We had an initial sneak preview of Lowe Alpine's completely redesigned AirZone pack range a few months ago, but were sworn to something a bit like secrecy, but with the official launch at the recent OutDoor show, we can finally fill you in on what's happening with the brand's top technical walking packs for 2013.
The most fundamental change is a complete redesign of the central AirZone back system, that means that while the principles of the suspended air-gap (trampolene-style) back system stay the same, there's some serious tweakage evident.
Notably, the mesh fabrics in the back system have changed so they're softer and higher wicking, where the sytem contacts the body. Then there's a blanket use of Lowe's Adaptive Fit shoulder strap design, which allows the shoulder straps to adapt to any body shape for optimum comfort. And finally, some AirZone packs now have a quickly adjustable Centro back system to cater for different back lengths and the Adaptive Fit hip-belt design, which again accommodates to different body shapes without the need for adjustment.
There are plenty of tweaks elsewhere on the packs too with added hip-belt and body pockets, side-entry access to the main body compartment and other stowage options including a trekking pole carriage system designed top cope with any sort of pole, harness pockets and adventure race-style stretch stash pockets.
Fabrics is a new, tougher rip-stop Nylon with a PU coating for water resistance and visually, we have to say that the new packs look great. Sort of more modern and with smoother lines than previous AirZones, with some of the more stripped down versions looking almost like technical mountaineering packs at first glance.
We won't go into lots of model details now, but there are an awful lot of different AirZone models in the range including women-specific ND versions. Prices start at around £55 for the smallest AirZone Z 20 and go right up to £125 for the weekend-packing friendly AirZone Trek+ 45:55.
Looks good to us. Lowe Alpine is now owned by Equip, the company behind Rab, Pod Sacs and outdoordesigns and while the pack range continues, clothing is currently still being redeveloped and won't reappear until late next year.
Details of the current Lowe Alpine range at www.lowealpine.com.