Five Of The Best... 55-65litre rucksacks reviewed (2019)

Whatever your budget there is a rucksack that is ideal for carrying camping equipment, spare clothes and food across the hills for days, weeks or even months at a time. Here’s our guide to the best 55-65 litre rucksacks for backpacking.

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Berghaus Trailhead 65 £115

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  • Capacity 65 litres (men’s & women’s)

  • Back sizes Adjustable back length

  • Weight 1834g (men’s, inc 100g raincover)

It’s good

The Trailhead has had a big makeover for 2019, so it’s virtually a new design and now resembles the Trailhead 50. The back system has also been changed and is now adjustable, via a series of webbing straps that move the shoulder harness. There is good stiffness in the back, and while not as comfortable as higher-priced packs it feels good. The body has lost the two side pockets of last year and now has compression straps and fabric rather than mesh wand pockets. The main lid is a fixed design, rather than floating, so it keeps water out of the main compartment more easily. There’s also external zipped base compartment access. All that for £115 and 1834g is impressive.

However

The body is made from polyester rather than the tough nylon used on higher-priced packs, so this may not be the absolute best in terms of durability. Also if you pay more you get more comfort from the back system. The hipbelt is stiff and supportive, but it doesn’t rotate so there is just a little less freedom of movement here. Some may prefer a floating lid rather than the fixed design. The lid doesn’t get an underside pocket either. The side compression straps are not quick-release, and you don’t get a compression front panel. 

Verdict

Lower-priced pack with a good weight, but if you can afford to pay more, then you can enjoy some of the benefits of higher-priced designs.

  • Features 4/5

  • Fit 4/5

  • Comfort 3/5

  • In use 3/5

  • Value for money 5/5

  • OVERALL SCORE 76%

 

Vaude Asymmetric 52+8/Asymmetric 48+8 £145

  • Capacity 52-60 litres (men’s) / 48-56 litres (women’s)

  • Back sizes Adjustable back length

  • Weight 1550g (men’s) 

It’s good

Vaude’s Asymmetric packs have been around for a few years and regularly receive great reviews in Trail, thanks to their low weights and clutter-free designs. They also use more eco-friendly materials – this one has some recycled polyester and waterproof coatings free of fluorocarbons (PFCs). The back length is easily adjusted and the pack is comfy with lighter loads. The main compartment has front and base zipped access, a floating lid, and a massive zipped front pocket that’s good for jackets and overtrousers. There are two good compression straps and mesh wand pockets on the sides, and the pack weighs just 1550g. 

However

It’s not as comfortable as higher-priced packs, and you need to keep the weight down to maintain that comfort. Also this pack has a slightly smaller capacity than others, with the women’s pack being quite small. The polyester is less hard-wearing than the nylon used in pricier packs. As with many, there is a floating lid, so care is needed to prevent leaks to the main compartment; but this one does sit slightly better on the top than some others. This pack doesn’t have a raincover, which is a drawback as the lid pocket zip doesn’t get an external stormflap either.

Verdict

With environmental benefits, less weight and a reasonable price tag this looks good, but it is a smaller capacity than others and not quite as comfy.

  • Features 4/5

  • Fit 5/5

  • Comfort 4/5

  • In use 4/5

  • Value for money 4/5

  • OVERALL SCORE 84%


Osprey Kestrel 58 £150 / Kyte 46 £140

  • Capacity 58 litres (men’s) / 46 litres (women’s)

  • Back sizes S/M & M/L adjustable back length (Kestrel) / one size adjustable back length (Kyte)

  • Weight 1860g (men’s M/L, inc 112g raincover)

It’s good

The Kestrel uses Osprey’s Airscape back system, which is adjustable in length. The padding features
a mesh covering over a layer of raised cushioned areas, so the overall effect is of padded contact areas and reasonable airflow. It’s a close-fitting back system too, with good support and stiffness to allow easy packing without objects poking into your back. The body has a main compartment with base zipped entry and a removable internal divider, as well as a zipped front entry. There’s also a conventional floating lid with a huge outside pocket and a useful mesh underside pocket. The front stretch compression pocket is ideal for a wet jacket between showers and you can stow trekking poles on the sides easily too.

