The biggest model in Deuter's revamped Guide range, the new Guide 44+ is proving an excellent all-round mountain pack, equally at home on hill walks, scrambles and winter climbs. Formerly comfy-but-heavy, the Guide has shed a fair bit of weight and can now be classed as comfy-midweight. That's good news, as I thought the old Guide felt very heavy for a day pack. Despite the slim-down you still get a lot of features, and really decent load carrying support.
There's a lot to be said for smaller packs, which encourage more disciplined packing and get in the way less if you're climbing. But you can take minimalism too far, and sometimes a larger rucksack better fits the bill. This is particularly so in winter, with all that extra essential clothing and equipment.
While a compact pack is nice to climb or scramble with, it can be a faff to strap extraneous gear on the outside. If, at the top, you're stuffing a tangle of icy gear and a stiff frozen rope into it, then a more generous size will be welcome. And what if you're on an overnight bivvy, a weekend bothy trip or a hut-to-hut ski tour? Something around 40-45 litres should be spacious enough to cover a lot of possible scenarios, especially in winter.
The Guide 44+ is a generously-sized 44 litres, and feels a touch bigger than some other packs of ostensibly the same capacity. I've had no trouble fitting in a full winter rack, rope and clothing. This is the largest pack in the range, and if you want a bit less volume - for summer climbing or day walks, for instance - it's also available in 34+. Women get a 32+ and a 42+ version, both with a shorter back. Going smaller still we move down to the Guide Lite, a stripped-down version of the pack in 30+ (women's 28) or 24 (women's 22). There should be a Guide in the range for most uses.
Weight and fabric
Back in 2016 we reviewed the previous Guide, which weighed in at a hefty 1650g in the 35 litre version - a real heavyweight. For the new Guide 44+ Deuter quote 1450g, while I make it 1478g. Compared to techy lightweights such as the Mountain Equipment Tupilak or the Arc'teryx FL series, the new Guide still seems quite a heavy pack, but then it has a lot more by way of features and padding. More comparable is something like the Montane Fast Alpine 40 that we reviewed recently, a fully featured pack with a similar volume, a similar remit, and a similar weight. After removing the substantial hipbelt padding the Guide 44 drops to a more reasonable 1268g. Thanks to its comfy carry, in use I couldn't say I'd noticed its weight.
With the main body in a robust-feeling 330D ripstop nylon, and a base in 600D polyester, the Guide feels pretty tough. Having used it for several months of winter climbing and hillwalking, I've yet to put a mark on it. Deuter's build quality always seems to be up there with the best, and this pack is no exception. I think it should last well.
Fit and comfort
For all-round mountain use, I look for decent load carrying support and comfort, but something that still feels compact and well-balanced enough for climbing or scrambling. That more or less sums up the Guide 44+. A balanced and trim-feeling pack when climbing, it sits fairly high on the back without restricting your head when looking up.
With a substantial internal frame, it provides plenty of support - in fact at this capacity I think you'd struggle to overload it. I've used less supportive trekking packs! However, because the frame is narrow and V-shaped, it doesn't feel bulky or restrictive on the back. If you prefer a softer and marginally lighter bag, the two aluminium stays can be removed.
Padding is sensibly thought-out, without too much spongy depth to get in the way. There's also a decent air gap in the small of the back, which isn't always the case on a climbing pack (the priority being to keep the load close in to your centre of gravity). Behind the shoulder blades, on the shoulder straps and at the lumbar region, the padding is very breathable, and while its open mesh could in theory get choked by wind-blown snow, or soak up the damp, the holes are so small that this seems a remote risk. In any case I'd say that on a pack for year-round use its comfort in warm weather probably trumps that. Impermeable back systems inevitably get hot and clammy in warm weather. The harness is nicely sculpted for free arm movement when climbing or scrambling, and the sternum clip slides up and down a rail for easy height adjustment on the go.
Additional load carrying support and comfort is provided by the hip belt. Thickly padded and incredibly broad, this semi-stiff belt uses Deuter's VariFlex system, pivoting to move with your body as it flexes. All this would not look out of place on a large capacity trekking pack, but on a pack of only 44 litres I think it is massive overkill. I'm sure it feels comfy when the Guide is fully loaded, but something this big is inevitably going to be hot in summer, despite its airy cushioning, and even folded around the pack you certainly won't want all that bulk in the way when climbing. The older Guide's hipbelt was similarly oversized, and I still struggle to see the logic.
The Guide 44+ comes in just the one size, with a fixed back length. At 73cm overall pack height, it's only going to fit a certain range of users, so the short and the tall are probably out of luck. At 1.83m I am at the upper end of the fit, and the fins of the hip belt actually sit above my hips. On me this renders the hip belt more or less redundant as an aid to load carrying, so straight away I removed the belt pad (it's easily done) to leave just a webbing strap. This is still useful to stop a heavy pack sliding around on my back, but if I don't want it (when climbing, for instance) the strap now closes neatly around the front of the pack.
