Salewa Alp Mate 26 Backpack | Tested and reviewed

Durable, minimalist, but sporting a serious back system. It's got promising stats, but how does the Alp Mate 26 perform when we put it to the test?

feature image of the Salewa Alp Mate 26 hiking backpack

by James Forrest |
Updated on

We wouldn’t have batted an eyelid if this Salewa hiking pack was priced £130 or £140, so for £90 it’s a steal – a nice bargain in a marketplace where prices often seem excessively high.

The Alp Mate 26 is an alpine-inspired daypack with a high-tech, well-ventilated back system, as well as excellent features and a comfortable carrying experience.

The narrow and tall shape might not suit all hillwalkers, but for those seeking a technical, streamlined pack for fast’n’light adventures in the UK’s mountains, the Alp Mate 26 is a reliable choice.


  • Great ventilation
  • High-tech back system
  • Lots of useful features
  • Very comfortable in use


  • No hipbelt pockets
  • One back length size only

Back system: panel and frame

full back system and padding on the Salewa Alp Mate 26 backpack

The back system of the Salewa Alp Mate 26 feels highly technical, like a “real” mountaineering daypack. It feels stable and strong, and capable of hauling heavier loads with ease. Yet it also feels very breathable and ventilated, with a light, minimalist, agile style.

We certainly never felt weighed-down or cumbersome with this pack. In fact, we forgot we were wearing it sometimes. The back system used in this pack is known as Salewa’s Dry Back Air technology. Rigidity and stiffness is provided by a combination of a spring steel internal frame (in a wedge-like, upside-down triangular shape) and a high-density plastic framesheet. Together these ensure a good load-hauling capabilities and a comfortable carrying experience.

upper back system of the Salewa Alp Mate 26 backpack

But your back never actually touches the framesheet. Instead, you are connected to a floating, suspended back panel made from light foam with a breathable honeycomb structure. This back panel is taut with good tension and has loads of cut-outs in the fabric, providing good ventilation and an airy feel. The “floating” design means there is an air gap between the back panel and the gently-curved framesheet, which drastically improves ventilation.

Salewa states this design ensures 25% less body contact between your back and the panel, thus clearly reducing the chances of a sweaty carrying experience. It’s also worth noting that, despite the gap between the panel and framesheet, the pack still has a close-to-the-body fit and doesn’t feel like it’s levering away from you.

lower back system of the Salewa Alp Mate 26 backpack

In terms of the rest of the harness, Salewa’s split shoulder straps and hipbelt – which both have panels of fabric cut out – are airy and comfortable. There are multiple straps for fine-tuning the fit, including load lifter straps and a sternum strap with an adjustable height. The only drawbacks are the hipbelt fins. While we found them comfy and adequate enough, some might find them too minimalist. They aren’t thickly padded and, perhaps, can’t take heavier loads quite as well as some others.

Back length and sizing

The Salewa Alp Mate 26 is only available in one back length size and there is no way to adjust or alter the back system. Consequently it either fits or it doesn’t. If possible, try before you buy to be sure, but for us (5ft 9” tall) the size was absolutely fine during our test hikes.

Volume, shape, and weight

The Salewa Alp Mate 26 has a 26 litre capacity, but it’s also available in four other options: the Salewa Alp Mate 24 Women’s (£90), Alp Mate 30 Women’s (£100) and Alp Mate 36 (£110). The women’s packs have a cut slightly tailored to the female body. The Alp Mate 26 has an alpine-inspired shape, with a tall and thin profile. It is slightly narrower than other hiking and hillwalking packs, and feels somewhat streamlined and minimalist on your back.

Salewa Alp Mate 26 Backpack on some rocks

This works excellently and gives the pack a light, agile carrying sensation. It is sized 59cm (height) x 28cm (width) x 22cm (depth), and it weighs 975g. This is a mid-range weight; far from the heaviest daypack out there, but definitely not ultralight either.

Features: lid, straps, pockets, weather protection

The Salewa Alp Mate 26 has a relatively streamlined and minimalist design. We loved this approach – for day hikes you don’t necessarily need or want extra bells and whistles, and sometimes it’s better to keep things simple.

There are omissions on the Alp Mate 26 that some hillwalkers may dislike. You don’t get an internal zippered pocket, external mesh stash pocket (on the front of the pack) or any hipbelt pockets. But, for us, with a light pack for summer, we really didn’t miss these features.

Lid closure of the Salewa Alp Mate 26 backpack

The backpack has a sewn-in lid (non-removable) and the top of the lid has a medium-sized zippered pocket. Below the lid, the pack is top-loading with closure and opening via a drawcord.

Internally Salewa keeps things simple. There is one main compartment with a 26-litre capacity. The only other internal feature is a sleeve to house a hydration reservoir, if required. A small slit in the top right- hand corner of the pack enables the reservoir drinking hose to be connected to your right shoulder strap, and an internal Velcro loop helps hold the hose in the correct place inside the bag.

closure clip of the Salewa Alp Mate 26 backpack

Externally you get two vertical daisy-chain lines of six webbing loops (12 in total) for attaching whatever items you like. At the base of the pack there are two further loops for attaching trekking poles in a horizontal orientation. On both sides of the pack, you get a stretchy mesh bottle pocket, which is just about large enough to take a 1L Nalgene.

The shape and height of the pockets makes it just about possible to grab and stash the bottles on-the-go, without taking the pack off. Although you will need good arm flexibility for this, and it’s easier to achieve when the backpack’s main compartment isn’t too full. Each side of the pack has compression straps too.

bottom portion of the Salewa Alp Mate 26 backpack

There are two other external features of note. At the very base of the pack, there is a pocket sleeve housing a bright yellow raincover. The raincover is attached to the pocket via a Velcro strap, ensuring it won’t fly off in strong winds. Finally, on the lefthand side of the pack, you get a side zipper offering easy access to the main compartment. This enables you to grab items towards the middle or bottom of the bag, without having to rummage around elbow-deep from the top-loading entry. The zipper isn’t covered by a stormflap, which reduces weather protection slightly.

The Alp Mate 26 is made from a mix of two materials: a 150-denier polyester and a 100-denier nylon with a honeycomb structure. These feel adequately tough and robust for mountain use.


feature image of the Salewa Alp Mate 26 hiking backpack

An alpine-inspired, narrow backpack with an excellent design and first-rate features – but it won’t suit everyone’s needs

How we tested

James Forrest navigating while testing gear for LFTO

Our tester for the Salewa Alp Mate 26 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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