Posted on

Deuter Speed Lite 32 Backpack Review

Comfort

Weight

Suspension

Features

Adjustability

Sizing

Durability

Streamlined Technical Backpack

The Deuter Speed Lite 32 is a streamlined adventure sport pack designed for fast hikes or alpine tours. It’s outfitted for hauling extra technical gear without weighing you down.

Shop Now

The Deuter Speed Lite 32 is a do-everything backpack that can be used for hiking, peakbagging, snowshoeing, backcountry skiing, and even fast and light overnight trips. Weighing 32 ounces, it’s got a minimalist vibe with scaled back padding and a lightweight frame. But a host of technical features and the use of durable fabrics, give the Speed Lite some serious chops for rugged adventures.

Specs at a Glance

Backpack Storage and Organization

The Speed Lite is a conventional alpine style pack with a sewn-on top lid.  The lid has two pockets, one external with a key fob, and one internal, printed on the outside with the SOS signaling instructions found on all Deuter backpacks. The main compartment closes with a drawstring and has an internal hydration pocket capable of holding a 3 liter reservoir. The hydration port is located between the shoulder straps, but there’s only one hose keeper strap on the left shoulder pad.

The Speed Lite 32 has a sewn-on top lid and front stuff-it pocket
The Speed Lite 32 has a sewn-on top lid and front stuff-it pocket

The side mesh pockets on this pack are not reachable when the pack is worn, so you will need to use a hydration system if you want a drink on the move. The same side pockets are also a snug fit for a 1L Nalgene bottle; they fit but you’d have a hard time pulling them out even if you could reach back and grab them while wearing the pack. The mesh use for the pockets is tough and has a dense weave, so you can play rough with the Speed Lite and not worry about them getting ripped and chewed up.

You almost have to use a hydration system with this pack, unless you’re willing to stop and take off the pack when you want a drink , since the side mesh pockets are not reachable when the pack is worn and are barely wide enough to hold a 1L Nalgene bottle.

The Speed Lite 32 has a front stuff pocket that’s open at the top but secured but held close with a strap. There are strips of mesh down the sides to help dry out wet or damp gear and a drain hole at the bottom, so you can store a wet water filter or bathing in it. The mesh has the same durable weave as the side water bottle pockets.

The side pockets will fit a 1L Nalgene bottle but it is a tight fit.
The side pockets will fit a 1L Nalgene bottle but it is a tight fit.

The hip belt also has a pair of small zippered pockets, sized for bars, although you can barely fit an iPhone 6 smartphone into one. Given the “soft” nature of the hip belt, which we examine further below, I wouldn’t put anything rigid like a phone in them and use them more for snacks than anything. The front of a backpack hip belt is also one of the highest points of pack abrasion if you like to hike off-trail and bushwhack through vegetation. While both hip belt pockets are made with the same durable mesh used on the rest of the pack, I’d advise against putting anything electronic or too valuable in them, less they get soaked or torn.

Backpack Frame and Suspension

The Speed Lite 32 frame is a U-shaped Delrin fiberglass rod that loops around the perimeter of the pack and helps it keep its shape. It’s soft, flexible, and body hugging, which is what you want on an adventure pack like the Speed Lite, but it isn’t strong enough to support much load beyond 20 pounds.

The back of the pack is covered with mesh and contoured die-cut foam that provides some ventilation for your back. Not a lot, but some. It feels comfortable if you’re just wearing a thin shirt, but it is pretty much unnoticeable if you pile on a few clothing layers.

Die-cut foam with a mesh covering provides ventilation to keep you drier
Die-cut foam with a mesh covering provides ventilation to keep you drier.

The shoulder straps are well padded and covered with mesh to wick away perspiration. The shoulder straps are J-shaped but have extra padding along the inside edge in an effort to make them more comfortable for people with well-developed chests. The sternum strap can be moved up and down on a rail system, but there are no daisy chains on the front of the straps to attach extra pockets. The pack also has load lifters running between the frame and shoulder straps. While many smaller volume packs don’t have them, they can be useful if you carry heavy winter gear like snowshoes or even skis, using the pack’s external attachment features, which we review further below.

The Speed Lite hip belt is not padded and more of a fabric wrap designed to keep the base of the pack close to your torso and hips than a load bearing feature. That’s not a bad thing, but it underscores the limitation of the pack for carrying heavier loads. The hip belt closes with a pull forward webbing strap for ease of use. Given the hip belt’s reduced load-bearing qualities, it would have been nice if it was non-destructively removable with clips, like the hip belts on some ultralight backpacks of similar volume.

External Attachment and Compression System

The external attachment system on the Speed Lite 32 is where this pack really shines. It has two tiers of webbing compression straps which both close with buckles, making it easy to attach snowshoes or skis to the side of the pack. The webbing straps are extra long, but have elastic keepers to prevent them from flapping around. The compression straps can also be reversed so you can run them around the front of the pack, which is very handy for winter gear attachment, suck as sleeping pads, a crampon pocket, or snowshoes.

The Compression Straps are reversible, making it easy to carry snowshoes or a sleeping pad.
The Compression Straps are reversible, making it easy to carry snowshoes or a sleeping pad.

The Speed Lite also features full length daisy chains down the sides of the stuff pocket, which are also good for rigging up custom attachment points with accessory webbing or cord. There are also four additional gear loops on top of the lid for this purpose. There are also a pair of ice axe / trekking pole loops on the front of the pack and well as shaft keepers, which is a detail that many backpack makers leave off backpacks.

Recommendation

The Deuter Speed Lite 32 is a great multi-purpose adventure-sport backpack that can be used year round. While it is large enough for overnights or hut-to-hut trips, I think its sweet spot is for more technical day-hiking adventures like peakbagging, climbing, and winter hiking trips where you need to carry additional layers and technical gear. I use this pack all the time now for autumn day hikes as the weather is turning cooler, because it can hold all the gear and extra clothing I like to carry. It’s also quite similar to another Deuter backpack that I enjoyed using in the past called the Speed Lite 30, which is no longer made, but had the same comfortable V-shape, durability and technical features.

Compare 3 Prices

Last updated: 2018-10-03 17:35:14

Disclosure: Deuter provided the author with a sample backpack for this review.

Help support this site by making your next gear purchase through one of the links above. Click a link, buy what you need, and the seller will contribute a portion of the purchase price to support SectionHiker’s unsponsored gear reviews, articles, and hiking guides.

Most Popular Searches

  • news for you
  • gregory optic review
Posted on

Osprey Kestrel 48 Backpack Review

Comfort

Weight

Suspension

Features

Adjustability

Sizing

Durability

Lightweight Adjustable Frame Backpack

The Osprey Kestrel 48 is a lightweight and adjustable length frame is a multi-day backpack ideal for thru-hiking or multi-day trips with lower volume ultralight backpacking gear.

Shop Now

The Osprey Kestrel 48 is a lightweight backpack that’s well-sized for thru-hiking and weekend backpacking trips with moderate loads. Weighing 3 lbs and 5.3 ounces (size M/L), the Kestrel has many of the features you find on higher volume backpacks without the overhead of more weight. The 48L Kestrel is also great pack to use if you’ve switched to lower volume ultralight backpacking gear but still want a pack that has a lot of pockets and organization options.

Specs at a Glance

  • Gender: Men’s (Women’s version is the Kyte 46)
  • Type: Internal frame, wire perimeter loop
  • Weight (without rain cover): 3 lbs 3.7 oz (S/M), 3 lbs 5.3 oz (M/L)
  • Rain cover (optional, included): (4.7 oz)
  • Torso range: 16″-23″, two sizes available
  • Waist/hip range: 27″-55″, two sizes available
  • Closed pockets: 7+ main compartment
  • Open pockets: 3
  • Material: 210 denier ripstop nylon
  • Bear canister compatible: Yes, vertical
  • Max Recommended load: 35 pounds

Backpack Storage and Organization

The Osprey Kestrel 48 has a top lid, main compartment, sleeping bag pocket, front mesh pocket, and side water bottle pockets. The top lid is sewn to the front of the pack and has two pockets, one on top, and an internal mesh pocket facing the top of the main compartment. The main compartment closes with a drawstring, but does not have a hydration pocket. Instead, there’s a gap behind the shoulder straps for storing a reservoir, so you don’t have to unpack and repack your backpack every time you need to refill it. It’s super easy to use and a key differentiator, if you’re comparing merits of the Kestrel 48 to other backpacks.

The Kestrel 48 has the typical Osprey appearance with a top lid, front mesh pocket, and side bottle pockets
The Kestrel 48 has the typical Osprey appearance with a top lid, front mesh pocket, and side bottle pockets.

There are two full length zippers on the sides of the pack. The right side zipper opens into the main compartment so you can reach in and pull gear out without having to stop, open it from the top, and unpack. The left hand zipper opens to a full length pocket that’s ideal for stowing a rain coat, sweater, or hats and gloves that you want to keep in covered storage but easily accessible. There’s also a separate sleeping bag compartment at the base of the pack at the bottom of the main compartment. The top of the sleeping bag pocket is really a fold away shelf, that you can release if you’d rather pack the man compartment as one large space. An optional rain cover is also housed underneath the sleeping bag pocket in a small zippered pocket at the bottom of the backpack.

