CAMELBAK Sequoia 18 Rucksack Review

The Sequoia boasts a dizzying array of features, all weaved together into one exceedingly practical package. The higher price reflects the fact it’s designed around (and comes with) a 3L water reservoir, which slides neatly into its own compartment at the back, so it can be taken in and out without emptying the main compartment. The Sequoia is a master of compartmentalisation – it has pockets dotted everywhere, and they’re all welcome additions, especially the flap at the front which allows quick stowage for a map or a soggy jacket. The back system is just as sophisticated, with three mesh ‘ventilation pods’ which cushion and move with the back; the benefit of choosing ‘women’s-specific’ is really obvious with this pack. Some might say all the gizmos are a bit over the top, but when it’s this comfy, you won’t turn it down.

Target Price £120

Specification

 M/W: Women’s

Men’s version: Fourteener

Capacity: 18L

Weight: 980g

Extra pockets: 5

Back system: NV Hike (padded airflow)

Contact: 0116 234 4646, www.camelbak.com

Verdict

Flawless design, first class comfort: the women’s fit makes a difference.

Review from Country Walking magazine. 

Fjällräven Kaipak 28 Rucksack Review

To handle a Fjällräven product is like holding a finely cut precious stone – its materials are luxurious, every aspect is crafted with the utmost care, and it will last forever. The classy Kaipak focuses on old-fashioned comfort and durability rather than bells, whistles and toggles. The padded back moulds naturally and comfortably to the torso while the slim design and compression straps mean the weight is always pulled close to the body, stabilising heavy loads. Made from tough G-1000 HeavyDutyEco material, it’s designed to withstand the elements, with the pockets protected by storm flaps and the main compartment by the lid. A rain cover is one of the few modern concessions, but for all its simple charm, it would be good to see some mod cons, like a hydration pouch and padded hip belt.

Target Price £110

Specification

M/W: Unisex

Capacity: 28L

Weight: 1050g

Extra pockets: 3 (top, inner, front)

Back system: Padded mesh

Contact: 02392 528711, www.fjallraven.co.uk

Verdict 

Elegant, comfortable and durable, but avoid if you use hydration systems.

Review from Country Walking magazine

Osprey Kestral 28 Rucksack Review

This is a pleasure to wear. I say ‘wear’ rather than just carry, because the fit is unrivalled. It represents the right balance of comfort, flexible storage and walker-friendly features for demanding days. It’s available in two back lengths, with a generously padded, body-hugging hip belt and shoulder straps, easily adjusted on the go, while the AirScape back system keeps your back well ventilated. And it’s full of clever ideas. For example, its bladder storage bay is in the back-system, not the main compartment; this disperses the weight evenly and maximises storage space in the main bag. There are two pockets in the lid, handy hip pockets and stretchy mesh panels, plus a raincover stowed in the bottom. With a fixed lid and compression straps, the Kestrel feels stable, even with awkward loads.

Target Price £100

Specification 

M/W: Unisex

Capacity: 28L

Weight: 1024g

Extra pockets: 4 (lid x2, belt x2)

Back system: AirScape (mesh airflow)

Contact: 01202 946444, www.ospreyeurope.com

Verdict

Versatile design and ingenious details make this an impeccable daypack.

Review from Country Walking magazine

Black Diamond Bolt 24 Rucksack Review

The Bolt is an excellent all-rounder. It’s comfortable, easy to adjust for fit and stability, and boasts some ingenious features. Opening up the lid, main access is via a secure drawcord, but there’s a handy side zip if you need quick access. There are plenty of extra storage options including a lid pocket, a hip pocket and a generous expanding panel at the front, plus clever side pouches that fold out to take bigger water bottles. Available in two back lengths, it’s easy to fine tune the fit and a flexible internal frame gives the pack some reassuring shape and stability with bulkier loads. It’s not immediately obvious what some straps do, or why the one for the lid needs to be so long and flappy, but apart from making the overall design busier, they don’t seem to be doing anything wrong.

