Friday, 26 August 2011

OMM jirishanca 35RL

Being used scrambing
A couple of years ago I was looking to replace my Lowe Alpine Contour Runner which had served me well for about 9 years. It was a good day pack size, it held the contents of the bag against my back and stopped things moving around, and had been dragged around the world in various guises. It was, and is (it still battles on) a fantastic bag.
However it was beginning to get a little raggedy (and will be the subject of another blog), and to replace it I had a couple of extra needs.
As well as being light, sturdy and able to compress gear onto my back for running, it needed to have hipbelt pockets, like the Contour runner, have ice axe straps, a removable back liner and, if possible, attachments for skis. (you never know).

The obvious choice, but for a couple of minor points was the hyperlightweight and always very useful Osprey Talon 33. I love it as a rucksack, but I really wanted something that was modular, and could be either stripped down, or geeked up. I looked at the Crux AK37, another great bag, but it was a little too Alpine for what I needed. Not quite perfect for running, and not enough stow places for easy access when on the move.
I knew of the OMM running bags and was intrigued, but I also knew they didn’t have ice axe loops, but on closer inspection of the website, I came across the mountain bag section and the Jirishanca 35. A perfect compromise?
Jirishenca in its component parts

Light enough to run with, a multitude of storage bits and pieces, a removable compression “spider” ice axe loops, AND ski attachments. Wow. Made for me?
I wouldn’t say I rushed out to buy one, the price being quite steep, but it stuck in the back of my mind for a fair old while, and eventually, after nagging at myself for a long time… and seeing the old Lowe Alpine fall apart even more, I bit the bullet and bought one.

The first thing I saw as it came through the post from the retailer was that it had no (detachable) ice axe loops. They had been detached. Great.
So I emailed OMM saying this, and they had some sent to my home address within 48 hours. Cheers guys. What a service. Very happy so far!

Now I have had the bag for about a year and have used it in a number of places and for a number of uses I feel its about time to pass judgement on it. 

At just under a kilo (920g or thereabouts) with all the bells and whistles attached and 620g stripped as far as it will go, its not too bad a weight for a 35 litre bag (the osprey talon 33 is approx 900g and cannot be stripped)

It is marked out at a mountain pack on the OMM site, but light enough to be a running pack as well. A very versatile bag, but, as a bit of a jack of all trades bag, you might think that there are compromises to be made, perhaps in terms of material, perhaps in terms of comfort. 

First off, the fit. It’s designed with the OMM lean chassis fit, which basically hugs around the body. Its very comfortable indeed, if it fits you. The harness itself is quite thick foam, non-stretchy stuff, and a little old school in terms of feel of materials. On hot days, it can feel a tad bulky and warm, but it stays comfortable for the most part. The jischirenca doesn’t have a handy resizing back like the Osprey Talon series, but the single length back, just like in the old Lowe Alpine appears to fit me very well. The Hip belt is comfortable, and provides excellent support while running for long distances with heavy things in it.

On the go food and drink storage.
Some may say that the hip belt is a little TOO padded, looking at more minimalistic designs of other rucksacks, especially Alpine ones, however, the padding, coupled with the pockets which I use ALL the time for compass, food, emergency gloves/hat/rubber gloves etc are so useful that whenever I look for a new rucksack, it will have to have them again.
The side pockets are pullcord elasticated and are placed in exactly the right place to be able to access them while at speed. Anything that is needed on the run and hasn’t been stowed in the hip belt pockets is easily accessible from these. When I’m not moving with a hydration bladder, (the bag is hydration compatible) drink bottles go in there. No problems with them at all. They are deep enough and stretchy enough to accommodate sigg bottles and normal waterbottles, and are not inhibited by the compression system as other rucksacks I have seen are. (which is a real annoyance)

The main pack itself is, well, a bag. Nothing much to report on there. It has a top pocket with semi-dry zip, an extra Velcro pocket inside with a key clip.
The compression systems (there are 2) are very well thought out and designed, and one of the main reasons I bought the bag. The main one which I tend to refer to as a spider system is attached at the bottom with Velcro, and has 4 clips, 2 on either side of the bag, which it attaches to. And then it compresses the contents. Brilliant.
You can loosen it off massively and put a helmet, waterproof, map, whatever, in there, and compress it onto the back of the rucksack, and it is held on with no worry at all. Brilliant. In the winter, its a perfect place to stash a shovel, and an avalanche probe will sit happily down the outside of the bag held in with the compression straps. I love that bit of compression kit. Just love it. It also has a stretchy pocket integrated into it, so you have even more external space to stash gear in.
Compression spider clip points.
If you want to save weight, the whole thing then comes off very easily indeed.

