With Christmas over and festive food weighing heavily on the belly thoughts turn to heading out and shifting a few pounds in the mountains. Robin Jeffery examines whether Montane’s new lightweight rucksack is a good investment for 2017 – read on for our Montane Cobra 25 rucksack review!
With the current alpine inspired design philosophy of minimal features and light weight fabrics, durability is always a consideration. But it does seem that the Cobra has achieved the elusive balance at an excellent price of £75 RRP, with good quality buckles and a tough face fabric fused with a minimal design aesthetic. The Raptor TL face fabric has a DWR (Durable Water Repellent) finish and the HALO lining has a waterproof rating of 1000mm hydrostatic head. To keep your dry gear dry, you will still want to put them into waterproof bags inside the rucksack, as the 1000mm hydrostatic head adds up to only a light shower (a mountain tent is built to withstand 4000mm hydrostatic head), and the seams aren’t taped. Hip belts on rucksacks are always an essential feature of carrying a sizeable load and the Cobra doesn’t scrimp with a generous belt and soft inner facing to avoid excessive abrasion on expensive waterproofs.
Stanley Master Flask comp
This functional aesthetic is apparent in the moulded back system that wicks sweat and channels rainwater away from the body and gives additional ventilation as does the contact mesh on the slim lined ergonomic shoulder straps. The hip belt also sat above my harness which meant that the gear loop is useful and doesn’t have to be tucked back, out of the way when climbing.
Good design is all about getting the basics right and adding useful but minimal touches. A good example of this is on the Cobra is the ice axe / walking pole storage system – in use here on a typical bright sunny Scottish winter day:
The compression straps which keep the rucksack nice and snug against the back also double as ice axes and pole holders which can then be secured with a draw cord and pouch at the bottom of the rucksack, the draw cord tidies away nice and neatly when not in use. There are two zip pockets, one on the inside and one on the outside for easy access and an ample interior pocket for water reservoirs. A clever but non minimal touch is the double tension waist harness. Admittedly this allows for very easy tightening of the hip belt but the double buckle seems a bit excessive – when did you last have problems tightening your hip belt?
There is also a handle on the front of the bag for picking up, which seems a bit superfluous for a mountain rucksack and in one promotional video it suggests that you could help somebody on a scramble with it, which sounds something to be wary of in reality. The chest strap, which has been moved to the left shoulder strap has neatly resolved the pressure point issue when the clip is in the middle of the chest, not an issue with winter layers but more prominent in the (hopefully) minimal layers of Summer. The strap is removed with one easy tug but sometimes it’s a struggle to reconnect it with bomb-shelter gloves on, as it is a little on the dainty side.
Now that is of course more of a winter issue and leads to really the only concern with the Cobra 25, that of use. Montane have pitched the Cobra as an all mountain rucksack stating that it is “at home on a Scottish winter mountain ascent as it is on a summer ultra distance two day event.” When testing the Cobra we took it out on rock climbing in ‘summer’ conditions, hill walks in Scottish ‘summer’ conditions, winter walking and climbing in the Cairngorms and as a general bag for running errands in town. It has excelled in most, being comfortable, light weight and providing neat but varied storage options (see below for an excellent GoOutdoors video guide to packing your rucksack effectively)
Where it came up short was in Scottish winter use, where it was a little too small, really a 40 litre capacity is the optimum because of the need for more clothing and the zip access which extends to half of the bag which is great for accessing your sandwiches, but also allows accesses to copious amounts of spin drift in the winter.
So bear in mind that the Cobra 25 is an excellent ‘almost all purpose’ rucksack and it will help you see your belly shrink and your achievements in the mountains grow.