Regular readers will know that my ideal rucksack has been elusive. Recent experiences with the ULA Ohm and the Gossamer Gear Mariposa Plus have brought me to consider a slightly more traditional design: the Lightwave Ultrahike. While not as light as the Ohm and Mariposa, it is still not heavyweight. On my scales it weighs 1150g (compared with a claimed 1250g by the manufacturer). This makes it virtually the same as the Osprey Exos 58.
The extra 400g or so of weight over the Mariposa/Ohm brings some significant advantages:
- It is virtually waterproof, so there is no need for a pack cover. The Ultrahike has sealed seams except for the back panel. Apparently it is not possible to seal these seams. There are no exposed seams here and the back panel is largely protected by the wearers back anyway. The lack of water resistance of all my packs has been a constant irritant to me. Hopefully, the manufacturer’s claims will be borne out.
- The Ultrahike has a proper hip belt. The hip belt is much more substantial than on lighter packs. The unusual feature is that it has a gap in the middle to fit over the crest of the hip bone. It is secured by beefy but flexible fingers of plastic. Further minor adjustment to the tilt of the belt can be achieved by two webbing straps and buckles on either side of the belt.
- There is a substantial hollow aluminium frame rod. This is an “n” shape, but the base of the frame is narrower than the top. It follows the outline of the foam back panel. Although the frame is accessible though the top of the rucksack, it doesn’t appear to be removable.
- The volume is claimed to be 60l, although in a test backpackinglight.com suggested the volume is 55l. Hence, the Ultrahike should easily be able to swallow gear for multi-day hikes and extra gear for winter. In the past I’ve had to squeeze gear into my smaller sacks. Now I can be more relaxed. It means that I won’t have to compress my sleeping bag so much. It also means that I can be more flexible with the food that I carry.
- The Ultrahike can carry up to 18kg comfortably (according to Lightwave). Both the Mariposa and the Ohm have an upper limit of around 13kg, in my experience, before they start to feel a bit unstable. This is generally what my pack weighs with consumables. The Ultrahike gives me a bit more flexibility to carry more food to give me a longer time without re-supply. I reckon 4 days is about the limit for the Mariposa/Ohm. Given the extra volume and carrying ability, I expect the Ultrahike to be able to carry 6-7 days food if I want.
When I was looking for information on the Ultrahike, I was surprised how little there was available. There was a preview on OM, limited information on the Lightwave web site and some pictures on some German backpacking forums. Very few retailers seem to stock it either. I bought mine from Ultralight Outdoors Equipment.
Until I take it out for a few days, I won’t be able to give a full appraisal, but here are some first impressions. The level of finish and workmanship seem good. All the seams are well finished and there are no obvious faults. Given my obsession with hip belts, the hip belt feels very comfortable. I like the split configuration, which sits nicely either side of the crest of my hip, with comfortable but firm padding. It seems to support the sack well. Despite a fairly solid plastic stay arrangement, it does have some flexibility. Overall the pack retains some flexibility in the harness compared with the Osprey Exos, which feels more constricting. Obviously it is not quite as flexible as the Mariposa.
The shoulder straps are nicely contoured with similar foam and finishing to the hip belt. There is a sternum strap with vertical and horizontal adjustments. On the top of the shoulder straps there are load lifter straps. Above those there is a very substantial haul loop. Bizarrely this is in red. The foam back is relatively thin with a knitted surface, rather like that on the Osprey day sacks I own. The frame has quite a pronounced “S” shape. I’ve gently reduced this shape slightly. My overall impression of the “carry” is that it is quite comfortable. However, I only loaded it with a few sleeping bags to bulk it out, so I don’t know how it feels with a heavier load.
Turning to the main body of the sack, the main compartment has a closure in a lighter material (silnylon?) with a draw string. The base is a fairly heavy weight material. The main body is a combination of medium grade nylon fabrics. Overall it feels fairly robust.
There is an internal hydration pocket. The exit for the hydration tube is through a rubber dome located between the shoulder straps. There is a conventional top pocket with water-resistant zips. Strangely one zip puller has a red and black puller, the other grey and black. There are two stretch mesh pockets at the base of the pack on either side. These are substantial enough to hold a Scarp 1 tent (phew!). On each side there is a laced compression cord. On the top of the lid there is some shock cord.
There are attachments for two ice axes. Oddly the shock cord for securing the shafts is directly below the webbing to secure the pack lid. There are also four small loops on the front of the pack that could take some further shock cord (perhaps to secure a crampon bag?). And that’s about it. The overall impression is a clean, unfussy, robust pack.
As you might expect I’ve already added some extras. On one side I’ve added some shock cord with a cord grip to secure the top of a tent. I’ve also added some shock cord on one shoulder strap to hold a water bottle. Unfortunately, this carries the bottle a bit high so I may have to try to adjust this. There aren’t many options for attaching shock cord to the shoulder straps, though.
Time will tell whether this is the right pack, but it does feel good. Here’s some more pictures.