Let me ask a question: who doesn’t like Montane kit? They’ve got an excellent rep and for good reason. Well thought out, no-nonsense, quality materials and manufacturing, lightweight and all from a UK business. It’s a pretty impressive pedigree. They only branched into making packs in the last couple of years, and they seem to be applying the same approach there.
The Medusa 32 was first and I really need to write that up, but here we have the Torque 40. It’s kinda like the Medusa’s big brother, if he had left home at 17 and joined the Marines. It’s designed as a technical climbing pack, so it needs to be able to carry big loads with ropes and racks to the base of a route, then compress down so it doesn’t get in the way when climbing won’t fall to pieces rubbing against rock.
The material is called Raptor, which is a 500 denier fabric that acts like 1000; it’s very abrasion resistant but still fairly light. The pack weighs in at 1.3kg, but it’s strippable down to around 800g. Most of that comes from the removeable belt and back panel. It’s harness friendly, and has a couple of gear loops and it has a deep lid to accommodate a rope or helmet.
So how does it work in real life? Well, it’s a very comfy carry. The shaped back system is good and the waist belt is excellent. It’s easy to adjust, even with gloves on. Thanks to the double cinch top being expandable, it’ll take a shed load of kit with a rope or helmet on top, secured with a tie down and covered by the expanding lid. The lid pocket is wonderfully large, it’ll happily take a map and guidebook along with a whole bunch of other stuff, and it’s protected by a very deep cover so water ingress is unlikely. There’s a decent size zip pocket inside the lid with a key clip that’ll take a medical kit alongside your wallet. Ice tools can be stowed easily and the compression works well. It’ll shrink down a fair bit in terms of volume and it’ll keep a slick shape. The main lid buckle is secure but dead easy to use even with mitts on.
So we get to the downsides. The only niggle I have is with the plastics. Firstly, the chest clip is a doddle to use when you try it on in the shop or in your living room, but if we transport you up a hill in a strong wind, driving rain or snow with gloves on and it’s fiddly to clip in. Really fiddly. I had to keep taking my gloves off to fit it, which sounds minor but can be a real pain in the arse if you take your pack on and off as often as I do.
Secondly, the ‘Lock Lord’: this is the cord clip thats fitted to both collars of the sack opening.
Initially I liked it, it makes for efficient closure and opening with minimum faff. Unfortunately, when I’ve got gloves on and I’m cold and want to get into my pack to get my down jacket I may not be the gentlest creature. I managed to get the cord to come out of place on one side of the ‘Lord’, which rendered it useless. I fiddled for ages in the driving snow to get it back in, but it was stuck fast. This left me trying to get stuff in and out of my pack through a hole roughly the size of an orange. Not ideal. Needless to say, once I got back home I had a good look with some tools and got it running smoothly again, but suffice to say it has one more chance and if it happens again the swiss army knife will be coming out. Bear in mind I am generally a ham-fisted oaf and my wife describes me as the clumsiest man alive, so your mileage may vary.
So to sum up, it’s Montane through and through. It’s well featured, light and hard wearing. As techy packs go, it’s got everything I’m looking for and a couple of minor niggles won’t put me off, all packs have them. I’ll be putting this at the top of the go-to list for climbing and scrambling trips from now on, at least until the warmer weather arrives and I can get the Medusa out again.