Target Price £90

Specification 

M/W: Unisex

Capacity: 24L

Weight: 940g

Extra pockets: 2 (lid, belt)

Back system: OpenAir (mesh airflow)

Contact: 01572 772436, www.blackdiamondequipment.com

Verdict 

Slick design with fittings and features to match – a quality piece of kit. 

Review from Country Walking magazine.

 

Deuter Futura 28 Rucksack Review

Built for comfort and designed just for walkers (without unwanted ice axe bindings), the Futura is a solid daypack with a complement of user-friendly features. A light ‘twin frame’ suspended back system creates a concave space between pack and back, allowing the flow of cool air, but barely intruding on the internal space. As with some larger trekking packs, you can access the main compartment from the bottom (useful for getting at that much-needed waterproof), and with a zip-in divider you can separate wet kit. There’s an extra front pocket, an internal pouch for a hydration system and a raincover too. While amply padded, the short hip fins don’t hug the waist as much as I’d like, but otherwise the pack feels stable and is easy to adjust for fit and weight balance, helped by four compression straps.

Target Price £85

Specification

M/W: Unisex

Women’s version: Futura 24 SL

Capacity: 28L

Weight: 1180g

Extra pockets: 1/2

Back system: Aircomfort Flexlite (suspended)

Contact: 0191 296 0212, www.deutergb.co.uk

Verdict 

All the right features combined to keep your back cool and your kit organised.

Gregory Sula 24 Rucksack Review

This is a finely balanced backpack and one of the few products on test to boast a suspended back system. A tightly sprung mesh creates an inch of space between the pack and the body – a ‘Goldilocks’ distance where the load is close enough to keep you balanced,but allows air to circulate freely. Being a women’s specific fit, the hip belt is well-padded and the shoulder straps are thoughtfully curved, allowing ease of movement around the arms and shoulders. There is little which hasn’t been thought of: it’s compatible with hydration systems, the zips are covered with storm flaps, there are elasticated bands to stop straps flapping around in the wind, and there are even straps underneath the pack to secure a jacket. It might be a little too fussy for some, but it’s hard to fault this pack. 

Target Price £80

Specification 

M/W: Women’s

Unisex version: Salvo

Capacity: 24L

Weight: 1010g

Extra pockets: 4 (front, inner, belt x 2)

Back system: Freespan (suspended)

Contact: 01539 624040, eu.gregorypacks.com

Verdict 

A pack which ticks all the boxes. Functional, practical and balanced.

Review from Country Walking magazine.

Montane Cobra 25 Rucksack Review

The Cobra proves simple design can go a long way. It’s tough yet light and stripped down to the basics in places, but there are a few innovative features to boot. It’s the little things that make a difference though. By angling the main zip towards your back, it’s easier to root around inside when the pack’s off. Unlike others on test, the grooved foam Comfort Back Pad is lined with a finer mesh to reduce abrasion against waterproofs, but while it provides some ventilation, it doesn’t feel quite as cool in hot, sticky conditions. The back panel is very flexible, allowing great freedom of movement, but it didn’t feel as comfortable or stable with lumpier loads. A versatile daypack, the Cobra is fully adjustable, with attachments for walking poles too, however the odd clip and fixture are a tad fiddly to use. 

Target Price £75

Specification

M/W: Unisex

Women’s version: Habu 22

Capacity: 25L Weight: 870g Extra pockets: 3

Back system: Comfort Back Pad (padded airflow)

Contact: 01670 522300, www.montane.co.uk

Verdict

 A neat daypack built for durability. A good price for a premium product.

Review from Country Walking magazine.

