Montane Trailblazer 25L Backpack | Tested and reviewed

Can this lightweight hiking pack hold its own against the best in the game? We put it to the test

A scenic photo of the montane trailblazer 25l hiking pack

by James Forrest |
Updated on

The Montane Trailblazer 25L is a lightweight, comfy backpack with a 25 litre capacity. It has a design somewhat inspired by running vest packs, with excellent figure-hugging shoulder straps and a light, agile carrying experience.

The shoulder straps have pockets, the hip fins are minimalist yet work well, and there are loads of useful stretchy mesh pockets. The Trailblazer 25L weighs just 850g, costs £140 (at the time of writing), and is made from recycled materials.

The design may polarise opinion, particularly the lack of rigidity to the back panel, but fast and light hillwalkers will love it.


  • Lightweight
  • Fast hiking design
  • Clever features
  • Spacious and plentiful pockets


  • Design will polarise opinion
  • No side entry
  • No raincover

Back system: panel, frame, and harness

open back system of the montane trailblazer 25l hiking backpack

The Montane Trailblazer 25L has quite a simple and basic back system. It’s incredibly flexible with almost no rigidity – you can fold the pack in half, twist it, and manipulate it into almost any shape. This is because there is no aluminium or steel frame. Instead you simply get a 3D-moulded foam back panel, housed behind a honeycomb mesh.

This approach has big pros and cons, and will likely polarise opinion. The downsides are obvious. The back panel is not great for heavier loads, doesn’t transfer weight to the hips as well as more advanced back systems, and the close-to-the-body fit can be very sweaty. You get a few cutouts and ventilation channels in the foam back panel, but these don’t make much of a difference in our experience.

The pros are that the pack is lightweight and streamlined. It moves well with your body, and the close-to-the-body sensation will feel stable, secure and comfy for many hillwalkers. Some of the simplicity of the back system is negated by the excellent Montane Covalent harness.

ZephyrAD logo on the montane trailblazer 25l hiking backpack

The shoulder straps hug the body excellently, two click-and-go sternum straps fine-tune the fit across your chest, and the wraparound hipbelt adds stability. This all means that comfort levels are still very high, as long as the pack isn’t overloaded or too heavy. Indeed, during our test hikes, we loved the carrying experience of the Trailblazer 25L.

Clever adjustment straps that alter the tightness of both the back panel and hip fins simultaneously further enable you to micro-adjust the fit to your body. We found that the pack sits quite low on the back, which we actually quite liked, but this may not suit everyone.

Back length and sizing

montane trailblazer 25l back panel

The Montane Trailblazer 25L’s back system is adjustable for different torso lengths via Montane’s so-called ZephyrAD tech. This uses a large, strong Velcro pad to alter the back length between small, medium and large options, raising up the height of the shoulder straps with a size range of about 10cm between small and large.

This works fine, but the system is a little flawed, particularly in the large mode. In this orientation, the top of the shoulder straps are raised above the main back panel, and thus don’t have any structure behind them. They are floating and flimsy, and it doesn’t quite feel right. In the small and medium lengths it works better. We found the small back length was fine for us (height 5ft 9”).

Volume, shape, and weight

mesh exterior and logo of the montane trailblazer 25l hiking pack

The Montane Trailblazer 25L has a 25 litre capacity, but it’s also available in numerous other options, from a 3L waistpack all the way up to a larger 44L hiking pack. Two lighter (LT) and minimalist options are available – the Montane Trailblazer LT 20L and LT 28L – or for those who want a stronger, tougher backpack build, two extreme (XT) versions are available.

The Montane Trailblazer 25L has a lightweight, streamlined construction. Its shape is marginally narrower with less bulk and girth than some other hiking packs. It’s a few centimetres shorter than other packs too. The official dimensions stated by Montane are as follows: 54cm (height) x 25.5cm (width) x 18.5cm (depth), and it weighs 850g.

