Sunday, 10 May 2015

Lowe Alpine Illusion 16: A review

It’s no longer on Lowe Alpine’s website, but the Illusion 16 can be picked up for as little as £15. It started out life as a rope bag, but has been adopted by some as a lightweight day-sack. So what makes the Illusion a good pack?
The Lowe Alpine Illusion 16 is a 16 litre pack. It was originally intended by Lowe Alpine, from what my research has shown, as an accessory to carry a rope and a few other items for climbers or as a lightweight multi-pitch climbers pack. The pack is shaped in such a way as to allow it to carry a loop of rope comfortably. The shape of the pack almost mimics the shape of a loop of climbing rope.
‘Another new idea from Lowe Alpine the Illusion Pack will hold 60m of 10mm rope. Designed to protect your rope as well as enable it to be carried to the crag. It can also be used as a super lightweight pack and for abseiling in difficult conditions where you do not want the rope flying about in the wind.’ Lowe Alpine
I imagine that with a loop of rope the pack would be almost full. Later, as a BMC video from July 2014 showed, Lowe Alpine realised the packs use as a lightweight day-sack and changed their marketing to reflect this. Unfortunately I think the pack is no longer in production. Lowe Alpine do not have it on their website in the UK and it can be picked up way under it’s RRP of £30. If you want one, I’d get one while they are there.
Firstly, the pack is extremely light, my particular pack only weighs 273g, around 9.63oz. That is incredibly light, but not the packs most surprising feature. What sold this pack for me were other features, besides weight.

The pack is very narrow, an ideal shape for scrambling, where weight and it’s location are important. The Illusion 16 is very narrow and offers little in the way of obstruction when scraping through narrow rock chimneys, or ducking through narrow gaps. It also helps keep your centre of gravity forward, partly due to it’s shape and partly due to the limit of it’s load carrying ability. The front of the pack also has a small daisy chain and a grab handle. The handle is covered in neoprene tubing and is in a good location.
The back system of the pack is pretty much none existent, although there is what appears to be a pocket in the back with a loop at the top for a hydration bladder. This is not really ideal as there is no exit whole for the drinking tube. What I have done instead is put my sit mat in this pocket making a convenient storage place to carry it and offering some rigidity to the pack. It also prevents anything hard pushing through and into my back. The shoulder straps are very light in build, but because weight has to be kept low this is not an issue. There is also a good quality sternum strap that does the job well. There is no vertical adjustment, but I find it is located ideally for me, right across the top of my sternum.
On the top of the pack is a loop with a quick release buckle that was apparently intended to hold a rope according to the verb on some retailer’s sites. I really doubt that it was intended for a climbing rope as even at full extension it would never fit, the loop is far too short. The entrance into the pack is also on the top, through a water resistant zip that extends rough one quarter of the way down either side of the pack.
Once inside the pack you can see the buckled loop for the bladder the sleeve holds. You can also see two strips of webbing that are part of the packs other major feature.
Attached to these two strips of webbing is a small zippered pocket. On opening the zip you find two webbing loops and a double pull zipper (you might see where this is going).
The pack can be stowed inside it’s own inner pocket. It’s a little harder to do than some jackets that perform the same trick, but the pack does stow away within a minute or two. Of course you do have to empty it, but it does fit, leaving it possible to attach it to a belt or on the outside of another, larger pack.

The pack has a couple of webbing loops on each side for stowing more gear. In my case I have looped some orange bungee cord through to allow me to secure a damp jacket or other items. It won’t hold much, but may come in handy.
There is a waist belt with the pack, a narrow webbing affair that I have discarded. I’ve kept it just in case, but it is pretty much useless. The pack has a length of 18 inches, so is too short for me to use the belt. Instead I load the pack in a way that all the weight is at the top and close to my spine. This reduces the packs movement and actually makes it extremely comfortable for a mornings scrambling.
I was very easily able to fit the stuff I needed when I went out on this shoot. I could have also fitted a warm layer, another drink, and a couple of other bits in the pack, it is 16 litres in capacity.
In Use
Loaded correctly the pack is great. The last couple of scrambles I have been out for I have used the Illusion 26. I forgot I had it on my back. But you have to be a little careful if you do happen to scuff the pack as the material is not the toughest. It is very light, but a slight scrape has resulted in a Seam Grip repair on the material. This was my third outing, so time will tell how resilient this pack is going to be to further knocks and scrapes.


I would happily buy this pack again, especially at the £15 price I found it at a couple of weeks after paying £27. That being said, I was happy to pay £27 for it, it's a great little pack for those quick walks or scrambles. Highly recommended!

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