The Kestrel 48 has a separate zipper to let you access a sleeping bag or whatever is at the bottom of your pack.
The Kestrel 48 has a separate zipper to let you access a sleeping bag or whatever is at the bottom of your pack.

There’s a mesh shove-it pocket on the front of the pack, but it’s not that large. I put my Sawyer water filter, squeeze bag, snacks, and wet gear into it, but it’s not quite large enough for a wet 2 person tent.

The side water bottle pockets are also mesh and are sized to hold 1 liter Nalgene bottles. I can’t reach them when I’m wearing the pack. If you normally use a hydration system, this won’t be an issue. But if you prefer using water bottles, this could be a showstopper if you don’t like to stop every time you want a drink.

The hydration pocket is located right behind the adjustable length (torso) shoulder straps
The hydration pocket is located right behind the adjustable length (torso) shoulder straps.

Backpack Frame

The Kestrel is an adjustable frame backpack, which means you can change the torso length by raising or lowering the shoulder pads. For example, raising the shoulder pads will the length between them and your hips, while lowering them will decrease it. The shoulder pads are connected to the backpack by velcro so to raise and lower them, you simply release and reposition them where you want.

The pack has a lightweight wire frame that runs around the perimeter of the pack. The back area behind your shoulder blades isn’t ventilated like a trampoline pack, but it is covered with die-cut foam and mesh to help cool your back and keep it drier.

The Kestrel has an adjustable torso length so you can dial in a perfect fit
The Kestrel has an adjustable torso length so you can dial in a perfect fit

The Kestrel’s hip belt is sewn the back of the pack. The hip belt wings are padded with wicking mesh and the hip belt has two solid-faced, zippered pockets, one on each side. They’re well sized and I can store my iPhone and some bars or a point and shoot camera in them.

The Kestrel 48 has a side zipper that provides direct access to the main compartment
The Kestrel 48 has a side zipper that provides direct access to the main compartment.

Compression and External Attachment System

The Kestrel 48 has two tiers of compression straps on the sides of the pack. Both straps open and close with buckles, making it easy to lash snowshoes or even skis to the sides of the pack.

The front of the pack also comes with sleeping pad straps, so you can secure a pad or tent to the bottom of the pack if you need extra storage.  The straps hang down behind you, but are removable if you don’t want to use them.

There are also gear loops all over the pack that you can attach more gear to, including loops on the top pocket (4), and 8 loops on the sides of the front mesh pocket, that can act like daisy chains if you prefer to lash gear there. The Kestrel also has Osprey’s Stow-on-the-Go trekking pole retainer.

The Kestrel 48 has Osprey's stow-on-the-go trekking pole holders
The Kestrel 48 has Osprey’s stow-on-the-go trekking pole holders

Recommendation

The Osprey Kestrel 48 is loaded with features that make it really easy to use for thru-hiking, weekend backpacking and more technical hikes. Despite its small volume and light weight, it has a lot of organizational features normally found on larger and heavier backpacks. With an adjustable length frame and torso range of 16″ to 23″, it’s also available for smaller men and ones with much longer torsos, who can have problems finding a well-sized backpack.

Compare 6 Prices

Last updated: 2018-09-24 02:33:07

Disclosure: The author purchased this backpack.

Help support this site by making your next gear purchase through one of the links above. Click a link, buy what you need, and the seller will contribute a portion of the purchase price to support SectionHiker’s unsponsored gear reviews, articles, and hiking guides.

Posted on

Montane Yupik 50 Backpack Review

Comfort

Weight

Suspension

Features

Adjustability

Sizing

Durability

Adjustable Length Backpack

The Yupik 50 is a lightweight backpack that’s loaded with pockets providing great organizational capabilities. An easy-to-use adjustable length torso helps ensure a great fit.

Shop Now

The Montane Yupik 50 is an adjustable-length backpack with a top lid weighing just over 3 lbs. It’s the successor of the Montane Grand Tour 55 Backpack (see our review) which is no longer available. The Yupik 50 is well-sized for overnight and multi-day trips, with pre-curved hip belt wings that provide good purchase around the hip bones. Crescent-shaped mesh pockets on the front of the pack are provided to store wet gear while a sleeping bag zipper provides access to the base of the pack. A 65 liter version of the Yupik is also available, as well as women’s-specific version named the Montane Sirenik 65.

Specs at a Glance

  • Weight: 3 lbs 5 oz, without optional rain cover
  • Rain cover included: 3.2 oz
  • Pockets: 11 including main compartment and sleeping bag compartment
  • Type: Internal Frame Backpack
  • Adjustable Torso Length: Yes
  • Torso Size Range: 16″-21″
  • Hip Belt Size Range: unspecified (fits my 38″ waist)
  • Gender: Men’s, Women’s version available (only in 65L size)
  • Material: 100d and 420d ripstop nylon

Backpack Storage and Organization

The Yupik 50 is a conventional alpine style backpack with a top lid and sleeping back compartment. The rear of the top lid is sewn to the pack on the 50L model, but is a floating lid on the higher volume 65L version. The top lid has three zippered pockets: a large front-facing facing buddy pocket, a small pocket to store the optional rain cover, and a pocket on the underside of the lid.

The buddy pocket opens on the front side of the pack, facing your hiking partner, and not your back like most conventional backpacks. The idea is that a hiking buddy can easily unzip your pack while you’re still wearing it to retrieve your map, bug dope, or other gear you need. Cute, but no thanks. I rarely hike with a buddy, and I wouldn’t want them rifling through my gear anyway. Not a deal killer, though.

The Yupik 50 has two torpedo shaped mesh pockets on the front
The Yupik 50 has two crescent-shaped mesh pockets on the front

The Yupik has two front, zippered mesh pockets on the front (instead of a shovel style pocket) which are good for storing wet objects or gear you want easy access to like a water filter, rain jacket, or snacks. There are two side mesh water bottle pockets, sized for 1L Nalgene bottles, which are both reachable while wearing the pack, and can be pulled out or replaced easily. Unfortunately, the mesh used isn’t tightly woven and I have concerns about its long term durability.  You definitely want to avoid any serious bushwhacking with this pack.

A sleeping bag pocket is located near the base of the pack, with a zipper that is protected from abrasion and moisture by a large overhanging fabric flap. The inner sleeping bag compartment is formed by an interior zippered shelf.  You can release and fold it down if you want to use the main compartment as one large storage space.

The main compartment has a top extension collar and closes with a drawstring. It has an internal hydration pocket with a single velcro tab to hang a reservoir, with a single hydration port located between the shoulder straps.

Both hip belt pockets are large enough to store a smart phone or point-and-shoot camera. While the front of the pockets is solid fabric, the bottom and rear border are made with same mesh as the side or front crescent pockets. A questionable design for a wet climate.

The Pack has two tiers of compression straps and mesh side water bottle pockets
The Pack has two tiers of compression straps and mesh side water bottle pockets.

External Attachments and Compression

The Yupik 50 has two tiers of side webbing straps which are threaded through side buckles, as opposed to buckles that can be opened or clicked closed. The top strap runs all the way around the side and front of the pack, even through the front crescent mesh pockets so you can get compression if you overstuff the top of the main compartment.

The top lid has four external gear loops with small daisy chains running down the sides of the lid. There are four additional gear loops on the bottom of the pack that you could also attach items to with webbing straps, ski straps, or elastic cord. The higher volume Yupik 65L comes with two additional sleeping bag straps for that purpose, but you can roll your own on the 50L pack.

While you can use the ice axe holder to capture your trekking pole points, there isn't a very good way to secure the shafts to the pack, unless you jury rig the rope strap to hold them.
While you can use the ice axe holder to capture your trekking pole points, there isn’t a very good way to secure the shafts to the pack, unless you jury rig the rope strap to hold them.

The Yupik 50 has a single yellow ice axe/trekking pole holder on the front of the pack (the Yupik 65L has two). There’s no good way to secure the tops of your poles or axe however with something like a conventional elastic or velcro shaft holder. If your poles or axe shaft are short enough, you could loosen the top compression strap to capture the shaft, but that’s really not too feasible. Instead, I’ve rerouted the rope strap that normally runs over the main compartment (common on this style of pack) to hold my poles in place above, although an elastic shaft holder would have been a more graceful solution (and easy to add by yourself).

Backpack Frame and Suspension

The Yupik 50 has an adjustable frame that lets you adjust the pack’s torso length to match your body measurements, so you can dial in a great fit. To my knowledge, this is the first adjustable frame backpack shipped by Montane, which was my motivation for wanting to try it. The adjustment mechanism is quite straightforward and relatively lightweight.