However

The weight of this pack is not the lightest but there are heavier packs. It is packed with features and some may feel they don’t need the two hipbelt pockets, or the front zipped access, or the floating lid – all of which add cost and weight. For me, a fixed lid would be preferable, but this is at least better designed than most. It is a well-built pack that feels durable, and while not the lowest price it competes well with others, although of course you could spend less if your budget is tight.

Verdict

A great backpack for shorter, less remote trips with features and comfort that will suit most users.

  • Features 5/5

  • Fit 4/5

  • Comfort 4/5

  • In use 4/5

  • Value for money 4/5

  • OVERALL SCORE 84%


Lowe Alpine Manaslu 55:70/Manaslu ND50:65 £175

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  • Capacity 55-70 litres (men’s) / 50-65 litres (women’s)

  • Back sizes R & L adjustable (men’s) / one size adjustable (women’s)

  • Weight 2514g (men’s R, inc 100g raincover)

It’s good

This new pack for 2019 extends Lowe Alpine’s Manaslu range. The new VT-Plus back system is adjustable in length and operates by sliding the shoulder straps vertically along an alloy frame. The back system and hipbelt are very stiff, supportive and well-padded, making this better for heavier loads than lighter packs. The hipbelt also rotates to allow a little more freedom of movement. The body has one main compartment with base and front zipped access, as well as the floating lid at the top. The front stash pocket has side access and the top is stitched in place, which should prevent items bellowing out. The design is more durable than some lighter packs.

However

This is heavier than others, due to its extra weight-bearing performance, although for regular longer trips I think it is worth it. The back system is very good, but some packs around this weight and price do allow even more airflow. Some details (the internal compression straps and ultra-robust materials) may be superfluous, so this may be more than casual users need. I prefer a fixed lid, although here it is less of an issue as the main compartment snow-lock extension is huge and robust, to prevent leaks under the lid more effectively than most.

Verdict

A supportive, robust workhorse that is ideal for heavier loads and longer trips, but the weight and price mean it may be more than some users need.

  • Features 5/5

  • Fit 5/5

  • Comfort 4/5

  • In use 4/5

  • Value for money 3/5

  • OVERALL SCORE 84%

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Gregory Optic 58/Octal 55 £200

  • Capacity 58 litres (men’s) / 55 litres (women’s)

  • Back sizes M, L (men’s) / S, M (women’s)

  • Weight 1302g (men’s L, inc 96g raincover)

It’s good

This pack was released in 2018 and features a lighter design than some other Gregory packs, but you still get the supportive Aerospan back system and functional design the brand is known for. There are two fixed back length options, with a trampoline-style open mesh covering that holds the pack away from the wearer for more airflow. On the back this feels comfortable and fits well. There is one main compartment with just top entry via a floating lid. The lid has good pockets but to save weight it can be replaced by a simpler cover without pockets. The front and side stretch pockets are huge, making them ideal for stowing items needed regularly, and the weight is very attractive at just 1302g.

However

There is no base or front access to the main compartment. Also while this pack copes well with smaller loads, it doesn’t perform as well as others with bigger loads, because the hipbelt is slightly softer. The floating lid niggles me, as I’d prefer a fixed lid. The side compression straps don’t get quick-release buckles either, so stowing trekking poles or other items on the sides is a bit more fiddly. Finally the price tag is slightly higher than others, even though you are getting fewer features.  

Verdict

A lighter rucksack that is ideal for lighter loads, but you might miss some features and the price is relatively high for what you get.

  • Features 4/5

  • Fit 5/5

  • Comfort 4/5

  • In use 4/5

  • Value for money 3/5

  • OVERALL SCORE 80%


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The big test: mountain walking packs reviewed (2019)

Some rucksacks are heavy and cumbersome, while others are a joy to wear. Trail’s testing team headed for the hills with a bunch of 30-40 litre rucksacks to find the very best ones for you.

