This might be my favorite piece of climbing gear I used in all of 2011: The Wild Things Guide Pack. I got one of these to review back in July, and then spent the better part of two months beating on it over several days and several dozen pitches in Idaho, Yosemite, and Washington. I used it for cragging, multi-pitch days, and a couple alpine climbs. I loved it so much I detached the lid and started to use it as a briefcase.
What’s so special about it? At 26 liters, it’s a little small, isn’t it? Not at all. I had been telling myself I needed 35 liters of space for a long time, until I found this, and cut the crap. It’s minimal — a foam pad in the back (which is removable), a waistbelt that is just 2-inch wide nylon, and a removable lid. It’s so minimal that I told myself it was a bullet pack and crammed it into another multi-day pack so I could use it for summit days. It’s only 28 ounces. It’s also tough: I beat on the Composite VX-21 fabric for several weeks, never more than a small tear.
The Guide Pack is new this year, having launched in limited quantities back in May, one of the first new consumer offerings from Wild Things in what might seem like a few years for fans of the Gorham, N.H.-based company, started in 1981 when John Bouchard and Marie-Odile Meunier focused on making “light is right” gear. Wild Things gear got significant attention from the military in the 1990s, and began to work on a tactical line. Since 2000, they had mostly focused on building U.S.-made gear for the U.S. military and Special Forces — but still produced their consumer products. In 2008, when the company was acquired by Consumer Growth Partners, they were able to use the investment to start looking at their consumer line again. Wild Things says they’re now taking innovations developed for their tactical gear and apply them to the consumer market, with a new alpine line of apparel and packs launching this fall.
I wasn’t climbing during the heyday of Wild Things’ early years in the consumer market — when they say that practically every big climb done from 1981 to 1990 was done in Wild Things gear — so this is my first time around using any of their stuff. They were back at Outdoor Retailer in Winter 2011, then quietly absent from the summer show, working to get their alpine line launched for the fall. It will be interesting to see what else they’re cranking out as they get back in the game. Info at wildthingsgear.com.
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