We review a lot of gear, and one thing that never fails to amaze us is the degree of innovation in small packs. The Gregory Targhee FastTrack 24 is a perfect example: every decision made on this pack reflects its singular purpose, to bootpack your skis to the top of your favorite track, and then to let you grab and go without even taking the pack off. OK, maybe that's two purposes? Whatevs, read on for the deets!
The Targhee FastTrack comes in three sizes: 24 (reviewed here), 35, and 45 liters, all with the same features, and all built around the FastTrack ski carry system. So about that… the FastTrack works and works well. To use the system, remove the coated webbing loop from its hidden pocket on the right side (as you're wearing the pack) and drop your skis, tail first, into the loop until the brakes catch. Now, the magic: wrap the elastic webbing that is anchored behind your right shoulder around the skis, around your head, and slide the webbing into the keeper on your left shoulder strap. In about as long as it takes you to read that – or watch it – it's done and done.
Securing and releasing skis is crazy easy with the FastTrack system. Carry works just fine too, although the load can develop a starboard-side list if you don't snug it up correctly. It's not quite as comfy as an a-frame carry, but it's comfortable enough and the on/off is just… so… smooth.
The rest of the pack is equally well thought out. The helmet pouch deploys quickly from a small pocket and clips into the daisy chains on the front pocket. We do wonder about the longevity of the small plastic clips; aluminum would have been a better choice here, but they are easily replaced by small biners if you want. The avy tool compartment is perfect, a wide slot for your shovel blade and two sleeves for handle and probe. There's another medium-size pocket behind the helmet cover pocket, and the main compartment is totally open, with a hydration bladder sleeve and tight-but-workable hose port on the top. The sewn top lid has two zippers that meeting in the middle at a small tab, with just enough room to stick a finger in and pull the whole lid open without manipulating the zippers. Nice touch!
After the FastTrack system, the coolest feature on the Targhee is the ability to strip it down however you like. The pack starts at 2lb 10oz. Remove the 4oz hip belt and the 8oz aluminum framesheet (don't worry, there's still a thin sheet of foam in the backpanel) and you're down to 1lb 13oz (with rounding). Why would you do that? Because the Targhee 24 is a perfect ice climbing pack in the minimalist configuration, with its dual ice tool keepers and gear loop on the right side hip belt. Add a crampon pouch, stuff your rope in the avy tool compartment, and you're good to go. There is one other interesting option here: both the gear loop and the small belt pouch can be removed. This also removes the oversized pads on the back, but keeps the wide webbing hip belt itself, and you can now slide other things into place, for example a trauma kit or camera bag. It's good to have options!
The Targhee has all the straps: top and bottom compression straps, load lifter straps, and sternum strap with whistle. The only thing we'd like to see added is a water bottle pouch on the wearer's left of the pack, which could also function to stuff ski pole handles into. Bottom line, if you're looking for an uber-cool ski and ice climbing pack, the Targhee FastTrack 24 and it's larger siblings have got it all.