A great, all round climbing and mountaineering pack. Proudly made and worn in the UK.
Here at CGR we do love that our readership is global and we hope that our broad range of reviews and products offer everyone, around the world, informed and detailed information so that you can make informed buying choices. We have also been working with some small pack manufacturers over in the states and Richie’s review of the Alpine Luddites pack is a great example of small, craft outfits making great kit.
But we are based in the UK and love to unashamedly work with UK outdoor brands that make outstanding climbing equipment – and we have plenty of them! With that in mind it was really nice that we got in touch with Aiguille Alpine and after a chat they agreed to let us review a pack of our choice. This is part of our occasional Made in Britain series – highlighting small , artisanal and specialist outdoor brands that still make in the UK.
Aiguille Alpine are based in a small village called Staveley in the southern part of the Lake District, Stavelely is also famous for Wilf’s cafe (which is why Richie and I often stop there). They make a large variety of packs and accessories, from dedicated hiking and climbing packs through to the Midi range that can often be found in the glossy supplements as a hipster/heritage type pack that is popular with London commuter types.
We, however, are interested in mountaineering and climbing so we looked hard for a pack that would be suitable for a modern climber and mountaineer and settled on the Geant. The Aiguille Geant is a bombproof, all round mountain pack that has a great heritage feel to it. No modern, weird axe bars or velcro tool loops, just good English design that will last as long as your climbing career will (and mine has lasted a long time!). Made from bombproof 1000D Nylon fabric it will withstand anything you can throw at it (OK maybe if you drop it off the top of the crag it might tear on a sharp bit of rock) for everyday cragging wear and tear. The base has an extra layer of Cordura to make that vulnerable area even more robust. You’re unlikely to get to the top of a chimney thrutching pitch to find a hole in the back of the Geant.
It’s always a compromise between durability and lightweight and many climbers think that thinner fabrics make a big difference. At a push thinning out the body fabric will shave about 200g of the weight of a pack, it’s the stripping out features and thinning out webbing and buckles that starts to make a difference. I would say that the philosophy of Aiguille Alpine is getting the balance right and making a pack as bombproof as it can be, and the Geant fits that philosophy nicely.
The opening is straight forward open lid, tube type where you just stuff anything in. The 35L capacity is plenty big enough for any mountain activity you might enjoy. I easily got enough kit in for winter climbing and trad rock climbing – including my helmet. For hiking and general mountaineering it was more than enough, with room to spare and I felt that with the extra space the snow valance offered I could even get enough kit for an overnight hut stay or bivvy.
I really struggled to fill it with spring rock climbing kit, only on a winter day out with butties, flask, etc would I fill it, only because my winter belay jacket is bulky. Even if you do need extra kit, the daisy chain webbing means that attaching crampons or a helmet is easily done with ingenious use of climbing slings and carabiners. So I had no problem with the capacity for everyday climbing use. It has no frame and a removable bivvy mat, so you can remove it for those cold sitting shivers with your feet snug and warm in the pack itself. Unless you’re a real lightweight masochist, I would say emergency use only!
When climbing the Aiguille Geant cinched down well by tucking the generous lid into the main body. threading the 50mm waist belt through the ice axe loops and clipping the lid straps to the under lid compression buckles (this worked really well and stopped me having to faff about threading them through the daisy chain like on many packs with a two buckle lid) and cinching down the sids with the 25mm side compression straps. I’ve been using the standard fit (the back length comes in four sizes short, standard, long and Ladies) for my standard sized 175cm body and I have found it climbs really well and fits comfortably when loaded.
Once again, Aiguille have opted for durability on the webbing and straps. All straps are made from Polyester. Aiguille have thier own polyester webbing made to thier spec as they feel polyester is a better material for webbing as it offers more friction when used with a nylon buckle. If you’ve had a strap break on a lower cost pack it’s probably been made using polypropylene – which is pretty stiff. There are plenty of straps, the waist belt is 50mm webbing to make it comfortable under load. Maybe an improvement here could be a detachable waist belt but then that adds a buckle and increases the weight. Easier to clip the waist belt through the axe loops and then it’s out of the way. All other straps are 25mm with good old burly buckles.
