Way back in 2013 I reviewed, and was a huge fan of, the original Blue Ice Warthog pack, the 26l (Dave also reviewed the larger 38l incarnation). You can read that review here. As a now resident of the Chamonix valley, where Blue Ice base themselves, and with the added link that my wife has her office in the very same building, it has been great to link up with Blue Ice once again and see firsthand, what the brand is all about. We recently published a review of the award winning harness, the Choucas Light and it is obvious, that Blue Ice pride themselves on making high quality, innovative kit for mountain enthusiasts and professionals.
The new Warthog packs have very little visual similarity to the originals, although there are once again, 2 sizes in the range, 30 and 45 litre. The 30 litre Warthog feels roomy and certainly more than 4 litre bigger than it’s predecessor.
The Warthog 30 looks modern and has all the features required by the modern alpinist and mountain professional. Fully featured it weighs in at just under one kilogram, uses light and supple 210D high-tenacity ripstop nylon 66 and has a well padded back with removable thermo-formed, semi-rigid back panel with aluminum stays. It also features a removable chest strap and padded waist belt, removable side compression straps, a detachable helmet holder, ice axe holders (with custom buckles to fit modern tools), a rope holder, hydration pocket and 2 zipped pockets.
Strip away the rigid back panel, chest strap, helmet holder, waist padding and compression straps and the pack suddenly weighs in around the 650g mark – quite the lightweight! For day to guiding and alpine climbing I generally use it in a “half-stripped” fashion, without the rigid back panel (which I feel is unnecessary for a pack of this size, and without the hip belt padding. this works perfectly for me.
As an aside, I really do feel like a pack of this size can totally do without a bulky padded belt and rigid frame back insert. Yes it helps with carrying comfort when fully loaded but this sort of pack isn’t really for ferrying huge loads and I find the padding on the hip belt really gets in the way when clipped back out of the way. I would however, like to see wider padding on the shoulder straps as I found there was quite a bit of deformation in this area when the pack was fully loaded.
So, the Warthog 30 is basically the perfect sized pack for ice and mixed climbing in the mountains, I’d use this for day hits as well as routes with an overnight bivi. It’s also perfect for Scottish winter and also for my day to day work as a professional IFMGA Mountain Guide.
I really like the simple packable nature of the Warthog, essentially a big stuff sack with a wide aperture which means it’s easy to pack and unpack. The neck is slightly floppy and it doesn’t hang open as neatly some other packs I’ve used, however it basically does the job it needs to and it seals with a simple and smooth drawcord. This leads me onto the lid. Blue ice have opted for a flap with a zipped pocket which can then be secured with a hook and loop rope buckle. This works brilliantly when fully packed but even despite the range of attachment points, it does feel a bit untidy when the pack is only partly full.
As a means of adding extra organisation and storage Blue Ice have added a small internal zipped pocket, which is great for keeping small important items close to hand. There is also a long zipped pocket running the full height of the front panel. I’ve tried to use this pocket for a few things and the main problem with it, is that it is quite a tight fit. when the bag is fully loaded it’s difficult to get things in and out, which is precisely the time you’d want to use it eg, getting your shell jacket out easily or spare gloves. That said, I do use it to stuff my lightweight shell to keep it handy on approaches etc.
One of the features I loved on the original Warthog was the helmet holder, and this is included with the new version but now is completely removable. Which means I can add it to some of my other packs too. It’s a great and simple feature, the only improvement I can think of, would be to use metal attachment hooks, rather than plastic as I actually managed to break the plastic ones on mine.
The ice axe attachment system works well, a metal bar fits through the head hole of modern tools and elastics give adjustability to secure it. The shaft is held with velcro straps, something I’ve never been a huge fan of, as velcro tends to be unreliable in snowy situations.
The final thing I’d like to talk about on this pack is the fabric. The original Warthogs were built using a mix of 500 and 1000 Denier Cordura and the 26l version weighed in at 740g. And basically, it was indestructible! The new fabric is lighter for sure, feels supple packs and compresses easily, however is nowhere near as durable. There is always a trade off between light and durable but I think in terms of a pack that is built for these kind of mountain pursuits, mountain professionals etc, it should be possible to build something that is both light and doesn’t look trashed after a season of use. I’ve already put a few holes in my new Warthog, whereas my original was unscathed.
Ok, so it seems like there have been a fair few pros and cons for the new Warthog 30, so what does this actually mean, what do I think about it and above all, should you consider this as your next climbing pack?
Basically I actually really like the Warthog 30. Get rid of the rigid back panel and padded waist and you have a versatile climbing pack, great for carrying, alpinism and Scottish winter. The main criticism here is that I feel like Blue Ice have tried to overcomplicate, what should be a very simple design. Get rid of the zipped front pocket, padded waist, rigid back (by all means keep these on the 45) and add a slightly more durable fabric and this would be close to perfect. Tweak the ice axe system (simpler and no velcro), neaten up the lid and it is perfect. It’s not just this pack, but many of this type, where it’s almost seen as necessary to change things that are simple and work, just to make it stand out or look more tech. Simple and strong, that’s all we need. Thanks Blue Ice for creating and innovating some great packs and I think a few tweaks would definitely move this one in the direction of my go-to!
As the season changes, it’s well worth checking out the Blue Ice website, as they have a load of great packs, harnesses and piolets on offer to help satisfy your winter adventures.
Find out more and buy from the Blue Ice Website
Kevin Avery is an IFMGA Mountain Guide. He is based in the Chamonix valley and is available for guiding in the Alps, UK and further afield. He loves technical rock, ice and mixed climbing just as much as a classic ski tour or a blower powder day. Contact him on firstname.lastname@example.org or via the website: www.truenorthalpine.com to book your next mountain adventure.