When carrying heavy loads for days or weeks at a time the design of a rucksack’s back system is paramount, as it is only in these conditions that any flaws in the design drastically affect comfort and stability of the load.
So Lowe Alpine has developed the Axiom back system, which is built to carry the heaviest loads in the most stable and most comfortable manner. The back length can be adjusted while the sack is being worn, to ensure the fit is perfect. Better still, once adjusted it is designed to remain locked in place, so it does not require tinkering with to maintain the fit.
The Axiom back system is featured on the Expedition 75:95 (£200), the Alpamayo range (£180-200), and the classic Cerro Torre, which is available as a 75:95, a women’s ND60:80 and this 65:85 litre version. All these rucksacks are high-volume expedition packs designed to be used with heavy loads over long periods.
The major development in the Axiom back system is how the back length is adjusted to fit your back length. Firstly you put the pack on with the hipbelt in place. You next pull a black cord to unlock the mechanism, then pull a grey cord to shorten the back length by moving the shoulder straps down. This works very well and is easy to operate with the pack on your back.
Rucksacks that can be adjusted during wear are not new, but the problem with many is that back length tends to ‘creep’ during a walk. The Axiom back system overcomes this by having the shoulder straps fitted to a ratchet system that is locked in place once set. This mechanism is tucked away behind a stiff panel, so it is protected; more importantly the whole back system is stiffer, leading to a stabler carry, which is particularly important when hauling heavier loads.
The hipbelt is stiffened too, so again it can keep a heavy load stable without crumbling under the strain. The hipbelt rotates a little, thus allowing some hip movement. Once adjusted the carry of the Cerro Torre 65:85 feels more stable than more flexible packs.
Apart from the back system, the Lowe Alpine Cerro Torre 65:85 is a fairly conventional design with a large main compartment with base and top entry. A floating lid allows the pack to be overfilled. You also get compression straps and stretch side wand pockets so you can attach all manner of items to the sides as required. The fabric of the sack is described by Lowe Alpine as being three times stronger than its well-proven TFX fabric, and it certainly feels like it is built to last. So stability, comfort and durability are all features of this rucksack.
The main drawback is the weight, at 2667g. But lighter packs tend to be less stable with heavier loads, and less durable. So the Cerro Torre 65:85 is ideal if you want a real workhorse for expeditions, though you may get by with a lighter sack if you are just doing weekend trips.
Capacity 65-85 litres
Fabrics Tri-shield grid and 420d nylon
Back length adjustable 43-65cm
Axiom packs will be available exclusively in Cotswold in January; thereafter in a range of retailers.
The Lowe Alpine Cerro Torre 65:85 is great for heavier loads and longer expeditions requiring durability and ultimate performance, but those on lesser adventures will probably find a lighter rucksack will suffice.
Review by Graham Thompson
First published in Trail magazine January 2014