Ski Touring-Alpine Pack
Deuter Freescape 40+
$220, 40L/2,441 c.i., 3 lb. 5 oz. (men’s)
Deuter Freescape Pro 38+ SL
$220, 38L/2,319 c.i., 3 lb. 5 oz. (women’s)
There are days skiing or riding backcountry snow or on multi-day yurt trips where you need a pack with extra space for gear, layers, food, etc., and a feature set that lets you push your adventures to another level. That’s exactly what you get with the men’s Freescape 40+ and women’s Freescape Pro 38+ SL. On numerous days of backcountry ski touring, including four days at a yurt in Idaho’s Boise Mountains, I found the Freescape offers a degree of versatility for objectives in the mountains that smaller, skiing- and riding-specific packs do not.
A top-loader with a lid, the Freescape sports a convenient U-shaped, zippered back panel that opens up the entire main compartment, allowing you to lay the pack atop snow and quickly grab anything inside without contents shifting or falling out or having to remove a helmet, skis or a board, crampons, or other gear attached to the front.
It has abundant capacity for virtually any single-day outing—if anything, it’s a bit oversized for day tours, when I rarely filled it. But its compression keeps contents from shifting when it’s underfilled and I like having the extra space for emergency gear like a backup, large puffy jacket. The floating lid expands capacity by 10 liters/610 cubic inches, useful for the slog to a yurt on multi-day backcountry trips.
Inside the pack, a roomy, zippered mesh pocket keeps accessories like extra gloves and headwear available without having to dig around. The lid’s spacious zippered pocket features a divider with a fleece-lined lower portion for goggles.
The Freescape’s front snow-gear pocket has the usual compartmentalization for that safety gear—and importantly, a large opening and depth that enables you to deploy that gear quickly. The pack’s design also provides essential functions of an alpine climbing pack, such as the ability to attach a rope by draping it over the main compartment (under the lid) and securing it on both sides with the releasable and adjustable upper compression straps. An adjustable helmet-carrying strap tucks inside a small, zippered pocket on the front (opposite the snow tools pocket’s zipper). Critical zippers are waterproof.
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Two durable, modular, and removable gear straps can be attached to multiple gear loops on the pack’s front to carry a snowboard, snowshoes, ice tools, or crampons vertically or skis diagonally or A-frame using tough side loops. When not using those straps, I store them in the under-lid pocket, which has a key lanyard.
I found the Freescape comfortable carrying over 30 pounds in ski-touring gear, layers, water, food, and incidentals such as a camera and emergency gear. Deuter’s Alpine system consists of a Delrin U-frame and a framesheet built within the zippered back panel. While the frame and harness allow abundant flex in all directions—rather than rigidity for supporting weight, as you’d find in packs made primarily for carrying heavier loads backpacking—its fit, close to the back and the body’s center of gravity, and the way it moves with your torso, become more essential than a rigid frame in the dynamic motion of climbing in steep terrain or skiing or riding downhill.
The lightly cushioned hipbelt, shoulder straps, and back pads give a boost to comfort while remaining low-profile and very flexible—to facilitate mobility in dynamic snow sports, rather than providing any rigidity, especially in the snug-fitting hipbelt—and their fabric sheds snow and is made for greater durability in alpine situations. The hipbelt has a zippered pocket on one side large enough for a few bars and a single gear loop on the other side.
The men’s and women’s packs both come in just one size that fits my 18-inch torso well enough. Presumably, some bigger women may find the men’s a better fit and smaller men the women’s pack, but people at the smaller and larger ends of the fit range might be challenged to get a good fit in a pack with no adjustability.
Other convenient details include a sunglasses loop on the left shoulder strap; a signal whistle in the sternum strap; a zippered stash pocket on one side that fits a smartphone and other small, flat items; and three-liter hydration compatibility.
The 330-denier ripstop fabric, made from PFC-free, 100 percent recycled polyamide and bluesign-certified, easily withstands the abuse of rocks and other environmental hazards as well as the edges of skis or a board attached to the pack.
And at under three-and-a-half pounds, the Freescape packs fall in the lower end of the weight range for well-featured, 40-liter, technical ski-alpine packs. And while they lack air bag technology, that also makes them hundreds of dollars cheaper and lighter than those packs. In fact, the Freescape packs come in at a good price for what you get.
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Spacious, smartly well-featured, and comfortable, the Deuter men’s Freescape 40+ and women’s Freescape Pro 38+ SL offer a complete package for ski touring, freeriding, alpine climbing and ski mountaineering—at a nice price for so much versatility.
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You can support my work on this blog, at no cost to you, by clicking any of these affiliate links to purchase the Deuter men’s Freescape 40+ at backcountry.com, the women’s Freescape Pro 38+ SL at backcountry.com or Moosejaw.com, or smaller models and sizes of Deuter’s Freescape series at Moosejaw.com.
See all of my reviews of outdoor apparel that I like at The Big Outside, including “The 10 Best Down Jackets,” “How You Can Tell How Warm a Down Jacket Is,” “The Best Gloves for Winter,” “The Best Mittens for Winter,” “The Best Clothing Layers for Winter in the Backcountry,” and my expert tips in “How to Dress in Layers for Winter in the Backcountry” and “12 Pro Tips for Staying Warm Outdoors in Winter.”
NOTE: I tested gear for Backpacker magazine for 20 years. At The Big Outside, I review only what I consider the best outdoor gear and apparel. See The Big Outside’s Gear Reviews page for categorized menus of gear reviews and expert buying tips.