The way it works is by moving the shoulder strap yoke up or down the back of the pack to make the torso length longer or shorter. The yoke is attached to the pack with a velcro patch and rides along on two side rails which are part of the pack’s frame. The rails help keep the yoke and shoulder straps level and secure. The side rails are joined by a cross-piece that runs along the top of the pack. There’s also an internal framesheet sewn into the back of the main compartment for added stiffness.

The Yupik 50 has an adjustable length frame
The Yupik 50 has an adjustable length frame, with a velcro attached yoke which can be raised or lowered to change the torso length.

While there are small, medium, and large size markings on the back of the yoke, it’s not obvious what torso lengths they relate to, so you’ll need to experiment with different positions to dial in one that fits your torso length. This is best done with a pack that’s about 75% full. Put on the pack and close the hip belt.

  • If all of the weight feels like it is on your shoulders, then you need to make the torso length longer.
  • If there a big gap between the shoulder straps and the top of your shoulders, you need to make the torso shorter.
  • If the weight is mostly on your hips but there’s still some contact between the shoulder straps and the tops of your shoulders, you’ve probably got it dialed in fairly well. Check to see if the load lifter straps are angled down at 30-45 degree angle while you’re wearing a fully loaded backpack. That’s optimal.

The padded hip belt is sewn to the base of the frame (and not attached by velcro, for instance) providing provides excellent load transfer to the hips. It has padded and pre-curved wings which grip the hip bones well and don’t slip. The hip belt closes with pull-forward webbing straps and a single buckle. The webbing passes under the hip belt pockets and connects to the bottom corners of the pack bag, just like a hip control strap, only it’s tied into the hip belt system instead of being independent of it.

It's easy to attach long skinny items like fly rods to the side of the Yupik for wilderness fishing trips.
It’s easy to attach long skinny items to the side of the Yupik 50.These are fly rods, but could be tent poles or snow pickets, just as easily.

The back of the pack is covered with mesh, over die-cut foam. It’d be a stretch to say that they pack is ventilated, but the mesh does help increase air flow to your back. The back-panel is slightly curved outwards above the hips, with a very modest lumbar bulge. The padded hip belt is pre-curved with plastic inserts located behind the pockets to prevent the belt from buckling under load.

Recommendation

The Montane Yupik 50 has all of the features you’d want in a reasonably lightweight weekend or multi-day backpack. The adjustable frame is easy to use and resize so you can dial in a perfect fit, making it a great pack for backpacking beginners or people who fall between conventional sizes. The pack has a lot of pockets making it easy to organize your gear and separate wet items from dry ones. The side bottle pockets are easy to use and reach and there are plenty of external attachment points to secure gear to the outside of the pack if needed. My only real concern is the durability of the side mesh bottle pockets, which are not as heavy-duty as I’d prefer.

See Also:

Compare 2 Prices

Last updated: 2018-09-19 16:32:49

Disclosure: The author received a pack from the manufacturer for this review.

SectionHiker.com receives affiliate compensation from retailers that we link to if you make a purchase through them, at no additional cost to you. This helps to keep our content free and pays for our website hosting costs. Thank you for your support.

Posted on

Deuter Futura Vario 50+10 Backpack Review

The Deuter Futura Vario 50+10 Backpack is a ventilated and adjustable length pack that’s well sized for multi-day trips, hut-to-hut hikes, and pilgrimage style trips. While it’s loaded with convenience features and cushy padding, it’s comparatively lightweight at 4 lbs 9 oz providing a good balance between carry comfort and ease of use. In fact, it’s somewhat unusual to find a pack of this volume (50 liters main + 10 liter extension collar) that has many of the features typically reserved for much heavier and higher volume expedition backpacks.

Specs at a Glance

  • Gender: Unisex
  • Weight: 4 lbs 9 oz
  • Frame: Internal, wire spring
  • Ventilated: Yes
  • Adjustable: Yes
  • Pockets: 11+ main compartment
  • Rain cover: included
  • Torso sizing: 15-22 inches
  • Hip belt sizing: unavailable
  • Bear canister compatibility: vertical
  • Materials: 210d nylon and 420d polyester
  • Max recommended load: 35-40 lbs

Backpack Storage and Organization

The Futura Vario 50+10 is organized like a conventional alpine-style pack with a top lid, main compartment, front stuff pocket and a sleeping bag compartment. But the 50+10 volume requires a little explanation. It means that the pack can hold up to 60 liters of gear, 50 liters in the main compartment and pockets distributed all over the pack, plus an additional 10 liters in what’s called a spindrift or extension collar. In reality, there’s little distinction between the main compartment and the spindrift collar, and you can really just treat the pack as having a capacity of 60 liters.

Most notably, the Futura Vario 50+10 has 11 pockets in addition to the main compartment, 10 of which are closed with zippers. If you love pockets, this is the pack for you.

This includes:

  • Two large pockets in the top lid, one on top w/ a key fob and one underneath
  • Two mesh side water bottle pockets, sized for 1L Nalgene bottles
  • Two torpedo shaped side pockets above the water bottle pockets
  • Open front stuff pocket
  • Sleeping pad pocket
  • Rain cover pocket
  • Two large solid faced hip belt pockets

The top lid is floating, so you can raise it up if you want to overstuff the main compartment (plus spindrift collar) or trap gear between the top of the pack and the bottom of the top lid. The lid has a tendency to flop to the front of the pack when full, like so many packs with top lids. It’s not a showstopper, but an annoyance.

The side water bottle pockets are sized for 1 Nalgene bottles. They’re both reachable while the pack is worn, but it helps to have a squat rigid bottle, like a Nalgene, to get them back into their pockets. The bottom of the pockets is reinforced nylon, so they won’t tear when you place the pack on the ground. They also have side cutouts so you can run the bottom compression strap through the pocket or over it.

The pack has two long torpedo-shaped side pockets that are good for storing shoes, like crocs, shown here
The pack has two long torpedo-shaped side pockets that are good for storing shoes, like crocs, shown here.

There are two 14″ long, torpedo-shaped side pockets over the water bottle pockets, on both sides of the pack, which open and close with zippers. They’re ideal for rolling up and stowing t-shirts or lightweight sweaters, a bathing suit, hats, gloves, snacks, or electronics. The pockets are also large enough to store a pair of crocs, sandals, slippers, or low shoes.

The pack has a front stuff pocket that’s open on top, with mesh stripes down the sides to drain water and help gear dry. It’s not large enough to store shoes or sandals and really just sized for clothing or rain gear.

The main compartment has a separate sleeping bag zippered hatch and compartment. The top of the compartment unzips and folds down, if you prefer not to use it, but still provides access to gear stored at the bottom of the pack.

The main compartment has a U zipper that provides extra access
The main compartment has a U zipper that provides extra access.

There’s also a rain cover pocket and an included rain cover. It’s connected to the pack using a wooden dowel, so you won’t lose it. But it’s also removable if you choose not to use it. It weighs 3.6 oz and wraps around the pack with an elastic opening.

The hip belt pockets are both large and solid faced, providing better durability and water resistance. They are big enough to fit a smartphone or a POS camera.

The main compartment and spindrift collar cinch closed with a drawstring. There’s an additional rope strap that runs over the top of them that provides additional compression. The main compartment can also be opened using a U-shaped zipper that runs around the bottom of the front stuff pocket. This is ideal for travel or hostel stays where you need to get clothing, but don’t want to completely unpack.

The main compartment has an internal hydration pocket and a central hang loop to keep your reservoir upright. There’s only one hydration port though, routed out the left side of the main compartment, behind the shoulder (not over it). While there are elastic keeper straps on both shoulder straps, you’ll probably want to run your hose on the left if you use one.

The padding on back of the pack hugs your body but is less confining than Osprey's AG "anti-gravity" frame.
The padding on back of the pack hugs your body but is less confining than Osprey’s AG “anti-gravity” frame.

Backpack Frame and Suspension

The Futura Vario 50+10 is a ventilated, adjustable-length backpack that has a lightweight trampoline-style frame with mesh located behind your back to help keep your back cool and dry perspiration more quickly. The effect is similar to the “anti-gravity” mesh that Osprey has on their packs, but the Futura Vario’s is considerably lighter weight and less confining, with a shallower cavity behind your back so you can walk upright more naturally. Packs with deep ventilation cavities like the Ospreys have a tendency to pull you backwards and off-balance. Deuter is the company that first invented the trampoline or “ventilated” backpack frame as it’s become known in 1984, so they’ve had a head start on perfecting it.

The ventilated trampoline frame helps keep you back cool and dry perspiration faster.
The ventilated trampoline frame helps keep you back cool and dry perspiration faster.

The Futura Vario 50+10 also has an adjustable length torso length so you can get a personalized fit and carry more of the load on your hips or shoulders, depending on your preference. To lengthen the torso and put more weight on your hips, you’d use the simple webbing strap located behind the ventilation mesh to raise the shoulder straps higher. To shorten the torso, you’d lower the shoulder straps. It’s very easy to adjust and use. Not sure what feels good? Try to get it so that the pack’s load lifters angle down to your shoulders on a 30-45 degree angle. That’s usually a good indicator of the right torso length setting.

