For roughly the last two months I have been been using and testing the Built To Send (BTS) X0 Alpine Pack. I have used it extensively during what has been a very busy summer of guiding on everything from Mont Blanc, the Matterhorn and the Eiger, to an ascent of the Badile North Ridge, a trip to the Dolomites and everything in-between. BTS are a relatively new brand on the market place and looking on their website they promise a lot. So when I heard about them, their products and their ethos I was keen to find out more. So what was the outcome? Read on to find out..
BTS was established in 2014 and born from a group of friends that have climbed together all over the world (including extensively in the European Alps) over a twenty year period. The inspiration came from failing kit whilst out in the hills and a belief in being able to design and make something better. Simple!
So what is it that makes these packs so special? Well quite a lot, as it turns out…
• The packs are made using a mono-shell construction for the body which makes them almost seamless and eliminates weak points. This in itself is nothing new but in over twenty years of rough rucksack use I have lost many a pack due to the seams bursting so this is a welcome feature. The bases of all the packs are double layer too as this is where a lot of packs ultimately fail. The composite fabric is extremely tough and fully waterproof tho not seam- sealed.
• Custom-made hard anodised aerospace grade hardware is used in all but two points on the pack. Again a key point for longevity. Plastic buckles break regular during hard use and if you are lucky they can be replaced. If not (and they are ‘sewn in’) you will either need to operate yourself or be friendly with a local tailor to replace them and keep the pack functional. Obviously not ideal if in the field or away on expedition.
• The foam that is used in the back piece and shoulder straps is similar to that used in fighter-jet pilot seats. This not only makes it VERY comfortable and forgiving if packed in a rush, but will also withstand repeated compression better and therefore last longer.
• ‘X-Fold Top’ folds like a roll-top bag and fastens securely using 2 metal G-hook closures. This eliminates a potential stress point and is one less thing to go wrong. Again plastic buckles break and even top quality, chunky zips fail too after repeated use especially in the cold. A serious problem if it breaks whilst in use leaving a gaping hole.
• The X0 has a 50mm non-padded waistband (in my opinion the best option for a sub 40ltr pack) which is easily stowed away around the rear of the pack whilst climbing but is comfortable enough when carrying extra kit into routes. This is the same on the X1 whilst the larger packs (X2 and X3) have a padded waistband to facilitate the carrying of heavier loads.
• The packs all come with a ‘Alpine Customisation Pack’ which is essentially a bag of extra attachments for you to be able to customise your pack to your requirements. The pack consists of x4 20mm side compression straps for a roll-mat / tent etc and x4 ice axe retainers. The pack also includes shock cord for the front of the rucksack to carry crampons etc. All these work well and are again attached via custom-made metal attachments. Having these as an added extra means that if you don’t want or need them you can keep the pack nice and simple, as well as also shave some weight. It also means you can essentially change the pack throughout the year and customise it for different adventures.
• The packs have 4 fully rated top band haul loops that enable the user to use the packs as a haul bag for short sections. This is not something I have used in anger yet but I can see it will work well and is a welcome addition to these sort of packs.
The packs are all made and stitched together using V-92 thread with a 16 pound breaking strength and are hand built in Britain under ISO – 9001 quality system. What does all this mean? It means that it will not break!
So how was it in use? I found the pack essentially as it says on the tin: bombproof, well thought out and very simple in it’s use. Due to the way the pack loads it stays open like a haul-bag and is very easy to pack / unpack. The X0 is big enough to carry full rack, ropes and kit into a climb and can then be folded down whilst on the route. The bag is still low-profile enough to be able to access rear gear loops on a harness whilst climbing.
The ultimate question; would I recommend it? If you are after a simple, lightweight, very well designed pack that is manufactured to the highest specifications and tailored towards the dedicated climber / alpinist then the X series of packs come highly recommended. The simple design, bomb-proof construction and light-weight nature also make them suitable for lightweight backpacking.
Pros– Simple, bomb-proof, very well designed. Lightweight and very comfortable in use. Hand made in the UK.
Cons– The G-hook closures take a bit of getting used to initially. Expensive, but then again you get what you pay for!
Overall tho an awesome bit of kit and one that I’m sure will accompany me on many more adventures to come!
■ Retail price for the X-Series X0 is £279 and it is available direct from BTS @ builttosend.com