Friday, 12 October 2012

Edelrid Helix 25 Pack

Picture courtesy of Michael Thomson
Before now I knew Edelrid as a climbing hardware, harness and rope manufacturer. I had used their hardware but, to be honest, had never really dug too deep in to their gear. A sin with my gear addiction condition. Now that I have dug a lot deeper, not only is their hardware extensive they also have a wide variety of other products; cook ware, clothing and also packs. 

This 25 litre lightweight alpine climbing pack is an example of the gear they are introducing to the UK market. As far as I am aware it is their first full scale venture in to this type of product. It has a variety of alpine features and can be stripped down to a very minimilist pack. The lime green colour is Edelrids signature colour so as you probably noticed it sticks out, not a bad thing. I know my kit needs an introduction of colour.
The back system is made up with with dense foam in a mesh to allow air circulation. This is effective, initially it feels unusual but it is comfortable. Long term we'll see how the foam will be affected by absorbing perspiration and the odours that may linger. No issues as yet and I've been using it a few months. 
Once on the partially meshed shoulder straps are comfortable, the height adjustable sternum strap secure these in snugly. What I have noticed though is when the sternum strap is pulled in to where I like it the shoulder straps lift a bit meaning they don't sit flush on my upper chest. This hasn't caused any cutting in from the inner strap but maybe a contoured strap may prevent this. It may also not be an issue for a stockier person than me as when the sternum strap isn't done up they sit fine. 
The waist belt is designed to be lightweight. It is made from 'mono mesh' fabric reducing its weight. It does have a harness grade gear loop on each side and also slots for ice screw clips. The belt isn't sturdy so even without the weight of a partial climbing rack it hangs quite loose. Once it's clipped around your mid rift it keeps the pack secure. The hip belt is one of the removable components that can be removed to reduce the weight of the pack. 
The main compartment is like a chasm, this is a big 25 litre. Tucked up against the back is the removable back support, this is another of the removable items which will reduce the pack weight. I have left this in place whilst using it but playing with it the pack doesn't 'barrel' too much without the insert. I have had no issue carrying gear for a summer day hike or a cragging/sports climbing day. I've been told it will also take an overnighter snugly.
If you don't fill it or are wearing the contents there are compression straps to draw it towards the back. I think it could do with a couple of wand pockets to accommodate walking poles being stashed down or even store a water bottle. 
There is a discreet slot to allow a hydration straw to poke out, although there is nothing inside to take the bladder, ie a pouch or loop. There is the panel which houses the back support but I think it would be a bit tight especially when the insert is in there. 
The front of the pack has what you would expect, ice tool loops. Outdoorsmagic expressed a concern with these, they didn't think that the would accommodate a modern technical axe with the heavy curve of the shaft. I don't think it will be a problem but I am yet to try, my axes are pretty straight. 
Another issue OM highlighted was a lack of rope strap under the top flap, I would tend to agree with this one. Although it has a large capacity for a 25 litre getting gear, hardware and the rope inside would be tight. I have improvised for this one and used the grab handle to attach a strap and clip which has worked well. 

The top flap is the third removable piece. There are two buckles which have quick release clips for the lid to be removed, they are made up with compression straps to adjust the height of the lid; a floating lid. When the lid is opened and closed a few times the straps tend to ease off requiring re-tightening regularly. Not a big issue but if they loosen off too much it could get be annoying on the hill depending on the weather. The zip compartment on the lid has also a generous amount of room. The zip extends around the side of the lid allowing good access in to the pouch, handy if those gloves are tucked down the back corner when your hands are freezing. It has a little velcro sealed pocket inside that can house a phone or mp3 player. An addition I would like to see is for the zip to have a protective baffle/flap to shed any rain or protect the zip from the snow.
The lid is held down by a metal hook that I know as a snow buckle. I didn't think I was going to get on with this type of clip but it works remarkably well, I can see it being easy to use with big gloves too. 

Michael had this pack reviewed by a professional and it came back with the thumbs up, I tend to agree. Would I describe it as lightweight, probably not. It's certainly not heavy but the way this pack is built is designed to withstand a rock and ice life. Strap ice tools to it and hang ropes off it - this pack will cope with it! Without being too critical the pack is ready to go, a bit of fine tuning and it's a perfect little pack.