Pick A Pack - The Difference Between Our Hiking Packs

by Chris Hartley & Zach Bostock - Mountain Designs

Pick A Pack - The Difference Between Our Hiking Packs

For the uninitiated (or misinformed) outdoor adventurer, a pack probably just seems like, well, every other pack. But a little homework will soon show that's far from the truth. Yes there are some commonalities but as with all quality adventure gear, there are some features and functionalities that make a design purpose-made for certain activities. Getting a basic understanding of how to choose a pack is a great way to start. If you've decided you're hitting the trails, then read on as here we dive into our hiking packs, highlighting the main differences between each so you can choose the right one for your hiking adventure.

Madison With The Pioneer 70L & Explorer 75L
Madison With The Escape Hike 30L
The Escape Hike 30L Being Used For Everything

Over the past 12 months, Adventure Ambassador Harrison Candlin has been putting most of our hiking packs to the test - seen here is Harrison's partner Madison with the Pioneer 70L and Explorer 75L (left), and the Escape Hike 30L (centre and right) being used for everything from rock scrambles to snow treks.

Technical Hiking Packs

The Explorer pack was designed as a hybrid pack, maximising its features for both around-the-world travel and backcountry hiking. The Trekker and Pioneer packs on the other hand were mainly designed for the trail, so you can carry all the necessary equipment for multi-day hikes. Each of these packs is made to a high quality standard and utilises highly durable fabrics, however there are some key differences between them, which include:

Size/Capacity - The first thing to ask yourself is how much does the pack actually need to hold? Often the activity type and duration of the trip determines what you need. The Trekker pack comes in 45 litre, 55 litre and 65 litre capacities, whereas the Explorer only comes in 65 litre and 75 litre capacities. The Pioneer comes in 60 litres and 70 litres. It is good to have a clear understanding of how much gear and the size of your gear you plan to carry when selecting your pack.

Weight - With the Explorer pack having more features, it also has more weight. Comparing the 65L Trekker and the 65L Explorer packs, the Explorer is 0.64kg heavier. This is something to keep in mind when selecting which pack is right for you. The 60L and 70L Pioneer packs are 2.34kg and 2.5kg respectively, coming right in the middle of the others.

Harness & Fit - All three designs have an adjustable harness system with comfortable padding. However the Explorer and Pioneer styles use our Bar Harness 2.0 design, minimising weight while increasing air flow around your back while hiking. The Bar Harness 2.0 system is very stable and will keep your harness set to where you need it for the long term.

Compartment Accessibility & Accessories Pockets - The main compartment of the Trekker, Pioneer and Explorer packs can be accessed from the cinchable top and also the bottom through a zippered closure. In addition, the Explorer pack has access through a front zippered opening, allowing the pack to be opened like a suitcase. This suitcase type opening is highly useful for travelling when you need to access items packed in the centre of your pack. The Trekker pack instead has a large front pocket ideal for quick access items such as headtorch, food, etc so they don't get lost amongst the rest of your gear in the main compartment. The Pioneer also has a front pouch. All three packs do have zippered pockets in the hood, also for quick access items.

Lid - The lids of these packs are attached differently. The Trekker lid is hinged directly on the main body of the pack, for durability as well as enabling you to carry smaller loads in the pack without any issues. On the other hand, the Pioneer and Explorer packs have a floating lid design, allowing you to easily carry larger loads strapped down under the lid. This also allows you to remove the lid if needed for whatever reason.

Carry Handles - With travelling in mind when developing the Explorer pack, extra side carry handles were added for easy transporting of the pack, whether it is being picked up off the airport carousel or loading into the back of a vehicle. The Trekker and Pioneer do not have this feature.

Rain Cover/Travel Tote - The Trekker does not come with a rain cover, this can be purchased separately. The Pioneer does have a built-in rain cover, which can be zipped out of the bottom pouch and secured around the pack for weather protection. The Explorer also comes with a rain cover that can double as a tote bag. This rain cover can be used as a normal rain cover over the pack while hiking in the rain, or it can be zipped up completely, encasing the Explorer pack entirely for travel. This minimises the risk of the harness, pack material and any loose straps being damaged in transit and also the risk of your gear falling out and being misplaced. Using the travel tote also allows you to lock your pack inside.

The Pioneer & Explorer Packs Have The Bar Harness 2.0 System
The Cinchable Top-Loading Main Compartment On All Three Technical Hiking Packs
The Rain Cover Or Travel Tote Of The Hybrid Explorer Pack

The Pioneer and Explorer packs have the Bar Harness 2.0 system, which minimises weight while increasing air flow and stability (left); the cinchable top-loading main compartment on all three technical hiking packs (centre); and the rain cover/travel tote of the hybrid Explorer pack (right).

