If, like me, you despair of modern rucksack designs with their spindly straps, fiddly clips, overly elaborate back systems and all manner of seemingly superfluous dangly bits then read on…
Based in a small unit in the village of Staveley in the Lake District, Aiguille Alpine has been quietly making rucksacks and other outdoor equipment since 1987. Their rucksacks have a reputation for longevity and straightforward functionality and are all manufactured in-house: if you call or visit, you may well be speaking to the person who makes your sack. I first became aware of Aiguille about a year ago, when I needed a new sack to see me through my ML journey and double up for winter hill use. A slightly customised 37l Stratus with additional hip belt pouch fitted the bill, and more importantly my back, perfectly. So when the time came to replace my aging Montane Cobra 25l day sack, I knew where to look…
Aiguille’s 27l El Nino is designed as a light weight (690g quoted, 676g measured), stripped down Alpine sack. However, it is also perfectly suited to life as a faff-free hill walker’s day sack. The single compartment is accessed by a zip opening around the top of the sack, facing the wearer. The chunky zip is protected from the worst of the elements by a storm flap. Accessibility is good, without the zip extending so far down the sides of the sack that the top compression straps need to be loosened or stuff risks falling out (my main criticism of the Cobra).
Inside, there’s an under-lid pocket big enough for a GPS, phone, keys, gloves etc. and another pocket against the back panel more than big enough for an OS map or guide book (although it won’t take a water bladder). Again, zips are reassuringly chunky. The colour used for the fabric of the internal pockets is in stark contrast to the main sack, to aid visibility (bright green on my red sack) – a thoughtful touch. All main seams are triple stitched and bound for strength. Construction quality is top notch and reassuringly fault-free.
Outside, we get a pair of compression straps on either side and four accessory attachment points on the front. Shoulder straps and back panel are simple, well-padded affairs. A 25mm webbing chest strap and 50mm webbing waist belt provide load stability and are fastened with satisfyingly robust clips. There’s no padded hip belt and, at this capacity, no need for one. However, I do miss a hip belt pocket. Fortunately, the nice people at Aiguille offer separate, capacious hip belt pouches that fit all of their sacks. I have one for my Stratus so can use it on the El Nino when required. Daisy chains are provided on the shoulder straps for further kit attachment and, apart from a webbing grab handle, that’s pretty much it!
The El Nino, like most Aiguille sacks, is available in a variety of colours and several back lengths, with some scope for customisation if necessary. It therefore really is best to try before you buy, or at least give the very helpful people at Aiguille a call to discuss. I fall squarely within the standard back length range and find the El Nino (and Stratus) extremely comfortable and stable in use, even when heavily loaded. Despite the apparent simplicity of the shoulder straps and back panel, the design just works. Downsides? For me, not a lot: as mentioned above, I do often like the convenience of a hip belt pouch, which would add extra expense if I didn’t already own one. I also frequently carry poles on a walk (though somewhat perversely never use them). There are no pole attachments on the El Nino but this is easily remedied by a couple of bungees around the front attachment points (or in my case, by leaving the poles at home). If you like rucksacks with ventilated or suspended back systems, external pockets or the capacity to take a water bladder, you may need to look elsewhere. If, however, you are in the market for a high quality, light weight, no frills, built to last day sack that just works and, importantly, is proudly Made in England, give the guys at Aiguille Alpine a call!
For more details on the Aiguille Alpine El Nino 27l rucksack, click here