Throughout my ice climbing season this year, I have been testing out the Deuter Guide Lite 28+ SL women's alpine pack. At just over 2 lbs, the Guide Lite provides all the gear packing essentials for a fun day out in the mountains without adding any unnecessary bells and whistles to weigh you down.
With 28L of main compartment stuffing space, the Guide Lite 28+ SL pack provides just enough room for those fast and light alpine days or moderate amount of gear situations. The pack was perfect for Ouray ice park days where all you have to carry on the 5-15 minute approach is personal gear, anchor material, and a rope.
During my recent ice climbing trip up to the Ghost River Wilderness Area in Alberta, Canada, each morning I was able to stuff my belay jacket, snack bag, thermos, extra gloves, crampons, harness, and helmet in the climbing pack, fully loaded to the brim, with the rope thrown over the top and secured underneath the lid (there is no rope strap). I would not have been able to fit a full ice rack or any extra layers in the pack, so a bit of a deal breaker if it was only two of us heading out in search of wild ice each day (we climbed in teams of three).
For those more gear intensive situations, I would recommend upgrading to one of the full Deuter Guide SL packs. Technically, you could use the external helmet holder accessory to make more room in the main compartment but I am a huge fan of clean packs where nothing but my tools are hanging on the outside.
In order to cut down on the amount of gear I needed to bring with me up to Canada, I chose to use the Deuter Guide Lite 28+ SL as my bullet pack for multipitch climbing. To keep the top of the pack from hitting my helmet when looking up, I set the shoulder straps pretty loose. I was also able to get the hip belt to sit high enough on my waist that I could still reach my ice clippers, while the two gear loops on the belt came in handy for extra racking space.
To make the climbing pack even smaller, the top lid can actually be stuffed down inside the main compartment (it does not fully disconnect) and the foam backpad removed. The backpad can serve as a nice snow seat for snack time. Unfortunately, the flexible Derlin hoop frame is not removable, so there is a limit to how small you can compress the backpack.
I am normally a fan of a full protective bottom sheath to conceal my ice tool picks, but the tool attachment system on the Deuter packs is super quick and easy to use. You just have to be careful about not jabbing your picks into anything when throwing your pack in the car or when standing close to someone.
The SL version of Deuter alpine packs features a slightly shorter torso length to better fit women or even men with shorter backs. Narrower shoulder straps keep them from slipping off and won't get in the way of your swing. The shoulder straps also curve nicely to sit on either side of your chest so you don't get the dreaded boob smoosh when you do up the chest strap. The conical shaped hipbelt is super comfortable and I never had a problem with it digging into my hips or rubbing the wrong way.
The Deuter Guide Lite 28+ SL is hydration compatible with ski attachments on either side for use in alpine situations. The base of the lid features a nice little reminder of the emergency numbers across the US and Europe as well as the universal emergency signals and help signs.
Bottom Line: The Deuter Guide Lite 28+ SL serves as a great fast and light alpine pack, whether ski touring or alpine climbing, or as an ice climbing pack where you need not carry much more than personal gear and a rope. The climbing pack works pretty well as a bullet pack for multipitch ice climbing when in a pinch.
The Deuter Guide Lite 28+ SL alpine pack retails for $149 and is available now.