- Buyer's Guide
I’ve been looking at and admiring EVOC as a brand for a while now. With their signature design element of a well integrated and super light back protector they have proven that it is possible to have your cake and eat it too. And it now comes in a 30L pack! The perfect everything size for touring in my opinion. It’s also not that often you see a carry brand in the ski-bike world come up out of Europe and make ripples on the world stage. Even with only an ever so ‘slightly’ euro look to them (insert giggle here) they are popping up on trails and slopes all around and I really wanted to give one of their snow packs a good test…but after two full day outings I just couldn’t get into it.
Now I do have to give a bit of a disclaimer here; I have been accused of being a bit picky when it comes to packs for my backcountry adventures. It has probably something to do with my background in pack design. Not that I ever came up with a design as elaborate as EVOC’s 30L Guide pack, but it probably makes me a lot more anal than your average user. Add to that that I spend over 50 days in the backcountry each winter here, and this tends to make you extremely focused on non-essential features. I’ll admit I’ve taken a pair of scissors to a new pack once or twice to cut crap off or change zipper pullers… Yes, I’m that guy.
The first day-tour I took the EVOC Guide Team 30L on was a mellow split up at Guardsman Pass here in the Little Cottonwood Canyon. It was a fairly warm day and we mostly followed the (closed) road up to Scott’s Pass. I really wanted to get familiar with the pack before taking it out on a bigger day, so touring up the snow-covered road and getting a feel for the back protector and fairly unique waist strap was fine with me. We rode the short shot called Scott’s backdoor and the snow was better than expected on this protected area. Things would change quickly though. We toured up to Scott’s Hill proper and the wind picked up with an incoming cold front. We dropped in on a bulletproof line called Mickey Mouse Mine, and found a few soft turns further down in the Aspen. I have to admit I ran into a small tree and took a tumble; the pack stayed put no problem. I LOVE the fit and the waist belt on the ride down, as well as the added security of the integrated back protector. However, the waist belt was annoying me a bit on the skinning up because of how wide it is and the Velcro+buckle system making this a two-step system. Time for a bigger day and second impression!
“I LOVE the fit and the waist belt on the ride down, as well as the added security of the integrated back protector. However, the waist belt was annoying me a bit on the skinning up because of how wide it is and the Velcro+buckle system making this a two-step system.“
Day two with the EVOC was definitely a better outing. We had a 5cm dusting of new snow sticking to a solid base and were eager to get in a few steeper runs. We packed everything in the car for a possibly ‘big’ day and I played around with loading the pack with the ice axe, harness, climbing gear and rope and was seriously blown away by the carry capacity of the Guide Team 30L. However, we opted for a slightly mellower version that took us 1000ft up Flagstaff and after a short shot down Two Dogs, down a sweet run called Main Day’s. We scored it in prime conditions, only a few tracks and man, it was good. Loading the pack was becoming a bit more intuitive, but I still had trouble getting used to buckling-unbuckling every time I wanted good access to the main compartment. My other go-to packs are top loaders and my smaller day pack has back panel access, so this buckle-unbuckle thing was a new handicap for me. After switching to board mode again we dropped into a nice chute called Hallway and I just couldn’t get over how solid the pack feels when riding with it. Seriously, this is where the cucumber band definitely shines. We strapped the skins back on for the long, warm slog out of the Cardiff valley, up to Two Trees for the exit. Lots of managing the jackets on-off and pack on-off. Even though the wind was cold on the ridgeline, it was abnormally warm for January in the Wasatch and the ride to the road got really soft and wet at the end. A nice 6000 foot day with a bit of everything to get a good feel of the pack.
“Loading the pack was becoming a bit more intuitive, but I still had trouble getting used to buckling-unbuckling every time I wanted good access to the main compartment.“
Who it suits
If you like the idea of a pack that integrates a back protector but adds little weight as a result and still has a really well-thought-out design, you should give this one a serious look. It boasts the 30L volume needed for gear-intensive big days or Euro style hut trips, and plenty of pockets for smaller items, goggles etc. The cool thing though is that if you don’t fully load it the pack still feels remarkably small even with your avy kit in the outer pocket. And I like that a lot because I don’t have to swap platforms between different missions. The Team color is definitely more outspoken, but there’s a more monochrome blue colorway available as well if that’s more you.
“If you like the idea of a pack that integrates a back protector but adds little weight as a result and still has a really well-thought-out design, you should give this one a serious look.”
Who it doesn’t
So if you are a Pacific Northwest person that likes to blend in with your mossy surroundings, obviously this is not your pack. Also, if you are into super simple top loaders made out of 1000D Cordura, keep looking. All the little straps and pockets will drive you insane and unbuckling the side straps to get decent access into the main compartment gets a bit old, especially with cold hands.
The South-facing slopes get caked here and starting days off early makes for icy skin tracks. This means that as a splitboarder I always carry crampons with me. This pack is wide enough to toss them in the bottom with a pair of mittens and a backup beany and forget about it. The back protector also makes it mentally easier to bring these pointy objects with you and not worry about busting a rib if you take a tumble. The waist belt has a small pocket for a snack or a small camera and is easy to access; I prefer this over just stuffing everything in my jacket because that will come on and off a lot depending on the weather.
