Product review: Osprey Kamber 42 ski pack
By Ken Bélanger
New for winter 2016-17 are the Kamber (men's) and Kresta (women's) models available in 20 litre (22 L men), 30 L (32 L men), and 40 L (42 L men) volumes. ABS Vario compatibility is available if you'd like an airbag. The Kamber and Kresta replace the non-gender specific Kobe model. I used the Kamber 42 (non ABS) for a week of guiding at Sorcerer Lodge and a few assorted Rockies ski mountaineering days in late April.
Truly a comfortable pack, even once loaded with a rope, harness, crevasse rescue gear, ice axe, avalanche equipment, and all the other usualaccoutrements in a Guide's pack. Adjustment and fit was easy with the plethora of straps. More on those later, but they certainly allowed me to easily dial in tension and balance depending on the load and terrain through which we were travelling.
I'm choosy with ski packs. Unlike alpine packs, I prefer my ski pack to have multiple and well-thought pockets. Ski touring requires specific equipment I need to easily and quickly access and then put away. I find a good organisation system critical to not wasting time and energy digging through gear to find my thermometer, thermos, goggles or whatever. The Kamber fits this bill nicely with its multiple pockets and sleeves.
The large avalanche gear pocket swallows my oversized Black Diamond Evac 7 shovel, G3 carbon probe and wood saw with room for a few other things too. It has an additional red third zipper pull that supposedly allows quick access without opening the lid, but that wouldn't really work if your shovel handle and/or probe are sleeved. I'd like to see one more sleeve for a total of three (shovel handle, probe, saw) in the avy pocket.
The removable lid has three large pockets: 2 on top and 1 on the inside. The top pockets have fleece lining for your eyewear. There is a volume adjusting strap on the inside which I found superfluous and never used. It also has a tuck away helmet carrier that can be deployed in an upper or lower configuration. Like free Wi-Fi at hotels, I think helmet carriers should be a mandatory feature on ski packs.
However, that same lid has an annoying habit of loosening and sliding downward on its straps. This makes it flop around with even a small amount of items. It seems the buckles that attach it to the pack don't have enough friction. I solved this by wrapping duct tape around them to fix their position. If you think the lid has two pockets too many, you can remove it and use the ingenious flap to close the top of your pack from the elements.
The comfortable moulded hipbelt has a zippered pocket on each side for sunscreen, lip balm, a few snacks, compass and inReach device. I liked the forward pull to tighten feature - cinching it was much easier than a corset.
Straps, attachments and access
There are multiple straps on this pack, probably too many for my tastes. But Osprey is making a pack to appeal to all sorts of backcountry users, whether on two planks or one. The carrying options are numerous: diagonal, A-frame, vertical, horizontal, or maybe a combo of any. The buckles are large and easy to use with gloves.
The ice axe bottom loops (2) are old school simple webbing loops. I find my tool flops around too much on these, so I twist it numerous times before clipping in the shaft.
In addition to the top loading access, you can unclip the shoulder stays and zip open the back panel. This is great when you don't want to puke your pack for something on the bottom (1st Aid kit or whatever) or if your skis/board are attached.
The top haul loop is large, stiff, and easy to grab and clip to anchors. Nice work here. You can route your hydration hose through the right hand shoulder strap to reduce freezing incidents.
Perhaps because my pack is a pre-production model, it lacked a whistle built into the sternum buckle. I expect a whistle will be standard on the production version.
With all of these features, this isn't the lightest pack on the market. I weighed it at 1890 grams, which seems to be in the range of other full-featured ski packs.
ConclusionThe Kamber 42 is an excellent pack for ski touring and ski-mountaineering when you need to carry a great deal of gear. This is the first Osprey pack I've used and their thoughtful attention to detail is evident everywhere
Ken Bélanger is an ACMG Ski and Hiking Guide and the ACMG Partnership Coordinator with a base in Canmore and outdoor offices all over the world.