Lowe Alpine Manaslu ND 50-65
There's nothing particularly special or ground breaking here, says Pegs Bailey, but the Manaslu is a sturdy and comfortable women's load carrier with enough features to keep most backpackers happy.
Natalie Berry and Chris Prescott check out these two large capacity packs from Osprey, which combine the travel convenience of a duffel with the carrying comfort of a trekking pack.
Ihave a complicated relationship with larger backpacks: I've got a bony spine, a shorter back and I'm a lightweight frame. These three features combine to make load carrying uncomfortable at times. Blisters, back-ache and generally feeling off-balance have ruined days out in the past. When we were asked to review the women's specific Fairview Trek and the men's Farpoint Trek, Osprey's latest additions to its award-winning travel and backpacking series (these models blur the distinction between the two), they certainly had a tough customer in me. But after acquainting myself with their features around sections of the Tour du Mont Blanc, carrying them wasn't the burden that I'd feared after so many years of poor-fitting larger backpacks. Had I finally found a potential match?
The Fairview Trek and Farpoint Trek could either be described as trekking packs with some more travel-oriented features, or as travel packs that are also good for hiking. You could equally do either with them. The Fairview Trek is available in 50 or 70 litre sizes, while the Farpoint Trek comes in 55 or 75 litre options. We went for the bigger capacities.
The women's specific Fairview Trek 70 weighs in at 2.07kg, while the men's Farpoint Trek 75 weighs 2.1kg. Both are composed of a very tough 420HD Nylon Packcloth on the front and top, and are reinforced with 500HD Nylon on the bottom and sides. As trekking packs at the upper end of the capacity scale, the ~2kg weight seems bearable when considering the renowned durability of the fabric and the extra features that a bag of such size offers. When worn empty, the weight of the bags themselves barely registers when compared with some models I've tried.
There's also a distinct lack of excess, messy straps on each model, which make them both look neat, lightweight and assist in faff-free fastening. After a few months of use in and around Chamonix, our bags have held up well and the material hasn't taken on any major scuffs and the bags barely look used. Each model comes with an integrated water resistant travel case, which acts as both a rain and protective flight cover. It's a little oversized unless the pack is stuffed to full capacity, but it's a handy feature. The zipper fastenings also seem durable and so far none have been damaged when opening or closing compartments, of which there are many; the bag is a bit of a labyrinth to navigate at first, and it took me a few uses to figure out where best to put certain items and I was discovering new hidden pockets each time.
The women's specific Fairview Trek 70 is - as you'd expect - tailored for a the female frame. The 'AirSpeed' ventilated trampoline suspended mesh backpanel is adjustable to size and perfect for those with awkward backs like me. Because the pack isn't pressing directly against the spine, I've not found bruising or rubbing an issue. What's more, it makes for a breathable backpack with airflow between the pack and your body. Neither of us suffered from an especially sweaty back this summer - despite the Chamonix heatwave.
A major concern for me is the positioning of a large backpack, since it doesn't take much for my weight to be thrown off-balance. My worry was that the pack sitting a bit further out from my back due to the frame might constantly pull me backwards, especially with heavier loads. Surprisingly, though, the pack sits closer to the body than first appears, especially once the top load lifter point and shoulder strap adjustments had been pulled taut. There are two clipping position options for the load lifter depending on which back length you choose.
The bags do sit quite high and when looking up the backs of our heads do hit the top of the pack, but since it's not a climbing pack this mostly occurred when testing for the sake of testing than when being used in anger. While moving, the pack barely budges at all and feels stable across a range of weights. Internal compression straps help prevent too much movement of items inside the bag on lighter days, which also makes for a pleasant walking experience; there's nothing worse than the combination of an uncomfortable bag and poor packing, with items noisily clanging about! Osprey's 'straightjacket system' on the front of the pack works well to reduce the overall size if underpacked.
The frame system was a bit finicky to adjust, but once I got the hang of it it was worth the effort to make it fit better. It consists of a 4-point ladder system: pull the toggle and the end of the frame pops out and it can then be slotted into a higher or lower point. I am quite tall, but looking at the range of options for fit I can imagine it suiting most female shapes and sizes. Likewise with the sternum strap system, I found it a bit laborious to move up and down using the buttonhole system - which is a concern for women given the need to adjust for chest size - but I persevered and found the perfect level. It would be especially finicky to deal with the button system in gloves.
The hip belt and harness sit comfortably and hug without digging into my hips, which is another issue I've had with other packs. Despite the thickness of the shoulder straps and hip belt, they don't get overly sweaty because of the breathable mesh, nor are they so densely padded that they won't mould to my shape. As other women will no doubt have experienced, sometimes back straps can press uncomfortably against bra/sports bra straps and seams and cause bruising and rubbing. It was a relief to be able to find a large, very comfy bag that didn't cause me any fit issues.
At 6ft, Chris is a good model for the average male height and he echoed my opinions on comfort and fit for the Farpoint.
