Fjallraven Bergtagen 38 Backpack Review

Fjallraven Bergtagen 38 Backpack Review

The Fjallraven Bergtagen 38 is a waterproof mountaineering backpack that’s designed for winter hiking and climbing with modular components that added or removed depending on your needs. It has wooden frame stays, a lid, and hip belt that can all be removed for long approach hikes, ski tours, or summit pushes. Daisy chains, ice axe loops, shaft holders, dual side compression straps provide plenty of attachment points for winter gear and tools, while the pack’s durable construction can withstand serious abuse.

Specs at a Glance

  • Gender: Unisex
  • Volume: 38L
  • Weight: 3 lbs 6.3 oz
  • Weight stripped: 2 lbs 3.2 oz
    • wooden stays 1.7 oz x 2
    • top lid – 7.0 oz
    • hip belt – 8.7 oz
  • Frame: Internal
  • Frame Material: Birchwood
  • Waterproof: Yes
  • Lid: Floating
  • Load Lifters: Yes
  • Ski Carry: A-frame capable
  • Pockets: 2

Modular Components

The Bergtagen 38 has a number of modular components that can be removed if you want to strip down the pack to save weight. This is pretty common with mountaineering and climbing packs in order to adapt to other gear requirements or to save weight. On the Bergtagen 38, you can remove the floating top lid, the wooden frame stays, or the hip belt, for instance, if you wanted to wear the pack at the same time as a climbing harness.

The Bergtagen has removable birch wooden frame stays
The Bergtagen has removable birch wooden frame stays

Backpack Storage and Organization

The backpack is streamlined in appearance, with a well-fitting top lid and main pack bag, but no side pockets. The top lid has an external zippered pocket on top that large enough for gloves, hats, and maps, as well as a pocket on the lid underside, that’s good for storing less frequently used items. There’s a small zippered pocket inside the pack that’s good for stashing your wallet and keys for safe-keeping and a hydration pocket, although no hydration ports for running a hose.

The main pack bag and top lid of the Bergtagen 38 are waterproof, which is a really nice feature on a winter backpack, so you don’t have to line it with a plastic bag. Using a pack cover in winter or for climbing is also really inconvenient given the number of items you have to attach to the outside of a backpack, from crampons and ice axes to rope or skis.

The birch frame stays are removable to save weight.
The birch frame stays are removable to save weight.

The hip belt has one stretch pocket large enough to hold a smartphone that is made with softshell fabric and one gear loop on the other side. good for hanging biners or gear attached to them.

Backpack Frame and Suspension

The Bergtagen 38 has a fixed-length lightweight frame made using two wooden frame stays, which is both aesthetically pleasing and effective. They’re pre-bent and treated with linseed oil as a preservative. Each one weighs 1.7 oz and the slots into pockets behind the shoulder pads and hip belt, but terminate on the back frame so they’re still useful if you remove the hip belt. There’s also a stiffener, some sort of plastic sheet sewn into the back of the packbag, but not removable, to give the pack bag a little body. The load lifters are attached to the pack bag at the top of this internal sheet.

The shoulder pads are sewn to the back panel. They’re lined with the same snow-shedding softshell fabric used on the inside of the hip belt. There’s an adjustable sternum strap on the rail and each strap has two horizontal hose keeper straps, which also make good anchors for accessory packets.

The pack has a pair of daisy chains on the front along with two ice axe loops and shaft holders
The pack has a pair of daisy chains on the front along with two ice axe loops and shaft holders

The hipbelt is secured with velcro behind a modest lumbar pad and connected to the pack sides with hip control straps. It’s very easy to remove and weighs 8.7 oz. The hip belt is tightened with two pull forward straps, which is handy when you’re wearing bulky winter layers, and has a large center buckle, which won’t get jammed up by packed snow.

External Attachment and Compression System

Most of the winter mountaineering and climbing people carry is too large to be stored inside a backpack and must be attached to the outside: rope, skis, snowshoes, and ice axes, being the most frequent culprits. The Bergtagen 38 is well-appointed to carry these items with its floating lid, dual ice axe loops, shaft holders, dual rear daisy chains, and side compression straps. Plus having a stiffer frame and proper hip belt rather than a thin webbing strap makes carrying heavy and bulky gear much easier.

The Bertagen’s frame and attachment points make it a great pack for hauling heavy winter gear
The Bertagen’s frame and attachment points make it a great pack for hauling heavy winter gear

While the side compression straps are robust enough for an A-frame ski carry, I mostly use the straps for carrying snowshoes along the sides of the pack. These straps are just long enough to strap on snowshoes with a flat binding, like MSR’s Evo Ascents, but they’re a little on the short side if you have a bulkier binding. The top compression strap also closes with a metal c-shaped buckle, which I find a bit hard to use while wearing fleece gloves, but is commonly found on European-designed backpacks because it’s more durable than a plastic buckle.

The upper compression strap closes with a metal buckle which is a hard to use while wearing gloves.
The upper compression strap closes with a metal buckle which is hard to use while wearing gloves.

That’s said, it’s curious that Fjallraven uses a plastic tri-glide to tighten the bottom of the two straps: my preference would be to have somewhat longer webbing straps and more conventional plastic side release buckles, which are much easier to use while wearing gloves. This isn’t a showstopper, but more of an annoyance from my perspective.

Comparable Modular Mountaineering/Climbing Backpacks

Make / ModelVolumeWeightPrice
Cold Cold World Valdez40L2 lbs 2 oz$135
Black Diamond Speed 4040L2 lbs 10 oz$190
Arcteryx Alpha 3540L2 lbs 9.3 oz$190
Fjallraven Bergtagen 3838L3 lbs 8 oz$268
Mystery Ranch Scepter 3535L3 lbs 4.3 oz$219
Osprey Mutant 3838L2 lbs 13 oz$170
Black Diamond Mission 3535L3 lbs 9 oz$210
Ortovox Peak Light 4040L2 lbs 10 oz$200
Mountain Hardwear Scrambler 3535L1 lb 14 oz$140

Recommendation

The Fjallraven Bergtagen 38 is a super winter backpack that good for carrying heavy bulky gear. It has a more robust frame suspension system than many other mountaineering backpacks but is easily stripped down by removing modular components when features are not required. The waterproof liner built into the Bergtagen’s main pack bag is a great convenience, especially for long trips when it’s important to keep your warm backup layers dry, while the durable 400D exterior of the backpack ensures many years of hard use.

Disclosure: Fjallraven provided the author with a sample backpack for this review.

Editor's note: Help support this site by making your next gear purchase through one of the affiliate links above. Click a link, buy what you need, and some sellers may contribute a small portion of the purchase price to support SectionHiker's unsponsored and independent gear reviews, beginner FAQs, and free hiking guides.

3 comments

  1. In a certain sense, birch stays are a natural type of carbon fiber.

  2. langleybackcountry

    No compartment for avalanche rescue tools (shovel, probe)?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

error: