Judy Armstrong reviews an affordable, well-made day pack – but the back system isn’t the best.

  • Weights: from my digital scales, brands’ weights in brackets
  • Test load: 3.5kg up to 30 litres, 6kg 30+ litres

New in Spring 2018, the Berghaus Freeflow 25 has good points, including price, pocketing and build quality. But none of them can make up for the back system, which takes ‘air gap’ to an extreme. The curve on the solid plastic back panel is banana-shaped with two webbing straps, under serious tension, pushing out a central mesh strip plus shoulder and hip padding to create a gap 4cm deep. The hipbelt is connected to one end of the webbing straps and only anchors to the back panel on the base line, at the very bottom of the back panel. The shoulder straps are attached to the top of the straps, with their only connection to the back panel being the top tension straps. The result is that the load is so removed from my back that the sensation of outward leverage, pressing in a particularly uncomfortable way at the base, feels worse than it probably is. Having tested this with just 3kg, I would now only use this pack with a weight that I could carry in a handbag.

Things I liked? The shoulder straps on the Berghaus Freeflow 25 attach at a good height on the back panel to allow the top tension straps to work (making the sensation of top-out leverage even more surprising: without the curved back, this would sit well on the back and shoulders). Thumbs up to big, zipped pockets on the hipbelt, roomy lid with external and internal pockets, the side-zip-accessed, map-friendly front pocket, mesh side pockets and effective side compression. The hydration pouch in the main body is a bit too low for my liking; a one-litre bladder needed a length of string to reach the Velcro hanging loop. The sternum strap, instead of sliding, clips in to one of four fabric slots and I cracked an already-short fingernail trying to prise the plastic clips open to move it. The rain cover at the base is a fiddle to detach but I’d only do that to save a few grams in weight, and that isn’t a factor with this pack since I wouldn’t be carrying much in it to start with.