Judy Armstrong reviews a well-built back with a raincover and useful pocket options.

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

I am a big fan of Vaude’s dedicated ski touring rucksack, Nendaz, so was keen to test this hiking model. Yes, it has an air gap but Maremma has a mesh panel that is adjustable in tension and therefore location (Aerolex Easy Adjust suspension system), allowing it to relax against the rucksack’s back panel. This is good in theory but in reality makes no difference: the back is fixed into a fairly deep curve, so while the mesh panel can move fractionally, the curve doesn’t. This results in the same issue as with any ‘bouncy back’: the load is held at a distance from the wearer. The gap is large: a fist fits between my back and the pack.

The sensation is of the load being levered out from the top of the pack, which I find unbalancing (on any air-gap pack, not just this one). Maremma has a shorter-than- average back length so to get the top tension straps in the right place to hold the load off my shoulders, the hipbelt is around my waist. With the belt on my hips the top straps are far enough down to be effectively useless – and I’m only 5ft 2in. The hipbelt is soft foam with a whale-shaped cut-out so, particularly on the waist, the lower section deforms into a crease or fold. In terms of weight bearing, it is of minimal benefit.

Maremma is well made, though, with a detachable rain cover (zipped into the base) that fits neatly (not a one-size-fits-all). There is a plethora of external pockets: a roomy top space, two long zipped pockets on the side with darts (not bellows) suitable for slim items, a low- volume front pocket with side zip access. A compact camera-/phone-sized pocket is useful on the hipbelt. The sternum strap slides smoothly for height adjustment. A water bladder can rest in an internal pouch, with a right-side exit, the tube slotting through small loops on the shoulder straps.

If you need a short back length, like air-gap packs and don’t plan to carry a load in excess of 4kg, you’d be fine with Maremma. Otherwise, it’s unlikely to be your optimal choice. To be honest, I prefer carrying the Women’s Nendaz 24 / 25 for men (although with the internal backing sheet removed for hiking).