Patagonia Petrolia 28 Rucksack Review

The Petrolia is a dream for those who can’t leave things at home. The main compartment is cavernous, accessed via a wide top-opening zip which opens in the shape of a broad smile. You can fit most things you’d ever need for a day trip in here; the only trouble is the pack’s compression straps aren’t sufficient to keep its shape. I found it unbalanced and a strain on my back when fully loaded, especially given there is no full hip belt. There is a separate pouch at the back for a hydration reservoir, which ensures its weight is closest to the body – although the fiddly tube port means it takes a few minutes of swearing to get it set up. The back doesn’t offer much support or padding either. Without a frame, it’s a relatively lightweight pack, working better when stuffed with spare layers rather than heavily laden. 

Target Price £65

Specification  

M/W: Unisex

Capacity: 28L

Weight: 779g

Extra pockets: 3 (top, open flap, hydration reservoir/laptop)

Back system: Air-Flow (padded)

Contact: 0800 0260 055, www.patagonia.com

Verdict 

A spacious pack with ample storage, but not suitable for heavy loads.

 

Berghaus Remote 20 Rucksack Review

The Remote 20 is a lesson in the value of simple design. At a mere 500g, it’s significantly lighter than most of its rivals, yet still covers all of the essentials with assurance. The back system uses sturdy but comfy padding, resting naturally against the back while still letting air circulate. I was impressed by how stable and balanced the Remote was, even when fully loaded. Being light, it’s perfect for hasty adventures and hot hikes, and the lack of a full hip belt isn’t missed. Over longer days, you might start to miss some storage space – there is one very useful extra pocket for a map or other knick-knacks at the front and a mesh organiser inside, but nothing secure for glasses or a purse. An internal pouch fits smaller hydration systems, but then if you’re travelling light, a 2 litre bladder will be more than adequate.

Target Price £50

Specification  

M/W: Unisex

Capacity: 20L

Weight: 500g  

Extra pockets: 1 (front) + internal organisers

Back system: Berghaus Flow (padded airflow)

Contact: 0345 607 2477, www.berghaus.com

Verdict 

Small, light and perfectly formed. A well-balanced pack at a great price.

Review from Country Walking magazine

Jack Wolfskin EDS Dynamic Pro 48 Rucksack Review

This maverick pack does its own thing in its own unique, slightly baffling way. To get into it, you first have to unclip four buckles to peel away an outer layer. Inside, you won’t find your standard toggled compartment but an inbuilt dry-bag, rolled up and fastened by yet another buckle. Between the outer layer and the main compartment, two pouches offer space for an extra layer or two, but nothing more as everything will just fall out once the outer layer is lowered. Accessing anything in this pack is something of an ordeal, though it is unquestionably watertight and saves you flapping around with waterproof covers. The fit is highly customisable, with the hip and back systems adjustable to suit your height, though it’s still not ideal for shorter walkers. The back is supported by a stiff frame, which gives great support and bears the weight of the load perfectly well, although the lower back lacks sufficient padding to make the frame comfy. Target Price £120.

Specification

Weight: 1.8kg

Capacity: 48L

Extra pockets: 3 (front, top + hydration system pocket)

Back system: EDS (padded)

Contact: 0207 836 5118, www.jack-wolfskin.co.uk

Verdict 

PROS: Waterproof, customisable back system, supportive frame.

CONS: Difficult access to main storage area, insufficient padding.

Comfort: 2/5

Stability: 4/5

Features: 3/5

Ventilation: 3/5

Review from Country Walking magazine. 

Black Diamond Onyx 55 Rucksack Review

The big sell here is the pivoting hip-belt which (with the use of an allen key that comes with it) can be adjusted to allow the whole pack to move with your gait, thus reducing the risk of friction sores on your hips and back. At first I found the belt shifted the weight onto a single hip with every step. But once I’d tightened the pivoting device (an operation requiring both patience and dexterity), the shift in weight distribution was much more natural and efficient. For people who suffer with sore hips and back on long hikes, this is a genuinely useful feature, though those who just want a stable load might find it superfluous. The floating lid means you can stuff the pack to overflowing point and still secure it, and there is also a front access zip. But ease of access is compromised by the zips themselves: the watertight taping makes them frustratingly tough to operate, turning what should be a great feature into an obstructive one. Target Price £150.