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The runners up


Berghaus Freeflow 35 £100

Tester: Jon Bennett

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  • Capacity 35 litres

  • Men’s One size

  • Women’s One size

  • Weight 1240g (inc 71g raincover) 

Body contact is kept to a minimum, thanks to Berghaus’s trampoline-style Freeflow back system. The main compartment is accessed via a well-designed fixed lid and by a shorter side zip towards the base of the pack, so you can stuff waterproofs or other items in the base of the main compartment if desired. 

There are four zipped pockets – a generous one on top of the lid, a smaller one on the inside of the lid, one on the front of the pack and one on the hipbelt. 

If using trekking poles, some may prefer the side compression straps to have had quick-release buckles for easier attachment of poles or other items to the side of the pack.

But overall this pack fitted me well and the only niggle was there was no back length adjustment for those that may need it. 

Pros

More airflow than some designs, great price for features, fixed lid with good pockets

Cons

No back length adjustment or quick-release buckles on the side compression straps, but for many these would be minor niggles

Buy it if

It fits you and you want good airflow around the back at a good price


Lowe Alpine Altus ND30 / Altus 32 £125

Tester: Anna Humphries

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  • Capacity 30 litres (Altus ND30)

  • Men’s Adjustable (Altus 32)

  • Women’s Adjustable (Altus ND30)

  • Weight 1408g (inc 71g raincover)

The Altus ND30 is a new pack that has been specifically designed to fit women, following research with Leeds University, so the hipbelt, shoulder straps and back should be more comfortable. 

The Air Contour back system also allows the shoulder straps to be raised or lowered for fine-tuning of back length, and is shaped to allow a little more airflow than some other packs. 

The main compartment is protected by a fixed lid with two nice big pockets. There is also a useful front zipped pocket and a zipped side entry to the main compartment, so if needed you can access items outside of any rucksack liner easily. 

Overall this rucksack fitted me well and felt comfortable for general walking in the valley or on the hills, and even while scrambling. 

Pros

Back system comfort, fixed lid, great pockets

Cons

Even more comfort and airflow is available with some other packs, you can spend less cash, and there are also lighter packs

Buy it if

You want a simple clutter-free design with great features, as only small details on other packs warrant looking elsewhere


Fjallraven Abisko Hike 35 £140

Tester: Graham Thompson

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  • Capacity 35 litres

  • Unisex One size

  • Weight 1407g (inc 90g raincover)

If you need a more durable rucksack, then this is for you. It’s built from Fjallraven’s popular G-1000 Heavy Duty Eco fabric, comprising 65% recycled polyester and 35% organic cotton, which can be customised by adding Greenland Wax for greater water resistance. 

The back system is padded and this sits comfortably against the back, but it doesn’t have the airflow of other designs. The main compartment has a floating lid that our testers were not keen on, but was better designed than most. The lid gets a nice large external and internal zipped pocket. 

There’s also a huge front zipped pocket and a more unusual zipped side entry to the main compartment, which allows you to stuff wet kit outside a waterproof liner. 

Pros

Durability, clutter-free design, more subdued earthy colours than other packs 

Cons

Price tag, floating lid is better than many but our testers would still prefer a fixed lid, less airflow than others across the back system, no women’s specific option or back length size options 

Buy it if

You want a more durable design with a good clutter-free design, don’t need a fixed lid or more airflow, and are prepared to pay a little more



The top three


Vaude Brenta 30 / Maremma 32 £100

Tester: Jon Bennett

This well-seasoned rucksack offers more airflow across the back, less weight and can be yours for less cash than others, so why pay more? 

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  • Capacity 30 litres (Brenta 30)

  • Men’s Adjustable back length (Brenta 30)

  • Women’s Adjustable back length  (Maremma 32)

  • Weight 1130g (inc 78g raincover)

It’s good

The Aeroflex Easy Adjust back system combines back length adjustment with adaptable tensioning of the trampoline-style back system to offer far more airflow control than most rucksacks. You can even adjust the back system while wearing it. I found playing with the adjustment options worthwhile, as on cold days it’s nice to have less airflow to help stay warm! 

