Karrimor Alpiniste 45+10, Episode XIII

Carefully made in the UK by… That’s something you took for granted at one time, these days it means either valiant independent or old.  In this case both apply, the former at the time of its manufacture in 1995 and the  latter as I’m taking it’s photies.
Old it may be, but amazingly this pack is new and unused. Indeed it was likely review kit that never got reviewed (I bought it unawares from a well-known freelance writer on ebay, which also means that the safe waiting time for selling test kit on ebay is around 15 years… ), and I am overjoyed to have put a ludicrously large bid on it to make it mine. This is the one area where the inner geek takes the controls without conscience or consequence.
I know these packs have been a common sight on here, but never this shiny. So, once again: the classic Karrimor  Alpiniste 45+10.

It looks like i’ve just taken it off the rack in a shop, and the dilemma is, do I use it this winter? How cool that would be to use one again for “the first time”.
The OMM Villain may well be my favourite pack, but this is my favourite pack of all time.
I forgot how tight the elastic edge on the lid originally was, how rigid the webbing was when new. The colours are so bright as well, not just the purple, but the mini rainbows of the Elite logo and the cord and zip pulls.

Some of the wacky features that disappeared can be seen above and below. The side-fastening buckle above was brilliant, out of the way and low profile and didn’t ice up.
The ice axe holders below are usually missing, so they obviously had a more scattered fan base, but for short technical tools they work fine. I once spent half an hour stuck on a slope jammed between my pack and the snow with a 70cm axe being the rock upon which I was grounded as I could neither get it all the way out or back in. Well, it is the Alpiniste 45+10 not the Bimbler 45+10, so it serves me right.

Below is the chest strap which had an elastic loop to give free movement and expansion, a feature still missing from a lot of packs.
You can see the basic padding as well there, just a lumber pad, much like the Villain. It really is all you need on a pack this size.
In ’95 the pack still had those little extra features that vanished over the next few years. The extra inner lid pocket and the internal snow shovel and handle/probe pockets, and of course those ice axe holders.

This has brought me much joy in it’s glorious purply newness, and has also given me pause to think. I have er, a fewof these in various states of repair. I might take one of the most dogeared examples and sew some mesh/bottle pockets onto it in place of the wand pockets. Pretty pointless aye, but I wonder how many times I would lift it to use if the on-the-move-accessibility was better for my bits and pieces.
Ach we’ll see, it’ll put on the to-do list. Maybe I’ll just pack this one with gear, attach my old Lowe Alpine insulated bottle pocket to the hip fin and pretend I’m still 27.

Original Karrimor Alpiniste Fleece

It’s not that I’m bored with new gear, but I think it’s time to remind myself how far kit has come, or indeed hasn’t since I first got into techy outdoor gear and left army surplus and Adidas Sambas behind.
So over winter I’ll be pulling out some kit from the early 90’s when I first went gear mental (except footwear, I’d die first…), a lot of it’s Karrimor, a lot of it’s purple and a lot of it is for a much slimmer and younger man.
Ah what the hell.

Designs and fabrics have changed, colour schemes in particular are a dead giveaway to when something was made. Except now when it’s all black.
The Alpiniste fleece here looks very jazzy indeed, it’s from around 1992 I think, and the first version made. It set a benchmark for technical midlayers and was evolved constantly until Karrimor came out with a ridiculous hoodless, baggy, half-softshell version just as they went bust.
The original uses a thinnish stretchy fleece, a bit like a cross between Powerstretch and microfleece, which minimises bulk and means it layers easily. It’s nicely slim as well, a size large normally means a 42″ chest, and that’s exactly what this is.
The arms are long with perfect articulation, and as you’ll see below the cuffs are ribbed and stretchy. Great under a shell, but slow drying and were replaced quickly by lycra binding to match the hem.

The hood here is very different to the later version with four press studs to make it removable, this hood rolls into the microfibre collar (above) with velcro tabs to secure it. I like the simplicity of that, I never once removed my later Alpiniste’s hood so I’d have been happy with a fixed hood later on, especially when they started using Karisma fleece which was (is?) very wind resistant. The Karisma chest panels are missing from the original too, it makes it lighter but less of an outer layer, but I suppose fleece never was the best outer layer.
The four chest pockets which are so recognisable started here, two handy hand-warmers, but why are the two chest ones at different angles? Mike Parsons remembered that when he was designing the Alpiniste with Pat Littlejohn they couldn’t decide which way to put the pockets, so agreed to differ and had one each. A happy accident then and a classic was born!

Going back to the fabric, it’s Polarlite 2 from Malden made with Dupont Dacron. That’ll be Polartec as seen as a young man then.
The fit is good, the washing machine has done a good job (this is an ebay affair, my oldest one is the year after… coming soon) and it’s in usable condition. I think it looks cool as well.

17 years old is hardly archaeology I know, but some fun will be had in this I’m sure.