Like many this year I am looking into improving my own safety. Last years winter brought us immense amounts of snow in short intervals causing more avalanches and creating mostly a more unstable snow pack. That and the fact that we were progressively going to more dangerous places, it is the right time to get an ABS Backpack. With a Vario Base unit still in the mail I already had decided that it was time to get a zip-on. The small 15L once from ABS didn`t fit my profile, as I always have to carry at least my DSLr with one lens so I was looking something akin to a Dakine Heli Pro, my bag of choice Naturally I was excited at the ISPO in January to see Dakine going the ABS compatible zip-on route.
The Zip-On untouched
Now half a year has passed and the pricing info for the zip-ons from ABSs partners came out, and guess what. Dakine wants 200 EUR bucks for a zip-on. Naturally to that I said no thnx, since my job doesn`t print money like a 3DS does for Nintendo, so I started looking for another alternative. Even at ISPO the small german company EVOC, coming form the bike sector had caught my Eye. They have been making cool backpacks for reasonable prices for while for us powder-hunters too, so I decided to give them a try.
That´s where I ran into the first problem. EVOC is not that big a company and to my knowledge doesn`t even have a distributor in Slovenia. I looked at Austria and found that only Blue Tomato seemed to carry there winter stuff. Yay 10% markup .. great I thought. After checking there site thou I saw that the zip-on actually had the manufacturer quoted price from the ISPO. Good.
With a little twist of fate, as it happened my brother had been in Vienna the moment I was checking the prices online. He called me about some Nintendo Wii game from the Mariahilfer-Straße, Vienna’s premier shopping street, where coincidentally you can find a Blue Tomato store. And so the pack was here in Maribor even before my base-unit XD.
Quality and Materials
At first glance it seems like it is well made. The material seems good, the seems at the zippers are sealed, the zip belt straps are wide enough and the carry system looks good. I also Like the feel of the strapeners. They have a nice metallic feel to it too and are made from aluminum and not just strong polymer. All in all a nice package Well see how it holds up over the season. The materials include a combination of different rip-stop material and hypalon.
The zip-on has a nice layout. On the outer side you have a nice big frontal storage for maps, papers and a little Varta flashlight. It`s all above the bigger middle compartment that has space for your wallet and other stuff like memory cards, chocolate, a bandana ect.
Above it you will find the standard goggle compartment that’s inlayed with fleece to keep your goggles protected from scratches.
Underneath all this is the big compartment for all your essential safety gear. And this one is really where the pack shines. It has two nice inner pockets for your probe and the stem from your shovel. The shovel surface nicely fits above these to and still leaves plenty of unobstructed room for stuff like a fleece, first aid and your DSLR. A nice touch also comes in the form off a little avalanche instruction notice on first hand procedures, should you zone out and forget your search pattern.
One thing that I do miss is a bottle carry. since the ABS system is on the side you cant put it there, like Im used to on my Heli Pro bag but hey! Don`t fret. Even for this we get a bit more advanced. In the underside of the entire inner pack you will find space for a hydration pack. It should work with most packs and it`s strap nicely leads up, to a port at the top of the pack and is covered by what seems to be neoprene-like lining. All in all more then one can ask for in some of the other bags.
Also for all you climbers there is a nice ice axe or pick carry next to the the ski carry lower strap in the lower middle of the bag. When you carry the skis diagonally the pick will nicely rest in the middle clear of your skis.
From my first basic inspection it seems to be similar to my old trusted and practical Dakine bag and that is good. After riding with it for 3 seasons one gets used to having his stuff at the same spots and in critical situations thinking of where to find component X can cost you valuable time. For that the layout gets a thumbs up form me.
Ski carry system
Yes I am one of those people who like to carry there skis diagonally. Many of you will disagree and there are reasons you would want to fit each one on one side but in my personal preference climbing some steel icy side with nothing but your boots to dig into the crust and only poles to hold you it`s easier to keep my balance. But that`s not all. Since the zip-on can also carry a snowboard vertically you can attache the skis like that too. Once could say best of both worlds :P. Also the carry straps for the skis are specially reinforced so that they should guarantee a few seasons of abuse. Since my old bag used similar materials and none of the reinforcement I think they should do fine. Can`t wait to test them.
Whistle baby, Whistle baby… where are tau
One thing that kinda got me puzzled was the safety whistle. Sure it don´t seem like much until you are in fog seeing only a few meters front or back. It´s cold and you can´t whistle .. that’s when you need it. Well the spec of the zip-on says that it is integrated somewhere but I couldn´t find it even after a thorough inspection. If anyone know where it is let me know. Maybe I´m just to dumb to see it 😛
Well so much for a quick review/overview of the EVOC solution to the ABS zip-on. Next up I`ll pair it with the ABS unit when it arrives sometime in the coming week. And special thnx go to Vertical Advantures, Chouka and Anze for hooking me up with that tool for a little less then it goes 🙂