Unusual new technical mountain pack arrives from Berghaus.
Just in is the new Berghaus Caldera 35 technical mountain pack, an interesting bit of kit that takes some of the more established principles of pack design and nudges them gently down a rubbly gully.
Okay, the new pack isn't that radical. It still has most of the obvious features you'd expect from a medium-capacity mountaineering pack, but it mixes in some unusual touches plus the sort of attention to detail we're coming to expect from the crack Mtn.Haus design team.
Rapid Zip Access
The first obvious stand-out is the unusual water-resistant zip access to the main body compartment. It's not a panel opening, but a simple water-resistant zip that gives access to a conventional top opening. The idea is that the absence of buckles, straps and extra snow valances with draw-cords simply speeds up access and saves time and effort on the mountain.
One possible drawback with that idea is that zips don't normally like corners and curves, but the one on the Caldera seems to work just fine with no snagging or tugging needed. The top pocket - we like them - also has a zip-opening which reminds us a little of Montane's 'buddy pocket' and should let your mate open your lid pocket with less effort on the hill.
The other obvious innovation is that the milnimal but stiff hip-belt pivots slightly to allow easier movement. It's not quite as pronouced as with the Bioflex packs, but makes lots of sense on a pack designed for movement on technical terrain where high steps and easy mobiliity are on the menu.
What else? The harness is neatly shaped and firmly padded and the back system combines a stiff frame-sheet with an internal alloy tube frame, the base of which slots into that pivoting hip-belt for good load transfer. That makes sense to us - you could potentially be hauling ropes and a bunch of climbing hardware up the mountain, so support is arguably more crucial than it would be with a pure walking or backpacking sac.
Underlining that is a neat internal gear loop which allows you to hand a climbing rack inside the pack where it's both close to the back for stability but also very accessible when needed. And because there's no conventional lid to stow a rope under, there's an additional neat rope strap sat in a pocket on top of the lid.
Upper tool loops are handy shock cord items, lower ones, snap-buckles. There's one gear loop on the belt and on each front shoulder harness straps and four conventional side compression straps, which rather thoughtfully have an extra loop to keep the end from dangling. Nice.
Last but not least, while the Caldera's decently light at around 1280g on our digital balance, the fabrics feel decently tough with ballistic material in high wear areas and rip-stop elsewhere.
Firm But Fair
Don't get the idea that the Caldera's a soft carry - it's more in the traditional 'firm but supportive' mountain pack mould, but we'd always rather have a firm but stable carry than a softer, but soggy one when we're toting technical hardwear.
All that development comes at a price, some £140, which puts the Caldera up with other premium mountain packs, but our initial hunch is that it has the basic ammunition to compete along with some unusual touches that could work really well.
More information at www.berghaus.com.