The Manaslu ND50:65 is a great women's trekking pack with a generous capacity, plenty of load carrying support and a load of useful features. It may not be the lightest model available but it more than makes up for this in comfort. For me that matters more when you are on a long hard slog (I mean glorious wilderness experience) with a heavy load to carry.
Like most users I want functionality from a rucksack, and the Manaslu definitely ticks that box. There's nothing particularly special or ground breaking here, but what it does, it does well. You know those pals who are glamorous and glitzy but also a little fickle? And then the pals that you go through the tough stuff with and just know they will always be there for you? Well this backpack is the latter; solid, reliable, I think we could be friends for life.
I've been using the women's 50+15 litre model, which is a size that's well suited to shorter backpacking trips as well as general travel. If you're planning on a bigger trekking journey then a women's 60:75 version is also available, while men get the choice of 55:70 or 65:80.
This is very much a first impressions review, based on only a couple of overnight trips. We'll have to report back on longevity at a later date.
Weight and durability
On our bathroom scales I make it 2.3kg, slightly but not massively more than Lowe Alpine's quoted weight of 2.15kg.
Either way it's one of the heavier big packs that I've used, but well within the usual ball park for something of this capacity. I'm sure that doing away with a couple of features could have saved a bit of weight, but some users might miss them.
Of course, solid and supportive large-volume trekking packs are always bound to weigh a fair bit, and the Manaslu is more chunky, padded and structured than the minimalist models I've been used to in recent years. The reasoning is clear: the bigger the capacity, the heavier the load you're likely to carry; and the heavier it gets the more a rigid back and supportive and padded harness come into their own. With a full load of camping gear and food I've welcomed the support on offer here, so a couple of kilos+ of base weight seems to me a price worth paying for a comfortable carry.
The Manaslu feels a lot more sturdy than most 'lightweight' packs, and while we all know that appearances can be deceptive, if this does prove to be the case over time then I think this should justify the weight as well. Its ripstop fabric seems really durable, while the 500D nylon base is clearly up for a bit of rough use. The overall quality is good, and while this has only been a short term test so far, this pack certainly seems to be built to last. One possible exception though are some of the smaller plastic components, such as the axe and pole attachments, which don't feel as sturdy as the rest.
A stiffened back plate (pre-curved for fit) and two internal aluminium struts provide a good robust structure, and the weight feels well supported and nicely in balance when you're carrying a big load - it's recommended for up to 20kg, which is more than I'd happily lug around.
While a men's version is also available, the women's-specific ND50:65 has a harness and padding that are shaped to better fit the female form. The 50 only comes in one size, while the larger packs in the Manaslu range are available in two. However the back length can be easily adjusted via a hook-and-loop (non-branded 'velcro') pad and sliding mechanism. You get roughly 10cm of play; I am about 1.70m/5foot7 tall, with a fairly long back, and I have this pack set around half way.
On the shoulder straps and upper back the cushioning is dense, and not so deep that the straps get in the way of your arms if you need to reach up. There's more spongy depth in the lumbar pad, which sits nicely in the small of your back, and on the hipbelt. This curved hipbelt has a good close fit, and pivots slightly so that the pack moves with you - to an extent - as you stride.
On the two trips we have been on together my back did not feel scrunched or under pressure at any point. I was pleasantly surprised at the weight I was able to carry without feeling it.
A lot of rucksacks have big channels or air gaps for ventilation, but the Manaslu relies on perforated foam and a mesh overlay. It's really pretty breathable, and even in hot weather the pack isn't too sweaty.
Pockets and other features
In common with most big trekking packs the Manaslu has a zipped lower entry with an internal divider so you can create a bottom compartment. These are handy if you want to keep a few things separate from the rest of the pack for easier retrieval - your sleeping bag and a small inflatable mat, for instance, or a set of waterproofs. The bottom compartment on the Manaslu 50 isn't huge though, so if you're carrying a sleeping bag here it may have to be a compact summer one. An additional U-shaped zip allows front access to the main bag. Some people find this sort of kit bag style entry convenient, while others (my husband Dan for instance) tell me they are a redundant feature that only adds weight, and a route in for rain. I'm ambivalent; as I have not yet used it I guess I could do without.
