The Arcteryx Alpha FL 45 is a great minimalist 45 litre pack for fast and light use in the mountains. Ideal if you're rock climbing, alpine climbing or ski mountaineering.
It's very light for a pack of it's size, yet don't let this deceive you. The AC² ripstop nylon is super, super tough. The pack has a simple RollTop™ closure, that when fully extended, gives the pack it's full capacity. When it's rolled right down, the capacity can be reduced to 32 litres.
The AC² Nylon is coated on both the inside and out and is backed up with taped seams, creating an air tight and waterproof fabric that is also highly durable. The inside of the pack has been coloured white to help reflect light into the pack, enabling you to get to the contents quicker. The back panel is formed from high density polyethylene foam, providing excellent support while maintaining the packs structure. Though this is a minimalist fast and light pack, it does include lashing points allowing crampons, a helmet or a sleeping pad to be carried on the outside.
"When I first saw the new Alpha FL 30 and 45 packs from Arc'teryx, I have to admit to being a little excited. They looked just like the minimum fuss, alpine climbing packs I had been waiting to see someone produce. But did the performance match the looks?" Light, simple, tough and streamlined. Perfect for alpine climbing. Here seen in use on the Schmidt Route, Matterhorn North Face.
FL stands for Fast and Light. Move freely and quickly with the minimum of equipment. For me the perfect pack for alpine climbing or any climbing for that matter, should be light, simple, low profile and durable. I don't want lots of other features and pockets that add bulk, weight and faff. Luckily the Alpha FL 30 pack has none of these. In fact it doesn't even have a lid.
"Alpha FL packs were created for climbers and alpinists who want a light, durable and highly weather resistant pack that is pared down to be as simple as possible. No extraneous straps or parts. To save weight and provide the climber with easy access to contents, the traditional top lid has been replaced with our RollTop™ closure and an external security pocket. The RollTop™ provides a weatherproof seal, extends the packs volume and when not needed tucks inside the pack for quicker access. External lash points can be used to attach tools, crampons, extra layers, helmets, sleeping pads, etc. Shoulder straps are soft-edged and carry extremely comfortably with heavy or light loads.
Ultralight and fast, highly weather resistant and alpine strong, the Alpha FL 30 is for built for climbers. An intense focus on the realities of moving fast on rock and ice led to this versatile, streamlined pack that combines leading edge fabric technologies, performance focused design and a confident simplicity."
In order to see if the Alpha FL pack does what it says on the tin, I've tested it to the max. Multipitch alpine rock routes, classic north faces, ridges, 4000m peaks, UK trad, scrambles, it has been up them all!On test, Matterhorn North Face, Switzerland.
Firstly, the Alpha FL 30 is not a huge pack and those of you that like to take lots of extra kit, just in case, may find it too small particularly if you are carrying bivi kit as well as a full rack of climbing gear. There is a 45 litre version available too though. Arc'teryx say that the FL 30 pack is actually only 23 litres unless you have the roll top lid fully extended, but due to the fact it's essentially a big stuff sack with rucksack straps and slightly more voluminous at the bottom, I think it feels bigger than that. A lot of it depends on how good you are at packing I suppose, but I managed to get my share of the climbing kit, food, stove and my personal bivi kit in the FL 30, with only axe, crampons, bivi pad and helmet on the outside which is not bad for a small pack. I am quite good at packing, having years of experience when it comes to knowing what I do and do not need and the safety margins. Others may take more or even less.
When carrying the Alpha FL 30 pack with a full load it felt comfortable and stable on my back, with the simple waist belt and adjustable chest strap helping things along nicely, and easily providing enough comfort for a pack of this size. Due to the back being covered in the same fabric as the rest of the pack, it does get a wee bit sweaty when working hard, particularly when approaching alpine routes for the valley floor or UK summer cragging. It is all a question of balance though. This is a minimalist pack and whilst it feels far from flimsy, it still only weighs 0.575kg.
The simple drawcord and roll top closure system work well and keep all your gear secure and protected from the elements. Whilst not being 100% the Alpha FL 30 is the closest thing I've found that is also tough and not heavy. When the pack is not overfilled just roll the roll top down further and pull the draw string tight. When you need extra space the roll down system allows it. No extra weight or bulk.Simple roll top and drawcord closure for easy access. Two haul loops allow secure attachment at belays etc.
As I said earlier, the fact that the main body is so simple means it is easy to pack and unpack. I did find the small front zipper pocket made packing the main inner a little bit awkward as it tended to bulge inward rather than outward, but this was only an issue when the pack was really full. But this was the only minor issue I experienced with the pack at all.
The outer bungee system covers a multitude of tasks from compressing the pack when it isn't full to storing items of clothing or lashing your crampons. It also features a very neat and simple ice axe attachment system which is easy to use, secure and also works with modern hammer and adze-less tools.
When climbing with the pack on, it carried like a dream, achieving that crucial balance of not interfering with my harness, not catching my helmet when I look up and being narrow and slim enough that it didn't interfere with climbing chimneys and narrow couloirs. Streamlined sums it up nicely!
