If you’ve ever tried to jam your ski crampons or regular crampons in with the rest of your gear, you know how badly that can go, especially if you have a down jacket or other easily sliceable item in there. Millet keeps your crampons separate from the rest of your gear with its new Matrix 30 MBS Ski Mountaineering Pack, which has a cinching outside crampon pocket that keeps your frontpoints at hand but away from where they can hurt you or the rest of your stuff.
And the crampon pocket is just one of the Matrix’s features. The pack is asymmetrical—the ski carry is diagonal, with the crampon pocket on one side and a double ice axe holder on the other, and the lid buckles off-center—but does a great job of balancing your load, even when you’re carrying your all-mountain skis.
Part of its magic is Millet’s MBS back system. As we told you last summer. Millet's solution for easy striding is perfecting the pivot point. The company's designers moved the hip-belt pivot point up from the lumbar just behind the waistbelt to a point closer to mid-back. The pivot is on a raised pin near the center of mass of the pack. So regardless of how heavy or awkward your load, Millet's packs make them that much easier to carry.
Millet is introducing its new pivoting system in its Axpel pack, due out this spring, which its French alpine guide testers claimed at least 20 percent more comfortable and efficient than other pivoting packs, including older Millet designs. We gave the Matrix 30, which uses the same system, a first run last week while hiking for turns in Utah and Colorado. Our limited test has us in agreement with the French guides, though nailing down a specific percentage increase in comfort and efficiency is a bit elusive.
Inside the pack, there are probe and shovel compartments—the shovel compartment doubles as a hydration sleeve when you’re not in avy terrain. Snow safety gear is not as easy to get to as in some other packs, but it’s accessible enough.
Other great features: stiffened harness-like gear loops on the shoulder straps and hip belt let you clip on ice screws or other winter hardware. We fumbled with the strap-on, lid-located helmet holder, but were able to make it work.
All in all, this is a great pack for its intended purpose, and, even when fully stuffed, it fits in the overhead on regional jets. Available fall 2013, two pounds, nine ounces, $180; millet.fr.