The hip belt is heavily padded and pre-curved, with softer padding along the top where it comes in contact with your hip bones. A mesh covering helps wick away moisture, while a pull-forward hip belt makes it easy to get a secure fit. The hip belt is sewn to the back of the pack providing a solid connection with the wire frame and excellent lateral control.

The shoulder yoke slides up and down a webbing strap behind the mesh. When raised it lengths the torso. When lowered it shortens the torso length.
The shoulder yoke slides up and down a webbing strap behind the mesh. When raised it lengths the torso. When lowered it shortens the torso length.

The shoulder straps are thickly padded J-straps, but despite its unisex label, I wouldn’t recommend them for use by women. The women’s version of this pack is called the Deuter Futura Vario 45+10 SL which has a shorter adjustable back length (14-19 inches), narrower shoulder harness and a conical-shaped hip belt.

Backpack Compression and Attachment Points

The Futura Vario 50+10 has two tiers of compression straps on the sides of the pack, but the top tier is the only one with a buckle that opens, making it useful for securing longer items to the sides of the pack. The pack also has permanently attached sleeping pad straps that run over the sleeping bag pocket hatch, so you can hang a pad or tent body off the front of the pack. There’s a single ice axe loop, with an elastic shaft holder, and a pair of trekking poles loops (top and bottom) for securing your poles to the pack when not needed. While you could use the pack for modest winter trips in a pinch, it’s not really set up for attaching winter equipment to the outside and best used for three season use.

Comparable Backpacks

Make and Model Price Weight Volume Access Pockets
REI Traverse 70 249 4 lb. 14 oz. 35, 70L, 85L Top, front 11 exterior
Gregory Baltoro 75 330 4 lb. 15.4 oz. 65, 75, 85L Top, front 10 exterior
Osprey Aether AG 70 310 5 lb. 3.4 oz. 60, 70, 85L Top, front 7 exterior
Deuter Futura Vario 50+10 230 4 lb. 9oz. 60L Top, front 11 exterior
Osprey Atmos AG 65 270 4 lb. 9 oz. 50, 65L Top 8 exterior
REI Flash 65 Backpack 199 3 lb. 10 oz. 45, 65L Top 6 exterior

Recommendation

The Deuter Futura Vario 50+10 is a comfortable multi-day pack that’s ideal for someone who wants a ventilated, well-fitting backpack, that has a lot of pockets to stay organized and can be used in the backcountry as well as for hut-to-hut or pilgrimage style trips. In addition to its 11 exterior pockets, there are a couple if things that I think stand out about this backpack.

Deuter Futura Vario 50+10 Backpack on the rocks
Deuter Futura Vario 50+10 Backpack on the rocks

First off, the Deuter Futura Vario 50+10 carries really well, with a thick pre-curved hip belt that hugs the hips but won’t bruise them if you have to carry heavier gear. While it is ventilated, it has a very modest curved back which promotes a more upright posture, doesn’t interfere with packing, and doesn’t pull you backwards and off-balance. That’s a real plus. Finally, the pack is surprisingly slim in terms of width and depth so it moves more like a sport utility vehicle and less like a moving truck. Comfort, balance, and maneuverability….pretty much what you’d expect from a German company like Deuter Packs.

Compare 3 Prices

Last updated: 2018-09-04 19:27:27

Deuter provided the author with a backpack for review.

SectionHiker.com receives affiliate compensation from retailers that we link to if you make a purchase through them, at no additional cost to you. This helps to keep our content free and pays for our website hosting costs. Thank you for your support.

 

Posted on

REI Flash 60 Women’s Backpack Review

The REI Women’s Flash 60 is a ventilated multi-day backpack that’s lightweight but doesn’t lack for features or convenience. Weighing just 3 lbs and 5 oz, it has an adjustable-length frame and women’s-specific shoulder straps and hip belt that will fit comfortably across your chest and mold around your curves. REI also sells a lower volume version of this pack, the REI Flash 45, in both men’s and women’s-specific models.

Specs at a Glance

  • Gender: Women’s
  • Weight: 3 lbs 5 oz (size small)
  • Frame: Internal
  • Ventilated: Yes
  • Adjustable: Yes
  • Exterior Pockets: 8 + main compartment
  • Bear canister compatibility: vertical
  • Torso range: 15″-19″
  • Hip belt range: 26″-42″
  • Sizes: XS, S, M
  • Materials: 100-denier nylon ripstop body and 420-denier nylon fabric bottom
  • Max recommended load: 35 lbs

Backpack Storage and Organization

The Flash 60 is laid out like a conventional multi-day backpack with a top lid, large main compartment, open front stuff pocket, and side water bottle pockets. It has two mesh hip belt pockets and a zippered pocket on the outside of the stuff pocket that’s great for storing odds and ends that you need to keep track of.

Slanted water bottle pockets make it easy to reach water bottles while you're wearing the pack.
Slanted water bottle pockets make it easy to reach water bottles while you’re wearing the pack.

The top lid or brain has a large roomy pocket. That’s where I like to keep a few extra snacks and my hygiene kit. The top lid is floating and attached to the pack using straps, so you can raise it up if you need to overstuff the main compartment or pile more stuff on top of it. The lid is well-shaped and doesn’t slide backwards down the back of the pack, like some top lids do, even when it’s packed full. There’s a second mesh pocket on the underside of the hood with a key fob. This is where I store my first aid-kit, out-of-the-way, but still easily accessible.

Topdown view into main compartment and open front stuff pocket
Top-down view into main compartment and open front stuff pocket

The main compartment is large and has an internal hydration pocket, with ports over each shoulder to run a hose. There isn’t a separate sleeping bag compartment, but I’m good with that and don’t really see them as necessary on a 60L pack, although they can be useful on larger ones. In addition to top access, the main compartment has a J-shaped zipper that runs around the stuff pocket and provides access deep into the main compartment so you don’t have to unpack everything to pull out something stored in the bottom of your backpack. I probably wouldn’t use this much because I line my backpack with a trash compactor bag to prevent the contents from getting wet in rain, but I could see its utility for travel or if you hike in a drier climate.

The side water bottle pockets are large enough to hold Nalgene bottles and are easily reachable when I’m wearing the pack. They are made with a lighter weight mesh though, so durability might be an issue if you hike off-trail a lot. If you’re not careful, items stored in the side pockets can fall out when you bend over. My advice would be to keep loose items in closed storage and just use the side pockets for water bottles that are easily noticed if they fall out.

Hip belt pockets are mesh covered
Hip belt pockets are mesh covered

The hip belt pockets are made with the same mesh and large enough to store snacks, a compass, or a cell phone. I prefer hip belt solid pockets, because they’re more durable, water, and moisture resistant, but there’s an easy workaround for that: wrap sensitive electronics in sandwich baggies when it’s damp.

The front stuff pocket is large enough so that I can store my crocs and rain gear in it. It also has a drain hole at the bottle to facilitate the drying of wet gear. I keep my map, bandana, and PLB in the zippered pocket on the front of the stuff pocket, so they’re quickly accessible. This is a great place for a pocket and really adds to the pack’s utility,

Backpack Frame and Suspension

The Flash 60 is a ventilated backpack with a suspended mesh back to keep your back cooler and help dry perspiration more quickly. While the back of the pack is slightly curved to create a cavity behind the mesh, it’s not large enough to interfere with packing, which can be an issue with some ventilated backpacks.

It's easy to raise or lower the shoulder strap yoke to increase or decrease the torso length
It’s easy to raise or lower the shoulder strap yoke to increase or decrease the torso length

The frame is also adjustable so you can adjust the torso length to fit your measurements exactly, even if you’re between sizes. To lengthen the torso range, you lift the shoulder strap yoke which is connected to the pack with velcro; to shorten it, you lower the shoulder pad yoke. It’s so easy to do and lightweight, you have to wonder why all backpacks aren’t set up this way.

The hip belt and shoulder pads are pre-curved to fit “the” female chest, while the hip belt is flared to provide a better wrap over the tops of female hip bones. There’s a modest lumbar pad at the back of the hip belt to prevent it from slipping and to direct the load to your hip girdle. But it’s barely noticeable and quickly forgotten. The hip belt also adjusts with a pull-forward mechanism which makes it easy to tighten.

Zippered external pocket on the front of the stuff pocket
Zippered external pocket on the front of the stuff pocket

The Flash 60 has load lifters, which help pull the load closer to your back so more of the weight is on your hips and not your shoulders. They work in conjunction with the aluminum wire frame, that has a top cross-piece for additional stiffness.

Backpack Compression and External Attachment System

The Flash 60 has a unique “Uplift” compression system that pulls the contents of the main compartment up over the hip belt, raising your center of gravity, and pulling the load closer to your back so you can carry a heavy pack more efficiently. It’s really remarkable.