Specification 

Weight: 2kg

Capacity: 55L

Extra pockets: 8 (2 x top, 4 x front, 2 x belt)

Back system: Suspension and padding

Contact: 01572 772436, www.blackdiamondequipment.com

Verdict

PROS: Innovative pivoting back system, floating lid, waterproof zips.

CONS: Fiddly adjustments required to achieve good fit, zips tough to use.

Comfort: 3/5

Stability: 4/5

Features: 3/5

Ventilation: 4/5

Best for: Those needing a solution to hip and back problems on big treks.

Review from Country Walking magazine.

Osprey Atmos AG 50 Racksack Review

For a multi-day walk where you need the kitchen sink, this is your pack. The AG stands for ‘anti-gravity’ and relates to the back system, which is designed to lift the load right away from your torso. The pack hovers a good four inches away from my back and I rarely feel its presence at all, even though it’s nudging 2kg when empty. And despite the concave back panel, there’s very little loss of storage space. The hip-fins are so stiff that you have to prise them apart like lobster claws to put it on, and I find they then put slightly too much pressure on my hip-bones, so make sure you try the two sizes (medium and large) to make sure you get the perfect back length. You get plenty of pockets and a basement for wet stuff, with a divider that can be unhooked if you just want to pile everything in the main section. And if you don’t need quite so much stuff, you can remove the lid and use a hidden extra flap to cover the load. For really big walks, it’s very hard to beat this. Target Price £150.

Specification 

Weight: 1994g

Capacity: 50L

Pockets: 5 (2x lid, 2x side, front)

Back system: Osprey AG (suspended)

Contact: 01202 946444, www.ospreyeurope.com

Verdict 

PROS: Fully featured, supports huge loads easily, firm support.

CONS: Hip-fins may apply excessive pressure on hips.

Comfort: 4/5

Stability: 5/5

Features: 4/5

Ventilation:  5/5

Best for: Multi-day walks when you need a washbag and changes of clothes.

Review from Country Walking magazine.

Deuter ACT Trail Pro 38SL Rack Review

The ACT Trail Pro is a mid-size pack
with heavyweight credentials, and it comes with all the precise engineering we expect from Deuter. It is far more comfortable than a burdensome load has any right to be: the back is padded with body-hugging foam cushions and both the shoulder straps and hip belt come with a significant smattering of spongy softness. Wearing this pack is like being hugged by a benign bear. The cuddly feeling is helped along by how well the pack stabilises and bears a heavy load. As it’s slightly smaller than many of the other packs on test, it doesn’t have as many storage options, but it does feature a useful wet laundry space at the front, a zipped side pocket and a front zip to the main compartment. There are holes in the shoulder straps to encourage ventilation and the foam back has a gap down the middle for air to flow through, though I didn’t feel this made much of an impact on hot days. Target Price £120.

Specification

Weight: 1511g

Capacity: 38L

Extra pockets: 6 (2 x top, side, front, 2 x belt)

Air system: aircontact (padded)

Contact: 0191 296 0212, www.deutergb.co.uk

Verdict

PROS: Comfort, stability and made with high quality, durable materials.

CONS: The back system can overheat if tackling really challenging terrain. 

Comfort: 5/5

Stability: 5/5

Features: 4/5

Ventilation: 3/5

 Best for: Winter trips when more space is needed for extra layers.

