I’ve long been a fan of lightweight and fast. While many people seem to plan for every contingency and end up with a heavy backpack to cover only a handful of miles every day, I usually go as light as possible so I can cover a lot of ground. I’m also usually carrying camera equipment and possibly a beer or two so if I can cut weight anywhere, I’m always thankful.
Ultimate Direction has long been famous for crafting lightweight trail running vests and belts. Why is this important you ask? Well, the SkiMo 28 isn’t really a backpack; rather, it’s a bag built on a vest. That’s an important distinction when you’re traveling. Vests greatly outperform packs while running or when you need to be flexible; on skis for instance.
All the bulky padding and heavy straps have been eliminated on the SkiMo 28. The fabric is lightweight but still very tough and breathable. At only 580 grams it’s so light that measuring it in pounds is too imprecise.
Most impressive is what this vest/best small tactical backpack does. Remember the days of taking your pack on and off and laboring to attach your skis? Well, say goodbye to them forever. Simply slip your skis into the loop, reach around your head with your opposite hand and attach the integrated clip. You barely have to stop walking to do it.
At this point you’re probably thinking, “But I still have to take the pack off to stuff my skins.” Wrong again. Keep the waist belt connected, slip off your shoulder straps and spin the bag around. Let it hang from your waist as you unzip the vertical pocket that offers just enough room for a pair of skins to warm themselves on your back as you find your way down. This zipper is also where you’ll stash your water reservoir. I’ve found water stays more protected from freezing as compared to a traditional backpack with the added barrier of more padding and perhaps air gaps.
You’ll find stretch and zippered pockets in the places you need them and a stash pocket for a shovel and probe. At the bottom is a compartment separated from the main storage area by a zipper. Open it up to use the full volume of the pack or close it off to safely stash your crampons or camera. Ultimate Direction built in a side access cover held closed by hook and loop closure. With the pack on, reach around and easily pull it open to access your gear, again without removing the pack.
Ultimate Directions seems to have thought of everything when they built the SkiMo 28. I normally ski with a heavier air bag pack but on those days where I’m playing it safer and especially for spring skiing, the SkiMo 28 is my pack, sorry – vest, of choice.
Photos courtesy of Ultimate Direction and Mathis Dumas Photography.
More gear reviews