If compared to some ultralight brands such as Zpacks and Gossamer Gear, this wouldn’t class as ultralight, but it is definitely on the lighter end of the spectrum for most hiking daypacks. It is lighter than several other packs we have tested recently, including the Decathlon MH500 30L, Salewa Alp Mate 26 and Gregory Citro 24.

Features: lid and shoulder straps

Montane trailblazer hiking backpack top cover

The Montane Trailblazer has lots of top-notch features. A minimalist, sewn-in lid covers the top-loading entry to the pack. The lid has a zippered pocket. Strangely this is made from mesh, so there’s no weatherproofing for the contents. On the underside of the lid you get another zippered pocket. This pocket is weatherproof and features a key clip.

A drawcord opens and closes the top of the bag, providing access to the main compartment, which is simple and straightforward. You get one main space for your kit, as well as a sleeve for a hydration bladder. The bladder’s hose is held in place by a Velcro loop and then threaded through a slit in the top of the bag before being secured on a shoulder strap. This is the same system almost all backpacks use for hydration bladder hoses.

chest and shoulder straps of the montane trailblazer 25l hiking backpack

There is no side access to the main compartment, so you may find yourself rummaging around looking for something at the bottom of your pack. Externally you get a large mesh stash pocket on the front of the pack – a feature we love, because it’s so useful for quickly storing a waterproof jacket, hat or snack that you might need again soon. On both sides you get a stretchy, deep, mesh bottle pocket, which can take a 1L Nalgene (not accessible on-the-go).

Extra storage: the bungee cords

montane trailblazer 25l hiking pack in the lakes

In-between the bottle pockets and mesh stash pocket, there are two vertical lines of daisy chain style gear loops. Little plastic T-hooks (with bungee cords) can be moved between these different laser-cut holes to provide a bespoke storage solution to your needs, which offers great adaptability and versatility.

You can use the T-hooks to secure trekking poles, camping kit or anything else you want. The modular design means you can move the T-hooks around and secure your trekking poles either vertically or horizontally, as you prefer. The only oddity is that there are 10 laser-cut holes but the pack only comes with two T-hooks, so this actually limits the amount of variations you can achieve. You can buy extra T-hooks from Montane, however.

Versatility is further enhanced via Montane’s Z-compression system. These twin drawcords, located on both sides of the pack, enable you to cinch-in the pack and reduce its overall volume. This is handy if you’re packing light with a small load. Other storage options include wraparound, stretchy mesh pockets on both hip fins, and zippered pockets on each shoulder strap. All of this is reminiscent of racing vest packs, which maximise storage options and provide on-the-go solutions to trail runners.

Indeed, both the hipbelt and shoulder strap pockets are designed to house small water bottles or soft flasks. The zippers of these pockets can be half-closed to keep the bottles or flasks securely in place.

Construction: weatherproofing and sustainability

montane trailblazer 25l front

The Trailblazer 25L is predominantly made from a 70-denier, 100% recycled, ripstop nylon outer material called Raptor Cross Lite 70D. This has both a PU and PFC-free DWR coating for waterproofing, as well as a durable, reinforced base. The aim, according to Montane, is to “strike an ideal balance between abrasion resistance and being lightweight enough for fast and light missions”.

We’d say Montane has achieved this goal. The pack feels light and minimalist, yet just about sturdy enough for rugged mountain adventures.

The liner of the Trailblazer 25L is 100% polyester, the reinforced base is 100% recycled nylon, the back pad is 100% recycled polyester, the mesh pockets are 80% recycled nylon and 20% elastane, and the shoulder straps and hip fins are 100% recycled polyester.


Montane's Trailblazer 25L is a lightweight, comfy, top-performing backpack with a style and design reminiscent of a running vest – but the approach will polarise opinion.

How we tested

James Forrest testing gear for Live for the Outdoors

Our tester for the Montane Trailblazer 25L was James Forrest. James is one of our long-time freelance gear testers both for LFTO and our print magazine, Trail.

As well as being a prolific long-distance walker James is also one of the most high-profile outdoor writers in the UK.

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