The Real Villain, Part Two. OMM Villain MSC 45+10 2009 with Mike Parsons

I reviewed the OMM Villain MSC 45+10 way back when, and it’s been a constant companion since, only being put into the #2 position when I got the updated version to test a few months back.
It’s a time of change at OMM, with new investment in resources from ARK Consultants and an expanding range of gear for racers and mountain activists alike. Mike Parsons tells us a little about what’s happening.

Villain MSC 45+10 2009

There’s no sweeping changes here, just some tweaks which address some little issues I found as the miles racked up (the same updates have been applied to the Jirishanca).


The lid pocket is different. Its opening isn’t as wide so it’s much more secure, and it now has a water resistant zip. Inside the lid pocket there’s now an extra wee mesh pocket with a velcro closure. This has been worth it’s weight in gold, which unfortunately is only a few grams of course, but still…
The side entry now has a water resistant zip as well, and both of the new zips have garages for the pullers to make as good a seal as possible.
The ice axe attachment points have been rejigged and there’s no exposed stitching now for better durability.
A big change is the chest strap, the whistle-buckle is still present, as is the elastic section that lets you breathe, but the rest is new.  The two piece sliding attachment is gone and a more reliable and traditional webbing and slider buckle arrangement had been fitted. I never had an issue with the original, but this update will be easier to repair in the field.

Performance and comfort are still the same I’m glad to say, it came out of the wrapper, got packed and was out overnight the day after it arrived. I was walking uphill still adjusting the straps to the rigt length. No issues though, and it’s still my go-to pack for short backpacking trips in the mountains, even in winter.
This winter the camping gear I’m using is smaller packing so I’m getting my full winter kit inside no problem. Indeed, the MSC lets you strap pretty much anything you want onto the outside as well.

Mike Parsons Q & A

The Villain is the obvious successor to the Alpiniste 45+10, but also an improvement in materials and functionality. Did you feel that there was unfinished business?
“Yes, definitely unfinished business, and I’m thrilled to get the opportunity to do this. This is because of the ARK team not only undertaking sales and distribution, but now commiting to share ownership. In practical terms this means I can focus on new product development and hand over the myriad of small jobs that need doing in a small business like this.”

The evolution from the original orange dyneema RL model to the current updated black dyneema MSC version has been very fast. How much does user feedback influence development, and what gives OMM the ability to react so quickly?
“Working online with such an enthusiatic and really committed Lead User Group (of which you are a member of course) definitely has an amazing and exciting influence when linked with my mentality of driving continuous improvement. When I was leading Karrimor I had a ‘think tank’ which was similar and ensured that our products were always well ‘grounded’ or well thought out as a result of long debate, which first highlights problems, which I love the challenge of, and then creates a well balanced concensus.”

The Villain’s appeal has been wider than it’s alpine roots would suggest. Backpackers have taken to it as it’s light, carries well and has the OnTheMoveAccessible features. Was that part of the plan, or do you think the pure functionality of the pack just struck a chord with users of different needs? 
“That was all part of the plan, partly because I do a wide range of activities myself, but also because I think equipment is expensive and should do more than one thing. However there must be no compomise on any function and that poses really exciting design challenges.”

The MSC is a great concept, and the Trio chest pouch adds to the Villains versatility and capacity. How important is this adjustability and modular approach to OMM’s philosophy?
“The MSC ( multi-sport compressor) is actually at the the core of the leanweight philosophy. Parts can be added or taken away to either lose weight or increase capability. Leanweight design isnt just about making the packs lighter, its about making packs more versatile.”

Are current fabrics and technology allowing you to realise previously impossible ideas, or do they inspire new ones?
“Frankly we havent really scratched the surface of new technologies yet, but the extra resources I talked about is opening doors for sure. I spent 3 days in Munich last week looking only at new fabrics, components and processes.” 

The name, The Villain. A wee stroke of genius.
“Perrins book on Don Whillans use his nick name, THE VILLAIN for the title. But there wasn’t more than 2 sentences about the gear which Don was involved with and I thought this was a huge omission. I am writing up the Whillans product stories together with my book co-author Mary Rose at Lancaster University, and its not only filling a very important historical omission it’t also really funny. Unlike the image the book portayed, Don was not an unpleasant person at all, and these stories are certainly amusing.”

