Monday, 30 May 2011

Berghaus Freeflow 25+5 Backpack

Despite not being a very active blogger over the last few months I have been out and about a bit and quite active with the sewing machine.  All of the trips I have been doing are day walks or outings with kids to various events.  Handily just before this mini period of activity Webtogs sent me a new day pack to test Berghaus Freeflow 25+5 Backpack

I used to use Berghaus stuff quite a bit in my past as they are a name that’s associated with well designed kit and toughness.  This doesn’t always mean that it’s the lightest kit around and therefore I don’t really use much of their kit anymore.  

If you’re going to be doing any distance/time with a pack you’ve got to get one that fits.  This is not as easy as it sounds.  The lightweight way is to try on all the packs that you like the look of with your kit inside and find out which one fits the best.  Most lightweight packs aren’t adjustable and some do come in different sizes to accommodate various back lengths.  I order packs online, making sure first that I can return it if it doesn’t fit and then getting them delivered to my house, trying them on with my kit in (in the house).  A long and potentially expensive way of trying out new gear if the retailer doesn’t cover the return postage.

You don't need to bother with all that business with this backpack as it seems to be infinitely adjustable.  To test this I put about 5kg of kit and water in the pack and set it up with the adjustable back length, load lifters, sternum strap and hip belt.  It took less than five minutes and once adjusted, apart from minor tweaks doesn’t need adjusting again.  Then my partner had a go.  I’m 5’11 she’s 5’ 5’ and weighs substantially less than me.  Again within five minutes the same pack fitted her as well as it did me.

The Freeflow system takes a bit of getting used to if you’re not familiar with it as carries the weight in the pack  away from your back.  10 minutes of using pack you forget about the different feel to packs the carry the load nearer to your back.  Due to the size of the pack you’re not going to be carrying a great deal of weight anyway so this is not an issue.  It certainly works in reducing sweaty backs. 

Packing the bag takes a bit of thought.  The main compartment is quite small compared to the overall size of the bag.  The side pockets (not the mesh ones) which I was dubious of their usability when the main compartment was full work very well.  Each one being able to take a 500ml bottle and have room for hats/gloves etc.  Again the lid pocket holds more that on first glance it would.  I think the size rating is accurate but seems small as there are so many different compartments to put things in.  If you’re an organised sort this will appeal to you.

I did use the pack for a two day and night backpacking trip with Steven Horner.  I wanted to see if I could get all my kit in and still have room for a couple of days food.  The kit I used is below.

All the kit went in comfortably.  Most of my kit is pretty light weigh and therefore low bulk and with that kit I could get two days food and one and a half litres of water.  The pack also has a zipped pocket right on the base which contains an integrated rain cover which is a nice touch and also means it won't get blown away.

The pack carries very comfortably, this is due to the way in which it's able to be adjusted and I expect Berghaus' experience in putting kit together.  My only slight issue I have with it is that the hip belt strap kept slipping. I would like to qualify this, in that I do like hip belts to be really tight.  When I tightened the strap to my liking it would slip over about 10 minutes or so to be relatively tight, but not tight enough for me.  I expect that I have hip belts tighter than most so it may not be an issue for many users but I don't have this problem with other packs that I use.

Overall it's a very versatile pack that works equally well as a day pack or an overnight pack with low bulk kit.  The pack harness itself is very well made and can cope with weights that you'd never be able to put into the back due to it's small volume.  The construction is very good and I expect that if you bought this pack you wouldn't get rid of it because it fell to bits.  It's designed as a 25l day pack and as day packs go it's jammed full of features and is comfortable, it weighs more than some but the comfort of carrying means this really isn't an issue.  If you're looking for a comfortable pack that's going to come on a lot of adventures for a lot of years then you should consider this one.

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