But the straps used to implement the Uplift system aren’t really set up to attach gear to the side of the pack like more conventional compression straps. For instance, to secure long objects like tent poles in the side pockets. While you can “kind of” make them work that way, the diagonal orientation of the strap is not as secure as a horizontal strap would be.

Lots of external attachment points
Lots of external attachment points

There are straps at the bottom of the pack however that you can strap a tent body or sleeping pad to. This is a nice feature, often left off lightweight backpacks, but very handy. In addition, there are two ice axe loops, trekking pole tip grips, and upper tool keepers to secure tools and poles.

Comparable Women’s Backpacks

Recommendation

The women’s REI Flash 60 is a great pack.  I’m very impressed with the features and overall fit, considering its modest price. But it wasn’t until I had the pack loaded with weight and items that I felt the benefits of the simple compression system.  REI really did an excellent job creating a torso hugging fit, while maintaining a wide, top loading, easy to access pack. When you add in the fact that the Flash 60 has an adjustable length frame and ventilation; it’s available in torso sizes down to 15″, and has female-specific shoulder straps and a hip belt, it should definitely be on your short list of lightweight women’s backpacks. I think you’ll be impressed.

Compare 1 Prices

Last updated: 2018-09-02 21:08:32

REI provided the author with a backpack for this review.

Beth Zimmer is an expert backpacker who’s backpacked all over New England and Eastern Canada, with a long list of hiking accomplishments to her name. She’s section hiked the New Hampshire Appalachian Trail, climbed the New England Hundred Highest and the New Hampshire 200 highest (mostly bushwhacks), redlined the White Mountain Guide (1440 miles), and climbed the White Mountain 4000 footers several times over. Beth also teaches GPS and off-trail navigation classes as a volunteer for the Appalachian Mountain Club and is co-chair of the New Hampshire Excursions Committee, which oversees all volunteer hiking and leadership training activities. When she’s not hiking and backpacking, Beth resides in New Hampshire where she can usually be found sipping coffee and planning her next adventure.

SectionHiker.com receives affiliate compensation from retailers that we link to if you make a purchase through them, at no additional cost to you. This helps to keep our content free and pays for our website hosting costs. Thank you for your support.

Posted on

Osprey Kyte 46 Women’s Backpack Review

The Osprey Kyte 46 is a women’s specific backpack that’s big enough for weekend backpacking trips, but nimble enough for long day hikes and peakbagging adventures. Being a women’s specific backpack, it has a shoulder straps that won’t pinch or chafe your chest or underarms and a hip belt that flared to wrap around women’s curvier torso and hips. The men’s version of this backpack is called the Kestrel 48, which shares all of the same features.

Specs at a Glance

  • Gender: Female
  • Type: Internal frame, wire perimeter loop
  • Weight: 3 lbs 5 oz.
  • Torso range: 13″-20″, two sizes available
  • Waist/hip range: 26″-51″, two sizes available
  • Pockets: 7+ main compartment
  • Material: 210 denier ripstop nylon
  • Bear canister compatible: Yes, vertical
  • Rain cover: included
  • Max Recommended load: 35 pounds

Backpack Storage and Organization

The Kyte 46 has a top lid, main compartment, sleeping bag pocket, front mesh pocket, and side water bottle pockets. The top lid is sewn to the front of the pack and has two pockets, one external and one internal facing the top of the main compartment. The main compartment closes with a drawstring, but does not have a hydration pocket, because you’d store a reservoir behind the shoulder straps on the exterior of the pack on the Kyte 46, something that I find far more convenient than storing a reservoir inside a pack. More on that in a bit.

The Kyte 46 has a typical Osprey Shape with a top lid, front mesh pocket, and side bottle pockets
The Kyte 46 has a typical Osprey Shape with a top lid, front mesh pocket, and side bottle pockets

There are two full length zippers on the sides of the pack. The right side zipper open into the main compartment so you can reach in and pull stiff out without having to open it from the top. That’s a big time saver. The left hand zipper open to a full length closed compartment, that’s ideal for stowing wet gear or a first aid / food/ toilet kit… most anything you either don’t want in your pack, or items you want handy.  I use it for my raincoat and personal locator beacon.

There’s also a separate sleeping bag compartment at the base of the pack at the bottom of the main compartment. It’s really a fold away shelf, that you release if you’d rather pack the man compartment as one continuous space.

The Kyte 46 has a separate zipper to let you access a sleeping bag or whatever is at the bottom of your pack
The Kyte 46 has a separate zipper to let you access a sleeping bag or whatever is at the bottom of your pack.

There’s also an open mesh pocket on the front of the pack, but it’s not that large. I can get my Crocs into it but it’s too small to carry my rain gear at the same time. That’s not a showstopper, but I’d prefer a larger pocket.

The side water bottles are made out of mesh, which could be a durability issue if you hike off-trail
The side water bottles are made of mesh, which could be a durability issue if you hike off-trail

The side water bottle pockets are also mesh and are sized to hold 1 liter Nalgene bottles. I can’t reach them when I’m wearing the pack, but prefer using a hydration system so it’s not a big issue. While the pockets don’t touch the ground when you put down the pack, they could become a durability issue if you hike off-trail where vegetation can rip them.

The hydration pocket is located right behind the adjustable length (torso) shoulder straps
The hydration pocket is located right behind the adjustable length (torso) shoulder straps

Backpack Frame and Suspension System

The Kyte 46 has a lightweight wire frame that runs around the perimeter of the pack, but gives it a fair amount of flex, so it stays close to your torso when scrambling. The back area behind your shoulder blades isn’t ventilated like a trampoline pack, but it is covered with die-cut foam and mesh to help channel sweat away from your shirt and help it dry faster. It still works well for me.

The Kyte is an adjustable frame backpack, which means you can change the torso length so it fits you exactly. Changing the torso length is as simple as raising or lowering the shoulder pads, so that there’s more distance or less, between them and the hip belt. The adjustment system couldn’t be simpler. The shoulder pads are connected to the backpack by velcro and raise and lower them, you simply release and reposition them where you want them. Why aren’t all backpacks made like this? You have to wonder.

The back of the frame is covered with mesh and die-cut foam to help wick and channel away perspiration.
The back of the frame is covered with mesh and die-cut foam to help wick and channel away perspiration.

As I mentioned before there’s a big gap behind the shoulder strap yoke where you’d insert a hydration bladder if you use a hydration system. I love this pocket because it makes it SO much easier to get out, refill, and repack. It also makes it each to check how much water you have left. I hate having to unpack a hydration bladder when I’m backpacking because its takes longer and I have to usually repack my entire pack from scratch once I’ve taken the bladder out.

The Kyte’s shoulder pads are s-shaped so they’ll curve around your breasts. While they’re padded, there’s softer padding along the inside edge, they they’re more comfortable. The sternum strap runs on a “rail”, making it very easy to reposition up or down. the hip belt is sewn the back of the pack, which is good, because provides better load transfer to the hips than a hip belt that’s just attached using velcro. The hip belt wings are flared to provide a better wrap around my hip bones and the hip belt has two solid-faced, zippered pockets, one on each side. They’re on the small size though. While I can get a compass or bar into them, they’re too small to hold my phone.

Zippered side opening gives you access inside the pack
Zippered side opening gives you access inside the pack

External Attachments and Compression System

The Kyte 46 has two tiers of compression straps on the sides of the pack. Both straps open and close with buckles, making it easy to lash snowshoes to the sides of the pack. The front of the pack also comes with sleeping pad straps, so you can secure a pad or tent to the bottom of the pack of you need extra storage.  The straps are also removable if you prefer to remove them.

There are also gear loops all over the pack that you can attach more gear to, including loops on the top pocket (4), and 8 loops on the sides of the front mesh pocket, that can act like daisy chains if you prefer to lash gear there.

The Kyte also has Osprey’s Stow-on-the-Go trekking pole retainer. I like this system because it frees your hands for scrambling and you don’t have to stop to strap your poles to the outside of your pack.

There are gear loops on the sides of the front pocket that can be used like daisy chains to attach gear to the front of the pack
There are gear loops on the sides of the front pocket that can be used like daisy chains to attach gear to the front of the pack

Recommendation

The women’s Osprey Kyte 46 Backpack is loaded with features that make it really easy to use for backpacking, more technical hikes, and even winter hiking.  I’d liken it to a lightweight Swiss Army Knife because there are so many ways to use the backpack, but there’s nothing extraneous on it. While it has lots of pockets and attachment points, I can’t think of anything that I’d want to get rid of. I also think it’s an exceptional backpack for women, because it’s lightweight and has an adjustable torso length, so you can really dial in a near-custom fit. It’s also available in multiple sizes, with a torso range from 13″- 20″, making it ideal for shorter women who have a difficult time finding packs sized for their torso range.

