Whether you're scaling glaciers or projecting a summer rock route, the Halcyon 35:40 alpine mountaineering pack has everything you need for a day moving in the mountains.
There are dozens of daysacks with a female-specific fit on the market, and on the face of it the Deuter Futura Pro 34 SL doesn't seem to offer anything too innovative or special. But it turns out that this medium-size, feature-rich daypack has a comfy and supportive back system, and can put up with plenty of abuse. And it comes with a small yellow flower, great for adding a bit of colour and useful when you need a hair bobble!
Built for comfort rather than speed, this is very much a walker's pack rather than a technical climbing model, and its size and structured back system best suits it to heavily laden single days, or short overnight weekend trips. If you're into fast-and-light minimalism on the hills then look elsewhere; that's not what the Futura Pro is for at all.
It's not the lightest of packs in this size range - to put it mildly - but unless you're fanatical about saving every gram then the sacrifices made in weight for the sake of comfort, toughness and function do seem to have been worth it
The first thing that presents itself on this pack is the large, mesh panel stretching between a sprung-steel frame across the back. This is the AirComfort Sensic Pro system (Deuter do seem to have a name for everything), an established feature on Deuter packs and something that promises to help keep the back cool whilst maintaining tension in the suspension system. Below is a contoured waist belt with pull-forward tension adjustment and zipped pockets on each hip fin. The Variflex ECL fins themselves are quite wide and more than adequately cover the hips of the user. Pivoting with the movement of your hips, they offer comfort and support without feeling too cumbersome or restrictive.
The shoulder straps run up under generous foam padding to load-adjustment buckles. Small design features have been added here compared to the equivalent men's backpack, such as the padding fabric that continues around the shoulder strap providing a more comfortable grip when the bag is picked up by the strap – a feature from the female design team? The sternum strap runs on a plastic slider system for easy adjustment. This is the SL model, shorter in the back than Deuter's standard size in order to give a better female fit. I am 5ft7 slim build. I often use unisex backpacks and don't have any issues with their fit; however this backpack does fit me very well. It's a close, secure and padded feel, which is ideal for heavier loads and rough terrain.
For a rucksack of only 34 litres capacity the feature set on the Futura Pro is very extensive, and wouldn't look out of place on a larger backpacking model.
Inside the pack itself there are two compartments with a separating diaphragm (which can be unzipped out of the way), accommodation for a hydration bladder, a zipped pocket on the outside and another underneath the hood. There's also a small panel with instructions for calling for help in various languages – another established feature on Deuter packs.
On the outside there are stretchy mesh wand pockets on either side, compression straps and loops for trekking poles, a single ice axe attachment and two zipped side pockets. A rain cover hides away in a separate zipped compartment. Finally, you get another mesh pocket on the rear of the main compartment, which is good for stashing things like sweaty or damp clothing.
About two thirds of my time using this back has been in my work as an ecological consultant – it's been dragged through hedges, between trees and over rocks on various site visits and fieldwork in the hills and forests of North Wales.
I find this a comfortable and feature-rich rucksack, but with a few drawbacks.
First of all it's not the lightest, by any stretch of the imagination: 1560g, which for a 34L pack is towards the upper end of the expected weight range. That is of course down to all of that padding and the stability-inducing back system. It's certainly comfortable and feels solid on the back when scrambling or moving over fallen trees. The shoulder straps have plenty of adjustment on my shoulders and the hip system is generous without being too big.
The vented back mesh seems to have some effect, but I do still find I get a sweaty back on hotter days – but possibly slightly less than without the mesh? It's difficult to make a comparison unless you swap bags halfway through the day! I used it on the Northumbria coast for several day-walks in warm weather and my lower back was damp, but my shoulders and the rest of my back weren't excessively so – but not completely dry either.
The internal features are fine, although in a pack of this size the internal divider is slightly unnecessary for my usual kit. It can be unzipped but not removed entirely, but occasionally it has been useful having access to the bottom of the bag without upending the entire contents onto the forest floor.
I've made good use of both the mesh side pockets and the storage on the hip fins – the wand pockets are of a good size for water bottles etc, and the zipped waist pouches are good for a larger smartphone or pocket guidebook. There is also a small external pocket on each side above the wand pockets; these were a feature I wasn't too bothered with on my first few days out with the bag, and it was only after further trial that I discovered their usefulness. They have a double fold, and so bellow out at the top to become a useful size for things you might want to keep in easy reach such as an extra windproof or base layer. It turns out that the external storage has been one of the best features for me, allowing for useful items to be spread over the pack for easy access rather than just being dumped in the main compartment or in the lid.
The attachment points for trekking poles aren't too faffy to use, although they may require a little careful thought if you're wearing gloves. I haven't used the rain cover, but then I never do – everything lives in drybags in my rucksacks – but it seems to cover the bag adequately.
The polyester fabric that Deuter have used here is pretty robust stuff, and combined with the high build quality for which the brand has a well deserved reputation, the Futura Pro feels like it's made to last.
It's not the lightest of packs in this size range - to put it mildly - but unless you're fanatical about saving every gram then the sacrifices made in weight for the sake of comfort, toughness and function do seem to have been worth it. There are a couple of features that I just haven't found much use for as of yet: I've not had the chance to try out the ice axe attachment, that will have to wait for next winter; I won't use the rain cover, but others will prbably like it. Overall I find the Futura Pro one of my most comfortable bits of kit, it has been a good companion for hillwalking days and surveys across scrubby forest and open moorland, and will be getting much more use going forward.
The spacious hiking backpack for women is perfect for crossings and multi-day tours. The new ergonomic Aircomfort Sensic mesh back system provides maximum ventilation and a comfortably flexible fit. Agile Variflex hip fins make for energy-efficient and easy carrying of medium-size loads. Their ergonomic pads custom fit the fins on the hip for perfect load distribution.
For more info see deutergb.co.uk
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