Macpac Pursuit 40 V3 Rucksack Review

The Macpac Pursuit 40 is a tough-but-lightweight technical rucksack that will cover anything from evening cragging to big mountain rock routes, hill walking and scrambling to winter and alpine climbing. The Pursuit has proved a popular pack over the years, highly regarded for its hardwearing and functional design, and this reputation is obviously deserved as you still see the odd battered old one going strong. However the most recent design, Version 3 (V3), is more stripped-back and modern-looking than these old workhorses.

The Macpac Pursuit 40 in Pembroke  © UKC Gear
The Macpac Pursuit 40 in Pembroke

Capacity

The Pursuit is a 40 litre pack (or 37 litres in S2) - a versatile capacity for a day pack, and a size I use for pretty much everything. During the summer I've had this out Munro bagging, sport and trad climbing, including on the mountain crags. I've not yet had a chance to use it in winter, but I already know this will be my new winter pack as the ice axe attachments are excellent - more on that later.

As well as for climbing, it's a good tough hillwalking pack too  © Victoria de Ga
As well as for climbing, it's a good tough hillwalking pack too
© Victoria de Ga

Generally if you're taking a full trad rack, a half rope, rock boots, harness and an extra few layers this will all go in the main compartment. Chuck your lunch in the top pocket along with your phone and keys and you're good to go. When I do take something extra out like my big SLR camera I chuck the rope on the top of the bag and secure it using the compression straps.

Comfort

The Pursuit has a really simple back system, and while there is no length adjustment the pack does come in two different size options, S2 (back length 37-44cm) and S3 (42-49cm). I've been using size 2, which suits those of a smaller frame.

Comfort wise, by the standards of a climbing pack, it's hard to fault the Pursuit. When fully loaded the pack can be secured using the hip belt and chest buckle, and with the shoulder straps tightened you can really bring the load close to your back and also have some weight loaded onto your waist. It feels well balanced when climbing, and the low-profile shoulder straps don't restrict arm movement.

The back panel, shoulder straps and waist belt are all made with what Macpac call a "non-absorbent fabric", which in reality absorbs a small amount of sweat, but nothing like the old school packs with foam backs. The padding is really comfortable, and this summer with the heat I've often been walking in without a t-shirt, skin directly on the back panel, which has been great. No there's not much ventilation, but that's pretty standard for a mountain pack, where simplicity is key. More porous back panels, as found on some walking packs, can gather snow, while back systems with an air gap between the pack and the wearer have the habit of pushing the centre of gravity away from your body, which is an obvious drawback when climbing.

The waist strap also has the added benifit of being removable, for those people out there counting the grams.

Finding it comfy on a long walk-in in the Cairngorms  © UKC Gear
Finding it comfy on a long walk-in in the Cairngorms

Features

The Pursuit has a good range of features, pretty much everything you would expect on a premium rucksack. Firstly, this is a zip top closing pack and there's nothing worse than a zip top with a weak zip. The zip on the Pursuit feels strong and has held up well to rough treatment even when the pack is rammed to the brim with gear. Once opened the available space is great, providing lots of room to rummage around and quick access to your gear. One thing to note though with the zip top is that when the pack isn't full the top of the pack doesn't fold down as neatly as a conventional buckled lid, so it doesn't get quite as compact. But I'll take the conveniece of the zip over that, especially in summer when weatherproofing isn't as important.

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A good top compression strap, I used quite often for my helmet but also good for a rope

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The Pursuit has the option for attaching bungy cord along with ice axes

At the side of the pack are two sets of compression straps which can be used to reduce the size of the pack when not fully loaded, or serve as outside storage if you have a tent or extra stuff. The lid also has a compression strap that I've been using mostly to store my helmet when out climbing, or sometimes the rope. The front has plenty of sturdy daisychain loops for attaching bungee cord for extra storage; I've not yet had to use these, though it's good to have that option.

Although I've only been testing this out in the hills in summer conditions as yet, I'm already getting psyched for winter and have had a good play around with the ice axe attachments. Being of the conventional toggle-and-loop variety, these are durable, secure and easy to use with gloves on. Some axe attachments try to be clever by incorporating tension from the top lid, but I find these annoying because when you open the lid of the pack the axes are then flopping about all over the place. Macpac have done well to keep it simple.

The Macpack Pursuit Front with Axes

The Macpack Pursuit Back Panel

The top hood on the Pursuit contains a single exterior pocket; with enough room for some food, phone, wallet and keys and a guidebook, this is quite roomy. There is no interior hood pocket which some people may miss, being a common place to store the likes of car keys. The exterior pocket though does contain a clip, so they shouldn't slip out when you're grabbing a sandwich.

Weight and durability

At just 702g (size 2) the Pursuit 40 is really very light for a pack of this capacity, but unlike many flimsy ultralight models it's also built to last. Its AzTec Eco canvas (227g/m2) is a Macpac staple, and very tough stuff this is too. It uses organic cotton, which is a nice touch, blended with polyester for strength. Added to that you get a really thick (500 denier!) Cordura nylon base for added durability where the pack will be likely to get the most wear. If you have crampons stored in the bag, you should be pretty safe from getting holes. The Pursuit is water resistant (not proof) too, so it easily shrugs off light showers. Between the fabrics and the general build quality this pack is reassuringly solid, so hats off to Macpac for keeping that overall weight so low! How did they do it, actually...?

Overall

The Pursuit is a great all round pack; it feels old school, but in a really good way. I'd use it for pretty much everything short of a multi-day trip that requires a ton of kit. It's got all the features I look for in a year-round rucksack, and I especially like the convenience of the zip top. This summer I've had great use from it, both climbing and walking, and I'm really looking forward to trying it this coming winter as I think the ice axe attachments look far superior to my current winter rucksack. It's both light and bombproof, so its £140 price tag seems more than reasonable considering that it will be likely to last you years.

Macpac say:

The Pursuit 40 alpine pack is a sophisticated lightweight mountaineering pack that's been engineered for comfort and performance on technical trips. Constructed with legendary AzTec Plus 6 canvas, the Pursuit 40 is highly durable and weather resistant. It features a hip belt with light padding for stability, webbing rope carry, a removable bivvy mat, compression straps, dual ice axe attachments and daisy chains for optional bungee attachments. The comfortable back panel has been designed with non-absorbent fabric to avoid freezing at sub-zero temperatures, making it an excellent companion for trips above the snow line.

  • Sizes: S2 (37-44cm); S3 (42-49cm)
  • Weight: 702g (S2)
  • Fabric: AzTec® Eco 8oz. Canvas; 500d Cordura Nylon base

For more info see macpac.co.nz

  • Active-X™ harness with moulded back panel
  • Large zip-opening
  • Hip belt with light padding for stability and comfort
  • Haul loops
  • Webbing rope carry and compression strap
  • Lid pocket
  • Removable bivvy mat
  • Dual ice axe attachments (with webbing 'V' to keep axes secure)
  • Daisy chains for optional bungee attachment
  • Compression straps
  • Reflective logo
  • Low profile shoulder straps
  • Back panel fabric not absorbent to avoid freezing at sub-zero temperatures




    31 Aug, 2018

    I can vouch for the durability of the old school version. Made in NZ, not at all lightweight but it will last for 20 years.

    You might want to check the write up again as it mixes references to the pack being a Pursuit but later on there are multiple references to Ascent.

    31 Aug, 2018

    Thanks for pointing that out. Not sure how we managed that!