Established back in 1981 by mountaineer Rab Carrington, Rab first made high-end, alpine-spec down products, later diversifying. Its reputation established, Carrington sold the business to Equip Outdoor Technologies in 2004, which acquired brands such as OutdoorDesigns and Lowe Alpine. One of the later additions to the Equip portfolio was the cult purveyor of rucksacks acclaimed for their robust simplicity: Pod.
To say this new range of Rab rucksacks – which features superlight daysacks through to expedition-sized backpacks – are simply Pod sacks by a different name would not be true. But with the combined expertise of Pod and Lowe Alpine ‘under the same roof’, it shouldn’t be surprising that Rab’s debut in the rucksack arena accomplished from the off.
What’s more, the Alpine 35 manages to do that rare thing: something new. Rab slides neatly into the hillwalking and alpine mountaineering arena with a sack packed with genuinely useful features for the mountain traveller.
Closure is via a roll-top buckle, which allows oversized loads to be packed and securely closed against the weather, and outguns flimsy drawcord closures straight away. This is then covered by a lid that can be detached from the main body of the rucksack via a popper, thus turning it into a floating lid. But in addition to this, it can be removed altogether if you want to strip the rucksack down to save weight. And unlike similar sacks with detachable tops, this isn’t a compromise either, as the roll-closure ensures the kit within remains secure. This is a brilliant, brilliant design that is versatile and well-considered to the needs of its user, and turns a robust, fairly light 1150g rucksack into a robust, very light 850g rucksack.
Beneath this finesse is a solid, unflashy pack that feels great on and performs well over long distances and uneven terrain. The back system is foam with a shallow central groove, which is given a solid foundation by a thin alloy frame, meaning it will remain supportive when loaded. To strip weight even further, this also can be removed. Capacity is a spacious 35 litres, with a single roomy zip pocket in the lid, two buckled compression straps on each side and a fairly supportive hipbelt. The sack is hydration system-compatible and the fabric is Robic nylon with DualGuard, which basically means it’s tough and muck/smell/mould/weather-resistant. It also features a unique ice axe carrying system that stows the pick out of harm’s way. It comes in a choice of sizes too – A (35 litres, 44.5cm back length) and B (37 litres, 49.5cm back length).
So is the Rab Alpine 35 perfect? Given zipped pouches on the hipbelt, stretchy wand pockets that were more than a baggy token effort, and a women’s version, it would be. So, as it stands, it’s not quite perfect. It’s just really, really, really good.
Capacity 35 litres/37 litres (size A/B)
Fabrics high-tenacity Robic nylon with DualGuard coating
Back length 44.5cm/49.5cm (size A/B)
The Alpine 35 is an exceptionally well-designed, simple, robust and comfortable pack ideal for hillwalking and alpine mountaineering. Rab? Fab.
Review by Simon Ingram
First published in Trail magazine June 2014