CamelBak Women's Ultra Pro Running Vest
Our review team's keenest runner, Bridget Collier, tests this lightweight vest/pack from CamelBak...
Alpkit's new range of retro-style packs are a nice addition to their line-up. From the three models in the range we went for the mid-sized Tyrol, with a 20 litre capacity that is ideal for country walks and general days out. At £70 it's not cheap for a small-ish daypack, particularly given that it's more 'lifestyle' than 'technical'; however the Tyrol is well-made (in the UK too) and - we think - looks good.
This is a basic pack, with cushioning to match. There's no attempt at back ventilation or any load-spreading frame, just a simple back sheet made of dense, but comfy, foam. As with all small soft packs, since it has no structure as such the shape of the body tends to bulge out at the back if you stuff it to the max, and when it's over-full the lack of a chest strap means that the shoulder straps feel like they want to slip off. This pack carries better when it's about half or three quarters full. At least there's enough depth of cushioning to stop sharp objects jabbing you between the shoulder blades.
Padding on the shoulder straps is very thin, which I like since it means that they hug close to the body and don't get in the way. The straps are fairly broad over the shoulder, but tapered and curved to give them a nice unrestrictive fit. There's no hipbelt, which would arguably be redundant anyway with the sort of light loads you'd tend to carry in a 20 litre pack. If you were to try running, the Tyrol would bounce around a lot. This is a traditional non-techy rucksack that's very much for walking rather than running, climbing or scrambling. You'd be as likely to use it around town as up a hill, though that isn't to say it would be out of place on a summer felltop.
What's it made from?
In a word, cotton. Synthetic materials may be absolutely dominant in today's outdoor clothing and equipment, but these fabrics come with significant environmental costs at all stages from production to disposal. In times gone by good old natural cotton had a multitude of outdoor uses, from sails and work clothes to tents and knapsacks, and since their new retro packs hark back to a simpler age it seems appropriate that Alpkit have made them from waxed cotton. Tough, water-resistant (to a point) and supple, this is nice stuff - and as it's 'dry waxed' it doesn't have a tacky feel or noticeably leave a residue on your shoulders. A light shower just rolls off it, though I wouldn't be so certain about prolonged heavy rain. The wax treatment will need replenishing every year or so, say Alpkit (instructions here).
At about 540g it's not light for a small pack, but the 330 denier fabric feels like it should last for years - and there's build quality to match, with bar-tacked stress points, bound seams (stronger and neater than plain seams) and bombproof aluminium buckles. Alpkit must be pretty confident, since they offer a 25-year warranty.
Entry is via a traditional lid and drawcord. My wife Pegs prefers a zipped entry, while I'm a fan of the lid style; if you agree with her then look at the slightly smaller pack in the range, the Pelmo. The main buckle is an aluminium hook, which is nice and simple and should last forever. On the other hand the drawcord on our review model has got a bit ropey, with some of the core poking out. It's still usable and would be easily replaced, but it's a shame a seemingly poor quality cord has been used when the rest of the pack is well made.
For small valuables there's a zipped over-lid pocket, but I do emphasise small - it'll take a phone or thin hat/gloves, but it's not wide enough for an OS map. You do get a key clip, which I'd consider pretty much essential.
Inside is a padded sleeve for a laptop or tablet, a sensible addition on a pack that you're as likely to take to work, to college or on holiday as up a mountain.
We don't all spend every hour grappling with alpine north faces or running ultra marathons, so most of us have space in life for a non-technical day pack for general out-and-about. The Tyrol is a good one - simple, stylish (in an understated retro way) and made to last. It seems quite expensive for what it is, but as it's made in the UK and has a quality feel overall I think it's worth the money. I'm sure you could spend more on a less-good pack from some fashion/lifestyle label. At least you might actually go hillwalking with the Tyrol, not just out to the shops.
Tyrol is our natural fibre 20 litre daypack, inspired by the classic alpine packs shouldered by our childhood idols. It's ideal for mountain walking and travel, with practical features for daily use too. It's made from dry waxed cotton, which is cotton canvas imbued with wax to give it natural water resistance and a supple feel. Waxed cotton is lightweight and incredibly durable, that's why it's been used over the centuries for everything from sailcloth to garments for farmers, and why we've used to it make mountain daypacks suitable for day-in, day-out use.
For more info see alpkit.com
"The Fast Alpine 40 is Montane's very decent stab at making an all-round pack for the British mountaineer", reckons Toby Archer
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.
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.
We check out 11 smaller rucksacks for lightweight days.
Dan Bailey tests a range of dry bags from Sea to Summit, from an ultralight model to an ultra-tough one, via a bag with a window for...
Last year Mountain Equipment released the Tupilak Pack to much fanfare. It's at the cutting edge of design, material and...
Outdoor brands often trade on their heritage, but with 35 years as Lowe Alpine's top of the range load carrier, the...