Vaude Nendaz 25 / Women's Nendaz 24
An incredible amount of snow in the French Alps at the start of the 2017-18 winter season has meant plenty of opportunity to test this snowsport pack. Duncan tested the men's version which was so impressive that I chose the women's version, Nendaz 24 (shorter back creates the slightly smaller volume), for a ski touring trip to Greece (see www.mpora.com for the feature: Skiing in Greece, March 2018).
Results are impressive. Duncan rates this as the best pack he has ever skied with. It has excelled for skinning up, skiing down and carring skis or ice tools.
The pack has a dedicated front pocket for avalanche rescue tools, with elasticated pouches for shovel handle and probe. It's really useful to be able to separate this kit, and, with this pocket's front-opening zip, it is immediately accessible when the rescue clock is ticking.
Behind this is a zipped pocket for goggles and small items. It has a soft lining to protect (expensive) lenses and is a generous size, much bigger than on other packs we've used.
A long zip right around the pack gives easy access to the main compartment. It gapes open if you need to open it right out, or can be opened at the sides to reach items at the base or middle. It includes a mesh zipped pocket with a key hook, and a hydration bladder pocket with a Velcro hanging loop. The tube exit point is central so you can anchor the tube down either strap (only one tube slot per strap, though). Nendaz is a slim pack - which is why it carries so well for dynamic skiing - so this compartment isn't huge. With careful packing, a typical load is: water, lunch, skins, compact down jacket, lightweight waterproof, avalanche gear.
The harness supports weight well and cinches close for ski descents. The sternum strap is fully adjustable for height and incorporates an emergency whistle. The hipbelt has hip tensioners, a gear loop on the right side and a useful zipped pocket on the left. The close-contact back panel is moulded foam with a stiffened backing sheet; it's not officially a back protector, but Duncan certainly noticed a benefit during a heavy fall. It's taken me a while to get used to the feeling of rigidity as I'm used to skiing with a soft, malleable pack, but after a week or so I barly noticed it.
The outside front face has helmet loops and a neat ice axe carrier where the pick locates into a small pocket. There is a diagonal ski/snowboard carry system, although we prefer to use the A-frame method of slotting the skis down the pack sides, which are of super-tough nylon. These work well, with a fabric loop at the base and quick-release buckles on a generous length of webbing at the top, all quick and easy to use with gloved hands. All zips on the pack have big, glove-friendly pull tags.
Duncan says: "I love this pack because, with its slim shape and effective compression, it carries the load close to my back, which is essential while ski touring. It feels part of me, so it doesn't pull me backward or hinder me as many packs do when I'm concentrating on a technical descent. Top marks, Vaude."
Best for: close contact sports: ski touring, via ferrata, scrambling
Volume: 25 litres men / 24 litres women
Dimensions: 52 x 29 x 16cm
Load range: 3-8kg
Material: 100% polyamide (Nylon 6.6). 400D Dobby (PU coated)
snow-shedding moulded back panel, front loading for easy and organised access, front compartment for shovel and probe, padded pocket for eyeglasses, side ski attachment, diagonal ski attachment, front fixation for snowboard, helmet holder, attachment point for ice tools, lighteight hipbelt with zip pocket, sternum strap with whistle, information panel for alpine emergency (inside main compartment), opening for hydration system
Stockst information: www.vaude.com
Tel: +44 1665 510660
Top left: avalanche tool pocket
Top centre: main compartment
Top right: A-frame ski carry
Above: loading skis
Right: ice tool carry
Bottom left: skinning
Below: Judy testing the women's Nendaz skis touring in Greece: climbing Liakoura, highest peak in the Parnassos massif