Ultralight rucksacks are often little more than a cylinder with straps, based on the assumption that an ultralight load doesn’t require a complicated back system. Boreas Gear are newcomers to the UK, with packs that manage to be minimalist, aesthetically-pleasing and lightweight yet concealing some surprising features.
Boreas Gear Buttermilks 40 rucksack
Weight: 1293g as supplied, strippable to 886g
For a minimalist pack you’d expect this to be a short section, but the pack’s clean lines conceal some clever stuff. The star performer is the back system – most ultralight rucksacks dispense with this altogether, allowing the wearer to use a folded sleeping mat to provide some rigidity, or perhaps a couple of aluminium or carbon fibre stays to transfer weight to the hipbelt rather than the shoulders. The Buttermilks 40 has a combination of a curved aluminium stay, solid framesheet panel and a z-foam layer next to the back. There’s a lot of sculpting here, with a curve away from the head at the top and then a close mirroring of the curvature of the spine until the stays terminate at the hip belt. The foam backpanel has ridges and die-cut holes to encourage air flow, and this seems to work well, despite the pack following the shape of the back so closely. At the hipbelt the fins are constructed from the same z-foam material, teamed with a webbing strap. They’re pretty soft and flexible which helps them conform to the shape of the body, and the tensioning buckles are fitted with neat fingerloops to make adjustment smooth and simple. The combination of back system and hipbelt works extremely well, with weight shifted effectively to the hips. Load lifters on the top of the padded shoulder straps assist with lifting weight from the collarbone, and there’s an adjustable sternum strap. Notice the lack of lid – instead, there’s a simple roll-top closure secured by a draw cord and cord lock. A long compression strap goes across this. It works fine, and is a system used on many ultralight rucksacks, though it’s important that kit inside the pack is waterproofed, whether by individual stuffsacks or one big bag liner. A rucksack cover is included, but as they’re the work of the devil mine was quickly discarded. To make up for the lack of lid pocket a zipped pocket has been included just below the rolltop – this is just the right size for quick-access items. Just below this is a large stretchy mesh pocket – perfect for carrying wet waterproofs away from the dry kit inside the pack. Personally, a pocket like this is key for backpacking in wet climates – when striking camp on a rainy morning I stow everything inside the pack while under cover, then emerge and stuff the wet shelter into the front pocket. There’s no need to rummage around with the rucksack wide open and exposed to the weather, and the drain hole in the bottom of the pocket allows the shelter to drain over the course of the day. There’s a further stretch-mesh pocket on each side of the pack, ideal for securing a water bottle or similar. Cleverly, the lower compression strap runs inside the pocket to allow for compression while the pocket is stuffed. The hip fins have good zipped pockets to hold snacks and/or navigation devices. Two rows of daisy chain webbing run down the front seams, with the usual ice axe securing loop and upper retaining shockcord. These hide away within the seam fabric when not in use and the whole design makes me very happy.
This isn’t a gossamer-thin silnylon pack that requires babying when bushwhacking or scrambling, yet it’s also not a rugged mountaineering pack designed to be dragged across gabbro all day. The main pack body is 100 denier nylon, impregnated with silicon to provide waterproofing and some strength, with a ripstop pattern running through it. The bottom is formed from heavier 420 denier nylon to cope with the increased abuse expected here. I had concernd about the longevity of the mesh used for front and side pockets, but it appears to have coped with a far amount of abuse with no real indication of wear. The high density foam used in the back panel, hipbelt fins and shoulder straps is excellent, being lightweight yet supportive and resistant to moisture. Hardware and construction techniques are refined and, dare I say it, beautifully implemented. There’s no doubt that this is a high quality pack.
It’s lovely. I like the design, engineering, materials – pretty much everything. Except the weight. 1.3kg for a 40 litre rucksack is just too heavy, and stripping out the back system removes one of the key features that make the pack so good. On the other hand, the 55 litre model is about 70g heavier, costs £10 more and brings the weight-to-capacity ratio closer to my ideal. But those with an ultralight load probably won’t need the extra capacity unless planning large resupplies.
For those looking for a pack with a bit more substance, style and support than a cuben fiber carrier-bag-with-straps, the Boreas Gear Buttermilk is definitely worth a look. Stupid name though.