This spring I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to test a variety of winter back-packs for a friend who works for an outdoorsy magazine. He had been sent a rather alarming amount of bags to review for publication this fall, and couldn't possibly do it all himself.
One of the bags that fell into my hands was a pre-production Sierra Designs winter day-pack call the Ullr-30.
Long time readers will recall my review of the Dakine Poacher and a comparison between the 2009 and 2010 models. I spent considerable time looking at other back-country ski specific back-packs and was very careful in my selection of the Poacher.
After trying the Ullr out, I asked my friend at the unnamed magazine if I could keep it. He agreed (after I reviewed a number of other packs) and I have sold the Poacher. That is how good the Ullr is.
The suspension doesn't look very fancy or innovative, but it works better than any other pack I have tried. It also comes plumbed for your water reservoir.
Here's the Ullr as other skiers will see it when you zoom by them because you can't feel the weight of your gear. Note the proliferation of useful straps.
These big, wide, reinforced ski holder loops will take anything your fat skis can throw at them.
These zipper loops are on the dedicated snow tools compartment. They enable you to get your shovel and probe out with your gloves on very easily.
This is the helmet carry - it attaches like this to the back of to the top of the pack. When not in use it stows away in it's own pocket.
Sierra Designs even put out a press release when they had their new winter packs ready to roll. For once, the claims that the spin doctor's made were bang on. I quote:
"These packs also excel in their assortment of quick-access pockets and compartments, making it faster and easier to get snacks and water, as well as essential rescue gear in an emergency. Storage compartments include a snow-safety pocket for shovel and probe, a snow-shedding back panel, a Helmet Carry System and a fleece-lined goggle pocket."
The Ullr DOES excel. In my review notes back to my friend at the magazine, I said I did not want to give it back. I was very serious. He was prepared to give it the magazines highest accolades as he was equally impressed.
In a cruel twist of fate to all back-country enthusiasts who may be in the market for the ideal day-pack, Sierra Designs will not be making the Ullr. The story, as relayed to me, is that a new CEO was hired, and in a decision to cut costs, the new winter pack line was dropped. It almost makes you wonder how many other incredibly well designed pieces of gear never make it to your local outdoors store due to "cost savings".
In closing, I will try not to expand on my satisfaction with the Ullr as I use it this ski season. There are still many options out there, including the Dakine Poacher, to satisfy your day-pack needs. me, I'll keep the Ullr until it falls apart...