Grivel Alpine 55

The red, yellow and black styling of the new range of Grivel rucksacks is certainly sexy, but do they embody the heart and soul of a brand that cut its teeth in the shadow of the Alps?
When it comes to winter hardware, Grivel could be regarded as the guru of ice axe and crampon design – thanks to its long heritage of producing top-quality gear that walkers, climbers and Alpinists have come to rely on year after year. The brand grew from a blacksmith’s nestling at the foot of Mont Blanc and produced the first modern crampon in 1909. Can these new rucksacks live up to this heritage?
Grivel is not new to rucksack design, having dabbled in the field for a couple of seasons, but they have not, as yet, matched their dominance of the ice axe and crampon market. The eye-catching new packs come in 35 litre, 45 litre and 55 litre sizes. They are designed for Alpinists and ski touring, but many of the features will be equally useful to mountain walkers in the UK who like to mix tough scrambles with year-round conditions prior to trips to the Alps. I’ve been using this 55 litre sack for scrambles such as Pillar Rock and Pinnacle Ridge in the Lake District, as well as less challenging walks. 
Behind all the glitz there is a wealth of thought-provoking design and robust construction, which hints that there is more to this range than snazzy appearances might suggest. In fact there is so much to these rucksacks that Grivel has produced a full colour information sheet that highlights every detail!
On the hill the features that matter most include the fabric – and in this range of rucksacks Grivel has incorporated a new VX21 carbon composite material, which is waterproof and very tough, making it ideal for scraping across crags. I opted for the 55 litre version for year-round use and hut-to-hut capacity. It gets a full front opening as well as the normal top opening. I am not normally a fan of front openings, but this did come in useful for quick access, especially when gearing up with climbing kit.
There are plenty other features that aid perfect load packing, including an extractable helmet holder, interior gear loops, ski slots and ice axe holders on the pack and hipbelt. But what really attracted my attention was that you could remove the lid and hipbelt for those 4000m oxygen-sapped ascents in the Alps.
I found the sack very comfortable to wear, even though the back system does not shout out its features like the other aspects of the rucksack. A useful addition when mountaineering is the sling that is attached to the rucksack so you can clip it to a rock when belaying.
My only niggle is I wonder if it really needs to shout quite so loudly with all those features, for beneath all the glitz this is an excellent, honest mountaineering rucksack that demands serious attention.

 

Capacity: 55 litres
Materials: VX21 carbon composite, 210 Cordura laminate
Features: anti-perspiration back system; one main compartment; extendible snow-lock extension converts pack to bivvy bag; top and side opening; removable lid; removable hipbelt; ice axe loops on pack and hipbelt; helmet holder; Pascal sling for security on belays; internal gear loops
Weight: 1805g (size 55 litres)
Made in: Vietnam
Also available: 35 litres (1385g) and 45 litres (1695g)
Stockist details: tel. (0191) 296 0212; www.mountainboot.com

Verdict: On the plus side: packed with features; bright colours; converts to bivvy in emergency; durable and practical throughout; hood and hipbelt removable. But it’s quite heavy; do you need all those features? Overall, it’s a sexy Alpine rucksack; but the weight and the sheer number of features may overpower.