hiking list

Gear Review: Our Favourite Long Distance Hiking Packs by ellie berry

When thinking about the gear you need for long distance walking/trekking/thru-hiking, there are “The Big Three" , which consist of your tent/shelter, your sleeping setup, and your bag. This blog post is the companion piece to a recent video of ours dedicated to packs; which ones we’ve used throughout this project, and what our favourite ones are right now!

Day one, hour zero:

I (ellie) started with…

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the Lowe Alpine Airzone Pro 35:45. To break down the name for anyone who’s not that big into hiking gear - Lowe Alpine is the brand, Airzone Pro is the model, and 35:45 is the litre-age of the pack (filling to the first draw string was 35litres, using the extension bit and filling it right to the tippy top was 45litres).
This bag is one that Carl bought before we went on a walking trip in 2015 but then never really used himself, so I decided to adopt it - all of my previous packs were looking a bit small for what we were setting off with. From the get go this bag didn’t fit me. It was the mens/unisex size, and therefore just much too long for my back, and just proportionally all wrong. At the time I was being optimistic, but looking at it now I know that no matter how much you adjust something, if it is woefully the wrong size and shape for you, it’s not going to work.

Apart from it not fitting me, I was also asking this pack to carry more weight than it was designed to be able to cope with. This was something that I knew in theory, but part of me still kind-of believed that if you could fit it in, the bag could just deal with it. And, in a way the pack did deal with it - it weighed down on my back in the most uncomfortable, least helpful ways. So from my experience, if your carrying 9kg or less this bag can handle it. If you’re starting to creep over 10kg, it starts to freak out.

A pro to this pack is the price tag - it’s the cheapest bag on this list. I also own the “women’s fit” of this pack (33:40l), and as my first pack it did everything I needed it to do. However, having used other bags it’s not something I’m going to go back to.

Carl’s first pack

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was the Osprey Exos 38L. It was a pack he’d bought years before in the states and it had served him well before. It’s light pack, and fits him well. Even the random moment when I wore the bag I noticed how well balanced it was - even though it was completely the wrong size for me (the back length on this bag isn’t adjustable). Even though it didn’t come with a rain fly/cover it remained remarkably dry inside. This back will always be one of Carl’s go to bags.

He did, however, change it.

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38 litres was just a little too small space wise, and a few months in Carl got the Osprey Atmos AG 65L. A tank of bag, this pack proved to be the one for this project. A lot of the things Carl carries are quite bulky - clothes, sleeping bags, etc. The “AG” in the pack’s name stands for “Anti-gravity”, and while normally I’d wouldn’t put any notice or weight into pack names, these bags really do have some anti-gravity properties. While we might not need the full 65 litres, the fact that it’s able to carry that volume means that it can deal with more weight, and so balances and disperses the load of the bag really well.

Ellie’s second pack …

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I did stick it out for most of 2017 with the pack Lowe Alpine pack, but did eventually change it out for the Deuter ACT Lite 40+10. This pack was again a unisex/male fit, but on all the shortest settings it was pretty close to small enough, and I quite enjoyed using it. We got through a handful of trails together, before the bag spontaneously broke. The bag has an internal frame that somehow buckled. We finished the trail we were on and headed back to Great Outdoors where I’d bought the bag. It freak break that neither I, nor Great Outdoors, nor Deuter themselves really understood how it came about. To get Deuters opinion on it Great Outdoors had to send the pack back to them, which would take some weeks. Not able to be bag-less for that long, I upgraded to…

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Ellie’s third pack …

The Osprey Aura AG 65L. Carl had had such amazing experiences with Osprey packs so far that I knew I needed to try one. So far … it’s been amazing. Even though the bag itself is the heaviest bag out of the ones I’ve had, the first time I shouldered the pack it immediately felt lighter. The hip straps are built into the frame of the pack, so I admit the first time I tried it on I didn’t really know how to get into it - I was afraid to pull the straps apart too forcefully. But once it was on and I got used to the design it was a dream.

Technically, we don’t need 65L each - thats a lot of space. The lid is removable with a simple set of clips, so currently I have the lid detached, but inside the bag as an extra pocket/storage section for all the little bitty things I always seem to accumulate along the ways. It’s how well these bags handle everything we throw at them - be it bad packing, weather, or being whipped by branches as we fight our way through a particularly overgrown area - they’ve handled it perfectly.

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