Judy Armstrong reviews a good day pack, but not ideal for heavier loads.

This review is part of our women’s day packs gear guide, and was first published in the July 2018 issue of The Great Outdoors.

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

My favourite day pack for hiking and multi-day mountain biking routes is Osprey’s Escapist 32, despite it being a ‘unisex’ pack. So I had high hopes for Tempest: what could possibly go wrong? Well, mainly this: the soft harness (AirScape T mesh-covered foam) attaches to the floppy main body of the pack 10cm below the top of the pack. The hydration bladder slots between the foam panel and the pack, and the foam moulds comfortably against my back. But because the top 10cm of the pack is unattached and also very soft, it levers outward, creating a gap between my shoulders and the shoulder straps. The load pushes out further when the hydration bladder is full, and is made more extreme if there is anything in the top pocket. With a 3kg load this wasn’t uncomfortable, but with a bigger load it was very noticeable. I loaded this pack for a ski tour in Spring, with around 5kg plus the bladder, and was nearly pulled over backward.

The back length is adjusted via a large Velcro panel that allows the shoulder straps to be raised or lowered. Raising them to the highest position (longest back length) and tightening the top tension straps to maximum does help hold the top of the main body nearer to the foam panel, but that only works if you are tall enough for a 51cm back length. When the tension straps are pulled tight the shoulder straps tend to crease.

The rest of the pack is great. A wide mesh hipbelt is comfortable and supports a small to moderate load, with zip pockets that take a compact camera and a phone (maybe not the new, huge ones), energy bars, etc. Solid-mesh pockets at the front and sides provide handy stuff-it storage. The single body compartment, while made of lightweight fabric, has a reinforced base to resist scuffing from rocks, with a gear loop on one side for hanging gear. A large top pocket also contains an internal mesh pocket – but when these are loaded the lever effect from the top of the pack is even worse.

The Tempest is an acceptable choice if you only carry a very light load. As a note, the Escapist also carries a bladder between foam panel and pack body, but the body attaches to the panel 5cm below the top, not 10cm as with Tempest, the back panel feels a little stiffer, and pocketing is contained like Deuter’s TransAlpine. It makes a difference.