Earlier this winter I froze my toes and fingers a bit on a really cold day, so I have to be careful now since your extremities after freezing tend to be more susceptible to cold. As a result I tend to do my transition with gloves on and this makes for interesting episodes with packs that have small pullers on the zips. The EVOC pack does have small pullers, but even with gloves on I was able to work them no problem. They’re nicely designed TPR looped through the YKK sliders and with a debossed logo and all and actually work too.
“The EVOC pack does have small pullers, but even with gloves on I was able to work them no problem.“
After losing my car keys once I’m totally neurotic when it comes to key clips – fortunately there’s one inside a zippered pocket in the main compartment to settle my nerves. There is of course a bladder compartment with the hose tunnel in the wearer’s right shoulder strap. What’s cool though is that it is tucked away into the same compartment as the back protector and thus separate from the main section. I don’t know if you’ve ever had a bladder pop open, but I can assure you that not having it near any of your other gear is a big plus.
The pack is made well, clean finishes and binding on all main seams, where it matters, and most of the zippers except the main compartment. It uses 210D Nylon ripstop almost everywhere except the bottom of the pack where it uses 840D Nylon and where your ice axes hit the main compartment it’s plain weave Nylon as well. The plastic buckles are a petri dish of YKK, Woojin and ITW/Nexus, all really good-quality suppliers. The anodized aluminum hooks that are supposed to help you in vertical carry are not branded, and look cool. They are maybe a bit more novelty than function though, and trying to hook them into their narrow slots with gloves on can be a bit of a pain.
“The pack is made well, clean finishes and binding on all main seams, where it matters, and most of the zippers except the main compartment.”
The Not So Good
Ever had snow cake onto your Velcro jacket cuffs? Well, this is maybe the one material choice I’m not stoked on and there’s a big section of it on the waist strap (see photo). Every time you set the pack down, a little more gets stuck on it.
The helmet carry system is a separate contraption that is hooked in on four sides. Quite overbuilt, it does a great job keeping your helmet secure….and then you need to get your helmet out. I’ll save you the profanities and just say the hooks used are incredibly hard to unlatch and almost make this system inoperable. Side release buckles would have been a better choice in my opinion. Granted, I use a fairly large POC backcountry helmet. If you have a super stealthy, skate-style helmet (like a Sandbox for instance) it might not be that bad…
Who doesn’t love easily accessible snacks? Well, the wide waist belt would have been perfect for more storage options. Maybe one made of stretch mesh to quickly store a beanie or gloves on the way up, or maybe a larger one or webbing that gives you the option to latch a camera bag to it… Just having a small pouch that holds a handful of GU’s I think is a miss. Sad to see all that real estate go to waste, really. No more snacks for me.
“Well, the wide waist belt would have been perfect for more storage options. Maybe one made of stretch mesh to quickly store a beanie or gloves on the way up, or maybe a larger one or webbing that gives you the option to latch a camera bag to it…“
Of course, easily accessible avy gear (shovel + probe) is key. Since almost having to spend a night lost in the backcountry solo (yes, I learn the hard way) smarty pants now always brings an emergency blanket, headlamp and small first aid kit. EVOC’s pocket is easily accessible, or so it seems, on the outside of the bag. But it’s quite shallow and the internal sleeves made to hold your handle and probe are closed at the bottom. This causes them to stick up too far, making it hard to close the zipper. The avy pocket is also cut in a way that allows it to ‘expand’ into the main compartment, nice idea you would say. The unfortunate result of this is that it does expand and makes it more difficult to access that fairly large main compartment because my avy gear and other crap in the front compartment partially closes the opening…making it hard to get skins and my z-poles in.
“The avy pocket is also cut in a way that allows it to ‘expand’ into the main compartment, nice idea you would say. The unfortunate result of this is that it does expand and makes it more difficult to access that fairly large main compartment because my avy gear and other crap in the front compartment partially closes the opening…“
OCD as I am, I always bring backup goggles with a yellow lens. But even with fairly standard goggles (Oakley Splice) the EVOC goggle pocket is super snug. If you have newer (bigger) goggles or were planning on packing a lens or two, forget it. I could barely get the zip closed.
Every now and then we end up on an icy ridge and for these occasions I bring a lightweight ice axe (aka piolet). The axe loops on the EVOC are too big for my Black Diamond Ravens and they bash around. Not sure what axe would be beefy enough to fill these loops, but they are not adjustable.
Others to Consider
Arva Protector 25 (has back protection)
POC Spine Snow Tourpack 20 (has back protection)
If you need a sweet 30L pack with a back protector built in, I don’t know of a better one than the one EVOC makes. Sure, it has some shortcomings, but the security of a CE compliant component weighing only 6oz/170g extra offers more pros than cons in my opinion.
And EU colors, seriously, how cool. Plenty of drab stuff out there already peoples, glad to see some EU vibe trickle through in the States. Next step, umbrella après bars!
“If you need a sweet 30L pack with a back protector built in, I don’t know of a better one than the one EVOC makes.“