Beth Zimmer is an expert backpacker who’s backpacked all over New England and Eastern Canada, with a long list of hiking accomplishments to her name. She’s section hiked the New Hampshire Appalachian Trail, climbed the New England Hundred Highest and the New Hampshire 200 highest (mostly bushwhacks), redlined the White Mountain Guide (1440 miles), and climbed the White Mountain 4000 footers several times over. Beth also teaches GPS and off-trail navigation classes as a volunteer for the Appalachian Mountain Club and is co-chair of the New Hampshire Excursions Committee, which oversees all volunteer hiking and leadership training activities. When she’s not hiking and backpacking, Beth resides in New Hampshire where she can usually be found sipping coffee and planning her next adventure.

Compare 6 Prices

Last updated: 2018-08-30 02:31:05

Disclosure: REI provided the author with a sample backpack for this review.

SectionHiker.com receives affiliate compensation from retailers that we link to if you make a purchase through them, at no additional cost to you. This helps to keep our content free and pays for our website hosting costs. Thank you for your support.

Posted on

Vargo ExoTi 50 Titanium External Frame Backpack Review

The Vargo ExoTi 50 is an external frame backpack made with an ultralight titanium-alloy frame. Weighing 42 oz (2 lbs 11 oz), it combines the ventilation and load carrying benefits of an external frame with the light weight of a modern, ultralight-style pack bag. While the pack’s titanium external frame is unique, it also has a highly functional compression system with a lower center of gravity than old-school external frame backpacks. If you’ve been deterred from trying an external frame backpack because they’re too heavy or hard to pack, the Vargo ExoTi 50 is the cure you’ve been waiting for. It combines the best elements of an external frame with the packability of an internal frame backpack.

Specs at a Glance

  • Type: External frame
  • Gender Unisex
  • Torso length: 16-22 inches (40-55 cm)
  • Hipbelt size: 24-60″ (61-152 cm)
  • Pack volume: 3,051 cubic inches (50 L)
  • Weight: 2 lbs. 11 oz (1.21 kg)
  • Bear canister compatibility: Vertical in pack bag
  • Maximum recommend load: 40 pounds+

Backpack Storage and Organization

The ExoTi 50 has a pack bag that would be feel at home on an internal frame backpack. It has a floating top lid with four webbing straps and can be raised or lowered to compress gear against the top of the pack bag. The lid has one large top pocket and is ideal for storing items that you need close to hand, like a map, GPS, gloves, or a hat.

The ExoTi 50 pack bag has two side water bottle pockets and a top lid
The ExoTi 50 pack bag has two side water bottle pockets and a top lid

The pack bag has a large main compartment with a deep internal hydration pocket. It has a central webbing loop so you can suspend a hydration bladder. However, there is just one hydration port, located above the left hand shoulder.

There are also two mesh side water bottle pockets, both sized to fit a single liter-sized water bottle. I can reach back and pull them out or replace them while wearing the backpack, which is pretty cool to be able to do with an external frame backpack. The side pocket mesh is not terribly durable, but the bottom of the pockets is reinforced with solid nylon, so they’re less likely to rip when you place the pack on the ground.

While the pack bag itself isn’t that innovative, its positioning on the frame is. When the pack is full, the bottom of the pack bag lines up with the base of the titanium frame. This gives the ExoTi 50 a low center of gravity that’s comparable to an internal frame backpack, and lower than a classic external frame backpack, which feels top-heavy and tippy in comparison.

The ExoTi pack bag is connected to the frame with velcro and webbing straps
The ExoTi pack bag is connected to the frame with velcro and webbing straps

Backpack Frame and Suspension System

The Vargo ExoTi 50 external frame backpack has a classic rectangular box shape with three horizontal struts for extra rigidity. The pack bag is attached to the frame vertically with a webbing strap and along the sides with velcro, like a classic Kelty external frame backpack.

The suspension system is entirely separate from the pack bag and consists of hip belt, lumbar pad, and adjustable shoulder harness which can be moved up or down to accommodate different torso lengths. The hip belt has two zippered mesh pockets, large enough to fit an iPhone, but the mesh isn’t very strong or durable, so I’d caution you to keep this pack on-trail. Like the hip belt, the shoulder straps are backed with lightly padded breathable mesh, with one horizontal hydration tube keeper on each side, and a rail-based sternum strap.

The hip belt has a central buckle and pull forward straps that provide mechanical advantage for getting a tight fit. The hip belt wings are 4″ wide and lightly padded compared to a conventional external frame backpack, like a Kelty, which has a much beefier and heavily padded hip belt for carrying heavier loads. I found the hip belt wings a bit short on my 38″ waist, barely reaching around my hip bones, despite the fact that the hipbelt is 60″ long. This also compromised the usability of the hip belt pockets which I had to reach backwards to use.

The ExoTi 50 has an adjustable torso length
The ExoTi 50 has an adjustable torso length.

The lumbar pad is fairly assertive, but I’m very sensitive to pressure in that spot, and other people might find it more comfortable depending on where you wear your hip belt (high or low). It is a permanent part of the hip belt and cannot be “reduced” in size unfortunately, like a Gregory Baltoro 65, which has removable padding shims that you can take out to reduce the lumbar pad’s profile.

The torso length is adjustable by shortening or lengthening a webbing strap that connects the shoulder harness to the hip belt. It doesn’t have any length indications so you have to adjust it by feel and by inspection, making sure to keep the lifter straps at a 30-45 degree angle (see video below). This may be a bit intimidating for beginners, but more experienced backpack users will find it to be a straightforward process.

While the hip belt and shoulder harness are backed by breathable mesh, the rest of the frame is uncovered and ventilated, which helps keep you cooler and allows your shirt to dry faster. Lest you write off the benefit of a ventilated backpack, they do cut down on the amount of sweat you experience between the cheeks, and are one of the key benefits of external frame backpacks.

The orange straps of the compression system also help secure long skinny objects (tenkara rods) in the side pockets
The orange straps of the compression system also help secure long skinny objects (for example, Tenkara rods) in the side pockets

Compression and External Attachment and System

The ExoTi 50 has two orange webbing straps that criss-cross over the front of the pack bag and can be tightened to bring the load closer to your hips and core muscles. They work well as long as your pack contents are compressible. The effect is similar to REI’s uplift compression system (see REI Flash 45 review) which pulls loads up and closer to your back, so that you’re not pulled backwards and off-balance.

However, the crisscrossed front straps don’t work well as external attachment points for bulky objects if you want to attach gear to the front of the pack. In that case, your best bet is to lash it to the top of the pack, under the floating lid, and not underneath the pack bag like you’d normally do on a conventional external frame pack. This is because the bottom of the ExoTi 50 pack bag is flush with the bottom of its titanium frame and there’s not really any room to attach it. While you could scrunch it under the top lid, I’ve found that attaching the item to the top of the titanium frame with ski straps is even more secure and comfortable to carry. The top lid is also easily removable if you don’t need the extra pocket.

The best place to lash gear is at the top of the frame using ski straps
The best place to lash gear is at the top of the frame using ski straps.

Comparable External Frame Backpacks

Recommendation

The Vargo ExoTi 50 backpack combines an internal-frame style pack bag with a titanium external frame, combining the best of both worlds, a bag that’s easy to pack and organize, with an adjustable-length, ventilated external frame that can carry heavier loads. Weighing just 2 lbs 11 oz, ExoTi 50’s low center of gravity and compact size make it possible to use almost anywhere you’d use a internal frame backpack. That’s not to say that the ExoTi 50 carries like an internal frame backpack, because it doesn’t. It’s far stiffer, less body hugging, and will make you stand up straighter. But the ExoTi 50 is by far the nimblest external frame backpack I’ve ever used and a great way to experience the benefits of an external frame backpack without giving up the packability of an internal frame backpack.

Likes

  • Stiff frame improves your posture
  • Good back ventilation
  • Internal frame style pack bag is much easier to pack than the pack bags on “old school” external frame packs.

Dislikes

  • Lumbar pad is assertive and may be uncomfortable for some people
  • Hip belt wings are shorter than the hip belt sizing would indicate.
  • External mesh durability could be improved.

Compare 2 Prices

Last updated: 2018-08-20 19:42:48

Vargo provided the author with a sample backpack.

SectionHiker.com receives affiliate compensation from retailers that we link to if you make a purchase through them, at no additional cost to you. This helps to keep our content free and pays for our website hosting costs. Thank you for your support.

Posted on

The North Face Phantom 50 Backpack Review

The North Face Phantom 50 is an ultralight, alpine-style backpack weighing 40 oz (max) that can be configured in different ways for different types of trips ranging from technical day hikes, backpacking, rock-climbing, ski mountaineering, or alpine climbing. For example, you can take off the top lid if you don’t need the extra storage, remove the framesheet, or the hip belt padding, bringing the pack weight down to a minimum of 22.4 oz. While the Phantom is loaded with functionality, the clincher for me is the Phantom 50’s fit and comfort. It barely feels like it’s there when you’re wearing it.