The compression straps under the main lid have been useful as a rope cinch and if I’m careful with the coiling I can tidy it up further by tucking the ends under the top side compression straps. They also keep the pack tight when loaded for hiking in or on long mountaineering days. The shoulder straps are again very well made and wide enough to be comfortable under load, there is lots of triple stitching and bartacking at all the stress points as if you’ve ever had a shoulder strap break halfway through a trip. It happens in the most unlikely place and more often than not when travelling and not climbing, this happened to me when a bus driver yanked my pack from underneath a huge pile of bags on top of a bus in Morocco and ripped the shoulder strap straight off what was a very expensive pack. I then had to spend the entire next day of my trip finding a cobbler that would fix it for me (which was a great adventure). The shoulder straps are finished with a sternum strap made using the same burly webbing and buckles. All great stuff and it all reinforces the bombproof nature of the Geant.
And onto the lid. I’ve been really frustrated in the last couple of years how manufacturers either pay lip service to lids or over engineer them. I like a lid that I can get everything I’m going to need easily and without opening the pack up. So a lid big enough to have a hat, gloves, glasses, compass, map and even some food bars. That’s a big ask for a modern, lightweight pack and nothing I’ve reviewed over the last year or so has managed it. The Geant, however, fitted all that in and I still had a little room left over if I need it (spare gloves and my winter running spikes comes to mind). On top of that there is an internal lid pocket that was easily big enough to fit wallet, phone, camera and a small Solo first aid kit inside. The key clip is located in the outer main pocket and on that I have a knife and cars keys. There is also a large grab handle for clipping onto belays, I often use the grab handle for stashing my mountaineering axe when on the move. Poles can be staged in the solid wand pockets. If I have any complaint about the pack it is that the straps are a little long or need some elasticised loops as I got some pretty painful strap whip in windy conditions. Aiguille commented that straps can be shortened to order – usually by visiting the factory.
The generous lid is held with a double strap and although it’s a fixed lid the snow valance gives some extension for when you really want to load it up to carry in some bivvy kit. The advantage of the double strap is that it stabilises the lid and keeps the extra kit in place. For instance, a pair of crampons and a helmet are the items I most put under a lid for winter climbing. The lid is finished off with a neat Aiguille Alpine label which has the great Made in England decal.
On top of this the nature of Aiguille Alpine ethos is a more bespoke experience. As well as 4 back lengths and two colour options on the standard pack you can request the removal of features if you need to reduce weight. So no ice axe loops if you use the side straps for carrying your axes, no under lid compression straps if you don’t want them. Aiguille encourage customers to call and chat about what they are looking for and they can then decide, the staff have a wealth of knowledge behind them and know all the products intimately. If you are ever heading up to The Lakes then pop into the factory and they will give you all the detail you would ever need about climbing and mountaineering packs. Be careful though if you are planning to visit the factory, you’re unlikely to come away with just a pack!
In a world of faster and lighter, do more with less and all the other hype it’s refreshing to be taken back to basics. One of the things I have loved most about using the Aiguille Alpine Geant is the heritage it offers, it totally reminds me of my Karrimor Hot Ice ( back in the days when Karrimor was a premium brand) that I first started out climbing with. That pack was with me for 15 years of climbing before I changed it for a more modern looking pack. I suspect it would still be going strong today.
Of course, I could pay more to have a super light Alpine pack, and Aiguille do offer lighter, more specific styles of packs in their range, and I have been using them over the last few years but there is something about the nature of the company that I like. I like the bespoke nature and that my pack will have been crafted with care and made to order, I like that next time I’m having a brew at Wilfs in Staveley I might just pop in and see what the people are up to and maybe buy some of the excellent accessories that they offer. But most of all I feel that not only do I have a great, all round mountain pack. I have a pack that will outlast my climbing life and I’m proud to be the owner of a pack that I’ll be able to pass onto my son.
SRP £139.95 and available direct from Aiguille Alpine. There are a range of size and colour options as well as accessories that can be ordered with it. Do phone them and they’ll be happy to talk you through all the options and back lengths they offer.
Disclaimer – CGR reviewers are never paid to provide a review and the website does not take advertising or link to affiliate sales. We are a bunch of keen climbers and travellers that accept sample products and offer an honest and independent review of the item. The reviewer will often keep the sample after reviewing it for both hygiene and safety reasons and more often it’s in no fit state to return!