Lowe Alpine's packs have always been brilliantly built, but in the last few years it felt a little as if they were playing catch-up with general-purpose daypacks at least, the new Eclipse 35 could be the pack that changes all that though.
Lowe bills the Eclipse series - also available as 25 and 15L versions and women's-specific ND32, 22 and 14 variants - as 'multi-function' packs. The idea is that you can use them for walking, running, biking or even climbing. Or you could just stick your lap-top in it and commute.
The fundamentals remind us a little of the slick Montane pack series. There's no stiffener or frame in the back system, just a thermoformed foam back pad with venting panels covered with a sheet of wicking mesh. It's one of the reasons the 35L pack weighs a respectably light 810g on our scales.
It has a colossal zipped opening rather than a conventional lid which runs from the bottom of once side and right over the top so the whole back panel folds down for easy access, but in a neat touch, there's an 'alternative lid pocket' for those of us who miss having one for stashing mobiles and the like in easy reach.
The harness uses Lowe's adaptive shoulder straps - they narrow at the top to cope with different shoulder widths easily - and again are made of foam with an overlay of that wicking mesh. The hip-belt follows the same cues.
Loaded up with a moderate sort of weight and adjusted to fit using the numerous buckles, the Eclipse nestles really nicely into the small of the back and feels really comfortable.
Not sure how it would cope with a full-on load of climbing hardware, but for most all-round use, we reckon it should carry just fine. Compression straps top and bottom should keep things pulled well in too.
Check The Detailing
We've got so used to handy stretch pockets now, that we almost expect then and stripped-down technical climbing packs come as a bit of a shock to the system - we're looking at you Osprey Mutant…
There's no shortage of them on the Eclipse however with two big stretch mesh side ones and whopper on the front of pack. Ideal for stashing wet clothing, spare insulation and hats etc. One neat touch is a plastic version of Lowe Alpine's alloy Load Locker buckle holding the main front pocket closed. Nice.
And if that's not enough for you, there are twin pockets on the moulded foam belt and a phone/bar-sized on up front of the shoulder strap.
Poles And Axes
The Eclipse gets both Lowe Alpine's neat pole stowage gadgets and twin ice axe-loops meaning you could conceivably use it for winter climbing if you chose to. We're not sure we would, but the option is there. How would the mesh cope with snow? We don't know and it may be a while before we can find out.
And The Rest
Slick is the word that comes to mind. Not ground breaking exactly, but neat and comprehensive. There's a whistle come chest-strap buckle, removable rain cover in the base which clips into place, the ice-axe come pole attachments use a bungee cord with plastic fasteners arrangement and the zips on the belt-pockets pull forward for more natural use.
Using it for a bike commute or night ride? There's a handy loop for an LED rear light at the base of the pack, though the angles look slightly odd and it may simply point a bit too far downwards.
Oh, and the waist belt itself uses a positive forward pull inwards for adjustment though - there's always one annoyance - for us the tails hang free and rather disconcertingly long. Time to drink more beer.
And while we're grumbling, there's a further internal zipped-pocket we missed complete with a key-clip. But that's a good thing,
Overall First Impressions
We reckon Lowe Alpine has properly raised its daypack game. The Eclipse not only looks great with its lightweight grey rip-stop fabric and colour-contrasting orange straps and buckles, it feels amazingly comfortable and natural on and seems to have been thoroughly well thought out.
The handy pocket deluge is very welcome too. We suspect the foam-based back-system will struggle with proper climbing loads, but for all-round hill and mountain use, it seems like a very promising choice.
The Lowe Alpine Eclipse 35 has a suggested retail price of £85.
More information at www.lowealpine.com.