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If you’ve been keeping up with Cody Townsend’s high mountain pursuits in the Fifty Project, you probably recognize the signature white Hyperlite Mountain Gear pack he’s been hauling around on big objectives in the backcountry.
This fall, HMG—in collaboration with Townsend—launched the Crux, the brand’s first-ever steep skiing pack. It’s a slimmed-down technical pack designed specifically with ski mountaineering in mind, building on the lightweight and rugged capabilities of existing HMG packs with features designed to boost efficiency in transitions when it matters most.
HMG’s ultra-light, ultra-durable packs stand out in the sea of backcountry skiing packs for their minimalist and function-first designs that lean heavily on Dyneema, a material known for its exceptional strength-to-weight capabilities. This keeps HMG packs light enough for uphill travel and long slogs in the backcountry, yet durable and abrasion-resistant enough to withstand the challenges of mountaineering missions.
Until now, the spacious Headwall 55 had been HMG’s do-it-all ski pack, with touring-specific features like an external safety pocket to stow a shovel and probe, padded straps to comfortably carry heavy loads, and a convenient roll-top closure with cinch straps. But as Townsend set out to climb and ski some of the steepest and most technical lines in North America, he saw the need for something more specified.
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“The biggest thing I was missing was a pack designed specifically for steep skiing situations,” Townsend says. “[The Crux] was specifically designed for transitioning in the steeps—which is always incredibly tricky and can be quite precarious. It was often in those moments of being at the crux of a line, whether that’s a rock step, a rappel, a transition or even just needing to get an ax out, where I wanted a new and improved pack.”
Once HMG opened the door to creating a ski mountaineering-focused pack, Townsend came in with a wish list of priorities and features. The main goal was efficiency. When you spend 10-12 hours in the field, every opportunity to streamline the process adds up, and Townsend really wanted a pack that was easier to load and unload in a pinch.
The all-new 40-liter Crux is smaller and more compact than the Headwall and adds a key feature: back panel entry. Back panel entry on a ski pack isn’t revolutionary on its own, but its integration into an ultralight Dyneema construction—something HMG has built its brand upon—is what makes this pack unique.
“Continuing with one of HMG’s signature features while also incorporating back panel entry took a massive amount of creativity and ingenuity by the HMG designers,” says Townsend. “But for me, the back panel entry is crucial for steep skiing situations and it was one feature I wasn’t going to budge on.”
For Townsend, easier entry to a pack isn’t just for convenience, it’s about safety. Holing up at a precarious rappel station or balancing on a steep, icy boot pack isn’t the time to dig through your pack and potentially drop important gear. In a ski mountaineering setting, efficiency equals safety, which is what the Crux is all about. In addition to the back panel entry, the Crux features a removable lid which can keep extra small tools and snacks close at hand (or be removed for a more streamlined design).
Adding all those features while keeping the weight down and the durability up (the 40-liter pack weighs less than 3 pounds) was crucial for perfecting a pack designed for long days in the backcountry.
Although the Crux has Townsend’s name on it, he’s quick to add that it was built with input from many of the friends and mentors he’s been out skiing with over the years.
“A bunch of other extremely talented athletes like Mali Noyes, the Provo Brothers, Mallory Duncan, etc.…had their hand in testing and feedback as well,” he adds. “All in all, this was a very collaborative design process that wasn’t directed by just myself.”
For ski mountaineers (with some coin to spend), the Crux looks to be an impressively light and durable pack built to withstand whatever you throw at it. We’re certainly intrigued and look forward to putting it to the test this winter.
Now available for $499 at hyperlitemountaingear.com.