Macpac have a long history and a great reputation for building bombproof rucksacs – the Pursuit 40 V3 is their current climbing/alpine focused model. If you are not familiar with Macpac they are a New Zealand based manufacturer based in Christchurch with their beginings back in the 70s. One of their more famous ‘ products’ is the super tough wax proofed ‘Aztec’ canvas used on their sacs and the modern Macpac Pursuit 40 V3 uses a modern iteration of this material.
The Pursuit 40 V3 is a (generous) 37 litre zipped top alpine sac. A large lid pocket will comfortably swallow a first aid kit, headtorch(es), 1 litre water bottle or small flask, map, guidebook, compass, hat and gloves. There is a rope strap across the top of the pocket – more about that later which terminates in a haul loop at the front (matched by the obligatory decent sized rear haul loop). Wand pockets and two quick release side compression straps per side help secure rope ends, sleeping mats, trekking poles etc. The front of the pack has twin daisy chains and ice tool toggles together with a simple webbing ‘V’ to stop the picks rattling about. The base of the pack is made from a heavier weight ballistic nylon whilst the main body is Aztec eco a lighter 8oz polyester/cotton version of the original legendary Aztec fabric. Inside the pack there is a pack panel pocket containing a proper fold out bivi mat a real treat and to be honest a rarity these days in all but a few specialist alpine packs. There is still room to stuff a light mylar bivi bag in there too. The harness is what Macpac refer to a their ‘Active X’ design meant to allow full freedom of movement and I have to say this proved to be excellent. There is a removable hip belt which Velcro-ed in to a tunnel in the back panel but I rarely use this leaving it removed for most of the test period as is my personal preference. The back panel is a light but durable foam with low absorbency qualities so it doesn’t get sodden or freeze up. Overall everything about the Pursuit 40 V3 radiated quality – right down to the embroidered location map graphic of New Zealand. With an overall weight of less than 750g the pack is impressively light for it’s volume and robust materials.
With a volume of 37 litres the Pursuit 40 V3 is larger than my normal alpine or winter climbing pack which coupled with the zip lid design had me initially worried that it would be a little floppy once on route. In reality this was not the case, in fact it is one of the best carrying packs I’ve used. The profile of the pack is a little boxier than the normal narrow tube of an alpine pack but when worn this is not noticeable. With a zip lid design I was concerned that I wouldn’t be able to stuff the lid in and compress the pack but Macpac’s design team seem to have considered this and there is an additional cinch loop at the top of the back panel which allows you to compress down the top of the pack (and would also act as a back up should a zip fail). Together with the side compression straps this allows for easy compression of the pack with no ‘floppy lid’ syndrome as I’ve had with zip lids in the past. Climbing wise the pack carries superbly allowing full range of movement and no restrictions on arms whether mixed climbing in Scotland or rock climbing in the alps. I was surprised at just how well the pack climbed to be honest – on multi-pitch rock routes like Papa Geno I didn’t really notice it at all and a lot of that is down to the well designed Active X harness. The volume is perfect for a full Scottish mixed rack – you can even fit a 60m half rope and helmet inside the pack along with a dozen extenders, half a dozen long slings, double set of wires, hexes (partner has the cams), spare gloves, belay jacket and so on for a neat carry on the walk in – and then just stuff whatever in and strap the rope across the lid for the walk out! Ice tool attachment is via t-bar toggles with easy to replace bungee for the head coupled with the V tape to stabilise the picks and custom hooked toggle and bungee for the shaft. The head attachment was perfect but I felt the hooked toggle a little of an unnecessary fiddle – a standard toggle is just as effective and doesn’t require the same precision with gloves on or remembering to pull on the tape tab. Having lauded the Pursuit 40’s harness one issue I did come across was with the small buckles on the shoulder straps.
In ‘Full Scottish’ conditions, wet then freeze, they became difficult to manipulate. This happens with all buckles but their smaller size made it harder than with standard size buckles when really iced up. A slightly larger lever/tab might help here. The only other thing I’d change would be to colour code the lid and lid pocket zips, on a few occasions I opened the pack instead of the lid and vice versa – contrasting colours might help (I’ve just added a different zipper pull). Durability wise this is a pack that will likely be handed down to your offspring the Aztec Eco fabric shows little if any sign of wear after four months of use and zippers are unfazzed by my attemts to stress them in typical hasty post winter climb packing! Macpac’s reputation for bomber gear continues.
- Excellent carry
- Small buckles
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