Gregory Alpinisto 50 Winter Backpack Review
The Gregory Alpinisto 50 is an alpine style winter backpack best used for backcountry skiing and ice climbing. It has a number of optional components that can be removed to save gear weight depending on your needs and is one of the few winter sports backpacks to have an external crampon pocket. This is a real luxury if you have to carry crampons because they keep the rest of your gear dry and separate from their sharp points.
Specs at a Glance
- Volume: 47 / 50 / 53 liters
- Weight (Max/Min) : 56.5 oz / 35.6 oz
- Removable Floating Lid: 4.9 oz
- Removable Foam Bivy Pad: 2.0 oz
- Removable Frame Sheet/Perimeter Frame: 8.3 oz
- Removable Hip Belt Padding: 5.7 oz
- Fit Torso: 16 – 18 / 18 -20 / 20 – 22 inches
- Fits Waist: 27 – 45 / 28 – 48 / 30 – 53 inches
- Frame: Plastic framesheet with perimeter aluminum stay
- Gender: Unisex
Backpack Storage and Organization
The Alpinisto 50 is an alpine style, top-loading backpack with a floating lid. The top lid has two pockets, one on top and one on the underside facing the pack’s main compartment. The top lid doesn’t flop awkwardly to the side of the pack when it’s full, unlike the top pockets of so many other top lid packs (which is a good thing). The lid pockets have large zipper pulls for ease of use when wearing gloves and provide good storage for gloves, hats, and valuables.
The main compartment closes with a drawstring and has a short extension collar (good for stashing a helmet), which is the only thing protecting your gear from precipitation if you remove the optional top lid. There’s also a long side zipper which provides access to items deep in your pack so you don’t have to open the top of the pack to get stuff. However, I have other backpacks with side zips and have found that I never use them.
The main compartment has two internal pockets: a hydration pocket with a hang loop that holds a foam bivy pad and a separate pocket for the frame sheet. There’s one hydration port between the shoulder pads for a hose. The bivy pad is quite thin and not worth carrying in my opinion. You’d get a lot more insulation from two to four panels of a cut-down zlite accordion pad.
The front of the Alpinisto has an external crampon pocket which is great for keeping your sharp points away from the rest of your gear. While it can be used to store other gear, it’s open on top, so best for heavier items that won’t pop out accidentally. The crampon pocket has drain holes at the base to allow snow and ice melt to escape and is “armored” so it won’t puncture the main compartment. It’s held closed by the upper tier of side compression straps which is less than ideal if you want to strap additional gear under them, since it limits the extent to which you can tighten them.
In addition, there’s one shallow wand pocket on the left side of the pack that can also be used to hold a snow shovel shaft or trekking poles, when coupled with the side compression straps.
External Attachment and Compression System
The Alpinisto 50 has two tiers of side compression straps which can be used to lash gear to the side of the pack. There’s also a pair of ski loops on the sides, so you can secure skis in an A-frame configuration. Things can get awkward if you try to store too much gear under the top compression straps though since they’re heavily overloaded in a functional sense, as discussed above.
The pack has an elaborate attachment system for carrying curved climbing ax, but is very hard to use with a straight-shaft walking ax. The previous version of the Alpinisto 50 had dual ice ax loops, which were far preferable in my opinion, at least if you’re a hiker and not an ice climber (See How to Attach an Ice Axe to a Backpack.)
There are surprisingly few other attachment points on the Alpinisto for a winter backpack considering how much gear one needs to carry in winter. The only attachment points are on the hip belt, which has a gear loop for racking carabiners, instead of a second hip belt pocket. There are also two loops where the hip belt meets the base of the pack that can be used to attach insulated water bottle holders, but gear connected here repeatedly hits your hips when you walk and is non-optimal.
Backpack Frame and Suspension
The Alpinisto 50 is an internal frame backpack with a HDPE framesheet with an aluminum frame along its perimeter, as well as an cross piece to add stiffness. The area between the shoulder straps is heavily padded, with a distinct lumbar pad at the base. The bottom of the framesheet slots down behind the lumbar pad giving the pack a firm feel that comfortably transfers weight to the hips. The frame does a great job on this pack and I’d recommend keeping it in place unless you’re really pushed to reduce gear weight.
The hip belt has two components: webbing which is sewn to the base of the pack and separate hip belt padding. The webbing threads through fabric slots sewn to the surface of the padding, which is in turn secured behind the lumbar pad with velcro. If you’re wearing a climbing harness or skiing, you’d probably want to remove the padding. The combined system works seamlessly and you’d never know that the hip belt is not a single uniform component.
The shoulder straps are S-shaped, which is good for women and men with well-developed chests. They’re padded with foam, but only have hose keeper straps on the exterior, not proper daisy chains to attach navigation gear or accessories.
Comparable Winter Backpacks
|Make / Model||Weight||Floating Lid||Crampon Pocket||Hip Belt Loops||Ski Carry|
|The North Face Cobra 60 L||57 oz||Y||Y||Y||Y|
|Gregory Denali 75 L||72 oz||Y||-||Y||-|
|The North Face Phantom 50 L||40 oz||Y||-||Y||Y|
|Black Diamond Mission 75 L||64 oz||Y||Y||Y||-|
|Cold Cold World Chaos 66 L||60 oz||Y||Y||Y||Y|
|Exped Lightning 60 L||41 oz||-||-||-||Y|
|Hyperlite Mountain Gear Ice Pack 70 L||37 oz||-||Y||Y||Option|
|Mountain Hardwear AMG 55||74 oz||Y||Y||Y||Y|
|Osprey Mutant 52 L||55 oz||Y||-||Y||Y|
|Sierra Designs Flex Capacitor 60-75L||42 oz||-||-||-||-|
Winter backpacks come in many flavors. Some are good for multi-sport use (ice climbing, skiing, snowboarding, mountaineering, winter backpacking) while are other are more narrowly targeted to specific sports. For example, I’d classify the Gregory Alpinisto 50 as more of a skiing and climber’s pack than one that’s well suited for winter hiking or backpacking. While you could force it to carry all of the gear required for winter backpacking like snowshoes, a shovel, walking axe, and insulated water bottles, the pack is not very versatile when it comes to carrying a plethora of externally attached gear other than skis, crampons, and ice-climbing axes.
If you don’t overload the Gregory Alpinisto 50 with a lot of external gear, it’s quite a comfortable winter backpack that hugs your body and moves with you. But it has features that a winter hiker or backpacker isn’t going to use often and aren’t really necessary. While it’s a lightweight backpack as winter packs go (56.5 oz – fully configured), it’s much more natural to use for climbing and skiing than snowshoeing, peakbagging, or winter camping.
Disclosure: Gregory provided the author with a sample backpack for this review.