The Big Test: 40-50L Backpacking Rucksacks reviewed (2018)

To explore the mountains day after day on one continuous journey requires a rucksack that allows the backpacker to be self-reliant. Trail headed to the Lake District to test 40-50 litre models built for just that...

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The Runners up


Berghaus Freelow 40 £110

Tester: Jon Bennett, Helvellyn felltop assessor

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  • Capacity 40ltr

  • Men’s One adjustable back size

  • Women’s n/a

  • Weight 1465g (inc. 77g raincover)

  • Best price found £90

Body contact is kept to a minimum with this pack, thanks to its trampoline-style Freelow back system. The body is uncomplicated, with far fewer straps, zips and buckles than other sacks have. But you do get a generous-sized external pocket on the xed lid, with a smaller one on the inside and two zipped pockets on the hipbelt. There are also three stretch external pockets – one on each side and a large one on the front. The main compartment has a lower compartment with external zipped access, though removing the divider makes one big compartment. This all works well, and the Freelow 40 is more comfortable than many packs, but some of the other sacks here offer more comfort and have a wider range of back size options, including women’s specific models.

PROS 

Price, air flow back system, fixed lid that won’t flap about.

CONS

Less back length adjustment options, you may prefer a pack with zipped rather than mesh side pockets, higher-priced sacks are even more comfy.

BUY IT IF

It ts you and you want a well-priced, simpler pack with a fixed lid and good air flow around the back.


Vango F10 Hut 45 £120

Tester: Graham Thompson, Trail technical editor

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  • Capacity 45ltr

  • Unisex One adjustable back size

  • Weight 1764g (inc. 91g raincover)

  • Best price found £95

Vango’s F10 Hut 45 is very well-priced for the features on offer, which include a trampoline-style back system with masses of airflow and great cushioning, making this the ideal choice if you want a little more comfort than the lower-priced packs can offer. The back length can be adjusted by raising or lowering the shoulder harness. The opening to the main compartment has a zipped closure, which we felt was a drawback, as if the zip ever fails then the sack is useless. The zipped closure also prevents you from overstuffing it. However, the zip does allow a better access to the main compartment than a buckle lid. The other drawback was that the hipbelt’s padded fins were a little short, so the hipbelt was not as comfortable as others.

Pros

Price, airflow back system, large opening to main compartment

Cons

Quite heavy, hipbelt fins not the most comfortable, zip opening to main compartment, messy to pack as convex back system extends into main compartment, no women’s specific option

Buy it if

You want more airflow and comfort across the back than the lower-priced packs and don’t mind the zipped access, weight or hipbelt padding


Vaude Assymetric 42+8 £140

Tester: Tim Butcher, Lake District hostel manager

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  • Capacity 40-50 litres

  • Men’s One adjustable back size

  • Women’s Assymetric 38+8, one adjustable back size

  • Weight 1442g (no raincover)

  • Best price found £107 

I’ve used the bigger 52+8 version of this pack for a multi-day Munro raid into remote Fisherfield, so I know it carries a big load well. This 42+8 version is more suited to hostel-to-hostel walks than camping, and I could feel the weight in my back under a heavy load more than with some other designs. The adjustable padded back system did allow a perfect fit for my 6ft frame though, which some other packs could not achieve, however there is less airflow around my back, so this was a hotter pack to wear. What really appeals is the simple, clutter-free design compared to some. The main niggle was that the big front zipped pocket does not stretch, so does not easily hold much if the main compartment is over full. 

Pros

Clutter-free, good back length adjustment, more comfortable than most

Cons

Lacks decent airflow, a little lumpy under a very heavy load, external pockets tight to use when main compartment is fully loaded

Buy it if

You want a simple, well-designed pack for a medium load and cannot extend your budget any higher


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The top three


Lowe Alpine Airzone Camino Trek 40:50 / ND35:45 £110

The Airzone is very competitively priced for the features on offer, but is this enough to impress on a long day in the Lakes? 

Tester: Jon Bennett

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  • Capacity 40-50 litres

  • Men’s Two back sizes

  • Women’s ND35:45, one back size

  • Weight 1053g

  • Best price found £68

It’s Good

The Airzone is designed to keep body contact with the back system to a minimum by having a gap between the tensioned trampoline mesh back and the main pack itself. I found this worked really well, as my back and shirt remained dry. There are plenty of storage options to place gear outside the main pack with five external zipped pockets – large ones on the top and on each side, and two very small ones on each side of the hipbelt. You also get two generously-sized stretched water bottle pockets again on each side, and a bungee spider plate on the rear of the pack. The main pack’s contents can either be accessed conventionally via the top extendable floating lid, or by a zipped front opening. The main compartment can also be divided by a zip-out panel into a smaller, lower compartment with separate external zipped access and top compartment. It is the combination of the floated lid and zipped side pockets that allow the capacity to be extended from a basic 40ltr to a bigger 50ltr. So there’s lots of things to like.

However

Although there are two back sizes available, neither size has additional back length adjustment, so the pack either fits and is comfortable, or it doesn’t and isn’t. It was not quite as comfy as the highest-priced pack either. Then there is the floating lid design to think about. I found that it tended to bounce around and required adjustment a few times to ensure it sat neatly on top of the pack. Personally, I’d prefer a lid that was attached to the main body, so that all this adjustment wasn’t needed. The zipped divider and zipped front opening make the bag overcomplicated for me too, as these features aren’t something I’d generally use on this size of pack.

Verdict

The Lowepro Airzone is well-priced and comfortable to carry on a long, hot day in the fells, and has great features in general but there are less back length fit options than some packs allow. 

  • Features 4/5

  • Fit 4/5

  • Comfort 4/5

  • In use 5/5

  • Value for money 5/5

  • OVERALL SCORE 88%

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Deuter Futura Pro 40 £145

Does the new Aircomfort Sensic back system and Vari Flex System hipbelt make this the go-to rucksack for hillwalkers?

