The Real Villain, Part Two. OMM Villain MSC 45+10 2009 with Mike Parsons

I reviewed the OMM Villain MSC 45+10 way back when, and it’s been a constant companion since, only being put into the #2 position when I got the updated version to test a few months back.
It’s a time of change at OMM, with new investment in resources from ARK Consultants and an expanding range of gear for racers and mountain activists alike. Mike Parsons tells us a little about what’s happening.

Villain MSC 45+10 2009

There’s no sweeping changes here, just some tweaks which address some little issues I found as the miles racked up (the same updates have been applied to the Jirishanca).


The lid pocket is different. Its opening isn’t as wide so it’s much more secure, and it now has a water resistant zip. Inside the lid pocket there’s now an extra wee mesh pocket with a velcro closure. This has been worth it’s weight in gold, which unfortunately is only a few grams of course, but still…
The side entry now has a water resistant zip as well, and both of the new zips have garages for the pullers to make as good a seal as possible.
The ice axe attachment points have been rejigged and there’s no exposed stitching now for better durability.
A big change is the chest strap, the whistle-buckle is still present, as is the elastic section that lets you breathe, but the rest is new.  The two piece sliding attachment is gone and a more reliable and traditional webbing and slider buckle arrangement had been fitted. I never had an issue with the original, but this update will be easier to repair in the field.

Performance and comfort are still the same I’m glad to say, it came out of the wrapper, got packed and was out overnight the day after it arrived. I was walking uphill still adjusting the straps to the rigt length. No issues though, and it’s still my go-to pack for short backpacking trips in the mountains, even in winter.
This winter the camping gear I’m using is smaller packing so I’m getting my full winter kit inside no problem. Indeed, the MSC lets you strap pretty much anything you want onto the outside as well.

Mike Parsons Q & A

The Villain is the obvious successor to the Alpiniste 45+10, but also an improvement in materials and functionality. Did you feel that there was unfinished business?
“Yes, definitely unfinished business, and I’m thrilled to get the opportunity to do this. This is because of the ARK team not only undertaking sales and distribution, but now commiting to share ownership. In practical terms this means I can focus on new product development and hand over the myriad of small jobs that need doing in a small business like this.”

The evolution from the original orange dyneema RL model to the current updated black dyneema MSC version has been very fast. How much does user feedback influence development, and what gives OMM the ability to react so quickly?
“Working online with such an enthusiatic and really committed Lead User Group (of which you are a member of course) definitely has an amazing and exciting influence when linked with my mentality of driving continuous improvement. When I was leading Karrimor I had a ‘think tank’ which was similar and ensured that our products were always well ‘grounded’ or well thought out as a result of long debate, which first highlights problems, which I love the challenge of, and then creates a well balanced concensus.”

The Villain’s appeal has been wider than it’s alpine roots would suggest. Backpackers have taken to it as it’s light, carries well and has the OnTheMoveAccessible features. Was that part of the plan, or do you think the pure functionality of the pack just struck a chord with users of different needs? 
“That was all part of the plan, partly because I do a wide range of activities myself, but also because I think equipment is expensive and should do more than one thing. However there must be no compomise on any function and that poses really exciting design challenges.”

The MSC is a great concept, and the Trio chest pouch adds to the Villains versatility and capacity. How important is this adjustability and modular approach to OMM’s philosophy?
“The MSC ( multi-sport compressor) is actually at the the core of the leanweight philosophy. Parts can be added or taken away to either lose weight or increase capability. Leanweight design isnt just about making the packs lighter, its about making packs more versatile.”

Are current fabrics and technology allowing you to realise previously impossible ideas, or do they inspire new ones?
“Frankly we havent really scratched the surface of new technologies yet, but the extra resources I talked about is opening doors for sure. I spent 3 days in Munich last week looking only at new fabrics, components and processes.” 

The name, The Villain. A wee stroke of genius.
“Perrins book on Don Whillans use his nick name, THE VILLAIN for the title. But there wasn’t more than 2 sentences about the gear which Don was involved with and I thought this was a huge omission. I am writing up the Whillans product stories together with my book co-author Mary Rose at Lancaster University, and its not only filling a very important historical omission it’t also really funny. Unlike the image the book portayed, Don was not an unpleasant person at all, and these stories are certainly amusing.”

What are the future plans for the evolving Villain?
“We have a new product coming up, which if all goes well might be available before this year is out. The inspiration for the product comes from the exploits of Alex McIntyre, who was leading the world in lightweight Hymalaya alpine style mountaineering until his untimely death in 1984. However I thought that a better name was THE REAL VILLAIN.”

What else does the future hold for OMM?
“I have been an innovator in 4 different eras of technology – leather and canvas, alumnium , and polymers and was market leader in all of those periods which is unusual because when technology changes so did the leadership, but I always held it. With OMM we are a very small player in the market place but there is a wonderful opportunity to link my innovation experience with a new but very experienced sales team at ARK. It’s an open road and very exciting not withstanding the horrors of the recession.”

