There are two key reasons for wearing a Front Pack. The first is biomechanics. Several studies have shown that wearing a Front Pack will improve your posture and your gait when carrying a heavy load on your back. With just a heavy backpack, you lean forward, putting stress on your shoulders. The Front Pack helps you stand more upright by balancing the weight, adding to your comfort on the trail. The second, more simply, is easy accessibility. Important equipment, such as an iPhone or smartphone, GPS device, camera, map, medical kit, energy bars and so forth are all within hands reach without having to shift around or take off any gear.
RIBZ Sportswear, located near San Diego, California, has created the RIBZ Front Pack. Originally designed for backcountry mountaineering, the Front Pack has a number of other uses from hunting to fishing, and in my case, skiing (see Video Review). The RIBZ Front Pack is made from a 210 dernier rip stop nylon from Cordura, one of the bigger names in fabric manufacturers for the Outdoor and SnowSports Industries. It sits comfortably on the stomach in a suspender-like harness, with the shoulder straps offset to the inside enough to avoid interfering with the straps on a backpack. And with four pouches, two on each side of a central zip that holds the unit together, there’s plenty of room for all your essentials, all within easy reach.
I wore the RIBZ Front Pack on a gear-testing ski trip to Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany right after ISPO Munich, one of the largest Outdoor and SnowSports Trade Shows in the world. I was skiing mostly on-piste or sidecountry in fairly heavy snows. Having the front pack made it far easier to access what I needed. With a two-way zip on my ski jacket, and the front pack sitting comfortably underneath, I only had to zip up from the bottom, leaving my chest, neck and arms all protected against the elements. The fabric is also water resistant, making it easy to brush off any snow or powder that accumulated while accessing my gear.
The other benefit was actually eliminating a backpack on the ski slopes when near facilities, where I didn’t need a full hydration system or avalanche-related gear. Able to carry loads between 4 to 5 kg, I could fit my approach shoes, extra baselayer, extra ski socks, and an interchange of ski goggle lenses. I also didn’t have to take off the front pack when on a gondola or chair lift, or sit uncomfortably with a backpack left on. About the only downside is that the zips on the two smaller front pouches run from outside in. This forced me to unzip my ski jacket from the bottom up higher than I would have liked given the weather conditions.
While RIBZ Sportswear does not yet have distributors in Australia or New Zealand, the RIBZ Front Pack can be purchased directly from their website online. The product rolls up into the size of a large water bottle, and weighs less than about 350 g, including a stuff sack. The regular-sized Stealth Black version I tested is available for US$59.95, with an additional US$25 charged for international shipping.
Featured Photos: RIBZ Sportswear Media Images