Tester: Graham Thompson

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  • Capacity 40ltr

  • Men’s One size

  • Women’s n/a

  • Weight 1690g (inc. 92g raincover)

  • Best price found £130

It’s Good

This is the 2018 version of the popular Futura Pro, now sporting a new back system called Aircomfort Sensic, which holds the pack away from the wearer’s body with a trampoline mesh for more airflow. Importantly the back system also has a Vari Flex System hipbelt, which is able to easily move with the wearer’s body when scrambling. Also the hipbelt fins are well padded and very supportive, which allows them to comfortably support heavier loads better than the lower-priced packs. The back system also gently twists with the body, so again this allows great weight transfer and comfort. The main body has a fixed lid, so there is no fear of water creeping in behind the lid and the body – this was a feature that all three of us testers loved. There is a bottom compartment with a removable divider and also bellows side pockets that easily take water bottles. Compression straps, stretch mesh side pockets and a good front stuff pocket complete a superb design.

However

There is no back length adjustment available, other than choosing the bigger 44ltr version. Also there is no women’s option in the 40-50 litre size range, although you can get a Futura Pro 38 SL 38 pack with the same features if you don’t need so much space. You will spot online the previous version –the Futura Pro 40 SL – with the older Aircomfort Pro back system rather than the new Aircomfort Sensic design of the 2018 model. At 1690g the Futura Pro 40 is heavier than some here. This is due in part to much more robust materials, and also that the hipbelt is so much more supportive than lighter packs. The main drawback is the price, which just seems a little steep.

Verdict

More comfort and better support for heavier loads than lower-priced packs, with a great fixed lid and great airflow across the back. Our main niggles: price, no women’s option, and it is a bit heavy.

  • Features 5/5

  • Fit 3/5

  • Comfort 4/5

  • In use 5/5

  • Value for money 4/5

  • OVERALL SCORE 84%


Osprey Atmos 50 / Aura 50 £170

Its AntiGravity back system makes big promises, but does it translate for weightless backpacking out on the hill? 

Tester: Tim Butcher

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  • Capacity 50ltr

  • Men’s Two back sizes

  • Women’s Aura 50, two back sizes

  • Weight 2057g (inc. 111g raincover)

  • Best price found £136

It’s Good

I never realised how long I had suffered with ill-fitting packs until I put on the Atmos. It felt like relaxing into a favourite armchair, thanks to its trampoline mesh-style design holding the pack away from the body and making it extremely comfortable. In addition, as it comes in two back lengths with additional back length adjustment I was able to adjust it to fit my 6ft 4in frame and long back properly, unlike shorter, single-sized packs. The AntiGravity back system makes heavy loads feel almost weightless and I never tired of carrying it, which seems strange when this is the heaviest pack on test. It will carry 50 litres of kit, not relying on expansion or external pockets to make up the capacity, and I loved the huge front mesh pocket, which was big enough to stuff in a jacket and water bottle for easy access. This pack passes with full marks for comfort, fit and ventilation. Superb.

However

My first impressions were that there were just too many straps everywhere and some are so long that they dangle annoyingly. However, once I got to know it, I did overcome this impression and grew to love it. The one niggle that remained was the lid. I felt that a traditional large fixed lid on the pack would have been better for British hillwalking, rather than the overcomplicated combination of a large floating removable lid, plus an additional smaller Flap Jacket lid that is there to cover the main compartment if you remove the main lid. Also, I had to adjust and tighten the straps on the floating lid throughout walks to keep it fitting perfectly. It was just an unnecessarily messy design. This is the priciest and heaviest pack on test – so you really need to decide if it’s worth £170 to you.

Verdict

We all agreed the Atmos 50 is the perfect pack for multi-day trips, thanks to its comfort, adjustability and capacity, while its awesome airflow across the back means you’ll only sweat when handing over the £170 asking price.

  • Features 5/5

  • Fit 5/5

  • Comfort 5/5

  • In use 4/5

  • Value for money 3/5

  • OVERALL SCORE 88%

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5 of the best... 20-30 litre Lightweight rucksacks reviewed (2018)

In summer you can pack less kit and still feel comfortable on the hill, so a 20-30 litre rucksack weighing under 1kg is often the perfect size.


Ventilated back system

Many rucksacks have mesh panels that hold the sack away from the body, to increase airflow and reduce clamminess.

Shoulder straps

The shoulder straps take some of the weight, but they need to be carefully contoured and padded to ensure comfort. As we are all different shapes it is important to try them for size, fit and comfort before making a purchase.

Compression straps

These are on the sides of some rucksacks and allow you to compress the body of the sack to help stabilise the load. They are also useful for stashing items onto the side of the rucksack, such as trekking poles and waterproof jackets.

Hipbelt

This is designed to carry most of the load if the pack is heavy, but when carrying lighter loads it may only be used to ensure stability of the pack. But either way, it should fit snugly around your hips while being comfortable and easy to adjust. For more comfort, look for a waistbelt or hipbelt with padding.

 

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Main entry

The entry to the main compartment may be a conventional lid with a buckle or a zip-around closure. There are pros and cons of both designs. Lids have the advantage that there are no zips to break, you can overstuff the bag and they often have an excellent pocket for smaller items like maps and guidebooks. A zipped opening is quick and easy to use, and creates a neater profile.

Pockets

At least one external zipped pocket is useful for guidebooks, maps and GPS receivers, but some people like more. Stretch pockets without zips are commonly placed on the front of the rucksack, and these are ideal for stowing waterproof jackets between showers. Pockets on the hipbelt are ideal for snacks and GPS receivers. Lid pockets are great for guidebooks, sunglasses or suncream.

Wand pockets

Originally designed for avalanche probes or ‘wands’, these pockets on the side of a rucksack are often made of stretchy mesh fabrics, and are ideal for stashing the ends of trekking poles as well as smaller items including water bottles or snacks.


Gregory Miwok 24 / Maya 22 £75

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Gregory Miwok 24 / Maya 22 £75

  • Men’s Miwok 24, one back size
  • Women’s Maya 22, one back size
  • Weight 790g

It's good

The back system on this pack is stretchy, thanks to the use of a BioSync suspension system that uses flexible connectors to join the harness and hipbelt to the body of the sack. The result is the well-contoured shoulder straps and the wide, padded hipbelt really hug the body, while also  allowing great freedom of movement. Top tensioning straps help adjustment too. The body has a zipped closure, with a good stash pocket on the front that has a zipped bellows design, while a map-sized zipped pocket and zipped hipbelt pockets are great for smaller items.

