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.

 

Backpacks.jpg
Backpack-1.jpg
Backpack.jpg

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

Gregory-main.jpg
Gregory-back.jpg

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

 

Osprey-main.jpg
  • 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

Lowe-alpine-back.jpg

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

Vaude-main.jpg
  • 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

Deuter-back.jpg

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%

For the latest reviews - including extra photos and products that won't appear online - 
pick up a copy of the current issue of Trail magazine!