Vaude Astra Light 60 2011

The Vaude Astra Light 60 – a new, lightweight version of the classic Astra 65, a frequent winner of Trail tests – is the only pack here that uses a zip for main access. It also sports a versatile adjustable back system for comfort, which does, however, make it the heaviest on test.

This and the Berghaus Torridon 65 are the only packs here with fully adjustable backs. Vaude’s Tergolite system allows easy, precise adjustment of back length by a Velcro strap. The main compartment is accessed via a long, chunky, wraparound zip that separates the top lid to offer unparalleled ease of packing. You can also partition the base into a separate compartment accessed by a big D-zip on the bottom. There’s yet another zip on the front for limited access to that main compartment, plus a (zipped) map pocket on the back. Inside the capacious (zipped) lid pocket are a number of small, handy, mesh pockets for storing snacks and the like, plus a large, under-lid mesh pocket. In short, it’s got zips and pockets everywhere, yet doesn’t feel untidy. It also has good side compression straps long enough to attach a sleeping mat, plus compression/attachment straps across the bottom compartment. Finally, you get a couple of small snack pockets on the hipbelt, two mesh wand pockets, plus axe/trekking pole attachments. It’s hydration system-compatible too.

On the hill
My first thought was that with all those zips and pockets, the Vaude Astra Light 60  was going to be better for travel than for hard use on the hill. In the event it turned out to be very well suited for both. The multiple pockets were really useful for organising all the bits and bobs you carry on extended camping trips. However, the main news is the superb back system, which is easily the most comfortable on test. Not only did it take heavy weight and transfer it perfectly onto my hips, but it offered the ventilation and freedom of movement you’d expect from much heavier, more expensive and elaborate packs. I thought it was brilliant, and would happily pay its few hundred gram weight penalty to comfortably carry heavy loads.  I also became reconciled to the zip opening to the main compartment, simply because it offered such easy access and made packing or locating things a breeze. It did let in water more readily than traditional lids, though, and zips do eventually fail (though this one is very sturdy), so it won’t be to everyone’s taste. The final boon was the pack’s ability to extend its carrying capacity.

Made in Far East
Weight 1850g
Capacity 60 litres
Backlengths one, adjustable
Materials 210d mini ripstop polyamide PU-coated/420d polyamide PU-coated
Stockist details tel. (01665) 510660;
Stockists in the UK 30

The Vaude Astra Light 60 has an excellent, comfortable back system; great array of pockets; easy access to main compartment facilitates packing; lots of compression/attachment straps; surprisingly clean design; direct base access. But it’s heavier than others on test; some might prefer simpler designs. It’s a fantastic pack that deserves to be ‘Best in Test’ because of its unparalleled comfort and excellent pockets. Although the heaviest sack we looked at, it is only just so and still very light for what you get.

Review by Ben Winston
First published in Trail magazine June 2011