However

While the padded back panel does hug the body, it does not have the airflow of some designs, and it’s also not the stiffest back system around, so you need to pack it carefully to get maximum comfort. Some packs have a buckled lid too, if that is your preference, and you can save both weight and cash elsewhere too. But these are small personal preferences rather than drawbacks, as for this style of pack it is definitely one of the best.

Verdict

This body-hugging pack is ideal if you like zipped openings and are not bothered about having the lightest or least costly options. Its shoulder straps and hip pads set it apart

  • Features 4/5
  • Fit 4/5
  • Comfort 4/5
  • In use 4/5
  • Value for money 4/5
  • OVERALL SCORE 80%

Osprey Hikelite 26 £80

 

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  • Unisex One back size
  • Weight 742g (includes 79g raincover)

It's good

New for 2018, this rucksack offers more airflow across your back thanks to a narrow design and the Airspeed back-ventilated trampoline design that holds the body of the sack away from the wearer. The shoulder straps are ventilated too, and the waistbelt is narrow, so overall it feels quite cooling. The body has a zipped opening to the main compartment, and there’s an additional zipped pocket that takes OS maps. The front compression panel is tensioned via the side compression straps. This all works pretty well and you can be quite casual in your packing style without impacting on comfort too badly.

However

The waistbelt is not padded like others here, so it cannot take the weight of the pack comfortably if you overload it, and depending on your body shape you may find others are more comfortable around the waistband area. Also, there is no women’s option to this rucksack, so it may not fit such a wide range of users compared to those packs that come in more sizes. The weight comes down if you ditch the 79g raincover, but there are lighter and lower-priced options out there.

Verdict

Lightweight, zipped opening design with great airflow across the body, but the hipbelt is not padded like others so it is less comfortable in this area.

  • Features 4/5
  • Fit 5/5
  • Comfort 4/5
  • In use 4/5
  • Value for money 4/5
  • OVERALL SCORE 84%

Lowe Alpine 22 £85

 

  • Men’s Two adjustable back sizes
  • Women’s One adjustable back size
  • Weight 836g

 

It's good

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Also new for 2018, Lowe Alpine’s Aeon 22 has a unique blend of features. Firstly, it comes in both men’s and women’s sizes. The back length is also adjustable by raising the shoulder strap section on Velcro fastenings. The shoulder straps and padded hipbelt easily mould to the body too, further enabling a great fit. You even get top tensioning straps for more fine-tuning. The body has a single buckle lid with both outside and underside zipped pockets. On the front of the body is a side-entry stretch mesh pocket that is great for stowing a jacket.

However

The back panel on this rucksack is not as well stiffened as others. This allows it to mould to the back well, but extra care is needed when packing to ensure comfort, and also you don’t get the airflow of the trampoline designs. The lid pockets are quite small too, and don’t take an unfolded OS map which is annoying, although you can put a map into the front stretch mesh pocket. The Aeon 22 doesn’t boast the lightest design, but it is made from more durable fabric than the lightest packs and has more back adjustment.

Verdict

This rucksack has more fit adjustments, and its unique feature-mix may be appealing, but it’s not the lightest and doesn’t have the best back airflow.

  • Features 4/5
  • Fit 5/5
  • Comfort 4/5
  • In use 4/5
  • Value for money 4/5
  • OVERALL SCORE 84%

Vaude Citrus 24 LW £90

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  • Unisex One back sizes
  • Weight 532g

It's good

The low weight of the Vaude Citrus 24 LW immediately sets it apart from other sacks. Impressively for such a low weight the pack comes with an Aeroflex back system with a trampoline mesh panel to hold this narrow rucksack away from your back for plenty of airflow. You also get a hipbelt with wide padding, so it sits comfortably on the body. The main compartment has a lid with twin buckles and a good drawcord closure so you can overfill this pack securely if needed. There is a large, zipped lid pocket too, that easily takes OS maps. This all works well.

However

You will find you need to treat this pack a little more carefully than others, as it is made from quite a thin, siliconised ripstop nylon, which, while extremely lightweight, isn’t as durable as the heavier nylon used on other packs. Also you don’t get one of those useful stretch stash pockets on the front and there are no hipbelt pockets. In terms of fit, there are no top tensioning straps and also there is no men’s or women’s option, just the ‘one size to fit all’ unisex option. The price is creeping up too.

Verdict

This pack is superb in terms of weight and airflow across the back, but there are fewer pockets and the thin, lightweight body fabric is less durable than that used in heavier designs.

  • Features 4/5
  • Fit 3/5
  • Comfort 4/5
  • In use 4/5
  • Value for money 3/5
  • OVERALL SCORE 72%

Deuter Speed Lite 26 / Speed Lite 24 SL £100

  • Men’s Speed Lite 26, one back size
  • Women’s Speed Lite 24SL, one back size
  • Weight 833g

It's good

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This Deuter rucksack is new for 2018. It features a slightly stiffer back than other packs without a trampoline design, so while it hugs the body it doesn’t need to be so carefully packed to ensure it’s still comfortable. The shoulder straps, back panel, stiffness and padding, combined with the wide hipbelt, mean this pack is great with bigger loads than others. The twin-buckle lid gets an OS map-sized outside pocket and a useful zipped pocket on the underside. The main compartment has a front stash pocket that is great for a jacket. This robust pack is great for general hillwalking.

However

It is not the lightest option out there and you don’t get the airflow across the back that others can offer. Also the price is getting steep compared to the competition, which in part is due to the use of heavier materials that will be more durable in the long-term than the lighter designs. In terms of fit it’s a good pick, but some other packs offer more size variations. For this price and weight you might expect a raincover to be included, but there isn’t one.

Verdict

For regular hill and mountain use this heavier design offers more durability and is more comfortable with bigger loads, but the drawback is the price.

  • Features 4/5
  • Fit 5/5
  • Comfort 4/5
  • In use 4/5
  • Value for money 3/5
  • OVERALL SCORE 76%

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Test of the best: 55-65 litre rucksacks reviewed

Lid

The lid covers the top main opening to the rucksack. These can be fixed to the rucksack or they may have a floating design that allows the main compartment to be extended vertically. To ensure water does not creep under a floating lid into the main compartment when the lid is extended a little, some designs also have a baffle linking the lid to the body of the sack.

