The Ortovox Peak 45 checks all the boxes for use in alpine environments. The 45-liter top loading pack provides access from the front and side through a circumferential zipper. The main fabric is a robust 420d “Manstar” nylon and the pack has all the accoutrements typical of a high end mountain bag.
The standout feature however is the “Swisswool” back panel which is created from pressed Swiss wool, giving it the same advantages of wool clothing, most notably effective microclimate management through sweat absorption and dissipation. The back panel is designed for maximum surface area contact, a departure from the usual channeling aimed at creating less contact area and more airflow. The Swisswool panel relies on its ability to absorb a claimed 29x more moisture than a comparable foam/3d mesh back panel, as well as enhanced dissipation (Ortovox says its 7% more breathable). The large total contact area also disperses the pack’s load more evenly when compared to the competition.
Although aimed at the alpine community, I found the Swisswool back panel of the Peak 45 advantageous while rock guiding in the summer heat. It did indeed absorb large amounts of sweat, leaving its surface – and my base layer – drier than my usual guiding pack. I had less of the clammy feeling while approaching the cliffs and a drier shirt when taking the pack off at the base of the routes. I can see how this pack would be more comfortable during high output ascending when only a base layer is required but the effectiveness of moisture management would be nullified once a shell is donned. That said however, the pack functions well as a climbing oriented pack regardless of the Swisswool functions.
The comfort and fit of the Peak 45 is admirable. The full contact back panel and absorbency of the wool material definitely lessened sweat accumulation on the back during warm weather approaches. The back panel, shoulder straps, and hip belt fit me well and their level of cushioning, even in light summer clothing, proved adequate even as loads creeped into the 30+ pound range.
The aluminum stays used in the Peak 45 provide just the right amount of rigidity and load transfer to feel stable even with 70m ropes, full racks, and several liters of water required for summer climbing. Even when caring such a heavy load it managed to avoid feeling so stiff that movement is hampered in any way.
The Peak 45 rates high in storage capacity. The internal volume of the main compartment is joined by a zipped front compartment (specifically designed for alpine safety gear) and a lid with a zipped main pocket and secondary zipped flat pocket. There is also a zippered pocket on one side of the hip belt and exterior locations for strapping ropes, skis and ice axes. Each of these options helps the wearer to stay more organized on the trail.
This backpack ranked high on the durability scale. Using it for typical rock guiding work in demanding environs over a three-week period had no noticeable effects on the fabric or components. High compression tension (via four side compression straps and two lid securing straps) against hard, metal rock climbing protection also caused no concerns.
The designers at Orotovox have given this pack plenty of extras to appease the alpine enthusiast. Ice axe, crampon and ski pole specific attachments, rope stowage, hip belt gear loop, and the safety kit specific front pocket are starters. Hydration bladder compatibility, external map compartment, sternum strap whistle, and emergency signaling instructions printed on the lid only add to the list.
The Ortovox Peak 45 combines a functional alpine pack with the moisture management ability of the Swisswool back panel. Although marketed towards alpine touring and climbing, I found this feature provided welcome relief during rock climbing approaches in the summer heat. This bag is a welcome addition to my pack quiver that specifically addresses moisture accumulation no matter the season.
Find out more at www.ortovox.com MSRP: $189.00 Verified weight: 3.42 lbs.