What are the future plans for the evolving Villain?
“We have a new product coming up, which if all goes well might be available before this year is out. The inspiration for the product comes from the exploits of Alex McIntyre, who was leading the world in lightweight Hymalaya alpine style mountaineering until his untimely death in 1984. However I thought that a better name was THE REAL VILLAIN.”

What else does the future hold for OMM?
“I have been an innovator in 4 different eras of technology – leather and canvas, alumnium , and polymers and was market leader in all of those periods which is unusual because when technology changes so did the leadership, but I always held it. With OMM we are a very small player in the market place but there is a wonderful opportunity to link my innovation experience with a new but very experienced sales team at ARK. It’s an open road and very exciting not withstanding the horrors of the recession.”

Last time I asked you about the micro detail of the label; but what about colour, were bright colours normal at the time of the first orange and black Whillans alpiniste. The orange Villain and Jirishanca look bold even today.
“You could get any colour you liked at the time as long as it was grey or military green, so this was like super bold. In the first year I hedged my bets and made some grey ones but no-one wanted them!” 

68 thoughts on “The Real Villain, Part Two. OMM Villain MSC 45+10 2009 with Mike Parsons

  1. As the proud owner of the 2009 Villain (and Jirishanca), I can testify they’re the best winter packs out there…

    And what of your snowshoes experience? I had a pair on last week in the deep powdery drifts. Much of the snow was fresh accumulation. But I was sinking in my shoes just as badly as when without them. And it was a lot harder getting out of the drifts again. I was really disappointed, I almost dumped them at the bottom of the corrie, but I suppose in those conditions only hovercraft boots would have done… Now, there’s an idea… Where’s Jeremy Clarkson when we need him…

  2. I liked them, a learning experience for sure. I was sinking in a bit at some points, but progress was really good and the only stop-and-think moments were crossing a boulder field and some steep descents.
    I’ll report back on them soon!

  3. Hi, I’m new to the area (visting from Florida) and came across your site while looking for info on the Kilpatrick Hills. I found the Crags Path through the hills by accident last week and fell in love with it. Now I’m gung-ho about hill walking the area and was wondering if I could grab some tips. I’d like to see The Whangie but I’m not sure how to get there. I think I might have spotted those snowshoe tracks today. Gave me a bit of a chuckle I have to say.

  4. As you know I have always liked the look of that pack. I have one of those chest pockets already. It is the 6’2 bit that annoys me. OMM need to up the back length. You have said it is going to happen….But when? Get on to them. Tell them to hurry up…..looks great that by the way.

  5. Candice, the easiest way to get to the Whangie is to go to the north side of the Kilpatricks by road and start at the Queens View carpark between Croftamie and Carbeth.
    It’s less than 2km, SW up the trail from the carpark, and it’s well worth a visit.

    It’s a great trek from there to Dumbarton or Old Kilpatrick, but it’s a serious one as it’s very long and your navigation has to be very good. Save that one for summer.
    Duncolm and Doughnot Hill are the two most popular peaks and are great view points. The trig pillar at the high point of The Slacks above Old Kilpatrick is another good one.
    Have fun exploring, give me a shout anytime. If you don’t bump into me up there first!

    Martin, it’s coming, honest. With the new resources available, different back lengths are on the cards, and indeed the drawing board (as long as the shops will stock them, no orders; no packs).
    The new stuff is going to be awesome. The Real Villain that Mike mentions is a killer.

  6. Can I buy one right now, or are they being released later in the year? I’ve fancied one of these packs for ages but figured it was worth waiting for the update. I’m a shortarse at 5’6”, will the back length suit?

  7. This updated version is in the shops right now. The easiest way to spot it is the waterproof zip on the lid pocket I think.
    Will it fit? That’s the question, it’s always best to try one on with some weight in it. But the Jirishanca and Classic 32 have the same back length, so even if you can find one of those you’ll get an idea if it might be right.

  8. I’m 5’9″ and it fits me perfectly. If I tilt the head backwards there’s a good clearing between it and the top of the pack. You should be all right, I think.

  9. Audiophile – I am the same height as you and have the new Jirishanca, love it to bits for winter weekend trips and really struggle not to take it on winter day trips.
    As said above, its well worth trying one on with weight just to make sure.
    I wanted the orange one but it did not have the MSC on it !