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Compression straps

These straps are found on the sides of some rucksacks, and allow you to compress the body of the sack to help stabilise the load. They are also useful for stashing items onto the side of the pack, such as trekking poles or tent poles.

Ventilated back system

Many rucksacks have mesh panels that hold the sack away from the body, to increase airflow and thereby reducing the horrid clammy sensation that some rucksacks produce. The greater the airflow across the back, the less clammy you will feel.

Wand pockets

Originally designed for avalanche probes or ‘wands’, these pockets on the side of a rucksack are often made of stretchy mesh fabrics, and are ideal for stashing the ends of trekking poles, as well as smaller items including water bottles or snacks.

Hipbelt

This is designed to carry most of the load if the pack is heavy. It should fit snugly around your hips, be comfortable and easy to adjust, yet stiff enough to support the load without distorting too much. Rucksacks designed specifically for women are more likely to fit female body shapes better in this area.

Pockets

At least one external zipped pocket is useful for guidebooks, maps and GPS receivers, but some people like more, while others can tolerate less. Stretch pockets without zips are commonly placed on the front of the rucksack, and these are ideal for stowing waterproof jackets between showers. Zipped side pockets are great for drinks bottles, flasks or food.


Vango Pinnacle 60+10 £110

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  • Capacity 60+10 litres
  • Back size adjustable (unisex)
  • Weight 2711g

IT'S GOOD The Pinnacle benefits from an A1 adjustable back system that allows the shoulder straps to be raised on vertical alloy bars. The padding on the body contact areas is well placed, and firm enough to give a very stable and comfortable carry with heavy loads that compares well with higher priced packs. Importantly, the floating lid has a baffle of material linking it to the main body to prevent water creeping into the main compartment. The body has top entry and front entry, and there are zipped side pockets, as well as side compression straps and stretch wand pockets. A useful front stretch pocket is ideal for stashing wet waterproofs. Overall this is exceptionally good for the price.

HOWEVER Although you could remove the 95g raincover, this pack is still very heavy. Also while the comfort is better than others at its price, if you can extend your budget you can get the same level of stability with more airflow and a slightly softer feel to the body contact areas. The main drawback here is that it does not come in a women’s specific version, and while the back length is adjustable some women may find the shoulder straps and hipbelt don’t fit as well as a women’s specific design. The pair of zips that provide front access to the body could be removed to save weight and cash without any loss of performance for me.

VERDICT Exceptional performance with heavy loads at this price, but it’s heavy and there’s no women’s specific design.

  • Features 5/5
  • Fit 4/5
  • Comfort 4/5
  • In use 4/5
  • Value for money 5/5
  • OVERALL SCORE: 88%

Deuter Aircontact Lite 50+10 / Aircontact Lite 45+10 SL £140

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  • Capacity 50+10 litres / 45+10 litres
  • Back size one size adjustable (men’s Aircontact Lite 50+10), one size adjustable ( women’s Aircontact Lite 45+10 SL)
  • Weight 1753g (men’s)

IT'S GOOD This popular and relatively lightweight rucksack has been updated for 2018. The Vari-Quick back system allows the shoulder straps to be adjusted vertically to suit different back lengths. You get a pronounced air chimney up the centre of the pack between raised body-contact areas of padding overlayed with perforated mesh. The hipbelt is stiff and well contoured too, and generally this feels very supportive of light to heavy loads. The body has top entry to the main compartment via a floating lid and there is base entry too. There is a stretch front pocket, stretch side wand pockets and compression straps. The carry is more stable than other low priced packs.

HOWEVER You do get that air chimney but you get even more airflow on some higher-priced packs with mesh trampoline designs. Also the padding is quite firm, so while this is better than others around its price point, if you can pay more you get a more even and softer carry across the body. This is a light pack, but at just 50 litres with the extra 10 litres coming from raising the lid, other packs have more capacity. Also, like other packs some care is needed to ensure the floating lid is adjusted to keep rain out of the main compartment. Other packs have additional side or front pockets and raincovers. 

VERDICT Relatively light and well-priced, with a very stable carry and good airflow, but less capacity than other packs.

  • Features 5/5
  • Fit 5/5
  • Comfort 4/5
  • In use 4/5
  • Value for money 4/5
  • OVERALL SCORE: 84%

LoweAlpine Kulu 55:65 / Kulu ND 50:60 £140

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  • Capacity 55-65 litres / 50-60 litres
  • Back size L and M and adjustable (men’s Kulu 55:65), one size adjustable (women’s Kulu ND 50:60) 
  • Weight 2023g (men's)

IT'S GOOD The nylon-bodied Kulu is great for travel, with a hipbelt that can be folded onto the base and buckles that clip to the sides of the pack to make it neater and more compact. Side haul handles also make this rucksack easier to lob into luggage racks. The back system allows the shoulder straps to be raised and secured with Velcro, and there’s a die-cut moulded panel with a mesh covering sitting against the body to increase airflow. The hipbelt is particularly wide, stiff and well-padded. The main compartment has base and front entry, as well as a floating lid. You get mesh wand pockets on the side and compression straps.

HOWEVER This pack appears heavy compared to others, but it includes a very robust removable 226g raincover, so remove this and the weight is a much more acceptable 1803g. The carry is slightly unusual as the hipbelt is exceptionally supportive, the shoulder straps are a little narrow and the back panel tends to barrel a little to create a firm contact area in the middle of the back. Some others were more comfortable, allowed more airflow across the back and tended to hug my body better for a more stable carry, particularly at the shoulders. Also, as with others, the floating lid design needs careful adjustment to stop water creeping into the main compartment. 

VERDICT Design is useful for travel, and if you ditch the raincover the weight is good, but carry and comfort not the best.

