Jeff Outdoors –
Mountain Hardware Via Rapida 35
The man abuses outdoor gear, so you don’t have to
I own far too many backpacks. So, when I got invited on a Swiss Alps hut ski trip, the first thing I did was buy a new pack. The recommended pack size was 30 liters, so I narrowed my scope to two packs designed for 30 liter ski mountaineering. The Deuter Freerider Pro 30 and the Mountain Hardware Via Rapida 35. They both looked perfect for a 6 day hut trip on spring snow. I have loved my Arc Teryx Borea ski pack, but it’s a bit big and heavy for a European hut trip (no sleeping bag, stove, fuel, or dinners to pack). Eventually, I found the Via Rapida in a local shop in medium and bought it. It’s 2135 cubic inches with the lid, but it shrinks beautifully for day skiing.
So far, I’ve hauled it around the local ski hill, skied on the local trails many times, hiked up my icy road a dozen times, and skinned up a local peak with it on New Year’s Day. I’ve gotten used to the new strange features it has and have come to appreciate some of the little things.
The lid comes off easily. I’ve found that I don’t use it at all… yet. Once the lid is off, there is a little flap that acts as a top, which fastens to the same buckles that the lid snaps to. The buckles are switched so that you don’t accidentally snap the left side into the right side, etc. This seemed nonsensical to me at first, but when I started strapping all kinds of gear to the outside when I was snowshoeing with friends, I quickly came to appreciate the difference, although different color buckles would work just as well.
The drawstrings and locks are funky also. Pull on the red tab to close, pull on the yellow tab to open while pulling the collar open. You could also just squeeze the barrel lock, but once you get used to grabbing the tab, it becomes easier than trying to squeeze the little lock with gloves on.
There are two stash pockets that are accessible from the top and have zipper closures. I didn’t think I’d ever use them, but now I use them so much I don’t like using my other packs.
Even the key zipper pulls and buckles can be used with mitts on because they’ve added medial tubing so each zipper tab sticks out. There are easy to grab compression straps on the sides, which double as ski stabilizers AND they are all quick release instead of just sliders. The ski straps/loops on the sides are nice and burly and wide enough for all but the big powder skis. I though my double cambers would flop around in them, but the compression straps held them tight. There is no reinforcement on the sides to keep your edges from cutting the material (it is ripstop, though). In fact the whole pack is fairly light nylon compared to my Borea, but it hasn’t had a breech yet. The front panel is made of Dyneema (whatever that is) and is supposed to be able to handle sharp mountaineering type things without getting thrashed too much.
The pack has a funky feature that allows for strapping your skis in a cross fashion on the front panel, but it interferes with storing your shovel, so I’m not sold on that feature. Maybe if you are a snowboarder, you could use this feature, but then, if you’re a snowboarder, I’m not going to wait and find out. If you have a shovel with big enough holes in the blade, there are these cute little aluminum bottle openers attached to little bungee cords that hold your shovel on the outside of the pack. It’s remarkably fast to remove the shovel, yet it stays put in a yard sale.
The big front Dyneema panel pocket has a zipper top, but the pack’s compression straps tunnel through this pocket, which allows snow to get in. The adjustment of the compression straps is inside this front pocket (nearly inaccessible), which I thought was a bad design, until I realized that the straps only need adjusting in unusual circumstances. And when those circumstances arise, you’ll happy to have the flexibility.
I’m not a fan of white material on anything that I use in the snow OR the dirt. It’s a stupid choice of color for several reasons. My Via Rapida has white on the front panel. Also, there is a nifty little whistle on the sternum strap that I have not been able to rip off. The whistle sticks up enough that when you have gloves on, you think that the whistle is the buckle release, so you end up squeezing the whistle for three minutes thinking that the buckle is stuck. This is a bad idea for rescue situations. I don’t think you’d get much sympathy from your buried ski buddy, when, after the rescue, you tell him he could have breathed a bit sooner if you hadn’t been squeezing your whistle.
There are a lot of little tweaks that this pack has that makes me think they asked the right people when they designed it. For instance, there are sewn patches on the shoulder straps that are burly enough to hold a King radio, as well as little rings that are great for clipping on a camera or altimeter. The waist buckle system takes some getting used to if you’ve never used one like this, but in the end, you’ll like it. And the whole waist belt comes off for the super light days or air travel. The key ring in the pocket is easy to use with mitts on, and even the shovel handle keeper is quick release and steadfast.
Lastly, the frame sheet keeps this pack light, yet strong enough to haul 30 pounds on a training hike. The 30 pounds on a steep narrow trail felt like nothing. I had excellent center of balance, no rub spots, and overall comfort.
- Designed by backcountry users for backcountry use
- Very adjustable
- Just enough gadgets and features, which are well thought out
- Front pocket exposed to snow entry
- Stupid little whistle on the sternum strap
- It’s $180, which is more than some other similar packs
- Someone always asks, “Why did they name it Via Rapida?”
The absolute best day ski pack I’ve ever tried.
There you go. The Jeff Outdoors has spoken.
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