Mountain Equipment Company or MEC as it’s known has launched a series of new backcountry-specific products and their new Tour 32 Backpack is now an award winner! It’s lightweight and fully featured with everything you need for a great day in the backcountry and nothing you don’t. Thoughtfully designed, tough, styling and ready for adventure, the Tour 32 Backpack has it all.
The Backcountry Skiing Canada Team.
After years of the MEC green square, the green mountains are back in the form of the Mountain Equipment Company and they have created some new ski touring-specific gear to prove it. The MEC Tour 32 Ski Touring Backpack is fully featured, light, and versatile. This bag has every feature a backcountry skier would want including a few new ones we didn’t know we needed. At 32L it can fit everything you need to tackle the wildest days in the backcountry and with an affordable price point, the Tour 32 is a winner.
The Tour 32 comes in two sizes and has load lifters to help distribute the internal weight. Moulded EVA foam is used in the shoulder straps, back panel and hip belt to keep things comfy when it’s loaded up. Pockets are included on both sides of the hip belt and are a decent size for quick access items. All in all, the bag fits nicely and is easy to adjust so it does not jump around when skiing.
The Tour 32 is quite streamlined and has been thoughtfully designed to keep things accessible if needed and hidden if not. An interesting approach has been taken to the design of the top access of this bag, it combines both a top zip and an expandable roll top closure underneath. This hidden expandable roll top is something new which creates a few different configuration options. It creates a space to separate gear you may not want in the main compartment such as crampons or skins. The roll top can also be left open and stuffed down to quickly get into the main compartment from the top. It can also be expanded to carry an extra 10L though it forces the lid to remain open in an awkward position. Under the top lid hides a stash pocket for goggles and sunglasses.
The Tour 32 is my favourite ski touring bag to date. It has every usable feature anyone could ask for and with an overall weight that is below the average touring pack. The Tour is stated to be 32L and has no trouble fitting all the extra rad gear including glacier kit, ice axes, crampons and a rope. Easy access to both the main compartment and avalanche safety compartment is a major win for many reasons.
I was skeptical of the unorthodox top access but after a few days in the field I am totally impressed by the design. Since the top lid is a zip and not a hood with two buckled straps it allows unimpeded access to the avalanche safety compartment. The ability to quickly stash snowy crampons and skins separately in between the top lid and the roll top is a neat feature. Also, if you want to access the main compartment through the top, you can leave the roll top unbuckled and shoved to the sides to get inside. I have not really found a need yet for the expandable storage the roll top provides but with today’s lightweight camping gear you might be able to use it to bring everything for a shorter backcountry hut trip.
Aesthetically, the Tour 32 looks clean. By making all carrying straps stashable it keeps the bag streamlined and clutter free. Finally, if something were to break before it’s time, MEC’s “rock solid guarantee” would have you covered.
It was difficult to find anything critically wrong with this bag but there are a few issues that could be improved on. Granted the bag is light, but it does make me wonder about the long term durability. The 210 denier ripstop nylon is tough but does seem a little light. Over time your ski edges may start to scuff the fabric. MEC also reduced the overall size and thickness of webbing, clips, straps and zippers which might be prone to breaking. Only the test of time will truly determine the Tour 32’s durability.
The lack of watertight zips makes the bag lighter but it makes the bag more susceptible to wet conditions. If you’re skiing in a warmer winter climate this might be an issue. Also it would have been nice to use something instead of velcro for the upper ice axe attachments. Velcro will lose its grip when full of snow and as well, degrade with use.
My last gripe with the bag is with the helmet carrier. The tiny clips to attach the carrier can be a little difficult to release. When the helmet carrier is in use, it creates an odd pull on the avalanche safety pocket zipper. Not a major issue but puts an unnecessary strain on the zipper which may shorten its lifespan.
Overall, MEC has created an exceptional design with the Tour 32. I am a loyal fan of MEC as it is one of the few outdoor companies that originated in Canada. It is rewarding to see MEC create something that is modern and well thought out. They have taken all the great designs over the recent years and created a surprising balance between weight, versatility, and affordability. The mountains are back!
Price: $199.95CAN / $145.48US
Volume: 32L / 1952.67cu in
Weight: 1.10kg / 2.42lbs
Dimensions: 54 x 28 x 25cm / 21.25 x 11.02 x 9.84in
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