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A rucksack for life...

In 1972, after a school trip, my best friend gave me the rucksack he’d been bought to use on that day. I still have that Karrimor Pinnacle rucksack. For many years it was my ‘go to’ small sack. A simple sack, almost just a bag with straps, well-made and built to last. My wife has a Karrimor Hot Route from the 1980’s, another rucksack which is still in frequent use in our household. And this is significant because, having worked at Plas y Brenin for several years, we do have a large stock of contemporary rucksacks. The thing is, they just don’t make ‘em like they used to.

A 1972 Karrimor Pinnacle, still perfectly serviceable

A 1980's Hot Route on festival duty in 2022

Well, that is, not until now. There have been, and still are a few small UK companies making outdoor kit. In this field, Atom and Aiguille have been around for a while. Most of the big names sell rucksacks with, it would appear, some sort of built in obsolescence. They also make a very wide range of sacks, so there is a slightly different one for every activity and no one sack, to ‘rule them all’.

There is now a choice. You can go out (or do it online) and buy one rucksack that will do most of what you need a rucksack to do and it will do it well for a very long time. I was given, a couple of months ago, a sack made by Summiteer. Summiteer is a one man band based in the Lakes making rucksacks the way they used to make them, and therein lies a problem to which I will return.

Yes, I was given this sack, so on that score alone it’s brilliant. But those of you who know me will know that I’m not a gear tester, I’m too harsh a critic; I am from Yorkshire, I call a spade a spade and I’ll tell it like it is. A good reason for staying away from testing kit!

So why is this sack so good? It’s built to last. No, really, it is. It feels like a quality bit of kit. It’s hardwearing and durable. It’s probably the last sack I’ll ever need. It’s a good size, but when it’s too big you just unclip the lid and drop it inside (and you can still use the lid pockets). It has compression straps that work as such. It has pockets on the side that are just right for tucking the end of walking poles into, but are still large enough to tuck litter in as you find it on the way.

It is comfortable and easily adjustable with a minimum of fuss. I’ve only cut one strap off it and that’s the strap that goes across the top to secure a rope above your load and underneath the extendable lid. It has one fault and that is when you take the lid off and drop it inside you can’t see the Summiteer logo. A surprising number of people have recognised that this is a nice sack and have asked me about it, where it’s from and what it’s like. I can wholeheartedly recommend it. It’s red so the colour will be timeless (how many of you have subtly varying shades of turquoise or orange in your wardrobe that refuse to co-ordinate?).

It's made in Britain and it’s made well so you’d be doing your bit if you bought one. It will last forever so you won’t get caught up in rampant consumerism by needing another one every year. And herein lies the problem. I once, as I got very frustrated with contemporary rucksack design and build quality, thought that the thing to do would be to just make one really good rucksack that would last for ever. I’d then sell one to every climber, walker and mountaineer. Following this I’d close the company down because no one would ever need another rucksack. This is not a great business model and those early Karrimor rucksacks which came with lifetime guarantees, and are still going strong, prove this, they are still in use and perfectly serviceable. Ethan Thomas at Summiteer has done this. His company might not last. His advertising budget will be strained, most people will only buy a Summiteer rucksack once, make sure you are one of those people just in case (I do sincerely hope I’m wrong).

My shout out to you is - buy one now. You’ll be doing your bit for British manufacturing, you’ll be boosting the economy when it needs boosting, but you’ll also be behaving as a responsible consumer because this is a product that will be used, and reused, for the rest of your walking and climbing days. We need sustainable, quality outdoor gear, we need to be less fashion conscious about colours and we need more Ethans. We need to support our Ethans so that can develop more products of quality. And Ethan needs to move that logo so we can wear it with pride and show it off to others. Summiteer.

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