  • Features 4/5
  • Fit 5/5
  • Comfort 4/5
  • In use 4/5
  • Value for money 4/5
  • OVERALL SCORE: 84%

Berghaus Wilderness 65+15 / Wilderness 60+15 £145

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  • Capacity 65+15 litres / 60+15 litres
  • Back size one size adjustable (men’s Wilderness 65+15), one size adjustable (women’s Wilderness 60+15)
  • Weight 2018g (men’s)

IT'S GOOD This has a large capacity and a unique non-floating lid design, so there is a section of material between the lid and the body of the pack to prevent water seeping down into the main compartment. For typically wet British conditions this is a real benefit. The Biofit back system allows back length adjustment while wearing the pack, while most are only adjustable when not being worn. Entry to the main compartment is via the lid, a front zipped access and a base zipped access. But you also get two massive zipped side pockets under the compression straps and above the mesh wand pockets. On the back the raised padded areas allow reasonable airflow.

HOWEVER I found the shoulder straps tended to dig in more than others around the sides of the chest under the arms. Also, while the body contact areas are minimal – to allow more airflow – some higher-priced packs with the mesh trampoline design allow even more airflow, are softer on the body and also create a more stable carry. This is not the lightest pack available, but it does have a bigger capacity and carries heavy loads better than the lighter sacks, and you can ditch the 93g raincover if you want. The top of the sack is a bit wobbly due to the taller design. But all these niggles need to be weighed up against the competitive price.

VERDICT Well-priced for bigger loads, with the benefit of a fixed lid, but not as good as higher-priced packs for comfort.

  • Features 5/5
  • Fit 5/5
  • Comfort 3/5
  • In use 4/5
  • Value for money 4/5
  • OVERALL SCORE: 84%

Vaude Assymetric 52+8 / Assymetric 48+8 £150

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  • Capacity 52+8 litres / 48+8 litres 
  • Back size adjustable
  • Weight 1550g (52+8)

IT'S GOOD The low weight is the instant appeal of this rucksack, coupled with its competitive price. But it’s also made from 50% recycled polyester, and uses more eco-friendly waterproof treatment on the materials. The back length is adjustable, with perforated mesh providing airflow across the padded body contact areas. The main compartment gets base, front and top entry via a floating lid. There is a huge front pocket and the compression straps work well with the deep mesh side wand pockets. The carry is acceptable with light loads, and some will like both the relatively firm and stable feel of this pack and that the weight does transfer well to the wide hipbelt. 

HOWEVER This rucksack is firmer in body contact areas and there is less airflow across the back, so this is best used with lighter loads to compensate. The capacity is smaller than other rucksacks too, so you do need to have the lid and pockets expanded fully to reach a similar capacity to others. Many higher-priced rucksacks use more durable nylon, rather than the polyester used here. Like others, the floating lid needs to be carefully managed to ensure no water creeps in, although this one does cover the top of the pack better than most. The lid pocket zip does not get an external storm flap, so it leaks easier than others. 

VERDICT Good lightweight pack for use with smaller and lighter loads, but not the most comfortable option and if you pay more there are benefits. 

  • Features 3/5
  • Fit 4/5
  • Comfort 4/5
  • In use 4/5
  • Value for money 4/5
  • OVERALL SCORE: 80%

Montane Yupik 65 / Sirenik 65 £160

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  • Capacity 65 litres
  • Back size adjustable (men’s Yupik 65), adjustable (women’s Sirenik 65)
  • Weight 1801g (men’s)

IT'S GOOD New for 2018, this pack is designed to be low in weight but also practical. The new ZephyrAD back system is adjustable on the pack by raising or lowering the shoulder straps, and has moulded panel air pockets with a mesh covering to allow more airflow. The main top entry has a removable floating lid but also a base compartment with external entry, which is useful. Two huge mesh stretch pockets have zipped access and are great for wet waterproofs. You get side mesh wand pockets and hipbelt pockets like other packs. All that for just 1811g is good, and that includes a 121g removable raincover.

HOWEVER Other packs offer even more airflow across the back, and also have a stiffer back and hipbelt for carrying heavier loads in more comfort. The back panel barrels a little, and as it isn’t held away from the body with a trampoline mesh panel it isn’t as comfortable as the higher-priced packs. Best kept for light loads, although even then not quite as comfortable as higher-priced packs. Care is needed to prevent water creeping under the floating lid into the main compartment. The side mesh pockets are quite shallow, so not the best for stowing a water bottle, and the side compression straps don’t get quick-release buckles.

VERDICT Good for this price for light loads, but lacks the comfort of those with a mesh trampoline that hold the pack away from the wearer’s back.

  • Features 4/5
  • Fit 5/5
  • Comfort 4/5
  • In use 4/5
  • Value for money 4/5
  • OVERALL SCORE: 84%

Osprey Atmos AG 65 / Aura AG 65 £190

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  • Capacity 65 litres
  • Back size M and L (men’s Atmos AG 65), S and M (women’s Aura AG 65)
  • Weight 2289g (men’s L)

IT'S GOOD The Anti-Gravity (AG) trampoline-style back system holds the body of the pack away from the body of the wearer, to provide maximum airflow with exceptional comfort. The fit is also good thanks to the hipbelt in particular moulding to the body, but there is also good weight transfer of the load to the hips, due to the stiffness of the design, and loads are carried with good stability. The main compartment has a top entry with a floating lid and an additional Flapjacket cover that allows you to remove the lid if needed. There are two massive front-zipped pockets behind the stretch stash pocket and you get pretty much all the packing options you need here.

HOWEVER This is a heavy pack, although the weight does include a 123g raincover, which you could remove, as well as the additional Flapjacket cover under the lid, which you cannot remove. It would have been good to have just a normal drawcorded snow lock extension under the lid and ditch the Flapjacket, but that is the only niggle here. Like many floating lid designs, water could creep under the back of the lid and make its way into the main compartment if you are not careful with adjustment of the lid in the rain. The price is high, but you are getting improved comfort and better stability in some cases for the extra cash. 

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VERDICT Superb rucksack for bigger loads when airflow, comfort and stability are all top of your must-have list, but the price may be a load too big to shoulder.

