Lynne Wolfe has been ski and mountain guiding as well as teaching avalanche classes in the Tetons since the 80’s. Her other job as the editor of The Avalanche Review, balances ski time with brain challenge. A powder season like this year reminds her why she moved to the Tetons in the first place.
Photo Credit: Mike Poborsky
I was asked to test the Gregory Targhee 45 Ski Pack by Outdoor Prolink because I have spent years in the ski guide and avalanche education fields. I routinely carry 40 liter packs on work days. Snow study kits, rescue gear, and repair kits, including extra layers and often a rescue sled, take up a fair amount of room. Add in mountaineering gear such as harness, rope, axe, and any ski pack can be pushed for room. This pack, at 45 liters, works well for these applications: long guiding days, glacier travel, and it can be stuffed for a yurt trip. Plus, believe it or not, it isn’t too heavy, as light-but-tough materials keep weight down and judicious padding is right where you need it.
Comfort and capacity
This pack carries well with a heavy or a light load. Suspension is based on a thin light wire around the back. The pack never collapses, and it has plenty of adjustments and compressions to keep the load from dropping to the bottom and affecting balance. A big powder skirt gives it further carrying capacity, although if you fill it too full up top, the top pocket, not being removable or extendable, will hit you in the head. There’s a top compression strap for ropes or to cinch it down, or you can tuck the top pocket into the pack body and thread this compression strap through a thoughtfully-placed slot for lighter loads.
I love having both back and top access in a ski pack. I load it from the top, then unload and access everything from repair kit to thermos from the back panel. Zippers for the back panel are weak links in most packs, but these are burly and run smoothly (you should still treat them with care though).
Pockets and storage
The top pocket is huge and easy to access with two zippers with huge zipper pulls. Great for everything from lunch to goggles to radio.
There’s one hip pocket that fits a bar and sunscreen. I couldn’t fit my camera in it; so a bigger pocket would be more useful here. There’s a gearloop on the other side of the hipbelt, which comes in handy in more technical situations where it’s hard to access harness gear loops while wearing a pack.
The avy gear pocket is huge as well. I can fit skins in it, plus a notebook and various other things. You have to unclip one or both of the top pocket clips to access this pocket, so it is less than immediate; one top pocket clip would help avoid this problem, but it’s inherent in the design.
Water bladder placement
I like to use a water bladder (usually a Platypus) until it gets down to around 10 degrees F. A shoulder strap insulted race for the tube and bite valve is crucial. Gregory’s attention to detail shows here; there’s even a larger space at the bottom to accommodate the 90 degree locking bite valves that often won’t fit in other pack’s shoulder straps.
Where to stash the bladder and how to run the tube is challenging to resolve in these clamshell packs. Gregory addresses this issue by hanging it off the back panel and providing ribbons to keep the tube out of general play in the pack body. This makes it a bit of a wiggle-fest where you try not to get wet as you thread the bladder onto the tube, and requires a long tube to thread the whole distance or else you can’t reach the bite valve with your mouth. I can tell they spent a lot of time on solving this issue and it works fine so far.
This pack works well with A-frame ski carry system. It offers quick fastex buckles for upper connection, deep slots on the lower connector, and pack protectors for both slots.
For the diagonal carry, the upper connector needs to get beefed up or simplified; it slips under load, which can upset the carry and my balance.
The ice axe loops on the shoulder strap need to be redesigned. They are too long for anything but an old-fashioned glacier axe. I would suggest a simple self-catching loop up near the diagonal carry loop.
The Gregory Targhee 45 is a big burly pack that has been well thought out and worth the money. I like the orange colorway, as it makes me easy to spot by ski clients or partners.