Ortlieb Elevation 42 2011

There’s nothing worse than sheltering from the rain and delving into your rucksack, only to find that your hats, gloves and spare insulation are soaking wet because your rucksack leaks. So can renowned waterproof cycle pannier manufacturer Ortlieb come up with a better solution than the main hill-walking brands have to date, which is to store everything inside a waterproof liner bag?
To find out I’ve been using Ortlieb’s first waterproof rucksack, designed specifically for hill-walkers and mountaineers. The Elevation 42 is made from PU-coated nylon so at least the main fabric should not leak and it is pretty tough, so it should resist being punctured by crampons and jagged rock. All the seams have been sealed too so there are no lines of stitching to let water into the main compartment. Finally this sack has no external pockets, as keeping all those seams waterproof would be very difficult, as anyone who has left a mobile phone in a rucksack pocket in a storm will testify.
The Ortlieb Elevation 42 is designed for alpine mountaineering, but its clean lines will I suspect also suit hill-walkers after a simple, clutter-free design that works. The 42 litre sack is ideal for year-round use carrying scrambling or climbing gear, while the 32 litre version may suit day walkers better.
In use the sack is very comfortable and functional. The back system is lightly stiffened while extra padding is provided on the hipbelt for improved comfort. I stashed trekking poles in the side compression straps, and I liked the single buckle fastening of the lid.
But even though there is a small pocket on the underside of the lid, I did miss having a big lid pocket for smaller items needed on the move, like a guidebook or GPS. Also, while the body of the rucksack is certainly waterproof enough to keep rain out, there is no rolltop lid, so care is needed to fasten the lid neatly to prevent water from seeping inside; this could be particularly problematic when the sack is only partly filled and hence a little baggy around the main opening. But these are minor niggles really as the main problem here is the price of £220. Other durable 42 litre Alpine sacks cost £100-150 and are fully waterproofed with the simple addition of a liner bag.

Capacity 42 litres (32 litre version £205)
Fabric waterproof PU-coated ripstop nylon with taped seams on main compartment and lid
Features air channel contact back system; removable hipbelt; adjustable shoulder straps and chest strap; side compression straps; ice axe loops; bungee loops; hydration system-compatible
Weight 1310g
Made in Germany
Stockist details – tel. (015396) 26250; www.lyon-outdoor.co.uk

The Ortlieb Elevation 42 is a well-featured mountaineering sack, but the price dampens my enthusiasm compared to just fitting a waterproof rucksack liner to a good-quality conventional rucksack.

Review by Graham Thompson
First published in Trail magazine July 2011