Wild Things Guide Pack Review
Cons: Some features could be improved, less abrasion resistance than other packs
Manufacturer: Wild Things
Our Analysis and Test Results
Wild Things was an early pioneer of light and simple gear for alpine climbing. The company's ethos hasn't changed over the years, but unfortunately, the pack designs haven't either. The Guide Pack has a no-nonsense design with some old-school touches. Our testers really like the overall simplicity of this pack and feel that this lets the pack adapt to many situations, though they do wish it was more abrasion resistant.
The Guide pack is the lightest pack in our test when stripped down. It has a weight-to-volume ratio of 19.8 g/L with the lid and foam pad and 22.9 g/L without. We often use the pack without the lid. The foam pad is easily removed for really light summit pushes. The Arc'teryx Alpha FL 45 is the other really simple pack in our test and while its weight is comparable, it's slightly larger.
The Guide Pack is entirely made from VX-21 (210d Cordura laminated with Kevlar X-Pac). Wild Things uses a double layer on the front and bottom. While the VX fabric has high tensile strength and is very cut-resistant, it is fundamentally 210d, so the single layer used on the sides, especially near the bottom, showed some holes after only 11 days of use.
This is a three-season small alpine pack, but we feel those seasons should probably be fall, winter, and spring. In our testing we took this pack rock climbing, ice climbing, alpine climbing, and ski mountaineering. We like that we can remove the foam frame pad and put our own ground pad in that pocket, depending on its size and shape. The only thing that brings the versatility score down compared to other packs we reviewed in its size category is the abrasion resistance. We find this pack to be less appropriate for rock climbing than other packs in this review. Our testers thought this pack was most suitable for icy and snowy pursuits.
We like the simple feature set on this pack, but it has some drawbacks. The tool attachments are simple axe loops at the bottom for the head of the tool, and Velcro straps to secure the shaft. We found this attachment to work fine with mountaineering axes or ice tools with a prominent adze or hammer. However, with modern technical ice tools without an adze or hammer, the loops are annoying and some other rigging must be done. This dropped the features score compared to other packs in this review. We found the best thing to do is to pass the loops through the holes in the heads of your tools, then clip the loops together with a carabiner. While this system is slightly lighter than that found on the Black Diamond Speed 50 or Patagonia Ascensionist 40, those packs can accomodate a much wider variety of tools more easily and securely.
There are two compression straps on each side of the pack and two rope straps under the lid. We think the rope straps are redundant, as the side compression straps held an appropriately coiled rope just fine. The pack has a draw cord top closure with a small extension collar. We miss the one-handed cord lock found on competing packs. Crampons can be attached to the front with two simple nylon straps. There is a removable lid with two pockets.
The frame is a removable foam bivy pad. We really like this feature. Only one other pack in our test, the CiloGear 45L WorkSack, allowed us to remove all of the foam suspension parts. We are frustrated that the other packs don't let us do this.
The Guide Pack is reasonably comfortable overall when kept within weight boundaries. It's hard to really load up a pack of this size anyhow, but our testers found loads over 30lbs to be pushing the comfort boundary on the approach because the hip belt isn't padded. When loaded down, we think it's best carried a bit lower on the body than a pack with a padded hip belt. Instead of the hip belt hugging our hip bones we let the bottom of the pack rest on top of our butt cheeks.
This is a good all-around small alpine pack — best for one day climbs or overnights if going light. Our testers thought this pack is most suitable for icy and snowy pursuits.
The Guide Pack is a little expensive for what you get. Other packs in this review have a better feature set and/or durability for a lower price. Our Best Buy winner, the Black Diamond Speed costs less, has almost the same weight-to-volume ratio, and is more durable. If having a pack that is made in the USA is important to you, then you might be willing to pay a little more for this pack.
The Wild Things Guide Pack is a simple, light rucksack with an old-fashioned feature set. Its relatively low abrasion resistance make it better suited for alpine activities with minimal contact with rock.
— Ian McEleney