  • Features 5/5
  • Fit 5/5
  • Comfort 5/5
  • In use 5/5
  • Value for money 3/5
  • OVERALL SCORE: 94%

Gregory Optic 58 / Octal 55 £200

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  • Capacity 58 litres / 55 litres
  • Back sizes S, M, L (men’s Optic 58); XS, S and L (women’s Octal 55)
  • Weight 1245g (men’s L)

 

IT'S GOOD Gregory is known for its very supportive packs for hauling heavier loads, but for 2018 it has introduced a new lighter design of pack with an Aerospan back system featuring a trampoline of mesh to hold the pack away from the wearer. The main body of the sack has a top entry with a floating lid, which can be replaced with a more basic lid (supplied) to save about 50g. The body of the sack is a single compartment with a stretch front pocket, stretch side wand pockets and compression straps. The big benefit of this pack is the weight of just 1245g with the standard lid, and that includes a removable 89g raincover.

HOWEVER Other packs in the 55-65 litre capacity have far more features, such as base compartment access and additional pockets. More importantly, some other packs of this volume also have a better heavy load carrying capacity, so this one is best kept to light loads. The floating lid can drop forward if not carefully adjusted and it would be nice if the side compression straps had quick-release buckles. So the weight benefit is great, but you are getting a lot less here for your money compared to some other backpacks around this price. If you don’t mind these drawbacks, this pack is very good. 

VERDICT A very good lighter-weight pack for smaller, lighter loads but the price is high compared to the features on other packs of this capacity.

  • Features 4/5
  • Fit 5/5
  • Comfort 4/5
  • In use 4/5
  • Value for money 2/5
  • OVERALL SCORE: 76%

Jack Wolfskin Denali 65 / Denali 60 £215

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  • Capacity 65 litres/ 60 litres 
  • Back sizes adjustable S to L (men’s Denali 65), adjustable S to L (women’s Denali 60) 
  • Weight 2834g (men’s L)

IT'S GOOD For bigger loads the extra capacity of this pack combined with its extra stability sets it apart from others. The X-Transition internal aluminium frame is very supportive, twists between hip and shoulders, and transfers weight efficiently to the very supportive hipbelt. The back system is adjustable over a very wide range, so it should fit many users. The body of the pack is made from robust nylon so will take plenty of abuse. The main compartment has top and base access, but also front zipped access, and you get a large front zipped pocket as well as one large zipped side pocket. The lid can be removed and worn as a bumbag.

HOWEVER This is very heavy but you could remove the 124g raincover and perhaps remove the overly large buckles from the lid that allow it to be used as a bumbag. The back system doesn’t quite have the airflow or comfort of the absolute best packs, but it is more stable and better with heavier loads, so your need for this pack does depend how heavy your gear will be. Like many other packs, some care is needed to ensure water does not creep under the floating lid into the main compartment. Many modern packs have hipbelt pockets and a large front stretch pocket for waterproofs, but you don’t get those here. 

VERDICT Good pack for bigger and heavier loads, but the pack is heavier too and lacks some of the pockets and airflow of other designs, while its price is challenging.

  • Features 4/5
  • Fit 5/5
  • Comfort 4/5
  • In use 4/5
  • Value for money 3/5
  • OVERALL SCORE: 80%

Test of the best: 30-35 litre rucksacks reviewed

POCKETS
At least one external zipped pocket is useful for guidebooks, maps and GPS receivers, but some people like more and others can tolerate less. Stretch pockets without zips are commonly placed on the front of the rucksack and these are ideal for stowing waterproof jackets between showers. Pockets on the hipbelt are ideal for snacks and GPS receivers. Lid pockets are great for guidebooks, sunglasses or suncream.

SNOW LOCK EXTENSION
Located under the lid and attached to the body of the main compartment this extension of material provides additional protection for your kit. It will have a drawcord closure so you can close the top of the main compartment independently of the lid to ensure it is well protected from the elements. 

WAND POCKETS
Originally designed for avalanche probes or ‘wands’, these pockets on the side of a rucksack are often made of stretchy, mesh fabrics and are ideal for stashing the ends of trekking poles, as well as smaller items including water bottles or snacks.

MAIN COMPARTMENT ENTRY
The entry to the main compartment may be a conventional lid with a buckle or a zipped closure. There are pros and cons of both designs, with lids having the advantage that there are no zips to break, you can overstuff the bag and the lid often has an excellent pocket for smaller items such as maps and guidebooks.

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HIPBELT
This is designed to carry most of the load if the pack is heavy, but when carrying lighter loads it may only be used to ensure stability of the pack. Either way, it should fit snugly around your hips while being comfortable and easy to adjust. Look for some foam padding for maximum comfort.

VENTILATED BACK SYSTEM
So that you don’t get too sweaty, many rucksacks have mesh panels that hold the sack away from your body to increase airflow and reduce the horrid, clammy sensation that you get wearing some rucksacks. The greater the airflow across the back, the less sticky you will feel.

COMPRESSION STRAPS
These are on the sides of some rucksacks and allow you to compress the body of the sack to help stabilise the load. They are also useful for stashing items onto the side of the sack, such as trekking poles and waterproof jackets.

SHOULDER STRAPS
The shoulder straps take some of the weight, but they need to be carefully contoured and padded to make them comfortable. As we are all different shapes it is important to try them for size, fit and comfort before parting with cash.

HYDRATION POCKET
If you like to use a hydration bladder with a feeder hose to drink from rather than a bottle, then look for a pack with a pocket for the hydration bladder inside. All the sacks featured here can accommodate a hydration system.


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Highlander Rocky 35+5 £58

  • Capacity 35-40 litres
  • Back size one size (unisex)
  • Weight 1413g

IT'S GOOD The price tag is extremely competitive and notice that this is also a slightly larger capacity than some higher-priced rucksacks. While it’s not the lightest on test here, it is not the heaviest either. It even gets a trampoline-style back system to hold the sack away from your body and this creates masses of airflow to help reduce clamminess while wearing it. There is a supportive hipbelt and the back system is stiff enough for heavy loads. The main compartment has a conventional lid, and you also get a front zipped pocket, a pair of zipped side pockets and compression straps with quick-release buckles that work well with the mesh wand pockets. For most hillwalkers the Highlander Rocky has all the features you need. 

HOWEVER There are drawbacks as, firstly, it only comes in a unisex design with no women’s specific option – and no back length options, either. Also, there are no top tensioners on the shoulder straps, so there is less adjustment to get just the right fit. The shoulder straps are also less well contoured and less softly padded compared to others here, so comfort is not the absolute best. So, all in all, the Rocky is one to try before buying for sure. It is not the lightest, either, but you can remove the 69g raincover which comes with it if you want to save weight.