The fabric used on the Alpha FL 30 and the way the whole thing is constructed, is quite special. It is built using the Arc'teryx developed, "N400-AC², a unique nylon fabric that sheds weather. PU coated inside and out, the fabric is water, snow and even air-impermeable. The RollTop™ closure shuts out the elements, and the seams are taped to complete the seal." This fabric really is light, tough and weatherproof. It feels really burly to touch but then is also very light. Even after months of abuse, I haven't managed to put a single hole in it. A nice touch is that the inner PU coating is purposefully white to aid visibility when looking into the pack.
Other features include a HD80 foam back panel to provide support and comfort, but also give the pack some structure. This works well and also stops and bulky or pointy objects pressing into your back. All closure features and straps are glove friendly and the pack features 2 haul loops for attaching a haul line when things get too tricky or clipping it into belays.
All in all the Alpha FL 30 pack from Arc'teryx is pretty much the perfect climbing pack, particularly for technical alpine routes. It is simple, streamlined, easy to pack, tough and weatherproof. It has all the features you need, and none you don't. Some might find it a bit small for UK trad or winter use, however there is a larger 45 litre version available too. I really like the roll top closure, sleek profile and simple ice tool attachment. Mine has had a lot of use so far but doesn't look like it has! A great mix of light, simple and bombproof.
Overall rating: ★★★★★
Climbing Gear Reviews are an independent reviewer of climbing, skiing and mountaineering equipment. Fronted by Kevin Avery, a trainee IFMGA mountain guide and former Gear Editor at UKClimbing.com, alongside Yorkshire based MIA Dave Sarkar, they provide completely honest and 100% impartial reviews. Click here to see their page.
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I am an ML based in Ireland but spend a lot of time in scotland during winter. Bought this rucksac to primarily reduce my carry load and to simplify what I take. Very surprised and impressed with the sack which I have tested on a few hillwalks since it arrived last week. Stunning bomb proof rucksac - comfortable even with 15 kg load. Plan to use for winter mountaineering and for the odd kayak adventure - easily holds enough for overnight stay in bivi or snow hole! Great Arcteryx build quality and attention to detail for such a minimalist rucksac.
I'm a keen climber and hiker. I've used the Alpha FL 30 for the last 2 years as my main mountain pack and it's been completely bombproof so it wasn't a difficult decision to buy the Alpha FL 45 to cram in a sleeping bag and tent or bivy for any overnight excursions. The Alpha 45 comfortably swallows up my sleeping bag, down mat, bivy bag, MSR reactor, food, 2 litres of water, belay jacket, climbing rack and was still as comfortable to carry as any other pack I've owned.
Previously I've used the Osprey mutant 38 and Crux AK37 and I've ruined them quicker than I'd like though I have to be honest I'm really hard on my gear don't tend to look after it terribly well. The material used for the Alpha FL is amazing. It's exactly the same as the material used in Arcteryx's duffel bags and I've yet to wear a hole in it whether it's been dragged along in the airport or up a granite chimney. I'm not sure if Arcteryx market the Alpha FL packs as waterproof but after 7 hours of walking and scrambling it hadn't let any water in.
For me the lack of features is a bonus as I hate faffing around. This might not appeal to everyone though. It does require a bit of care when packing otherwise at can feel a little unstable however if you're seriously considering this pack I'm pretty sure you know the right way to pack your gear away! The roll top closure is great and I can get into my pack faster than my friend can get into his mutant 38. It's also considerably lighter than any of the other climbing or day packs for its size, which for me is a big plus.
In summary, it's great and so is Facewest's delivery service. Go buy it!
Stripped down Alpine pack. I've been using the same 'hard as nails' Macpac 40 litre pack for winter walking and summer scrambling days out for nearly ten years. Whilst it is still going strong from a wear and tear point of view, it weighs 1kg more than the beautiful work of art that is the Arcteryx Alpha FL 45 pack, so I decided to buy this pack for a forthcoming alpine trip (including Mont Blanc ascent hopefully). There are many things Alpine mountaineers will do to pare their kit down to the minimum weight possible, but to shave a whole kilogram off your pack weight in one item is an incredible advert to the progress in materials/engineering/design in the last few years. Yes, there aren't all the pockets and other things you might think you need, but you'll quickly learn that you didn't need them (or Arcteryx would have included them) and more importantly, the things they have included work brilliantly - the ice axe attachment is brilliantly simple and effective. The bit that sits against your back will get sweaty as hell in the warm/wet UK, but in the cold/dry Alps your Goretex will breathe 100 times better and it shouldn't matter.
As long as you understand what this pack is trying to be (the FL means 'Fast and Light') then you won't be disappointed - just remember fast, light things aren't going to be as user friendly as a slow, heavy thing - think Ferrari vs Volvo Estate. NB - I cannot guarantee this pack will attract you as many admiring glances from members of the other sex as a Ferrari, but it will probably attract some envious ones as it looks very slick in that very distinctive Arcteryx way.
All in all it does exactly what it says on the tin - but make sure you read the tin properly and you will be a happy climber.
Very happy with this bit of kit, exactly as stated and will be getting plenty of use through the seasons around the UK. Fantastic build quality, bombproof material, stylish looks and totally functional.
Looking forward to getting a few more items from Arcteryx.
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