The zipped lid pocket is roomy enough for hat, gloves, map etc, and there's a smaller under-lid valuables pocket with a key clip. Raising the lid gives you the extra 15 litres of volume (going from 50 to 65). Climbing packs may be all about simplicity but most people are going to appreciate extra outside pockets on a trekking pack like the Manaslu. A big stretchy front sleeve is provided, and while it's slightly odd in that it doesn't have the standard top entry, it's still usefully large enough if you want to keep a warm jacket to hand during the day. On each side you'll find another stretch pocket, both of which are deep enough to safely hold a water bottle - a feature which to me is essential. Zipped pockets are also placed on both sides of the hipbelt; they're not huge, and will only just take a medium sized smartphone, but I've found them good for snacks and sweets that need to be quickly distributed to hungry kids.
When you're not carrying a full load, and want to take in a bit of slack, the Manaslu's many compression straps are really useful. As well as the standard two on each side you also get top and bottom compression. If we're being picky, the side straps could be a wee bit longer. While their clip and hook fastenings make it easier to lash things like tents to the side of the pack, it's annoying that the length is a bit tight for big bulky foam mats etc.
Pole users get a 'TipGripper' attachment point on each side, plus one 'HeadLocker' for a single ice axe (it's a walking pack, not for climbing, so one axe will be plenty). The shaft of the pole/axe secures under a loop of the top compression strap, which I think is a neat arrangement unless you're already trying to use the strap to lash on something else. Hunt about a bit and you'll unearth a few daisychain-style loops. These can be handy for attaching extra stuff to the outside of your pack, though I'm not clear why Lowe Alpine have hidden them away under fabric flaps.
Other features include a stowed-away rain cover (not yet used in anger), a water bladder sleeve, robust grab handles and a whistle on the chest strap buckle. You get a fair bit for your money with the Manaslu.
It's might be on the heavy side, but the payback is a comfy, supportive load carrier with all the whistles and bells you could want in a large trekking pack. Weight conscious minimalist backpackers may find the Manaslu a bit much, but for the average walker (if there is such a person) this is a well designed backpacking pack with a reassuringly tough feel. It may not be 'wow' but more 'lifelong friend'.
Lowe Alpine say:
Ideal for wilderness trekking and long distance travelling, the Manaslu ND50:65 is a lighter, lower volume backpacking and trekking pack you can rely on to carry your gear securely and comfortably across changeable terrain. With capacity and features to support days or weeks travelling, the Manaslu is the perfect companion for mid-range trips.
The Manaslu ND50:65 is made with durable yet lightweight mini ripstop fabric, with a hard-wearing Nylon base. Side and internal compression straps, and forward pull hip belt adjustment ensure a stable carry and a comfortable fit, however heavy your load. An extendable lid increases the volume by an extra 15 litres, while external daisy chain lash points allow external storage.
Organise and access your gear with front and lower entry, zipped divider panel, front stash pocket, large stretch mesh side pockets, walking pole attachments and ice axe loops. Zipped hip belt pockets keep essentials within reach while on the move. For travellers who plan to carry for long distances, the Manaslu ND50:65 is a pack you can rely on to move your gear securely and comfortably.
- ND lumbar fit
- HeadLocker axe attachment system & TipGripper walking pole attachments
- Web loop compression strap for fastening poles and axes securely
- Extendable lid to increase volume by an extra 15 litres
- Zipped front entry for easy access
- Lower entry with zipped divider panel
- Front stash pocket & large stretch mesh side pockets
- External zipped lid pocket
- Daisy chain lash points
- Zipped hipbelt pockets
- Internal compresion strap
- Internal lid security pocket with key clip
- Forward pull hipbelt adjustment
- Hydration compatible
- SOS panel
- Sternum strap with whistle
- Front grab handle
- 500D Nylon hard wearing base
- Rain cover
- VT PLUS™
- Weight: 2.15kg
- Capacity: 50 + 15 L
For more info see lowealpine.com