The Ibex is a streamlined and adaptable mountain rucksack from British brand Alpkit. At only £125 it's affordably priced for a 50+ litre pack of this quality, and it's British-made too. Lightweight, at 1.45kg (or 795g stripped down), the Ibex was designed for both mountaineering and trekking, and its hallmarks are durability and simplicity. I put it to the test on a wintry weekender in the Lake District.
If you'd rather not have a pack exterior cluttered with extra pockets and sleeves, its simple lines will be an advantage
When I got my hands on the Ibex, the first thing I noticed was how streamlined and minimal it looked. Alpkit have really gone back to basics with the Ibex, producing something with just the right blend of features needed by alpinists, climbers and backpackers, and nothing more.
The main compartment has 50L capacity - a useful amount for loads of winter climbing gear or overnight backpacking - and is made from VX21 – a technical fabric Alpkit say is commonly used in sail cloth. It feels dense, stiff, and a little crinkly, but also extremely durable. I tried and failed to scuff it with sharpened crampon points. When new, it's also impressively water-resistant, and water beads and rolls readily off the fabric. Alpkit do not claim that this is a waterproof pack, though, since the seams aren't taped - in common with most rucksacks.
Build quality is overall excellent. I noticed no dodgy stitching and there is a reassuring sense of robustness and durability to the construction, despite the pack's comparatively light weight.
The removable floating lid has 10L capacity, more than big enough for your gloves, waterproof jacket, and a packed lunch. I noticed straight away that the zip does not go all the way to the sides of the pocket, making it a bit tricker than you might expect to remove bulky items when the lid pocket is packed to capacity. However, the zip pull is excellent and very usable with gloves.
Exterior attachment options are minimal and geared more towards climbers than walkers. You get twin compression straps on each side, complete with buckles; a simple and easily removable bungee, ideal for crampons or a waterproof; twin ice axe loops at the bottom (although you'll have to shove the axe shafts through the bungee to secure them)… and that's about it. There are no side pockets or rear pocket of any kind. For backpackers who like to stash items like water bottles and jackets in easily accessible outer pockets, the Ibex may be a bit too stripped-back, but if you'd rather not have a pack exterior cluttered with extra pockets and sleeves, its simple lines will seem an advantage.
The harness is made from simple moulded foam and is quite comfortable, although the shoulder straps do feel a little thin and could arguably do with more padding for use with heavier loads. The shoulder straps come complete with minimal gear loops and load lifters. All adjustment points use locking buckles, that I find fiddly.
Much of this stuff can be removed from the Ibex, turning it into a hyper-minimal 50L pack without a top lid or hip belt. Due to the lack of padding on the shoulder straps, this is only likely to be useful for lightweight loads, but it's a welcome option. I particularly like the fact that you can remove the hip belt – not a common feature on trekking packs.
On the hill
I packed the Ibex for a winter traverse of the Fairfield and Helvellyn ranges, complete with an overnight camp on Heron Pike. My load was fairly lightweight but by no means ultralight – although I didn't weigh my pack, I'd estimate I was carrying roughly 10kg including water and food.
The pack sits quite high and I had to re-pack it a couple of times to get the weight where I wanted it to be (always good practice when getting used to any new pack). Once I was happy, I found that it carried the weight very well, with a compact centre of gravity close to my spine. It felt stable on brief sections of easy scrambling. I think on the strength of this, the Ibex would make a great climbing pack.
With the weight I was carrying, concerns about the unpadded shoulder straps proved to be completely unfounded – although I think it would be less comfortable for loads more than about 13-14kg. The hipbelt was comfortable. The back stiffener transferred weight to the hipbelt very well. However, as I feared, the locking adjustment buckles were annoying and difficult to use by feel – I'd prefer conventional buckles. The right-hand load lifter also slipped a couple of times and needed adjustment.
Storing trekking poles and ice axe at the same time I have found annoying, as the ice axe loops are really too big to capture the ends of trekking poles, and they always slip when I've tried keeping them in the side compression straps. As a backpacker, I really wish the Ibex had side pockets – this would make it infinitely more convenient to store long items such as poles, axes or avalanche probes. The pack is quite usable without, but it feels like a notable omission if you want a pack for a bit of everything, not just climbing.
I also had to get used to delving into my pack for my water bottle. I don't use a hydration bladder, and for years I've been accustomed to keeping bottles in side pockets. You just don't have that option here. Again, this will be less of a problem for alpinists and winter climbers, who find it better to keep a bottle wrapped up where it won't freeze – but perhaps it's a step too far on the minimalism scale for most backpackers.
Although it didn't rain, I dumped the pack in a puddle by accident at one point and no water penetrated the material. I'd have no problem trusting items to stay dry in the odd shower, but if heading somewhere with more frequent rain or snow expected I'd still use a rucksack liner or drybag.
This pack's feature set and performance all point to a clear conclusion: this is a pack for climbers and alpinists first, backpackers second. Although it's perfectly serviceable for the backpacker, you might find the lack of side pockets (or perhaps even a rear mesh pocket) irritating. Mountaineers will welcome its lean and minimal profile, the durable and water-resistant fabric, the faff-free harness, and the fact that you don't have to worry about your water bottle freezing to a brick because you left it in an external pocket.
The Alpkit Ibex is a great option for Scottish winter climbers, Alpine climbers who need the capacity for multi-day outings, or general mountaineers. The fact that it's made in Britain is another major plus point, and – as we've come to expect from Alpkit – the combination of affordable price with good quality is hard to ignore. Perhaps most importantly, it carries weight well and is comfortable over long distances.
The only real changes I'd make to the design would be to ditch the locking buckles, use a bigger zipped opening for the lid pocket, and add upper attachment points for ice axes. Low-profile side pockets would also greatly extend the versatility of the pack.
50 + 10 litre lightweight alpine climbing sack with simple but well thought-out features for uncomplicated mountaineering and trekking. Designed and made in the UK with rock solid construction, uncompromising and durable materials, and attention to detail that can only come from hours of lugging kit around the hills and spending nights under the stars.
- Back length: 45cm or 55cm
- Materials: VX21 (main compartment); 500D Cordura (base)
- Detachable VX21 lid with large main compartment and zipped valuables pocket
- Chest strap
- Extension chimney
- Thermo-formed shoulder straps with top stabilising straps
- Thermo-formed back panel in 2 sizes with removeable back stiffener
- All contact points bar-tacked and webbing sewn into seams for strength
- Top carry strap for rope / coat
- Removable ice axe loops and bungee straps
- Hydration port
- Straps: Removable chest strap, removable waist belt, 4x compression straps
- Pockets: Upper lid pocket, hydration port
- Bungee system, ice axe loops (lower loops only)
- Warranty: 25-year Alpine Bond
- Price: £125
- Capacity: 50+10L
- Weight: 1.45kg (795g stripped down)
For more info see alpkit.com