superbly waterproof throughout its continued use, even when smaller backpacks with waterproof covers have failed.
I found the Blue Ice Yeti backpack to be comfortable and well-fitting in general, and I was able to carry a full day’s worth of climbing equipment for many hours with little discomfort. Much of the bag’s comfort derives from the thermoformed ergonomic AlpineContact back panel, which is designed to closely fit your back, allowing its centre-of-gravity to remain close to your body. In addition, the material adapts to the curvature of your back, which is meant to allow air to circulate along the built-in lateral grooves. However, I found this effect to be minimal, with my back getting sweaty fairly quickly. With this, I would say that while the airflow isn’t the best here, the warmth of the bag is certainly well suited for more alpine environments. The Blue Ice Yeti has a narrow profile in order to maximise your manoeuvrability, but this means in order to maintain its large 50l capacity, the bag is quite tall, meaning that shorter users may find their head catches on the bag when they look up.
While the Blue Ice Yeti is minimalistic in its design, it still has several useful features to maximise its versatility. For example, it has lateral compression straps on both sides, perfect for carrying your skis, a roll mat, or even your tent. There are also two ice-axe holders which are very quick and easy to use, and of course there are pick guards at the base too. The bag’s lid features several pockets to store your valuables, and when combined with the removable waist belt, it can be used as a lumbar pack (bum bag). This is perfect for taking perhaps a bottle of water and a light layer with you on your route. There is also a water-bladder pocket and a strap to easily secure a climbing rope under the lid too.
Overall, the Blue Ice Yeti Backpack is a wonderfully versatile backpack perfect for those people searching for a lightweight, yet supremely durable carrying system. There's an odd feature I would have liked included, such as water bottle holders on its flanks, however I can understand that with a bag primarily designed for alpinism, these are perhaps not a priority. I will certainly be continuing to use this bag into the future, and I would certainly recommend it to others.