Review from Country Walking magazine

Vango Boulder 45 Rucksack Review

45L, £45 – you can’t say much fairer than that, which is why you don’t find many discounts for this one. Despite its capacity, it’s noticeably smaller than most of the packs in this test because it has a simple padded back system, with no suspension system to impinge on storage space. But it still holds the same amount of kit as a larger 45L pack with suspension system: mine easily holds a waterproof, a fleece, a soft shell and a biggish lunch. Plus it has no adverse effect on your balance, and it’s very light at 1115g. The downside is that heat management isn’t so good, and my back got a trifle damp on hot ascents. There’s just one main compartment, two side-pockets and two in the lid, and the compression straps squeeze the pack down snugly when it isn’t full. If you’re not doing major hill-climbs, this will see you right; it would be perfect for a less demanding trail like the Thames Path, where its ample storage and good weight distribution can really shine. Target price £45.

SPECIFICATION

Weight: 1115g

Capacity: 45L

Pockets: 4 (2x top, 2x side)

Back system: Air Force (padded)

Contact: 01475 746000, www.vango.co.uk

Verdict

PROS: Simple storage, not too fussy, good hip-fin support.

CONS: Back system not as effective on hill-climbs with a full load.

Comfort: 3/5

Stability: 3/5

Features: 3/5

Ventilation: 3/5

Best for: Family walks and easier trails without too much up and down.

Review from Country Walking

GREGORY Zulu 40 Rucksack Review

The Zulu is awash with good ideas. First of all it comes in two different lengths, medium and large. It’s packed with cute features for storage and weight dispersal, including a stretchy panel on the front which can hold anything from an OS map to a light fleece. And there’s a concealed arch-shaped zip which allows you to open the main section like a suitcase and find what you need easily. The trouble is I’m not sure how well all these ideas combine. The front of the pack is so complex that it all becomes a bit fiddly, with the front panel, the arch zip and a secret compartment holding the raincover all lying on top of each other. Thus I’m occasionally unsure where to find what I’m looking for. But it is brilliantly stable, and the hip-belt and mesh back-system combine neatly in a firm embrace. I particularly like the lumbar support padding at the bottom of the pack – firm enough to give you a decent little massage but without letting you overheat. Target Price £115.

SPECIFICATION

Weight: 1406g

Capacity: 40L

Pockets: 8 (2x lid, 2x side, 2x hip-belt, 2x front)

Back system: Suspended

Contact: 01572 772511, www.gregorypacks.com

Verdict

PROS: Comfy back-system, very stable, plenty of features.

CONS: Front panel a little over-designed for easy access.

Comfort: 5/5

Stability: 4/5

Features: 3/5

Ventilation: 4/5

Best for: Big day-walks and the occasional overnight stopover.

Review from Country Walking magazine.

VAUDE Brenta 50 Rucksack Review

There are many reasons to like the Brenta: it’s lightweight, the hip belt is wide and comfortable, and it’s a good fit for those short of stature, despite being a unisex pack. The lightness comes from its simplicity: there are very few extra pockets, though there is a front zip which allows access to the main compartment. It places a real premium on ventilation: the shoulder straps are studded with holes to encourage air to flow, and there’s a good suspended back system that’s held away by a layer of mesh. Unlike some models which use the same method, Vaude ensure the weight of the pack isn’t pushed so far away as to be destabilising. In fact, the Brenta is one of the most stable and secure packs on test. However, the back system’s mesh divider isn’t taut enough to hold the pack completely off the back, and I found that it was largely ineffective – I could even feel the lump of plastic behind the mesh pressing against my back. Target Price £90.

SPECIFICATION

Weight: 1322kg

Capacity: 50L

Extra pockets: 3 (top, front, belt)

Back system: Aeroflex (suspended)

Contact: 01665 510660, www.vaude.com

VERDICT

PROS: Lightweight, stable and excellent at bearing weight over the hips.

CONS: Poor back system and very few extra features.

Comfort: 3/5

Stability: 5/5

Features: 3/5

Ventilation: 3/5

Best for: Fast and light multi-day trips where every gram matters.

Review from Country Walking magazine. 