  10. Fingers crossed they get some longer backlengths available, I quite fancy trying one of the packs, thankfully the chest pouch fits every pack I’ve fitted it to :-)

  11. I wondered if the Jirishanca I got there having a water resistant zip meant it was the new one or not.

    I see youve done the same as me though and put the big cordlocks on. I pinched mine from my old Berghaus rucksack, much easier to use with gloves and no springs to pop out. (it may have been you who gave me that idea tho, I cant remember)

  12. BBF, I’ll happily take credit for that, yes. The ones that come fitted are hopeless.

    Martin, you’re lucky, you must be right on the limit, or you’ve got really long legs to make up that height!

  13. “I’ve got a prototype due in for test this week and it’s planned in three back lengths…I’ve said to much…they’re at the door…”

    This ‘product X’ wouldn’t be about 50 litres, lightwieght and suitable for year round backpacking would it?

  14. Well I am built a little like a stick insect! (37″ IL.).

    Actually though I reckon that it must have something to do with the shape or maybe the flexible back system?

    I’ve yet to find another fixed length rucksack which is long enough. Adjustable airvent ones just fall off the top of my back :)

  15. David, it’ll be obvious, trust me.

    Martin, the flexi back makes a huge difference. The Classic 25 and Adveunture Light 20 have shorter backs but both fit me because of the flexibility.

  16. Mmm. Will OMM ever consider doing the Classic 25L in Dyneema? The Jirishanca is brill, but as a winter daypack it is now overkill for me, I’ve always got plenty of space left… And yet with crampons and the like, you don’t want the relatively flimsy fabric of the Classic? At least that’s what I was told. So, it’d be great to have the Classic in Dyneema, wouldn’t it.

  17. That’s an interesting point, even on the new models dyneema is only being used on bigger packs.
    I wonder if the thicker fabric doesn’t work so well on a smaller design?
    I shall enquire….

  18. An adventure lite in purple or orange dyneema….wow! I want one!

    I burst the hip pocket on my adventure lite shortly after getting it. Its a fantastic daysack but I wonder if tougher fabric wouldve prevented this?

  19. Maybe’s aye. But, it could have been a wee fault.
    You must have gotten attached to it not to have sent it back!

    I like mine and it fits Joycee too, that’s unusual as the height difference is nearly a foot. As Martin says above maybe it’s the flexibility?

  20. Aye, patched gear makes you look more like a proper hardcore mountaineer anyway ;o)

    I love my adventure lite. Its so stable, and it kind of hugs your back which I think makes the back length not so big a problem. You just find where its comfortable to sit on your back, then tighten it all up and your ready to go.

  21. “I’ve got a prototype due in for test this week and it’s planned in three back lengths…I’ve said to much…they’re at the door…”

    Any news/hints on ‘rucksack X’? Go on, you know you you want to …

    …especially before I do something daft like buy a LIM 55 while OMM are developing ‘the perfect rucksack’.

  22. Ach, I see OutdoorsMagic has blown almost all the secrets in one go today!
    There’s fell shoes, multisport and climbing packs, new clothes and accessories and…an all new lightweight backpacking sack in different capacities and back lengths.
    It all looks good.

    Watch this space… :o)

  23. Hi ptc. Have recently bought a Jirishanca and have had a couple of opportunities to use recently in the snow fields of southern England! The white stuff’s all gone now, tho! Bought the pack largely on the strength of your positive original review of the Villain to replace an aging 35l Alpine Lowe (which weighed about twice the OMM!). Main use will be 2/3 day lightweight backpacking, so figured the Villain might be a little too large. I have not been disappointed as OMM litres seem bigger than A-Lowe’s! This has led to a minor problem as with a partly filled pack for day trips, the Duomat tends to bend and distort. Any thoughts on how to stiffen? I saw a comment somewhere on sticking a sitmat and bivvy in the second pocket behind the Duomat – will be trying this next time I’m out (probably in the Peak).

    Wanted to get an OMM chest pouch to go with the pack, but everywhere seems sold out at the mo’, including Ultralight Outdoor Gear who provided the Jirishanca (at a good price and with excellent service).

    Finally, the OMM whistle-in-chest strap: is it a gimmick? Mine seems a bit feeble compared to my usual blaster!


  24. Awwww I thought I already had the perfect OMM pack and now they’re making more! Those shoes look nice….

    Are they gonna put a decent hood/brim on the Kamleika smock do you think?

  25. The new Kamleika’s are unrecognisable next to the current ones, much better (and sexier!) all round.
    Preproduction samples are overdue, but they won’t be on here, you’ll just have to come on some trips to get a close look :o)
    The new packs are different, they’re not replacing anything, so you have already purchased wisely.