VERDICT Outstanding value for money and while not the absolute best in terms of fit, if this does fit you then it is a great option for most hillwalkers.

  • Features 5/5
  • Fit 3/5
  • Comfort 4/5
  • In use 4/5
  • Value for money 5/5
  • OVERALL SCORE: 84%

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Regatta Blackfell II 35 £70

  • Capacity 35 litres
  • Back size one size (unisex)
  • Weight 1253g

IT'S GOOD The low price tag is instantly impressive here – and it also has a reasonable weight (note that it is a 35-litre design as some lighter packs have a smaller capacity). The back system is a trampoline design, too, with a mesh panel holding the pack away from the body for maximum airflow. The body has a main compartment with a zipped opening and there is an additional zipped pocket near the top of the main compartment. You get mesh side wand pockets, as well as compression straps. So, all the basics are here, and there is even a removable 63g raincover. It works pretty well, too, for normal hillwalking.

HOWEVER There are a few drawbacks. Firstly, it only comes in one size – there’s no women’s specific option – and there’s no back length adjustment either. It’s not quite as comfy as higher-priced designs, so you do need to try this before buying. Also, you are getting a zipped opening to the main compartment rather than a buckled lid, and while both styles have their pros and cons not everyone will want a zipped opening. The small zipped pocket provided is quite small but at least it does just about take an OS map. There are no other pockets, though. Side compression straps do allow poles to be strapped to the sides, but quick-release buckles are much easier to use.

VERDICT If you like a zipped opening and find this fits, then it’s a great value-for-money option but higher-priced packs do have design benefits

  • Features 4/5
  • Fit 3/5
  • Comfort 4/5
  • In use 3/5
  • Value for money 5/5
  • OVERALL SCORE 76%

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Lowe Alpine Aeon 35 / Aeon ND33 £95

  • Capacity 35 litres (men's Aeon 35) / 33 litres (women's Aeon ND33)
  • Back size M-L, L-XL (men's Aeon 35) / one size (women's Aeon ND33)
  • Weight 912g (men's M-L)

IT'S GOOD This new pack for March 2018 is very light and has a slightly bigger capacity than some heavier and higher-priced rucksacks. The back system is lightly stiffened with cutaway sections and a mesh covering to allow some limited airflow. This comes in back length options but, in addition, you can raise or lower the shoulder straps on Velcro fastenings. On the body this pack tends to hug and mould to your body better than most. There is a simple one compartment design for your gear, with a single buckle lid that has a good pocket. The side compression straps and mesh wand pockets work well and there is a large, side zipped mesh front stash pocket for wet items. 

HOWEVER The back doesn’t provide the airflow that others offer, so it’s slightly more sweaty in warmer weather. Also, the back is not as stiff as others so you have to pack it a little more carefully to prevent items digging in. The back system is generally not as supportive for heavier loads than others on test here, so comfort reduces as the load increases. I like single buckle lids but there isn’t a deep snowlock extension to the main compartment so a little more care is needed when packing. Some people will love the design, while others will want everything it lacks.

VERDICT Light and ideal for hillwalking with careful packing and if you don’t want max airflow for warmer weather.

  • Features 4/5
  • Fit 5/5
  • Comfort 4/5
  • In use 4/5
  • Value for money 4/5
  • OVERALL SCORE 84%

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Lightwave Fastpack 30 £100

  • Capacity 30 litres
  • Back size one size (unisex)
  • Weight 958g

IT'S GOOD Like many Lightwave packs this is a stripped-down design to save weight but it still has the essential features hillwalkers need. So you get a robust construction with all the seams on the body and lid being either taped or welded to prevent water creeping into the compartments. The back panel is a firm, closed cell foam which doesn’t soak up water as easily as other packs. The back, hipbelt and shoulder straps are stiffer than lighter designs, too, so this can be used for loads up to around 7-10kg, and there are mesh side pockets that are very deep. This is great if you like more stripped-down designs and want a lighter rucksack with more water resistance. 

HOWEVER The stripped-down design lacks many features. Firstly, it only comes in one size, with no women’s option, so you need to carefully check the fit. Also there is less airflow across the back than others tested, so it is a little more sweaty than them. I like the mesh side pockets but compression straps with quick-release buckles would be a good addition for stowing items, such as wet waterproofs or trekking poles, to the pack more easily. This is a rare pack in not having pockets on the hipbelt, and also the lid only has one big external pocket rather than an additional smaller pocket that many others have. 

VERDICT A relatively light pack that has stripped-down features and a more water-resistant design, but you may miss some of those nice-to-have features. 

  • Features 4/5
  • Fit 3/5
  • Comfort 4/5
  • In use 4/5
  • Value for money 4/5
  • OVERALL SCORE 76%

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Vaude Brenta 30 / Maremma 32 £100

  • Capacity 30 litres (men's Brenta 30) / 32 litres (women's Maremma 32)
  • Back size one size adjustable on both
  • Weight 1108g (men's)

IT'S GOOD The men’s and women’s packs both benefit from a Aeroflex back system that allows excellent airflow across the back. The shoulder straps and hipbelt are perforated for yet more airflow, and you can adjust the shoulder straps to lengthen or shorten the back length. The main compartment is top entry with a fixed lid that has a large pocket. Plus there’s a front zip opening and mesh wand pockets on the pack sides, as well as quick-release buckles on the compression straps (men’s Brenta only) for easy stowage of trekking poles. A big, front stash pocket is great for waterproofs between showers.

HOWEVER The women’s Maremma 32 does not get the compression straps, wand pockets and big front stash pocket, but instead gets big side pockets and you can still attach trekking poles with the dedicated straps. If you want to save weight then it’s possible to get lighter packs although the difference is relatively small. The weight does include a 73g raincover, which you can remove. You can get slightly lower-priced packs, too, and although they don’t quite have the benefits that this pack offers they would suit the needs of many walkers, for sure. So there is really not a lot wrong here for most hillwalkers in search of a comfortable pack.

VERDICT A great general-purpose hillwalking rucksack with only small benefits available in other packs.