LOWE ALPINE AirZone Pro 35:45 Rucksack Review

It would be wrong to want to write poetry about a rucksack, but the AirZone almost makes me want to. It’s got the lot: a suspended back system that pushes the load away and vents heat without sacrificing your balance, access to the main compartment via the top and the side, a generous front-panel pocket and hip pockets on both fins. I also like the Centro Adjust system which slides the harness up and down (the pack also comes in three different back lengths, which helps you get the right fit from the shopfloor). I’m not a fan of the cord storage on the front panel, but if it’s a fleece-on, fleece-off day on the Pennine Way, you may well be glad of it. The 35:45 numbering (ladies’ ND 33:40) relates to the expandable capacity, which is achieved by lengthening the straps on the lid. But it’s the massive side zip that really sells it: instant access to everything in the pack at a glance, enabling you to find that buried pack of Penguins easily. Priceless. Target Price £90.

Verdict

PROS: Ample storage, plenty of features, great fit and excellent ventilation

CONS: Extremely hard to think of any (and I’m really trying)

Comfort: 5/5

Stability: 5/5

Features: 5/5

Ventilation: 5/5

Best for: At 35L, overnights and winter; at 45L, long-distance paths.

Review from Country Walking magazine. 

 

BERGHAUS Trailhead 50 Rucksack Review

This brand new pack is smart, sensible, well-made and highly adaptable. It picks up where the lower-capacity Freeflow series leaves off, although it sheds a few of the flourishes that I love about the Freeflow, like the clever diagonal zip-pockets and choice of colours. But it retains the terrific Biofit feature, which allows you to slide the harness up and down your back to the perfect length while you’re wearing it. The main hold is immense and the load stays virtually flat against your back, but due to the carefully placed padding on the harness, there’s no nasty heat buildup. It lacks alternative storage space, offering only a lid pocket and two bottle-flaps at the side. Plus the immense black void in the main compartment (and lack of alternative access to it) means it can be hard to find stuff quickly. But it carried everything for a family walking holiday in Ireland, plus changes of clothes on a multi-day trip to the Dales, and I never once felt uncomfortable. Target Price £76.

SPECIFICATION

Weight: 1267g

Capacity: 50L

Pockets: 3 (lid, 2x side)

Back system: Biofit (padded/suspended)

Contact: 0345 607 2477, www.berghaus.com

Verdict

PROS: Huge main compartment, sliding harness, tough fabrics.

CONS: Little extra storage space, can be hard to locate kit quickly.

Comfort: 4/5

Stability: 4/5

Features: 3/5

Ventilation: 3/5

Best for: Big days when you want to throw loads in and forget about them.

Review from Country Walking magazine

QUECHUA Forclaz Easyfit 50 Rucksack Review

The Forclaz might not be the coolest pack on the market, but it gets all the basics right: it’s comfortable, stable and packs in a lot of kit. The padding on the hip belt and shoulder straps is thick and soft, and the back system boasts a bed of foam which cushions the back against all the tinned sardines, water filters, and other trekking paraphernalia (though the foam can get a little sweaty on climbs). A front opening zip allows quick, holdall-style access to the main compartment, and the back length can be adjusted while you’re wearing the pack thanks to a couple of nifty straps connecting the hip belt and the shoulder straps. Within minutes of hauling it onto my back, the load felt comfortable, secure and manageable. The one question which goes begging is, how long will it last? Compared to other packs on test, the fabric feels thin and flimsy and the pocket zips look vulnerable. Still, for £65, few will be disappointed with the Forclaz.

SPECIFICATION

Weight: 1750g

Capacity: 50L

Pockets: 5 (2 x top, 2 x sides, hip belt)

Back system: Padded

Contact: 0207 0643 000, www.decathlon.co.uk

Verdict

PROS: Comfortable, stable, convenient storage and access, great price.

CONS: Poor quality materials, little ventilation in back system.

Comfort: 5/5

Stability: 4/5

Features: 3/5

Ventilation: 3/5

Best for: Long walks where comfort is the priority – along with price.

Review from Country Walking magazine.