Last time I asked you about the micro detail of the label; but what about colour, were bright colours normal at the time of the first orange and black Whillans alpiniste. The orange Villain and Jirishanca look bold even today.
“You could get any colour you liked at the time as long as it was grey or military green, so this was like super bold. In the first year I hedged my bets and made some grey ones but no-one wanted them!” 

68 thoughts on “The Real Villain, Part Two. OMM Villain MSC 45+10 2009 with Mike Parsons”

  1. I agree with the ‘double Duomat’ configuration. Even when I used my Exped Synmat for sleeping I still carried two Duomats instead of the Platformat. Duomats are great for lining lunch-stop snow holes too!

    Ahh Swap Shop. Saturday mornings sitting in your pyjamas and eating sugar coated cereal. Wasn’t Tiswaz on ITV at the same time?

  2. Guess we both got the Noely reference Kev! (But say it quietly, I think it was my kids who watched it ….. !)

    Not too keen on the 2 Duomats = 1 Platformat for extra stiffness on day trips – that’s a 160g weight penalty. May have a solution. Noticed when pruning some climbing plants yesterday (well, it is spring down south!) that the green plastic support mesh was reasonably stiff and came in 5cm squares. A few extra clips with the secateurs liberated a 15 x 45 cm piece that fits neatly between the Duomat folds and weighs …. 20g. Will be trying this next time I’m out (planned for about a week’s time).

  3. Tizwaz, aye, with the Phantom Flan Flinger, Sally James and Staus Quo…

    Interesting mod. perambul8r, I’m thinking of uses at camp fot mesh or something similar now.

  4. Tizwaz? Tiswas! This is Saturday, watch and … er … forgotten!

    But Sally James …. (sigh!).

    And Staus Quo? Is that the guy who wrote waltzes with three chords?

    As for the mesh, perhaps you could suspend it inside your Laser Comp then stuff/hang gear off it? The Comp lacks storage I understand. Don’t know personally, not having got one (….yet!).

  5. Ah, spelling…always my Achilles heel…

    Aye there’s no storage in the ‘comp, that was one of the great things about the MSR I had on test a gear loft that was super useful.
    You can never have it all in just one bit of kit unfortunately.

  6. Now we’re getting there. Out yesterday for a long walk with the Jirishanca and my new Trio pouch (courtesy of Kev). The Jiri had the same light load and behaved impeccably, with the piece of green plant support mesh in place, improving the Duomat stiffness. Or it could have been that I stuffed my bivvy bag down the second pocket; or that I tightened the MSC (and Nasse cord) more; or had less of a load in the lid pocket. Or none of the above and I’m just getting used to a softer pack! Anyway, many thanks to all for the comments and advice.

    The Trio was excellent, seemed to swallow everything put in front of it. In fact, you could say it was … OMMniverous! (Sorry!). It also fits other packs, so I’m well pleased with it. So much so, and with all its Scottish connections, I’m affectionately referring to it as my ‘wee chest sporran’ ! :)

    Think I’ll stop now.

  7. Hi ptc, I just bought a villain which im assuming is the new one as it has the water resistant zips. What confused me was the OMM site said the new OMM bags have female clips on the shoulder straps to take the trio pouch. My villain has the old style D rings. Do you know if there are newer villains with the clips or are OMM referring to other bags in the range?

  8. Hi muttley, the latest Villain and Jirishanca still have the D-rings, so you have to use the wee velcro pieces to attach the pouch.
    I thought it was faffier at first, but I actually like the lower position of the D-ring attachment, it’s easier for me to clip and unclip.
    Well spotted, I’d forgot to mention anything about that!

  9. Does anyone know where i can get one of these new 2009 Villains from.

    All the sites ive checked out on the internet have the old bags on them.



  10. Sorry forgot to put this in the last message, but can anyone help me out with this, which one is likely to be the warmer bag.

    Mountain equipemnt xero 350 – 350g down fill weight of 700 down. Total weight 730g.


    PHD Minim 300 – 300g down fill weight of 800 down. Total weight (incl length & full zip) 761g

    Im trying to find the lightest & warmest bag around this range.


  11. Chris, I know that my local independant store Footprints in Glasgow has the new model, as do Tiso in their “GOE” store.
    Outdoor Warehouse in Windermere or the Climbers Shop in Ambleside are good bets as well.

    We were talking about that exact bag question here Still no definite answer though!

  12. SORRY PTC, but having bought a Villain, any chance you let me see the pics of the wider waist belt modification you did?


  13. Now I did take some and they must be on the external hard drive, but I’m damned if I can find them.
    The pack’s stowed right now, so if all else fails I’ll do a nice wee techy drawing of the mod next week.

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