  26. Hi perambul8r (great name!)

    To keep the Jirishanca the proper shape when it’s nearly empty, tightening the four MSC straps right in usually works for me as it sandwiches the pack together without pulling it from top to bottom at all. Is it the general flexibility that feels a bit odd as well?
    One definite cure is to fit a Platformat (you can buy them separately) in the sleeve instead of the Duomat. The Platformat is the wired stiffener that comes as standard in the Villain, it’s great for a bigger load on overnighters, but I find it too much for day trips.
    One option might be to replace the Duomat with a single thick bit of foam, the folds i the Duomat are what gives it so much flexibility.

    The chest pouches are always selling out, I just checked the schedule and they’re due in again in March. I love it, such a handy bit of gear. Since it came out I’ve used ones on every overnighter except one where I went cold turkey and really missed it.

    The whistle does work, there’s a whole bunch of manufacturers use the same one. It satisfies race safety regulations and the like, so it’s fine.
    Testing it properly is the thing, where’s good for that? Not the hill, or the street outside the house, do it in the park and all you’ll do is attract all the dogs.

    But like you say, it’s no Fox earsplitter :o)

  27. I’ve never really got on with the chest pouch, I have one bu I dont think I’m fitting it properly. It just seems in the way all the time.

    I’ll need to come on some more trips right enough, things have been a bit hectic lately here but Im still getting out more than last year. I look forward to seeing the Kamleikas very much.

  28. I still like to use a bladder on the move with the mouth peice on the right shoulder strap, my camera case hangs from my left shoulder strap. My map is generally printed from PC (Memory Map)and goes into the largest Aloksac then rolled up and goes into either a trouser pocket or hipbelt pocket along with compass or GPS. Snacks, powerstretch gloves and maybe a buff or hat go in the other hipbet pocket. Anything else can get stuffed into the spare bottle pocket or down the side of the bottle.

    It works for me, thats one of the things I love about OMM stuff, the OTMA. it actually works no matter how you like to do it.

  29. You’re right there. it’s having all the bits and pieces accessible.
    Sometimes it’s the difference between having a drink or something to eat and not bothering because of the hassle of taking your pack off.

    I can do without most features on the hill, but take away my pack pockets and I’ll have a tantrum.
    When I use the Gregory Z35r I attach Mountain Laurel Design’s bottle and accessory pockets to it so I don’t get all confused.

  30. Thanks for that, ptc, all makes sense. Thinking back, first time out the Jirishanca was full as I wanted to see if I could get all the gear in, and it worked well. 2nd time was a light load but I recall I’d put my usual bits in the lid pocket (overtrousers, headtorch, decent whistle, little knife, wallet & car keys (in the mesh pocket you liked), so with there being something of a gap at the top of the pack (above the MSC) the lid and contents was probably pressing on the Duomat and bending it. I’ll also try a light load with less in the lid.

    (Now don’t ask: “headtorch, whistle, etc for a lightweight day on the South Downs?” I know, I know, but the kit is part of the “always with me” category, so then its there when needed. Along with bivvy bag, hat, gloves ……!)

    Had a look on some sites but tho a lot mention the platformat as an accessory, only Needle Sports in Keswick list it as a separate item (and then say its unavailable!) Any thoughts?

    Glad you liked the name!

  31. @Perambul8r, My first time out with the Jiri’, I thought “This isnae gonnae work”. I was gutted but then I sat down, played around with the straps and suchlike and got it sitting just right. I use a bit of foam mat as a “backboard” btw. The chest pouch is the cherry on top.

    Speaking of which, I’ve got a Trio sitting here that’s needing a new home. Ptc has my contact details if he disnae mind me turning his Comments into Classifieds :o)

  32. Wire in, I’m happy to be Noel Edmonds (..says he hoping everybody is of a certain age eand gets the reference).

    I checked the stock on the Platformats and there’s none to be had at the moment, they’ll be in at some point as they’re standard in several packs.
    If it’s any help the same piece from an old regular back size Karrimor pack will fit the same.

    And you’ll get no criticism here for carrying essentials :o)

  33. I do have a spare Platformat, in that I don’t use it with the Villain. I bought a second Duomat in addition to the one that came with the Jirishanca and I get the same amount of stiffening from two Duomats as I get from the Platformat, but the good thing is that the two Duomats give you extra insulation under the sleeping mat.

    So my advice would be: get a second Duomat!

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