Specs at a Glance

  • Max weight: 40 ounces, fully configured (actual 39.5 oz in size large)
  • Removable components
    • Top Lid: 5.0
    • Frame sheet: 8.3 oz.
    • Hip belt padding: 3.7 oz.
    • Bag alone, with webbing hip belt, no framesheet, no top lid: 22.4 oz
  • Frame: Internal, U-shaped wire with horizontal stiffener
  • Gender: Unisex
  • Torso lengths available: S/M, L/XL
  • Max recommended load: 25-30 pounds
  • Bear canister compatible: vertical
  • Hip belt: one size (but it just barely fits my 38″ waist)
  • Materials: 210D high-tenacity nylon, 840D IronLite nylon

Backpack Storage and Organization

The Phantom 50 has a large main compartment which closes with a drawstring, an internal hydration pocket with a hang loop, and a top lid with two zippered pockets, one exposed and one on the underside.

The Phantom 50 can be used with its top lid or without because it has a speed lid to cover the top of the pack instead
The Phantom 50 can be used with its top lid or without because it has a speed lid to cover the top of the pack instead

The top lid is floating, so you can wedge bulky gear between it and the top of the pack bag. If you remove it, there is a permanently attached speed lid over the drawstring opening to keep water or snow out, which also provides top compression and a rope carry when the lid is in use.

The Phantom’s top lid does not flop over to one side or slide down the front of the pack, which is a problem on a lot of alpine style backpacks, especially ones with floating lids. Instead, it’s cut wide enough to cover the pack bag and is held down by front webbing straps that are angled in from the sides rather than running straight up the front of the pack. When the top lid is removed, those webbing straps can also be removed so they don’t get flop around and get in the way.

The webbing straps that secure the top lid can be removed when the top lid is not in use
The webbing straps that secure the top lid can be removed when the top lid is not in use.

The Phantom’s main compartment is noticeably narrow, only 12 inches wide when the pack is packed full. The narrow width makes the pack highly maneuverable for scrambling, climbing, or skiing. Otherwise, there are no side water bottle pockets, no front shovel, or external mesh pockets on the Phantom 50, keeping with its alpine character. That’s to be expected on this type of backpack. There are plenty of external attachment points however, which I cover below.

Backpack Frame and Suspension

The Phantom has a combination plastic framesheet and U-shaped wire frame that stiffens the back panel and helps transfer load to the hips. The framesheet is perforated to reduce weight and has a horizontal stiffener at shoulder height. The frame is very flexible, so it will move with your torso when you’re climbing or scrambling. If you choose to remove it, you can replace it with a foam bivy pad. That’ll require a little creative trimming on your part, but a lot of backpackers and climbers do this to save weight and make the frame multi-purpose.

The Phantom 50 can be pulled apart and reconfigured in many ways: shown here - main pack bag, top lid, hip belt padding, and framesheet. 
The Phantom 50 can be pulled apart and reconfigured in many ways: shown here – main pack bag, top lid, hip belt padding, and framesheet.

The Phantom’s shoulder pads are lightly padded and covered with a soft mesh fabric. While the pack does have load lifters, but they’re not attached to any structural element in the frame, except the pack bag, which is makes them less effective. There’s a slight S-curve in the shoulder pads, so they’ll be more comfortable for women and men with muscular chests. The lightly padded hip belt padding is also flared in a female friendly way to wrap around curvy hips. The pack is still only available in a unisex model however.

If you remove the hip belt padding, you're left with a webbing belt to secure the pack to your waist
If you remove the hip belt padding, you’re left with a webbing belt to secure the pack to your waist.

The back of the pack (facing your back) is also covered with a soft, mesh-covered foam, that’s pre-molded to fit the contour of your back, with a slight lumbar bump at the bottom. The hip belt padding slots in behind it and is secured with velcro. If you don’t need the hip belt padding it can be removed, a feature on many of the North Face’s packs including the Cobra 60. When you remove the padding, you’re left with a webbing belt, making the Phantom climbing harness compatible. The hip belt padding also has a small, solid-faced zippered pocket on one side and a gear loop on the other to rack carabiners.

External Attachments and Compression

The Phantom’s external attachment and compression system is fully functional but quite streamlined. The pack has a pair of waist-high side ski loops so you can carry skis in an A-frame configuration. There are also two tiers of side compression straps, both angled to help pull the load up and into your back. The top compression tier also has a quick release buckle which makes it easier to attach snowshoes to the side of the pack.

The Phantom 50 has ski straps and two tiers of side compression
The Phantom 50 has ski straps and two tiers of side compression.

The Phantom 50 has a pair of protective ice axe pick sleeves with elastic handle retainers. There are also daisy chains sewn into the front pack seams for attaching additional gear. These elements are all highly functional but quite streamlined to save weight.

Finally, there are small gear webbing gear loops distributed around the pack that can be used to clip in even more gear, on the hip belt, the top lid and around the perimeter of the pack’s front. These might sound like small flourishes, but they’re super functional if you want to carry specialized gear on the outside of the pack and go heavy.

Recommendation

The North Face Phantom 50 is an ultralight alpine-style backpack that can be configured in a variety of ways. While it’s highly optimized for alpine or ski mountaineering, it can also be used for ultralight backpacking, provided you’re willing to forego the external mesh pockets that characterize so many backpacks in that category. With 50 liters of capacity, the Phantom has plenty of space for multi-day trips, but it’s so comfortable you might forget you’re wearing it. I’ve been really impressed with the North Face’s backpacks we’ve reviewed this year (see the Cobra 60 review and the Banchee 50 review.) The Phantom 50 is another great backpack and worth a look if you hike, climb, and play in the snow, and want one ultralight backpack that does it all.

Likes

  • Light as a feather
  • Speed lid for when top lid is not needed
  • Compression system makes it easy to use as a higher volume day pack

Dislikes

  • Poor documentation of specs and hip belt padding configuration
  • Can’t connect compression straps around front of pack
  • Only one hydration port (right side)

Compare 2 Prices

Last updated: 2018-08-16 15:25:30

Disclosure: The author purchased this product.

SectionHiker.com receives affiliate compensation from retailers that we link to if you make a purchase through them, at no additional cost to you. This helps to keep our content free and pays for our website hosting costs. Thank you for your support.

Most Popular Searches

Posted on

Kelty Trekker 65 External Frame Backpack Review

The Kelty Trekker 65 is an external frame backpack with an adjustable torso length and ventilated back. Weighing 5 lbs 2 oz, it’s better for carrying heavier loads, bulky, or awkwardly sized gear than most internal frame backpacks because you can lash gear to the frame instead of having to carry it in the pack bag. Its stiff frame and oversize hip belt also make it possible to carry quite heavy loads, upwards of 50+ pounds, in relative comfort. While external frame backpacks have fallen out of fashion with ultralight backpackers and thru-hikers, they’re still a very viable and popular option with backpackers, scout troops, trail crews, hunters, and anyone who has to haul heavy gear into the backcountry. The Trekker 65 is also quite an affordable and bomber-durable backpack, which adds to its appeal.

Specs at a Glance

  • Weight: 5 lbs 2 oz
  • Type: External Frame
  • Ventilated: Yes
  • Adjustable: Yes
  • Gender: Unisex
  • Frame: Aluminum
  • Fabric: 600D Polyester w/ 600D Polyester Small Ripstop
  • Torso Range 16 – 22 in
  • Hip Belt Range: 30 – 50 in
  • Color: Maroon (really, it’s not red)
  • Rain cover: Sold separately. Buy any generic 75-80L pack cover

Backpack Frame and Suspension

The Trekker 65 is an external frame backpack, which simply means that frame is visible rather than being covered and invisible, which is the case with most internal frame backpacks. An external “frame architecture” provides several benefits, including good back ventilation and the ability to hang bulky gear from the frame, instead of having to pack it in the main compartment. For example, jerry cans of extra water, large synthetic or winter sleeping bags, bear canisters, cases of food, multi-person tents, bags of coal, firewood, and even chain saws and plastic gasoline “cans.” Packs like the Trekker 65 are the workhorses of the backcountry.

The pack bag, hip belt, shoulder straps, and load lifters are all attached to the frame using pins.
The pack bag, hip belt, shoulder straps, and load lifters are all attached to the frame using pins.

Fit and Adjustment

The frame is made with lightweight aluminum. It has holes drilled into it around its perimeter and cross pieces to hang the pack bag, attach the shoulder straps, and the hip belt. This is done using aluminum pins that have wire rings at the end (called clevis pins) to keep them from falling out.

The frame is telescoping, so you can drop the height of the hip belt if you want to make the torso longer or raise it up to make it shorter. There are a pair of metal buttons on the frame behind the sleeping bag pocket that you must push in to release the frame to adjust its length. Kelty recommends positioning the load lifter strap buckles so they’re at the same level as the bottom of your ears, which works nicely.

The Trekker 65 has a telescoping frame that lets you adjust the packs torso length
The Trekker 65 has a telescoping frame that lets you adjust the pack’s torso length.

