PlanetSKI Gear Review #1 Winter 23/24
13th October 2023 | Alf Alderson - Gear & Equipment Editor
Last modified on November 17th, 2023
Here’s the first in a series of gear reviews over the winter. Our gear editor Alf Alderson checks out the latest in day packs, goggles and sunglasses for skiers & snowboarders. UPDATED
BAGS AND DAYPACKS
DEUTER FREESCAPE PRO 40 £220 www.deutergb.co.uk
This is one of the best designed lightweight winter packs we’ve seen for some time – with its well-designed inclusion of all the essential features you need for ski touring/freeriding/ski mountaineering it’s easy to see how it won an ISPOP Gold Award recently.
And it also looks good too…
The Freescape Pro has two main compartments, the outer for avy gear and the inner for everything else – this can be extended by 10-litres thanks to the height adjustable lid and roll top closure.
There’s an internal hydration system pocket and a zipped mesh pocket in the main compartment, the contents of which can be accessed when you’re carrying skis via a wrap-around zippered rear opening.
There’s also a zippered pocket in the lid with a divider featuring a fleece lined pocket for goggles/sunglasses.
There’s the option of carrying your skis diagonally or vertically, and additional attachments for gear such as ice axes, crampons and ropes, whilst side compression straps enable you to cinch everything down nice and tight so there’s no movement of the contents when you’re floating through the pow.
Build quality is excellent, with 100 per cent recycled and Bluesign certified hard-wearing and water-resistant fabric on the front and snow-resistant fabric on the back system, and the harness and generously sized hip belt (with zippered pocket on one side) are both comfortable and stable.
The design also includes clever features such as a built-in, detachable mesh helmet holder and an easy-access zippered side pocket for your phone which keeps it away from your avalanche beacon to avoid any signal interference.
VERDICT: A really well-designed, well-built pack that features absolutely everything you need for backcountry adventures.
DEUTER VERTRAIL 16 £165 www.deutergb.co.uk
The Vertrail 16 is a lightweight daypack aimed at anyone wanting to move fast and light through the winter mountains – the hard-wearing material, roll-top lid construction, taped and welded seams, and TPU-coated zips combine to keep snow and bad weather at bay and weight and bulk to a minimum.
At first I wasn’t sure that the pack’s wide, vest-style shoulder straps and lack of a hip belt would allow a stable enough carry, but the straps wrap around your torso and have two adjustable/removable chest straps to provide a secure fit and great freedom of movement, and, in fact, the high fit of the pack – it sits well above the waist – means a hip belt wouldn’t really work anyway.
The shoulder straps also have pockets for up to three water bottles as well as a zippered mesh pocket, so remaining hydrated whilst using Vertrail 16 isn’t a problem.
The extendable main compartment will easily carry all you need for a full day on the hill, and it has a small, zippered internal security pocket for valuables, whilst the outside of the pack has attachment points for ice axe, trekking poles etc. (there’s also a trekking pole holster on the shoulder strap) and a helmet mount.
VERDICT: We’re impressed by just how many features Deuter have managed to squeeze into this lightweight day pack.
OSPREY GLADE 12 DAYPACK £100 www.osprey.com
The Glade 12 is a well-designed, good-looking little daypack from Osprey that’s ideal for less adventurous lift-accessed skiing.
The main compartment is easily accessed via a ‘J’ zip and as well as having a separate 2.5-litre hydration compartment offers plenty of room for stuff like extra layers, snacks and, at a push, avy gear.
Outside of this is a second compartment, again accessed by a ‘J’ zip, with interior storage, and there’s an additional zippered top pocket for goggles/sunglasses etc. – although sold as a 12-litre pack there does seem to be a lot more room than that in the Glade 12, although we didn’t actually pour 12-litres of liquid into it to find out – suffice to say, it’s bigger than it seems.
You can also strap skis or a board to the outside of the pack, although whilst the shoulder straps and back panel offer excellent support and stability the quite thin and unpadded hip belt doesn’t lend itself to long carries while laden down with skis.
The Glade has a great build quality and is constructed with durable High Tenacity Nylon and its sustainable build features Bluesign and GRS-certified recycled fabrics and DWR treatments made without PFC.
VERDICT: A top quality little daypack for on-piste and easy off-piste adventures.
OSPREY SOJOURN 60 ROLLER BAG £330 www.osprey.com
Osprey’s Sojourn series comes in a range of sizes and prices – we tested the 60-litre model which, unless you carry really huge amounts of gear, is a great option for year-round travel.
It comes with an integrated harness and hip-belt for use as a pack when you’re on terrain that’s not suited to a roller bag – the whole thing zips away discreetly into the rear of the bag when not in use (note that both harness and hipbelt are fully padded and fully adjustable, and not just some flimsy add-on).
There’s also a sturdy side and top handle for additional ease of lugging around.
Build quality is excellent, with a combination of heavy -duty foam padded sidewalls and ‘Straightjacket’ outer compression panels providing solid protection for the contents, and I especially liked Osprey’s new extendable handle, which extends simply by pressing down on the top of it.
The main compartment has four separate internal zippered organiser pockets, and there’s a generously sized zippered outer compartment on the top of the bag for stuff you need quick and easy access to.
You also get Osprey’s ‘Travel Sentry’ ID system, a metal tag attached to the top of the bag which has a QR code that can help reconnect you with your bag if it becomes lost.
VERDICT: Bombproof, versatile roller bag for year-round travel
GOGGLES AND SUNGLASSES
VALLON HERON GLACIER GLASSES £106 www.vallon.com
These traditional, stylish glacier glasses were Swiss company Vallon’s first-ever product, and are now in their fourth edition, so they’ve had plenty of time get the design bang on and ensure they do the job they’ve been designed for.
