What exactly makes a pack a “guide” pack? I really don’t know, all I know is that I have an immense attraction to things marketed as “guide” gear. As we know, most “guide” gear is made for guys, so a women’s guide pack is simply BEGGING to get on Geargals. So here it is – one of the few women’s specific “guide” packs out there.

First, I’ll be straightforward about what I think a “guide” pack should have – pockets. Compartments. Lots and lots of pockets and compartments. Lots of ways to store things and lots of ways to get into where things are stored – so access is the name of the game. This Deuter pack delivers on the access with one 2/3 length zipper, but is pretty minimal on the pockets and compartments. One main compartment and one top compartment, that’s all you get. Streamlined, for sure, but you better have a serious mind for organization if you need to know exactly where your stuff is and where to find it in your pack.

Second, I’ll be straightforward about what I think women’s packs don’t need – little plastic flowers attached to them. The plastic flower that came with this pack hit the trash on day one, and its surgical removal didn’t affect the function of the pack at all. REALLY? Amazing. Seriously, the pack is fine without the flower. Ditch the flower.

Flower safely ditched, I was really pleased with how this pack carried. Even stuffed to the gills, it was stable, fit well to my back, was easy to adjust, and had a perfectly sized harness. I chose to wear this pack on a long search exercise just because I knew it was comfortable to carry, and it definitely delivered. I was wishing for a little more size, but since it’s designed for a smaller frame, I guess there’s only so much stuff that it can carry and still stay comfortable. Still, if you’re going to use this as a real “guide” or search pack, you’re going to have to pack carefully because there is very little extra room. There is, however, a great carry system for ice tools and skis. The loops for ice tools are just awesome. Why other packs don’t have similar loops is kind of beyond me – does Deuter have the patent or are they just ahead of the game?

I feel like the ski loops are a bit tragic. They carry skis really, really well. The pack is one of the most stable packs in my arsenal, making it perfect for skiing. But there is no dedicated pocket for avalanche gear such as shovel and probe. Smart Geargals will not be carrying skis if they’re not also carrying an avalanche shovel and transceiver. Putting a shovel blade into the main compartment of this pack is not ideal. It will take up all the room and be hard to get out. So, I don’t use this as a ski pack. I wish I could, because I bet it would be great to ski with since it carries so well.

One other strange thing about this pack is that it doesn’t have a compression strap at the top. Kind of odd. I feel like there is some sort of pack design magic going on that I just haven’t figured out, because I really wish it had a compression strap. Advances in pack technology really have to be spelled out for me – how does this “no compression strap” thing work and what is with the random strap at the top where a compression strap should be? That strap doesn’t connect to anything, so what is it for? (Aaaand this section wins the prize for most times the word “strap” appears in a paragraph.) I guess it’s for carrying maybe a sleeping pad or something, but I’d prefer a normal compression strap.

So, another patented mixed review. I really, really like the way this pack carries. I think Deuter must have spent most of their time on engineering a well-sized harness and ensuring that the pack fits a woman’s frame properly. But did they forget to design any pockets? How about a water bottle pocket. Avalanche gear pocket? Car key pocket? Work with me here, give me just a few little pockets and I’ll be happier. Well, I’d be happiest with more pockets than that, but to have almost no pockets? Strange. Deuter should forget about designing a little plastic flower and start working on some pockets to go with that amazing carry system, wonderfully balanced pack, and well-fitting harness. And they should make a women’s guide pack that has a bit more capacity. But above all, they should keep making “guide” packs for women because someone has to do it, and if they can make a pack that carries this well, I know they can dial in that situation with the pockets. If this pack had a few more compartments and lots of access to them, as well as about another 10 liters in capacity, I would use it as my search pack, no question. I’ll be watching the Deuter line to see if they add such a Geargals-specific pack to their lineup – I’ll snatch it up right away for sure!

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