Lets get it out of the way – there can never be a perfect pack unless you partake in limited but similar activities. A day pack for about town is not going to serve you well for 3 weeks unsupported in Siberia during winter and vice-versa.
I currently have 3 backpacks that all get used, but are not best suited to my changing needs. I need more, but don’t want more: I want less – less is more!
I have a 25L BCB daypack that is pretty darn good. 3 zipped pockets, lid pocket, dual draw closure, nice back ventilation, waist strap, tough material, only 750g. BUT, it doesn’t make best use of airline carry on allowance, is probably a tad small for the mountain marathon, and looks a bit ‘military’ for everyday use or traveling in certain areas. The secure double draw closure is also a bit irritating as it slows access.
Karrimor Sabre 45 with side pouches giving 70L. My first pack. It is bomb-proof – so tough, it’s something you can pass on to your kids. The large pouches are very handy for keeping gear accessible. The low height is also a plus in woods for ducking under branches, and the removable back pad can be hand moulded to suit you, used as a seat or an emergency splint. BUT, it weighs 3kg! It is a bit narrower at the top, making loading awkward and the width is very tricky to maneuver through doorways and public transport…. military colour, and it weighs 3KG!!!
Granite Gear Meridian 50+10L. Weighs 1.6kg, has useful elastic side pouches, and the floating lid enables you to sandwich a drybag with 6kg of food nicely when you run out of space on the inside. Comfortable and versatile for multi-day activities in colder months. There is a bit of excess webbing and it is too big for everyday and carry-on. This bag has it’s place although I think there’s still room to improve here someday.
For now, my focus is on the smaller packs. I need something to fulfill everyday use, a mountain marathon, alpine day trips, and 1-bag world travel (Summed up nicely in this blog post by
Dark Nomad). My criteria are:
- Lightweight: sub 1kg
- Size – close to the airline carry-on allowances so I can travel without checking any bags (gives me 30-35L) and big enough for stripped down camping, a la mountain marathon (25-30L).
- Durable for active outdoor use and rough travel.
- Non-descript colours: can I wear it with a suit; can I rub a bit of dust on it and not look like a ‘tourist’, but at the same time not be mistaken as (para)military?
- Twin zips: ease of access, large opening for packing clothes, can be padlocked to deter pickpockets.
- Large main compartment for clothes, sleeping bag, etc.
- Some internal organisation for small items.
- NOT an air-flow curved back: I hate them and they don’t pack well.
- Outside options: elastic pockets or a bit of bungee compression can be very useful, especially for the mountain marathon, but you don’t want everything on the outside for traveling.
- Not too pricey – certainly under £100!
Not a lot to ask, which is why I unearthed 7 contenders…
(The Inov8 packs were too specialised to be shortlisted):
Berghaus Munro 35L maxes on useable space & durability, but is tipping the scales, is only available in green, and would require extra pouches for the MM.
Berghaus 24/7 30L is very tempting. It is cheap, very light, and I know this range has very well thought out organisation on the inside. Unfortunately, it is too deep for budget airline carry-on and doesn’t look the most stable for intense activity.
Lowe Alpine Rush 25L looks well featured, but is maybe pushing the too-specialised zone. It also has a narrow top opening, does not make the most of carry-on allowance and the material looks a little delicate.
Karrimor Zodiac 30L is light, cheap, discreet and full of features, but like the 24/7 may be too cheap to go the distance and does not look as stable as some of the others. I know Karrimor have some excellent packs, but their range is too big – I worry this just ticks boxes on paper.
OMM Classic 32L (actually 750g) is technical but somehow wears it’s features discreetly and feels quite tough. There is bright blue on it, but it isn’t too noticeable. A definite contender, although on the expensive side, and the lid access may not be the best all-round solution.
Haglofs Tight-Large 30L looks amazing: discreet, minimalist (but useful functions). Large opening, durable material, and stability all win it points, but it is the most expensive and is that minimalism costing it some all-round flexibility?
Berghaus Remote 30L is slightly the heavier of the three, but packs quite a punch. Features galore, slightly more obvious than the slick Haglofs, but remains the cheapest of the top contenders. I like also the brown colour scheme.
Such a wonderful dilemma – the complexity of roles, the hypothetical situations, the past experiences weighing in. What do you think? Have I missed any good options? I shall update the comments when I have made my mind up.