Overall, the ability to adjust to a range of body sizes is a bonus in both models and once the ideal has been established, there isn't much need to adjust again. Chris had a similarly difficult time with the sternum strap adjustment but fared better with back length system; possibly having more strength to move the components helped in this case! The Farpoint Trek 75 is clearly a little larger than the Fairview Trek 70 on paper, but this isn't very noticeable on first glance. It strikes me as a slightly odd difference in capacity between the models for each gender, but I guess there's a good reason behind this.
A key feature of both bags is the aforementioned adjustable ventilated mesh backpanel. On long treks, comfort is key and this system seems to be the major factor in how pleasant the packs are to wear. It offers stability, breathability and relief from the pressure of the bag by suspending it, rather than sitting it directly on the spine, which is a game-changer as far as I'm concerned. For anyone with a lighter body frame or back/spine issues, I can see this system enabling longer, more enjoyable trekking trips.
I also like the U-Zip suitcase opening at the front and the base zip entry of the packs, which makes packing and retrieving items stress-free. I am not the most fastidious packer and being able to avoid taking everything out and using it more like a duffel bag is a big plus. In fact, we have also used these bags multiple times for weekend trips in the car largely because of this feature; being able to take a slightly smaller bag than a big expedition duffel - which is also far more practical and comfortable to be worn on the back than a duffel - often makes it a better choice for both outdoor trips and city breaks.
Chunky grab handles add to the ease of manoeuvring the bag when it's not on your back. Speaking of travel, the built-in water resistant travel cover and lockable zippers are appealing features that will make taking the bags abroad safer and easier. In the interim, we've been using the cover as a handy storage bag in the house. To use it as a raincover while wearing the pack, simply unzip the case, roll up the lid and attach it to three nylon loops; there's one on the base and two on the hip belt.
There are so many compartments and pockets in these packs that I have to think carefully where to put items! This is only to be expected in a trekking pack, though, and some standouts are the dual access mesh side pockets for water bottles and paraphernalia - no more twisting an arm trying to pull a water bottle up and out, just reach through the side - a zippered scratch-free sunglasses and electronics pocket and a zippered lower sleeping bag compartment. There's also removable sleeping pad straps. The only pockets that appear a bit superfluous or poorly designed are the twin hip belt pockets; they are a bit too small and can only fit a small wallet, jewellery or an energy gel, perhaps. There's no way you'd get your smartphone in there, if that's where you normally like to keep it.
Compression fins keep everything neat and tidy inside, and there is a large pocket for inserting a hydration bladder and the possibility of zipping-in a divider to create a separate bottom compartment, to keep wet/dry or dirty/clean clothes apart, for example.
These packs are also compatible with Osprey's Daylite pack series, which I couldn't test as I don't own any, but the more recent Daylite Travel models clip onto buckle attachments on the shoulder strap beside the sternum strap to be carried on the chest, while earlier models can attach to the outside of the Fairview/Farpoint using nylon loops.
This is a durable hers-and-his duo with comfort and space in bags. If you've got back issues and/or are lightweight, these packs might transform your walking experience. I wouldn't let our minor tussles with the adjustment systems put you off - with some practice and likely some wearing-in through testing the process of using the back system and adjusting the chest straps did get a bit easier, but once they were set to suit us, there wasn't really any need for changing them about, anyway. Overall these large capacity packs combine the convenience of a duffel with the carrying comfort of a trekking pack. If you spend a lot of time on planes and trains, but also on the trail, and you want one pack to do it all, then the Fairview Trek or Farpoint Trek are well worth a look.
The world at your feet. The Fairview Trek 70 is the perfect backpack for wanderlust wanderers and travel-backpackers. It takes everything we learned from the award-winning travel series and makes it trek-ready.
The Fairview Trek is equipped with an adjustable trampoline suspended mesh backsystem providing ultimate ventilation when hiking in warmer climes. It also boasts the Fairview 's signature suitcase style opening for easy packing and access. While in transit you can deploy the Aircover™ to protect your pack as it makes its way to the hold luggage. The Aircover™ will then convert to a raincover ensuring your gear stays dry while wearing the pack.
The Fairview Trek also comes equipped with a women's specific fit, hidden security pockets, lockable zippers, removable sleeping pad straps and twin zippered hipbelt pockets; Features that are ideal for adventurous travel-backpacking trips.
For more info see ospreyeurope.com
The world at your feet. The Farpoint Trek 75 is the perfect backpack for wanderlust wanderers and travel-backpackers. It takes everything we learned from the award-winning travel series and makes it trek-ready.
The Farpoint Trek is equipped with an adjustable trampoline suspended mesh backsystem providing ultimate ventilation when hiking in warmer climes. It also boasts the Farpoint's signature suitcase style opening for easy packing and access. While in transit you can deploy the Aircover™ to protect your pack as it makes its way to the hold luggage. The Aircover™ will then convert to a raincover ensuring your gear stays dry while wearing the pack.
The Farpoint Trek also comes equipped with hidden security pockets, lockable zippers, removable sleeping pad straps and twin zippered hipbelt pockets; Features that are ideal for adventurous backpacking.
For more info see ospreyeurope.com
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