On my round-the-world trip I completely fell in love with hiking. Back at home in the UK I’d done a few day trips out and about but I’d never had the satisfaction of spending a day walking before pitching up somewhere for the night, absolutely exhausted, but looking forward to doing it all over again the next day.
But on each of these trips I always came across the same dilemma – what to pack. Of course, everything you take you have to carry so I usually just pack what I can into my daypack. However my current daypack is fairly small – mainly to compensate for my huge backpack aka The Beast – so trying to fit four days worth of clothes, plus attaching a sleeping bag etc is pretty tricky and means I often ended up looking like this on trips:
So I was excited to choose a new daypack which would hopefully help to eliminate some of these problems.
Now it’s been a while since I’ve bought a new backpack (The Beast is now well over ten years old) and I was overwhelmed with the number of decisions you have to make in order to chose one: Did I want weight over style? Should I go for a specific women’s fit? Do I need an emergency whistle??
In the end I decided the most important things I would look for were a lightweight bag, with easy access and the possibility of attaching other things to the outside. Waterproof would also be a plus.
With this in mind I initially veered towards the Deuter Speed Lite 20L which fulfilled all of the criteria I was looking for. However, just as I was making up my mind I suddenly came across the Lowe Alpine Women’s Air Zone Z ND 18L Daysack. What really sold this bag for me was the Airzone ventilated back system – a frame which keeps the bag away from your back when you’re wearing it. Now this obviously isn’t the most attractive of subjects, but when you are hiking for long periods at a time you get sweaty. So anything which could help to reduce this was definitely something I was interested in. The compromise I had to make was the weight as, due to its frame it weighs 960g (compared to 530g for the Deuter) but I decided a less sweaty back would be worth it!
As well as the frame, other features I liked about the bag included the female specific fit, the narrower design is perfect for me as I’m only 5ft, and the fact that it has a front opening system which I prefer, as I’m always losing things at the bottom of my bag! Lash points and a waterproof cover were also bonuses.
The bag is also hydration pack compatible and it has a phone pocket on the harness as well as external and internal zipped pockets.
I’ve been using the pack all week and the waterproof cover certainly got a run for its money with all of the rain we’ve been having!
I must admit that the weight of the pack has taken a bit of getting used to but when I’m on my next sweaty walk I’m sure it will be worth it!
UPDATE: 24/06/09 – I’ve just returned from my US road trip and felt like I must add an update to this review. I used the Lowe Alpine Women’s Air Zone Z ND 18L Daysack on a number of occasions during our American adventure, including a day trek down into the Grand Canyon. We were walking for around eight hours in temperatures in the high 30Cs and I must admit I was a bit dubious about whether the frame would still keep my back cool in that heat. However I was very pleasantly surprised during our rest stops to discover that my back really did remain dry – despite the fact that the rest of my body was completely sweaty! So after one of the most vigorous tests I could probably put it through, I’m definitely pleased with my choice.