Having decided that I’d like to change to using more lightweight kit, thoughts naturally drifted towards load carrying. I already possess an OMM 32l Classic Marathon sack, which is fine for day walks, but the addition of a tent and sleeping bag overloaded it. I immediately looked to it’s big brother, the Villain for a solution. With a 45+10l capacity it was ideal for size. I’m one of those people who have a tendency to fill all available space, and had I bought a bigger bag I would only carry more stuff, which defeats the purpose of lightweight travel.
I had expected the Villain to be simply a beefed up version of the smaller sack, but this isn’t the case. It’s made of tougher Dyneema, rather than lightweight ripstop, and while a number of features are similar enough to make the user immediately comfortable with it, such as the waist belt pockets (big enough to take a large GPS) and the handy gear rail, it has a few little tricks of it’s own. Gone is the full length mesh outer pocket, replaced here with a detachable compressor. This is easily removed to save weight, and fits again in seconds. It’s ideal for stuffing a jacket into, where it can be reached quickly in the event of a sudden shower. The sack also has a side zip, which allows you to access the inside of the sack, without going through the palaver of unclipping every clip and strap.
Reach inside and down and your hand is in a pocket where you can stow small odds and ends, and they will be held securely enough. I found the pocket useful for retaining tent poles and my peg bag, keeping them to the side of the sack, and away from direct contact with the back.
There are also two outer mesh side pockets, which can be easily reached while wearing the sack, and a lid pocket, with cord loops, an inner mesh pocket and a secure hook. All the zips are water resistant, but not waterproof. I use dry bags anyway, but this should be borne in mind, as should the side zip not be fully zipped up it provides direct access to the main compartment for water.
The back system comprises an internal foam mat (platformat) which has a metal insert for stability. The outer straps are well padded, and are fitted with D-rings and cord attachments. I removed the platformat and replaced it with a small folded thermarest, which saves on space and weight, and is very comfortable. A removable lumbar pad sits on the outer base, I personally keep it fitted, although there is no discernible difference either way for me.
With this sack expected to take a heavier load, it also has compressor cords fitted at the top of the shoulder straps, and while made of cord rather than a flat strap, they are more than adequate. The straps are fitted with loops for attaching a chest strap (with emergency whistle), and elastic loops for a hydration tube. While there is a pocket inside for a reservoir, filling and replacing it involves removing the complete contents of the main compartment. This can be a time consuming process, and if backpacking in warm weather it may be easier to use the outer compressor to hold the reservoir in place, rather than repeatedly emptying and filling the rucksack.
The capacity of the bag can be increased by adding an optional 4l chest pouch. This is ideal for a map and compass, and while it has an integral map case on the rear, it’s strictly fair weather only.
The capacity can also be increased by piggy backing a smaller OMM bag on using two quick release clips located under the lid of the main sack, which is a good feature to have if travelling in to a bothy or wild camp for a few days. Carry in the load in the two bags combined, then use the smaller bag for day walking.
The rucksack is advertised as having a weight of 1160gms, and I found it to be creeping just over 1200gms mark. OMM also encourage you to go “leanweight”, stripping non essential items off to save weight. The advertised leanweight is 710gms. After a basic strip, removing the compressor, lumbar pad and platformat, I had a weight of 810gms. I could shave off a bit more by trimming down cord and strap lengths, but can’t bring myself to take a knife to it. In my view, the best set up seems to be the rucksack and compressor, less the platformat and lumbar pad, giving a total weight of 900gms.
All in all this is a very good rucksack, and well worth the money. It’s suitable for multi day camping trips, and it’s extra capacity is ideal for day walks in winter, where extra gear such as helmet and crampons are required. It has a very effective reflective panel on the rear, and reflective elasticated ice axe loops, which helps on dark nights. It’s a tidy bag, and well thought out, possibly the only change I would make would be the addition of a floating lid, but that is no reason to pass this one by. I think I will be using this for a long time to come.