In terms of loading it up, the top of the main compartment is accessed through a fixed lid and the bottom via a short zip on the front of the pack. Externally, there are two zipped pockets – one on the lid and one on the hipbelt – as well as two side mesh pockets and a large front stretch stash pocket that is great for a jacket.

The side compression straps have quick-release buckles, enabling longer items such as trekking poles to be easily stowed. And it’s all available for less cash and less weight than many others. 

However

The second zipped pocket on the lid is only accessible through the main zipped pocket on the lid. All of our test team agreed that it would have been better to have had access to this pocket from the underside of the lid instead. Other packs also have extra zipped pockets, if that is your preference. 

It’s also worth noting that some of the higher-priced and heavier packs are also offering more capacity than this, so while this is great for smaller loads on day walks, for more adventurous day trips when you have more gear the larger packs may be a better option and an overall better investment if you regularly need more gear than this 30-litre pack can manage to carry. 

Finally, while this is comfortable, some of the higher-priced packs are even more comfy, and in some cases more durable too if you’re a really hard user. 

Verdict

An extremely adjustable pack that is available at a good price and a good weight. Great for general hillwalking, but pay a bit more and you can get extra capacity, more comfort and better durability. 

  • Features 4/5

  • Fit 5/5

  • Comfort 4/5

  • In use 4/5

  • Value for money 5/5

  • OVERALL SCORE 88%

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Osprey Kyte 36 / Kestrel 38 £130           

Tester: Anna Humphries

The Kyte 36 is the women’s version of the men’s Kestrel 38, so does this fully-featured design make it the go-to pack for all hillwalkers?

  • Capacity 36 litres (Kyte 36)

  • Women’s Adjustable back length (Kyte 36)

  • Men’s S/M and M/L, plus adjustable back length (Kestrel 38)

  • Weight 1560g (inc 83g raincover)

It’s good

This pack comes in both women’s and men’s versions, with both boasting an Airscape back system that allows the shoulder straps to be raised or lowered for a more precise fit. The back panel is really comfortable too, with foam padding and lots of air channels that are covered with a mesh overlay for airflow. The hipbelt fins are also very well padded,
so the overall effect is loads of comfort without being too hot. 

The main compartment is accessed through a quality fixed lid, so there’s no chance of water creeping under it, and there’s external zipped access to the bottom of the main compartment. The pockets on the lid and hipbelt are a good size and the big stretch pocket on the front of the pack is perfect for stuffing a waterproof between showers. 

Side compression straps and stretch side pockets complete this fully-featured rucksack.

However

All those features add up, making this the heaviest rucksack here, so you have to ask yourself if you need everything this pack is offering; such as the adjustable back system, base compartment access and all those webbing straps. Even with all those features other packs offer more airflow across the back, although no other pack we tested was as comfortable as this overall. 

The men’s version offers two back length options, as well as adjustment, while the women’s has just one size but does have the same adjustable back length. 

This pack is also higher in price than some other options. If you just need a simple daypack with basic features, this is probably more than you need.

Verdict

Ideal if you need more packing options and maximum comfort. It isn’t the cheapest or lightest option out there, but the overall package can’t be beaten.

  • Features 4/5

  • Fit 5/5

  • Comfort 5/5

  • In use 4/5

  • Value for money 4/5

  • OVERALL SCORE 88%

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Deuter ACT Trail Pro 36 / ACT Trail Pro 34 SL £130

Tester: Graham Thompson

Does this new pack, with its close, stable fit and air ‘chimney’ for more comfort, provide everything a hillwalker needs?  

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  • Capacity 36 litres (Trail Pro 36)

  • Men’s One size (Trail Pro 36)

  • Women’s One size (Trail Pro 34 SL) 

  • Weight 1510g (inc 74g raincover)

It’s good

The new Trail Pro packs from Deuter are designed for those with bigger loads who need a stable, close fit that is also comfortable. The well-stiffened back panel means you can throw gear inside the pack without it distorting too easily. Two padded zones extend down the back with a ‘chimney’ up the middle for greater airflow, while very well contoured hip fins allow more weight to be carried on the hips in comfort. 