You can also make the distance between the shoulder straps wider or narrower. There are four sets of holes drilled into the frame’s cross-pieces that are used to attach the load lifters and shoulder straps to the pack. Moving them farther apart can be good for people with wide necks or well-developed chests, while moving them closer together can be good for people with smaller torsos.

The mesh behind your back should also be adjusted for comfort to keep air flowing behind your back. It should be tight enough to keep your shoulder blades from touching the frame but not so tight that it feels hard against your back. In use, the ventilation is a benefit but don’t kid yourself. While your shirt will dry faster, you’re still going to sweat if you carry a heavy backpack.

Carry

If you’re used to an internal frame backpack, a heavily loaded Trekker 65 with 50 or 60 pounds of gear, water, and food will feel very strange indeed. First off, it’s considerably wider and taller than most internal frame backpacks, which can pose clearance problems in narrow or brushy trails. Forget about ducking under or crawling beneath fallen trees: you’ll have to take the Trekker 65 off and pull it across after you’ve gone through yourself.

You’ll also stand much more erect than you will with an internal frame pack, which is actually a good thing, because it helps recruit the bigger muscles in your legs like your quads and glutes to carry the load. Unlike internal frame packs, where the hip-to-shoulder load ratio is usually 60/40, you’ll be able to move most of the load to your hips and almost completely off your shoulders with the Trekker 65. While anyone can benefit from this, people with back issues can remain active outdoors by switching to an eternal frame backpack for just this reason.

The Trekker 65 has a higher center of gravity which can throw you off balance on rougher terrain
The Trekker 65 has a higher center of gravity which can throw you off-balance on rougher terrain

The center of gravity on the Trekker 65 is also higher, which can throw you off-balance if you have to hike on rocky or root-filled trails or scramble through boulder-fields and across open ledge. It’s customary to pack your heavier gear, water, and fuel closer to higher up in the pack bag on an external pack like the Trekker, although you’re free to attach them lower on the frame to improve your balance.

In terms of comfort, the shoulder straps and hip belt of the Trekker 65 are filled with foam and covered with a breathable mesh fabric. The shoulder pads are 3″ wide (which is large) and definitely designed for men, despite the Trekker’s “unisex” gender classification. The hip belt is 5″ wide with a soft and unobtrusive lumbar pad. It has a pull-forward tightening mechanism so it’s easy to adjust and won’t slip down your hips, even if they’re squarish in shape or you have a bit of a gut. There are also hip control straps, linking the hip belt to the sides of the frame to help reduce sway. However, the hip belt does not have any pockets or attachment points for external pockets. The same is true of the shoulder straps, with the exception of hydration-hose keeper straps.

Backpack Storage and Organization

The Trekker 65 is set up to carry gear inside the pack bag as well as externally, attached to the frame. This makes it good for carrying bulky gear that would normally be awkward to carry inside an internal frame backpack. For example, instead of carrying a large synthetic sleeping bag inside the pack, you could pack it up in a waterproof stuff sack and lash it to the bottom of the Trekker’s frame with a few webbing straps. If you’ve ever struggled to help a boy scout pack a large sleeping bag, you’ll understand the obvious advantages of this approach.

The best place to attach gear to the Trekker is in the space below the pack bag, on the other side of the frame from the hip belt. The pack does not come with any webbing straps for this, but ski straps work well for the purpose. You can also attach gear to the top of the frame or have it sit on top of the pack bag, or under the main flap as shown below.

The Kelty Trekker is designed so you can carry gear inside the pack bag as well as outside it, attached to the frame
The Kelty Trekker is designed so you can carry gear inside the pack bag as well as outside it, attached to the frame

The Trekker pack bag has a main compartment with a separate sleeping pad pocket positioned underneath, There are five pockets on the sides and front of the pack, and a long fold-over flap that covers the top. The flap is designed to hold gear against the top of the main compartment, much like a floating lid on a mountaineering-style internal frame backpack. This is usually pretty lightweight stuff, like a foam pad or collapsible fishing rod, so it won’t throw off your center of gravity too much, although it can reduce overhead clearance.

The side pockets close with zippers and provide good organizational capabilities for packing smaller items, but aren’t large enough to carry anything more substantial like a Jetboil. The position of the side pockets also makes it difficult to lash gear to the sides of the pack, like a foam pad, snowshoes, and skis, since there are also no compression straps or daisy chains along the sides on the pack bag. Some of Kelty’s other packs have pass-throughs behind the pockets that you can slide skis, canoe paddles, or fishing rods through and I wish the Trekker 65 had those instead.

The front of the pack has a larger top pocket that can be used to store rain gear or layers for easy access. The hatch-style opening below it provides access to a small sleeping bag compartment. The interior of the main compartment is positioned above it and used to carry your heaviest items, like water, food, and fuel. The vertical position of these heavy items corresponds to your shoulders and head, which is why their weight can throw you off-balance on rocky trails or when scrambling. Depending on what you carry, it can be difficult to move these heavier items closer to your hips, unless you make a concerted effort to carry as much weight as possible under the pack bag or attached elsewhere to the frame.

Given the lack of water bottle pockets, you need to use a hydration reservoir to provide easy access to water while you hike
Given the lack of water bottle pockets, you may need to use a hydration reservoir to provide easy access to water while you hike.

While there is a hydration pocket in the main compartment, it’s not designed to be used with reservoirs that are hung vertically, so you’ll have to lay your reservoir on its side. Alternatively, you can hang a hydration reservoir behind the ventilated mesh on the back of the pack instead of storing it inside the main pack bag. This is a good example of how to overcome some of the pack bag’s limitations by attaching gear to the frame. It’s a fun game to Magyver these nifty workarounds and customize your use of the Trekker 65 for different types of trips and destinations.

Comparable External Frame Backpacking Packs

Recommendation

The Kelty Trekker 65 is a durable external frame backpack that is inexpensive and can haul heavy and bulky loads well in excess of 50 or 60 pounds (or more) far more easily and comfortably than most internal frame backpacks. While it’s “old-school,” it’s fully adjustable (torso-length, shoulder-pad width) and ventilated, so you can really dial in an excellent fit. External backpacks are not for everyone, but if you try one like the Trekker 65, you could well become a convert.

While I’m sure there are many Trekker owners who love their backpacks, it’s also worth looking at newer external frame backpacks that combine a more conventional pack bag or roll top with a rigid external frame. They’re lighter weight than the Trekker 65, have a lower center of gravity when loaded, and can be used for scrambling or rougher trails in places where the Trekker is less suitable.

Likes

  • Wide hip belt and stiff frame provide excellent load transfer to hips
  • External frame promotes a more erect posture and less energy expenditure
  • Easy to lash bulky objects or gear to top and bottom of frame with webbing or ski straps
  • Fold-over top pocket is much easier to use than a floating lid

Dislikes

  • Can’t hang a hydration reservoir vertically in the hydration pocket
  • There’s 1 pocket that could hold a water bottle, but it’s unreachable when the pack is worn
  • No hip belt pockets
  • No webbing straps included for lashing gear to frame
  • Difficult to attach gear to sides of the pack, like foam pads or skis
  • Shoulder pads are not female friendly.

Compare 5 Prices

Last updated: 2018-08-08 21:36:53

Disclosure: The author purchased this backpack.

SectionHiker.com receives affiliate compensation from retailers that we link to if you make a purchase through them, at no additional cost to you. This helps to keep our content free and pays for our website hosting costs. Thank you for your support.

Posted on

Gear Raffle: Enter for a Chance to Win a FREE Six Moon Designs Minimalist Backpack

The Six Moon Designs Minimalist Backpack is a adjustable-length 60 liter backpack available with regular shoulder straps or a vest-style ones (the raffle winner will get one of each). Weighing 34 ounces, the Minimalist is a versatile ultralight-style backpack that can be configured in a variety ways for long distance backpacking, lightweight backpacking, fast and light running trips, and even backcountry fly fishing. For full details, see my Minimalist Backpack Review from earlier this year.

Deadline to Enter

This is a three-day raffle. The deadline to enter this raffle is August 2, 2018, at midnight PST.

Rules

  • All raffle entrants will have one chance to win.
  • Raffle entrants who submit more than one entry will be disqualified.
  • The item being raffled a Size Large Six Moon Designs Minimalist Backpack, complete with a hipbelt, shoulder style straps, and vest style shoulder straps (so you can decide which you prefer), with an MSRP of $210. If you require different size shoulder straps or a hipbelt, you’ll have to purchase these from Six Moon Designs.
  • The winner will be selected randomly from all valid entries and notified by email. Failure to respond to email in 3 days may result in prize forfeiture.
  • The winner will be notified by email and listed on our Raffle Winners page.
  • The prize winners may live anywhere.
  • If you have any questions, leave a comment.

To Enter

To enter this random raffle for a chance to win a free Six Moon Designs Minimalist Backpack, click through to answer the following short questionnaire about hiking leg and foot ailments. One entry per person only.

survey

Click for Survey

Thanks for Entering.