Osprey’s Kode 42 is billed as a technical backcountry snow pack with a 42-liter capacity for hut trips or ski patrol missions. With one last hut trip on our calendar for the season, we thought it’d be a great opportunity to check out the packs as they sounded pretty ideal on paper for a few days in the winter woods above Basalt.

Packing up the Kode 42 for a hut trip quickly highlights its size, for better or worse. The 42-liter namesake capacity is specific to the M/L size, as the S/M size actually measures out to be 40-liters – this is something we jokingly, yet somewhat accurately, argued to be a wash, as smaller people needing the smaller pack generally carry smaller jackets, pants, hut slippers and the like, thereby making the 2-liter reduction close to proportional. Then there’s the variation in space a thong takes up compared to a pair of large boxers, but I promised I wouldn’t mention that.

The drawstring, top-loading opening to the main compartment is great for stuffing the pack to capacity, and the zippered back-panel access is a fantastic feature when it comes time to grab that extra pair of gloves that were stuffed down between the gallon-sized bag of frozen burritos and a puffy jacket. Granted, the large lid pocket would be a much better spot for gloves, and would still have room for a hat, goggles, and an extra baselayer. The lid also features a helmet compartment that covers enough of the helmet to keep it from filling with snow on the ascent, as well as a smaller stash pocket that’s great for maps and other similarly-sized items. If a helmet doesn’t need to be carried, we found that the compartment is also a great spot for a sleeping bag. Otherwise, there are four loops on top of the lid that allow bulky things like bedding to be strapped there (something I did with my bag, via a $3 purchase of two velcro straps).

Two very large, zippered hip pockets are roomy enough for sandwiches and bars, and the dedicated sleeve for avalanche gear still had room for hut slippers and a roll of duct tape in addition to a shovel and probe. Hannah’s shovel handle fit nicely into her S/M Kode, but my rather large Voile’ shovel handle had to be strapped to the outside, which conveniently fit perfectly into the ice tool loop on the back panel.

Ski carry options are diagonally, and A-frame style. In the A-frame option with a full pack, it’s hard to get the ski tips to touch, making for more of an H, which limits leg room from the dangling tails. Skis can be raised up enough to better leg clearance by running the bindings above the upper strap, but the tips are so high overhead that this would only really work outside of treed terrain. With a slightly less stuffed pack, and a strap around the ski tips, the A-frame option works well.

Comfort was impressive for both of us while the pack was full and minimally-loaded, going both up and down. The buckles are all easy to adjust with gloves on and held solidly, even while tumbling downhill a bit – in the name of testing, of course. The Kode isn’t gender-specific, but at 5’7”, Hannah felt it fit her very well, and I thought the M/L fit my 6’3” frame nicely, too.

Though the A-frame ski straps are solid and work well for their application (and would make great purchase points for hauling a sled), both Hannah and I were missing stash pockets that are sometimes housed here, as there’s no easily-accessible stash pocket for a water bottle or hat/gloves/etc. The abundance of zippered pockets are great, however all but the hip pockets require taking the pack off to access, and while those hip pockets are impressively big, they’re not big enough for bottles or a pair of winter gloves.

Overall, the Kode 42 is an excellent option for exactly what Osprey says it’s made for – hut trips and skiers/boarders who need to carry more gear than usual. As a multi-day hut trip pack, it’s more of a minimalist’s size that will make you think twice about what you really need, versus what you want to bring. But, it’s comfortable, stable, well built, and has just the right amount of bells and whistles (literally, on the sternum strap) to fall into the “thoughtfully designed” category, instead of being obnoxiously techy.

Sizes S/M and M/L
Colors Nitro Green (tested), Hoodoo Red, Black
MSRP $170
ospreypacks.com

—Zach White and Hannah Levine