The main compartment is accessed via a nice fixed lid with internal and external pockets. You can also access the base of the main compartment via a front zip. 

I particularly like the big front compression panel, as it is far more robust and durable than many mesh designs used on other packs. On one side of the pack you get a huge zipped side pocket that is great for a water bottle, while the side gets a mesh pocket. The compression straps have quick-release buckles, so you can stash items on the sides easily.

It’s good

This is quite a heavy pack compared to some options, and the price tag
is not the lowest available either. Also, while the back system is comfortable and stable, there
is less airflow here than some options with trampoline backs,
so in warm weather this does get more sweaty than other designs. 

Only having a zipped side pocket on one side and only having a mesh side pocket on the other does work for me. Although sometimes I had to repack my bag to balance it out, rather than just put the water bottle on the other side as I would if a pack had a zipped pocket on both sides. 

There is no length adjustment here, so this either fits or it doesn’t, therefore it’s worth trying before buying to be sure. 

Verdict

This strong, stable pack is great for more challenging mountain days, but those with more airflow and less weight might be a better choice on easier hillwalks.

  • Features 5/5

  • Fit 4/5

  • Comfort 4/5

  • In use 4/5

  • Value for money 4/5

  • OVERALL SCORE 84%


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!


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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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%

Berghaus Bioflex 45 (2012)

Berghaus has been developing the Bioflex back system for a few years now and for 2012 the system has been revamped to be lighter, but this sack is still on the heavy side at 1620g. However, according to Berghaus the Bioflex system reduces stress, strain and fatigue – so it is possible that this will compensate for the extra weight. The hipbelt rotates around a central pivot to provide unparalleled freedom of movement and comfort, which I particularly liked for scrambling as it felt as if there was no hipbelt to restrict movement. You can also lock off the movement if you prefer a more rigid back system. The body of the Berghaus Bioflex 45 is narrow, making it ideal for scrambling. There are two main compartments, but you can zip away the divider to create one compartment if preferred and still use the external ziparound base entry for stashing wet waterproofs for example. You get mesh wand pockets and compression straps that are useful for stashing trekking poles or ice axes. A second set of compression straps on the base could be used to stash gear. The lid has a very large zipped pocket, which is great for guidebooks, hats, gloves and food.

Weight 1620g
Capacity 45 litres
Compartments 2
External zipped pockets 1
Wand pocket yes
Compression straps yes
Men’s back lengths one size
Women’s back lengths one size
Website www.berghaus.com

 

Verdict

The Berghaus Bioflex 45’s rotating hipbelt provides unparalleled freedom of movement, which compensates for the increased weight of this pack. For general mountain walking, scrambling and easier mountaineering it’s a great all-rounder, and it won our ‘Best in Test’ accolade.

Review by Graham Thompson
First published in Trail magazine October 2012


Berghaus Limpet 20 (2012)

Designed as a stable pack for fast sport, the Berghaus Limpet 20 utilises a compression system that attaches to the hipbelt so the sack fits closely and remains stable. The Limpet does sit comfortably and the compression system that links to the hipbelt means that when you make a big movement through the hips the sack sits closer to your back. There are raised nodules on the padding of the back too, which hold it away from the body a little more than some sacks for more comfort. The body of the sack has a slightly squarer profile than others, which makes it easier to pack. There is a small glasses pocket on the outside as well as a large map-sized pocket. The side mesh pockets are smaller than most, which limits their ability to stash some larger items, but they have elastic loops to secure bottles, which is very useful. The Berghaus Limpet 20 is a very comfortable sack that has a reasonable weight (612g) while also being keenly priced, and it’s this combination of benefits that makes it ideal for general fast and light activity. But other sacks are lighter if you really want to save weight.

Weight 612g
Capacity 28 litres
Compartments 1
External zipped pockets 3
Wand pocket yes
Hydration pocket yes
Women’s version no
Website www.berghaus.com


Verdict

The Berghaus Limpet 20 is an excellent rucksack for fast-paced action, but if you pay more you can get a lighter sack.

Review by Graham Thompson
First published in Trail magazine September 2012