The second compression strap is more of a cord, and it goes across the top, and can be “plugged in” to 2 points on either side of the rucksack giving horizontal or vertical compression. Again, it can be taken off if you like a bag with less faff and bits and bobs holding you back. In the horizontal "mode", it can be used as an extra side compression for ice wands, or tent poles, and in ther vertical "mode" is more akin to a rope holder. I understand that on the latest version of this pack, the cord compression strap is now shock cord, but I haven't seen it yet, so I'm not sure.

It does indeed have the removable back mat as well. Its thin, not particularly comfortable to lie on, but it is there if you need it. I've used it as a sit on mat, prefering a little more comfort when sleeping. However, if you're going really light and really fast. The option is there.

The Ice Axe loops are, as I mentioned removable, which is nice if you don’t want them to caught on things as you fling the bag around the car/ train, and for most of the year, you probably won’t need them anyway. (I have to say that I did use mine in the height of summer, along with the compression system for cycling home through London traffic with 2 ice axes and a bike wheel strapped to my back, but that’s another story- suffice to say, the ice axe straps work)

With Helmet and Axes attached and compressed
The Ski straps, I have no idea, I just haven’t had the time or opportunity to try, and would welcome the opinion of anyone that has had the chance.

So, a lovely sack with lots of features that (for me) are a real boon, though perhaps for others who prefer a sleek sack with nothing more than a clip on the back, might be a bit of a faff.
But is there anything really wrong with it?

I’ve used this in long adventure races (up to 24hour), for climbing walk ins, general cragging, moving house, commuting (running and on a bike), long scrambling days, long walking days, and generally speaking I’m pretty damn happy with it.
I think though, this is much less of a cragging sack than I originally thought it might be. A load of heavy climbing gear with sharp bits of metal inside haven’t done it a wonderous amount of good, it has to be said, and there is a hole in the bottom which I am a little concerned about. So the fabric, as one would expect for a lightweight bag, is indeed, lightweight, and not necessarily bomb proof. Again, in terms of a cragging sack, it lacks an external rope clip, which is a little annoying, though you can quite happily compress a rope over the top of the bag under the lid by using the compression straps- that is the way that OMM recommend you do it anyway, and having done that, it works just as well as having a rope retainer.

All in all, yes, I am very happy that I bought this bag, and not a running specific one, and a cragging specific one. It was a perfect replacement for the Contour runner, and the fact there are so few of them that I see on the hill means that I am very happy that I’m not one of hundreds of people walking around with the same pack. I don’t know why, that would just annoy me and would make me feel a bit “sheep” like.
Would I buy one again?

Concerns over durability, a hole in the base.
As a running/ Mountain Marathon bag, yes. As a day pack, yes. As a climbing or scrambling bag? Not sure. Maybe if the bottom of the bag was made of slightly more robust material, yes, I would, I’m just a slight be concerned about the durability of the material when it has climbing gear inside, and also for its abrasion resistance when you aren’t being nice to it over gnarly rock.
As a mountain bag it doesn't fail, it does very well, but you have to be more careful with it that I tend to be with my gear around rock. Its lightweight, and that means it doesn't hold well when subjected to daily abuse of being thrown around a crag. If you want a crag bag, buy something that is made of tough cordura. 
If you need a bag which you can use on the hill/mountain with a lot of bits and pieces within easy reach so that you quite literally never actually have to stop until the end of the day, this is the bag for you. 
A day out boarding opposite MontBlanc with the Jirishenca
Having said that, I am now in the market for a 50 litre bag, and the OMM Villain is looking like a very strong contender. I need to have a look at it in more detail, and it has some very stiff competition from the AK-47X, the Osprey Variant52 and funnily enough, the Deuter Guide 45+. If anyone has ideas for nigh-on indestructible 50litre or so rucksacks- its basically going to be a day to day abuse bag for on the hill as an ML/SPA/aspirant MRT I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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