I like to think I learn a little something about myself when I step out into the hills. In the case of testing for this feature, it was that my back isn’t as long as I thought it was.
I’m no beanpole but I’d always thought that my back length compensated for my short, fat and hairy legs. Not so. For at least a decade, since having my back measured properly at a tradeshow, I’ve opted for Medium back length packs and always found them perfectly comfortable. Or have I?
Soon after setting out in the Appalachian 65:85 I adjusted it from ‘M’ to somewhere between ‘L’ and ‘XL’ and convinced myself for a while that the 12kg load sat more comfortably on that setting. Within another mile, however, after finding the thickly cushioned lumbar pad sat noticeably low on my backside and was decidedly uncomfortable, I plonked the pack down on a stile and took it to the other extreme. The adjustment, though simple, can’t be done on the hoof as with, say, the Karrimor pack tested, as the adjustment panel is just above the lumbar pad and small of the back, but it only took a couple of minutes and the results – eventually – were a lot more satisfactory and the higher carry was fine for the remainder of the test miles walked.
The mesh-covered foam back is sculpted with air channels and I found it pretty well ventilated; if I needed additional airflow I could loosen the shoulder straps slightly and the top tensioners continued to keep the load close to my own centre of gravity.
As it name suggests, the 65:85 pack is voluminous and easily swallowed the volume of the 12kg load and would readily have taken more. Of the three packs that took the load within the main body of the pack – Berghaus, Osprey and this – it was the only one that took the lot without complaining. Lowe Alpine reckons the pack would carry loads of between 23–30kg but I think you’d have to have some dense kit – climbing ropes, gallons of water for a desert hike, perhaps? – to inflict that on the pack (and yourself).
There’s plenty of additional capacity in the bellows side pockets, easily-reached shallow stretch wand pockets and within the pockets of the detachable/floating lid, which also conceals a removable rain cover.