And they do – the mirrored cat 4 lenses offer the best protection you can get against the blinding combination of high-altitude sunlight and snow glare whilst ski touring and ski mountaineering, and the leather side shields (not removable) and centrepiece (which is removable) provide added protection.
The arms (technically known as ‘temples’, apparently) have adjustable, bendy ends so you can ensure a good fit around your lugholes and don’t end up losing them down a crevasse or in your glass of beer, and with the classic vintage round frame they really do look the part.
The Heron Glaciers also come with a smart and sturdy leather carry case and cleaning cloth.
VERDICT: Essential eyewear for anyone who spends a lot of time on snow at high altitude; or if you just want to look uber cool.
VALLON SKI AVIATOR SUNGLASSES £97 www.vallon.com
At the opposite end of the scale from Vallon’s Heron Glacier glasses are the company’s Ski Aviators.
They’re a throwback to perhaps the coolest après ski glasses ever designed, which were seen on the ski slopes and mountain restaurants in the 70s and 80s being worn by the likes of Paul Newman, Robert Redford and Vallon ambassador Wayne Wong (who has his own special edition model).
That design has been modified by Vallon to give a better, more comfortable fit than the early ski aviators from times past, whilst the tri-colour frames have a great build quality which should see them tolerate plenty of abuse.
Vallon’s V52 lenses provide excellent clarity and sun protection and as stated above, the design is a period classic – you just need an Aston Martin and a pair of Moon boots to go with them…
VERDICT: A super cool homage to the past which still looks good and works even better than the originals.
APHEX XPR SKI GOGGLES £139.95 www.wipeoutstore.com
Before we get to the meat of this review, it’s worth pointing out that the above price includes:
- 1 frame
- 1 lens, category 3 (revo gold or silver) or category 2 (revo blue)
- 1 extra yellow lens (category 1) for low visibility, with protective sleeve
- 1 strap of your choice
- 1 goggle protector
- 1 microfibre goggle bag
So, it’s a pretty good deal since you’re effectively getting two pairs of goggles and a whole bunch of associated tranclements (look it up) which allow you to personalise your goggles – chances are you’ll be the only skier on the mountain wearing your particular combination of frame, lens and strap – as well as being prepared for pretty much any light conditions you may encounter on the mountain.
The XPR has a spherical lens which provides a very good 180-degree field of vision without any deformation or reflection, and it can be changed in seconds (even with gloved hands if you’re dextrous enough) with the lens attaching securely to the frame via a series of powerful magnets; the frame is also OTG (Over the Glasses) compatible.
The strap of the Alpha XPR is removable (you have to fit it yourself, a simple enough task), whilst the goggles’ ‘Airflux’ ventilation system is coupled with an anti-fog treatment on the inside of the lens to provide protection against fogging during approach walks or ski touring.
The strap (mine came with a very fetching ‘Fogpine’ design – there are eighteen options to choose from) is symmetrically adjustable and silicone-lined for easy adjustment and a secure fit whether you’re wearing a helmet or beanie.
Combine all this with a really comfortable fit and great looks and the Aphex XPR makes for a good value, very versatile pair of goggles.
VERDICT: Good looks, good value and totally customisable goggles – we like ‘em!
MESSY WEEKEND FERDI GOGGLES £90 www.messyweekend.co.uk
The Ferdi is a stylish, quite minimalist pair of goggles that was developed to provide maximum peripheral vision both vertically and horizontally, of which I approve; I’ve never understood the point of huge goggles which restrict your peripheral vision (but look cool).
This means they sit closer to your face than some goggles, which I guess could give more potential for steaming up, but this isn’t an issue thanks to a dual-layered, anti-fog lens and generously sized vents top and bottom.
Despite the closer overall fit, the Ferdis are still Over the Glasses compatible, and they’re also compatible with most helmets. The lenses also have an anti-scratch coating and offer 100 per cent UV400 protection.
There are nine different interchangeable lens option, so you have a good choice in terms of both weather conditions and looks, although it’s worth noting that the lenses on the Ferdi aren’t as easy to change as they are on Messy Weekend’s Flip goggles which we reviewed last winter – Read the review for Messy Weekend’s Flip Goggles Here>>
The Ferdi also comes with a useful hardshell case and a soft storage bag, plus stickers.
VERDICT: Good looking goggles with great peripheral vision at a reasonable price.
VALLON FREEBIRD GOGGLES £132 www.vallon.com
Developed in conjunction with Carl Zeiss, the Freebirds are traditional style goggles which combine a minimalist design with high-tech features and top-of-the-range optics.
They come with a choice of five different lenses, as follows:
- Silver Mirror (15% Visible Light Transfer, Cat. 3)
- Blue Sky (18% VLT, Cat. 3)
- Copper (25% VLT, Cat. 2)
- Orange (36% VLT, Cat. 2)
- Smoke (13% VLT, Cat. 3)
So you’ll have no problem finding a lens to suit.
Said lenses have a spherical construction to maximise peripheral vision, and an anti-reflective mirror lens to enhance contrast and provide 100% UV protection.
The lens is also dual-layered, with the outer lens being from Zeiss and the inner anti-fog lens from Mazzuchelli.
The minimalist frame is made from ultra-durable TPU lined with triple-layer face foam which provides excellent comfort, and the stylish tri-colour 45mm woven nylon strap has a generous silicone liner to ensure the goggles stay put on your helmet.
VERDICT: Smart, classic looking goggles which do a great job.