  • Features 5/5
  • Fit 5/5
  • Comfort 5/5
  • In use 5/5
  • Value for money 4/5
  • OVERALL SCORE 96%

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Gregory Zulu 30 / Jade 28 £100

  • Capacity 30 litres (men's Zulu 30); 28 litres (women's Jade 28)
  • Back size M and L (men's Zulu 30) / S and M (women's Jade 28)
  • Weight 1257g (men's M)

IT'S GOOD The Zulu and Jade packs are very popular and come in various sizes. These 30 and 28-litre versions have a zipped closure to the main compartment rather than the buckle lid of the Zulu 35 and Jade 33. The back systems are the same, though, with a CrossFlo back system providing lots of airflow as well as very good stiffness and padding for stability and comfort when carrying heavier loads. Both the men’s and women’s styles come in two back lengths. The body has a zipped main opening with a zipped and very large front pocket that’s great for maps. The side compression straps have quick-release buckles and you get stretch wand pockets as well as a stretch front pocket.

HOWEVER This isn’t the lightest option available and you don’t get a raincover for that weight, or the additional pockets and compartments of some other heavier packs. However, it’s able to carry loads up to 14kg in more comfort than others. For my money I’d prefer the buckle lid of the Zulu 35/Jade 33 style rather than a zipped opening. Otherwise it’s an excellent pack and it’s hard not to like it if you prefer zipped openings. You can spend less cash if you can tolerate a less supportive back system and don’t need such great airflow.

VERDICT Excellent if you prefer a zipped opening and a supportive back system, but lighter packs are available with buckle lids.

  • Features 5/5
  • Fit 5/5
  • Com0fort 5/5
  • In use 4/5
  • Value for money 4/5
  • OVERALL SCORE 92%

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Osprey Stratos 34 / Sirrus 36 £110/120

  • Capacity 34 litres (men's Stratos 34)/36 litres (women's Sirrus 36)
  • Back size adjustable S/M and M/L (men's Stratos 34); adjustable S/M (women's Sirrus 36)
  • Weight 1426g (men's M/L)

IT'S GOOD The Airspeed back system allows excellent airflow and this pack is very comfy around the hipbelt area, too, as the mesh from the back extends into these areas. You can adjust shoulder straps to lengthen the back system, and this pack supports a bigger load better than others. The load-carrying compartments favour those who like zipped pockets and openings as there is no buckle lid, just a zip closure to the main compartment of the rucksack. But you also get a zipped top pocket, front pocket and base compartment, plus a zipped pocket for a raincover. There are mesh wand pockets and quick-release compression straps, too.

HOWEVER This pack is quite heavy when compared to others due to the stiffer and more supportive back system, the number of zipped pockets, the included 83g raincover, its large capacity and the use of heavy duty, durable materials. Then there’s the question of whether you prefer a main compartment with conventional buckle lids or zipped openings. There’s a lot to consider here at the slightly higher price tag (£110 Stratos, £120 Sirrus) than the others. So, do you really need those benefits?

VERDICT Great pack if you like zipped openings and a more supportive back system, but lighter and lower-priced packs offer most of what many hillwalkers will need.

  • Features 5/5
  • Fit 5/5
  • Comfort 5/5
  • In use 4/5
  • Value for money 3/5
  • OVERALL SCORE 88%

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Deuter Futura 30 / Futura 28SL £115

  • Capacity 30 litres (men's Futura 30); 28 litres (women's Futura SL28)
  • Back size one size adjustable (men's Futura 30) / one size (women's Futura SL28)
  • Weight 1507g (men's)

IT'S GOOD This is a new 2018 version of the popular Futura range but now with a whole new Aircomfort Sensic back system that allows more ventilation and a closer, more comfortable fit – particularly around the hips. There is still lots of support in the back system, so it’s ideal for heavier loads. The body has a main compartment with a zip-out divider so you can create a base compartment with an external zipped entry. You also get side wand pockets with quick-release compression straps, a stretch front stash pocket and a fixed-buckle lid with external and internal pockets. The materials feel a little more robust than some lighter packs.

HOWEVER It’s heavy compared to others although it does include a removable 73g raincover. It has no back length adjustment and only comes in one size, while others have more size options. There is no snow lock extension to the main compartment either, which is fine if you close the lid properly and don’t overfill the bag, but if you are more lax in your packing, like me, then you may miss that feature. Finally, the price tag is high compared to other packs that may even offer more capacity or additional back length options. 

VERDICT The 2018 version of the Futura is comfortable, strong and stable, but it’s also heavy, pricy and lacks an extended snow lock closure and back length options.

  • Features 4/5
  • Fit 4/5
  • Comfort 5/5
  • In use 4/5
  • Value for money 3/5
  • OVERALL SCORE 80%

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Ferrino Dry-Hike 32 £125

  • Capacity 32 litres
  • Back size one size (men's)
  • Weight 1512g

IT'S GOOD Most rucksacks leak through the seams, but this one has the seams of the main compartment sealed to lock out water and uses OutDry technology, which bonds a waterproof layer to the main fabric. You also get a roll-top closure to the main compartment under the more conventional buckle lid. I like the drawcord to the main compartment so you don’t need to roll the top when using the fixed normal lid. The lid has good pockets and the body has compression straps with quick-release buckles and there are mesh wand pockets. The back system uses a trampoline mesh design to allow plenty of airflow across the back and the hipbelt is supportive.

HOWEVER There is no women’s option, no back length options, it’s a little heavy and you don’t get a front stretch stash pocket or a lower compartment for wet waterproofs. In a normal rucksack you would have a loose waterproof rucksack liner inside the main compartment so you could put wet items into the main compartment but outside the waterproof liner. In this pack you cannot do that, unless you add another waterproof liner which defeats the object of having a waterproof rucksack in the first place. The price is high, too. So with the cost and weight drawbacks you are going to have to really value that waterproof construction.

VERDICT The waterproof main compartment sets this apart, but its value is questionable when weight, price and fit options are also considered. 

  • Features 5/5
  • Fit 3/5
  • Comfort 5/5
  • In use 4/5
  • Value for money 3/5
  • OVERALL SCORE 80%

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.