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.