Hit the trails for days at a time with all your camping kit and general clobber comfortably stowed in one of these larger backpacks. Reviews by Jonathan Manning
Thule Guidepost 65 – £200
If Volvo were ever to make a backpack, I suspect it would be something like this – solid, a little on the heavy side, and beautifully engineered. Everything from the Thule’s fabric to its zips, buckles, straps and loops feels utterly dependable, and closer inspection reveals even more features. The basics are covered very well, with 15cm of adjustability in the height of the shoulder straps, and three width fittings. Dense foam covers the hip fins for all-day comfort, and the hip belt pivots at the base of the spine to avoid the pack pitching left and right on uneven terrain – it’s a smoother system than the Black Diamond’s. The main compartment is generous, and accessible from the top and via a full-length, chunky zip, and there are good sized pockets on the hip belt for a compact camera, GPS, snacks and wallet. The floating lid detaches to become a 24-litre daypack, which would be useful for city sightseeing during a period of travel, but less so for a walk in the hills. All these features do add to the weight – 2.7kg, and that doesn’t include a rain cover, which is a surprising omission.
Verdict: The Guidepost 65 feels bombproof, and all its features are brilliantly executed.
Black Diamond Mission 55 – £170
Ostensibly a climbing rucksack, it was a useful and interesting experience to pack the Black Diamond Mission 55 for a weekend’s trek. The smaller 55-litre volume demanded a slightly more ruthless approach once my tent, sleeping bag, mat and stove had been stowed, but there was still room for a down jacket, change of underwear and water bottles without forcing gear into every last crevice. It’s a top-loading pack, but a full-length zip gives easy access to the main compartment. With climbing in mind, the Mission has the option of creating a tall, slender and clean silhouette, with no side pockets and a removable lid pocket, leaving just a crampon pouch on the back. It’s even possible to take off the densely padded hipbelt for maximum weight saving. Alternatively, there are straps for ice axes. On the trail, the Mission’s suspension system comes into play – a simple affair that allows the shoulder straps to move vertically and the hip belt to tilt at angles. It’s disconcerting at first, but allows for more fluent movement when walking. This pack also sits close to the back, which makes it feel very stable, but also leads to a hotter, sweatier back than others, which maintain an air gap between pack and back.
Verdict: A secure, stable fit makes the Mission easy to carry, and it has USPs for climbers.
Osprey Kestrel 68 – £150
At 1.82kg, the Osprey is lighter than the Black Diamond (1.83kg) but offers an extra 13 litres of storage space. This is divided between the main central compartment, which is top loading but accessible via a long side zip; a front pouch; a removable lid; mesh side pockets, zipped hipbelt pockets; and a long, zipped side pocket. This last storage space is a little odd, as it seems to impinge on the main compartment, rather than expand in bellows-style to swallow more kit. Overall, though, I found this pack the easiest in which to organise my kit, and out on trails it’s a dream to carry. The height of the shoulder straps is adjustable, the padding on all straps is excellent, and the back system finds a superb sweetspot between keeping the pack close while letting air circulate. Above all, it fits snugly, which minimises the disruption to your centre of gravity, and I felt more stable hiking with this pack than I did with either of the other two that boast rotating hip belts and suspension systems. Add into the mix a built-in rain cover, and it’s difficult to make a case for paying more for either the Thule or Black Diamond packs, unless they have a specific feature you need for your outdoor sports.
Verdict: Great for organising your kit, plus superb carrying stability and comfort make this an easy pack to buy.