I tend to favour minimalism in a rucksack, but if you prefer a pack with lots going on, you're in luck here.
Starting at the top, the floating lid can be raised a long way to add extra capacity - good if you're carrying a tent, or sleeping gear in to a hut. It cannot, however, be removed altogether, so there's one obvious limit to how 'strippable' the Guide is. I do like a decent lid pocket for all those fiddly bits and bobs, and with a water resistant zip and a key clip, the over-lid pocket is good and deep, offering plenty of room for gloves, ski goggles, snacks and a map. There's lots of space in the zipped under-lid pocket too; for added security this would arguably have been a better place for the key clip.
A small stretch mesh zipped pocket is provided on one side of the hip belt, while on the other side there's a little gear loop and a retainer for an ice screw clip. I've never racked gear on my hip belt, but I can see this potentially being handy when plodding over a glacier, when you want the hip belt done up for comfort but also need access to some hardware in case.
Inside, the lower third of the pack can be isolated with a zipped divider to give you a separate compartment, which is accessed via a zip right around the bottom of the back. I guess you could carry wet shells in there, or a duvet jacket you want to keep easily accessible. I'm sure someone will find a need for it. But surely this sort of thing only comes into its own on a larger trekking pack? On a day pack I think the lower compartment and zipped entry is completely unnecessary, and I'd never use it. In fact I'd venture that it's worse than redundant since the zips add fractionally to the weight, and also represent something of a weakness to water ingress and the risk of eventual failure. Since there is no way to keep rain out of the external zip, you're forced to use drybags inside (OK, always a sensible precaution). And if you're anything like me, you could easily wander around with the zip part open, at risk of losing things.
As if this wasn't enough, Deuter have also added a big zipped entry to the side of the pack. This is equally prone to the weather, eventual damage, and the risk of being left open to spill your pack contents down a mountain. Remember, this is a day pack, not a trekking behemoth. I have no idea what earthly need the designer thought they were meeting here, and though someone is bound to come along and tell me in the forums, I'm afraid I'll never be talked around. It's a mistake to overcomplicate things in the outdoors, and this is a classic example.
For heavily laden days additional external storage comes in useful, and I think the Guide is back on more solid ground here. You get loads of daisychains to strap things on, and a removable top rope strap. The twin axe attachments points are neat and simple to use with gloves. On each side is a pair of compression straps, the top ones with a clip for easier use when attaching things, and the bottom two reinforced for carrying skis. I'm often bemused by compression straps that are too short to hold bulky items like rollmats, but Deuter have provided really generous tails here; and when not needed, that extra length can be rolled up and neatly secured using sewn-in velcro retainers. The same is true of the main pack closure straps; I really like being able to roll the excess webbing away, and it helps keep the Guide a neater and less 'strappy' pack than it could have been.
The spec boasts a removable seat pad, but an extensive hunt hasn't yielded one; I suspect this is old information. There is a water bladder sleeve though, and a tough haul loop.
I think it's fair to say that the Guide is not a lean, mean, super technical thoroughbred for the higher grade climber. Some will find it too heavy, fiddly and overladen with features; I'm no fan of the unnecessary zipped entries, for instance, while the chunky hip belt would feel like overkill even if it did fit me. If you prefer simplicity, perhaps take a look at the Guide Lite. On the other hand, plenty of users will appreciate all those zips and pockets. For me the Guide's defining features are its sturdiness, load carrying support, and comfort, and there's a lot to be said for all three. As a mountain all-rounder that should do you equally well for four-season hill walking, one-night backpacking, scrambling, winter mountaineering and classic alpinism, it would be a solid choice. Worth the money? Definitely.
Our mountaineering expert is now even more experienced, slim and lightweight. The well-designed alpine backpack guarantees absolute robustness, a snug fit and maximum control on demanding tours.
- Weight: 1478g (1268g min)
- Material: 330D Micro Rip Pro 6.6 / Super-Polytex
- Removable VariFlex hip fins guarantee freedom of movement
- Perfect load transfer via the Alpine Back System
- Compact fit through centrally positioned hip fins
- Funnel shape for easy packing
- Extremely hard wearing material
- Quick access through zip on side of pack
- Reinforced ski holder
- Compression straps can be closed around the front of the pack for volume reduction, or for attaching extra gear
- Removable rope strap
- Height adjustable lid with material loops and a central, water repelling zip
- Snow guard is easy to use thanks to fixed cord stop and grip loops
- Reinforced handle for hanging up even with heavy loads
- SOS label
- Removable seat pad
For more info see deutergb.co.uk