Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Gear Review: OMM Jirishanca 35

The Last Thing I Stepped On Before Psykovsky's Sequins
The Original Mountain Marathon is a company whose heritage is based in ultra-lightweight running. Their bags are well-known for being good for running, but recently they've been developing a bag designed for climbers. The Jirishanca is 35 litres and according to the spiel "carries skis for ski touring, is tough enough for the ice routes and cleans off for rock routes in summer. Yet it’s just big enough to do short weekend Ultra light backpacking trips and light enough to do the OMM in October".

Well I gave it a proper good testing, smashing it around on the North York Moors, The Frankenjura and a few other places. Number one point is: It's tough, really tough. It's made out of this dynema fabric, which basically means that you can use it as a haul-bag for quite a while before it breaks. I reckon I shunted about 40 times with it, each for about an hour or more and there isn't a single bit of damage.  The only bit that is weak is a small orange toggle used for attaching ice axes. I managed to pull one of these off of another bag, but I think they've improved the strength of these since.
The Jirishanca Fully Loaded Up
Carrying weight? Average. It's a lightweight bag, made for carrying light-weight things. I found it quite uncomfortable when loaded with gear, a boulder mat and a sledge hammer. I think you want to keep the weight below about 10-15kg and it will be alright, but otherwise it's not too good. I found it really comfortable when using it with small weights. A small rope, water, harness and a bit of gear really felt like nothing. I always thought the weight of a bag made very little difference to the feel of it, but this bag showed me that that was obviously wrong.  I forgot it was on a lot of the time - it only weighs 670 grams...

This brings me onto the stability of the bag. It's ludicrous. I did a lot of running, cycling and walking with it and it's without a doubt the most stable bag I've ever used. OMM have developed some strange yolk system designed for running, that actually works very well for basically any high-activity sport. It's brilliant for climbing. As you often have a partially empty bag when climbing, it's necessary to be able to compress it right up and for the bag to not feel like it's flopping around. This did that well Quite impressed there.

Now to the negatives. There's no rope-holding strap. This is daft on a climbing bag and when the bag is not fully loaded, carrying a rope is annoying. Similarly, the whole concept of 'lean-weight' means that the bag has no compression straps or basically anything for gear to be attached to. I'm lead to believe that when you buy the bag, then you get a set of elastic and toggles to customise it yourself and there are copious attachment points there already. They leave it like this so that the OMM-produced MSC can be attached, that compresses and enables a helmet to be attached to the exterior.  I'm not sure if I'm convinced by this. I like the idea that I can have a completely stripped-down bag to use, but I also like a built-in compression strap here and there. Maybe I just need to get with the times?
Looking For Boulders
What's really great about this bag then? Well, there are a few things. The easy-access pockets for water bottles are great. I used these a lot and I think people will like that. Other bags have exterior pockets for water bottles, but these are highly accessible. It doesn't matter if you're not running an ultra, sometimes you just want a drink without taking off your pack. It also means that a bottle doesn't have to be shoved in your bag. I thought this was great. Similarly the OMM-style zip pocket on the waist belt. Great for keys and nuggets of food - you could probably get away with just one, rather than two, though.

Another ingenious design is the opening system, it's bloody fantastic. You'd think that quick-release opening would be a needless faff, but it actually works really well, especially when on a cliff when you don't want to open your bag fully for everything to drop out. For shunting and multi-pitching this is a great feature. 

As touched on before, the back system is lightweight, but nevertheless integrates a small sleeping mat, that would be an absolute bonus for alpine climbing. It's not a thermarest, but it certainly would make a massive difference in an epic or in alpine climbing.

Verdict? A bag full of ideas and tough as nails. You can see that the guys producing this really care about making a clever bag. Some of the inventions are questionable and it's down to personal preference a lot of the time whether you'll like them, but some of the ideas are just down-right brilliant. It's so adaptable that it doesn't actually matter if you don't like a feature, you can just chop it off and change it.

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