CGR tests out the Warthog 26’s big brother to see if bigger is better.
The Blue Ice Warthog 38L is tough and light like its little brother, the Warthog 26L, but added volume and features make it suitable for longer adventures.
Earlier in the season we tested the Blue Ice Warthog 26, a climbing day pack. Kev loves that pack and there are several climbing buddies that use it. However, CGR editor Kev Avery concluded that some British climbers might find the pack a little small for their liking and that the 38L version would be more for them.
So we asked for one on test with a regular British climber – me! I would say that my climbing packing is more to the British taste as I like to have a little redundancy for safety reasons. When we go out climbing I’m the one that seems to have a shelter, first aid kit, GPS and a little extra clothing. Of course I pay for that; often being the last to arrive at the route. More hill sprints required!
So being a regular climbing dude it was left to me to test the larger pack, it arrived just in time for the Scottish winter climbing season to begin. So does bigger mean better?
As with other Blue Ice packs, there are only just enough features for the pack to perform so it is a very ‘clean’ looking pack with no extra straps flying around. There are no side compression straps, shoulder tension straps or excess pockets. In fact there is no excess anything which brings the pack in at just under 900 grams, very light for a pack that size.
The materials are pretty bombfroof with the main body and lid made with 500D Cordura with the base and axe sleeve made from 850D Cordura Ballistic. So a very durable material combination means that this pack will last for several seasons. Extra durability is provided by bartack and double stitching to all the main load bearing points,the stitch count was very high. The pack had a great ‘burly’ feel to it.
The back length is one size, fixed with no stays for support, in fact the only padding is provided by a triple folded 4mm foam mat. Careful packing is therefore needed for a long walk in as I could feel lumps digging in (but with a repack the next day it was fine). Although the pack had a floppy feel as I was putting it on, once on it proved quite stable to carry. The lid was also fixed which means that it would be difficult to load for a multi day expedition, but would be fine for a day or so. The lid pocket was huge and I could easily fit guide, maps, belay gloves and even small shell jackets into it. There was an internal, zipped pocket that was plenty big enough for a phone and wallet – there was no key clip inside here, Blue Ice say that the internal pocket is just for your keys and easier to use than a key clip. This would work as long as you didn’t access the pocket again, that still leaves where to put your wallet and phone. In fact after some time I found where to put my car key securely. There is a sewn loop inside the helmet mesh pocket but you will still need a small biner to keep your keys completely secure. The lid tightened with an upwards pull, I’ve used this system well with other packs and you’d be surprised how effective it is. The buckle was a little small for my liking and I would have liked to have seen something a little more durable, lid buckles are first to go on a pack so durability here is worth a little extra weight.
Other pockets include a very handy helmet mesh pocket at the front of the lid, this held my helmet very well but was fiddly to use with gloves on, very fiddly indeed. There was also a hydration bladder pocket which I didn’t use (as I’m not a hydration bladder fan) expect for storing maps. The bivvy mat was also accessed by a large, zipped compartment that could also provide an extra secure pocket. There were also two sewn gear loops sewn inside the pack for those who like to organise their gear that way.
The shoulder straps were well padded and very comfortable with sewn fabric hose loops which were great for attaching my altimeter to. There was an adjustable sternum strap with a whistle buckle closure. All straps were bar-tack stitched, easy to adjust and very durable. I would have liked to have seen some tension straps on the shoulders as this would have helped with heavy loads.
The Blue Ice Warthog 38 also came with 5 very industrial attachment points and two removable straps. The bottom strap is a very important part of the axe carry system so needs to be left in position, the other three can be used for ski and crampon attachment as well as anything that won’t fit in on a multi day bivi. The attachment points are reinforced with Hypalon that were cleverly folded to take extra shock cord. They also double up as compression straps, the idea being that it keeps the side of the pack clean.
There was a 50mm, removable waist belt. This was secured with Velcro and was easy to remove in the field. There were tension straps on this area to help with fine adjustment for the carry. The axe carry system was the sleeve variety and is different from the early version of the Blue Ice Warthog 26. It had a double layer of the Cordura Ballistic together with shock cord shaft attachment and a full strap to secure them.
So, in conclusion the Blue Ice Warthog 38L pack is a huge pack that will fit everything you can throw in it for a Scottish winter day out, summer cragging, Alpine overnight bivvies and ski mountaineering adventures. It is streamlined, comfortable to carry and climb in with just enough features and no cosmetic extras. It needs to be full for the best support otherwise it can feel a little floppy; it needs a clip on the key loop and would benefit from shoulder tension straps on heavy carries. It will last years and like Kev with the 26L version it has quickly become the pack of choice for my winter adventures.