Ortovox Free Rider 26L ReviewOctober 12, 2013
- This pack is burly and built to last many seasons
- Very comfortable, breathable back panel
- Intelligently designed in terms of pocket sizes/locations, stowable carry straps, and gadgetry, like a padded goggle pocket
- At 4 pounds, 5 ounces, it was the heaviest ski pack I tested last winter
- There’s no carry system for non-split snowboards
- Ski-carry strap material is extra strong, but it can be tough to cinch in a pinch
This is a terrific, top-of-the-line pack, so long as you value having seven zippered pockets and a (removable) spine protector more than low weight. If not, opt for something else.
Half-inch-thick pads on the back panel support your trunk and let your back breathe better than usual. The hip straps are the widest in the business and connect by Velcro and a buckle, which gives the pack a sturdier foundation.
The side and diagonal ski-carry straps tend to be hard to adjust. This made for a frustrating moment on a frigid, wind-blasted hike up Breckenridge’s Peak 9. It is a boon to have both side and diagonal ski-carry options, but snowboarders must look elsewhere.
With a stowable external helmet carry cap and diagonal ski straps, back-panel access with a spine protector built into the panel, a padded goggle case, enough pockets to keep seven rival hamsters separated, and an insulated hydration sleeve, the question isn’t whether there are enough gadgets—the question is whether there are too many.
The Free Rider gets the job done, but the extra weight tended to catch up with me over many hours in the field.
This pack makes you feel like Terminator, with good reason. You get the sense it would survive a 1,000-foot cartwheel through scree. The only real issue is whether the Velcro on the hip straps will still stick after a few years.
It’s hard to pay $229 for a traditional backcountry ski pack these days.