Technical Hiking Packs

- Trekker
Pioneer
Explorer
NAME Trekker Pioneer Explorer
RRP ($AUD) 45L - $229.99
55L - $249.99 (pictured)
65L - $269.99
60L - $269.99 (pictured)
70L - $299.99
65L - $299.99 (pictured)
75L - $319.99
Capacity 45L; 55L; 65L 60L; 70L 65L; 75L
Dimensions 45L - 63cm H x 35cm W x 21cm D
55L - 69cm H x 38cm W x 22cm D
65L - 73cm H x 40cm W x 24cm D
60L - 70cm H x 33cm W x 26cm L
70L - 76cm H x 36cm W x 26cm L
65L - 70cm H x 35cm W x 27cm D
75L - 75cm H x 36cm W x 28cm D
Outer Fabric 500D nylon with PU coating 420D ripstop polyester with PU coating 500D nylon with PU coating
Secondary Fabric 600D polyester with PU coating 600D polyester with PU coating 600D polyester with PU coating
DWR Finish Yes Yes Yes
Weight 45L - 1.90kg
55L - 2.00kg
65L - 2.10kg
60L - 2.34kg
70L - 2.50kg
65L - 2.74kg
75L - 2.98kg
Harness System Adjustable Bar Harness 2.0 Adjustable Bar Harness 2.0 Adjustable
Back Panel Padded mesh Padded mesh Padded mesh
Shoulder Straps Adjustable padded mesh; Contoured Adjustable padded mesh; Contoured Adjustable padded mesh; Contoured
Chest/Sternum Strap Yes (adjustable) Yes (adjustable) Yes (adjustable)
Hip Belt Yes (adjustable; padded) Yes (pre-curved; adjustable; padded) Yes (pre- curved; adjustable; padded)
Load Adjusters Yes (shoulder; hip) Yes (shoulder; hip) Yes (shoulder; hip)
Main Access Top-loading cinch opening Top-loading cinch opening Top-loading cinch opening
Bottom Access Yes (zippered) Yes (zippered) Yes (zippered)
Front Access No No Yes
Front Pocket Yes (zippered) No No
Hood Pockets Yes (internal; external) Yes (internal; external) Yes (internal; external)
Side Pockets Yes (mesh) Yes (mesh) Yes (mesh)
Internal Divider No Yes No
Adjustable Hood No Yes Yes
Hiking Pole Loops Yes Yes Yes
Compression Straps - Side 2x 2x 2x
Compression Straps - Top 2x 2x 2x
Compression Straps - Bottom 2x 2x 2x
Rain Cover No Yes (stowable) Yes (stowable; travel tote)
Hydration Compatible Yes (internal bladder sleeve) Yes (internal bladder sleeve) Yes (internal bladder sleeve)
Fit & Harness Adjustability ★★★★ ★★★★★ ★★★★★
Breathability ★★★★ ★★★★★ ★★★★★
Durability ★★★★★ ★★★★ ★★★★★
Lightweight Feel ★★★★ ★★★★ ★★★★
Gear Protection ★★★★ ★★★★ ★★★★★
Gear Accessibility ★★★★ ★★★★ ★★★★★
Storage ★★★★ ★★★★★ ★★★★★
Ideal   Hiking Hiking Hiking
Camping Camping Travel

Day Packs For Hiking

The Escape day pack models were all designed for smaller trail adventures, such as day hikes or in some cases overnighters. But again, like the technical hiking packs, there are a number of differences that determine how and where you should use each one. These include:

Size/Capacity - Like the technical hikers, you should have an idea of how much packing space you require for your gear, but the fact is with these styles you're not going to be storing too much as they are designed for trips of shorter duration. The Escape Lite is the baby at 20 litres, followed by the Escape Trail and Escape Hike at 25 litres and 30 litres respectively. The Escape Multi comes in 30L and 40L models.

Weight - Because the Escape day packs have different capacities, we're not really comparing apples to apples but as you'd expect, the weight increases as the size of the pack increases. The Escape Multi packs weigh a bit more because of the extra design features they have.

Harness & Fit - All of these designs have adjustable padded shoulder straps, an adjustable chest strap for secure fastening and even weight distribution, and padded mesh back panelling for airflow and comfort. The Escape Hike and the two Escape Multi packs have adjustable padded mesh hip belts with zippered pockets, the Escape Trail has a hip belt but it is not padded.

Compartment Accessibility & Accessories Pockets - The Escape Lite and Escape Trail both have a traditional U-shaped compartment opening, whereas the Escape Hike and Escape Multi packs are top loaders with accessories pockets on the lid for quick-grab items. The Escape Multi can also be accessed through a zippered closure at the bottom. All styles have side mesh pockets and a front compartment (except the Escape Hike). The Escape Trail and the Escape Hike have hiking pole attachment loops to secure your trekking poles when not in use, while the Escape Hike and Escape Multi have daisy chain/elasticated cord systems for external storage and hanging of additional items.

Rain Cover/Travel Tote - There is no rain cover for the Escape Lite but the Escape Trail and Escape Hike both have one built into the base of the pack. The Escape Multi has a rain cover that also doubles as a travel tote, so the pack can be secured in transit and carried like a suitcase.

Escape Day Packs
Hydration Compatible
Zippered Closure Of The Escape Multi

All Escape day packs are designed with a padded mesh back panel and padded shoulder straps for comfort (left), as well as being hydration compatible (centre); the zippered closure on the bottom of the Escape Multi that allows easy access to items stored deep (right).

 DAY PACKS FOR HIKING    
- Escape Lite
Escape Trail
Escape Hike
Escape Multi
NAME Escape Lite Escape Trail Escape Hike Escape Multi
RRP ($AUD) $69.99 $99.99 $129.99 30L - $179.99
40L - $199.99
Capacity 20L 25L 30L 30L; 40L
Dimensions 48cm H x 29cm W x 20cm D 50cm H x 32cm W x 18cm D 58cm H x 33cm W x 18cm D 30L - 53cm H x 30cm W x 19cm D
40L - 62cm H x 33cm W x 20cm D
Outer Fabric 150D ripstop polyester with PU coating 150D ripstop polyester with PU coating 200D ripstop nylon with PU coating 500D nylon with PU coating
Secondary Fabric 150D ripstop polyester with PU coating 600D polyester with PU coating 600D polyester with PU coating 1,000D polyester with PU coating
DWR Finish Yes Yes Yes Yes
Weight 0.48kg 0.80kg 0.88kg 30L - 1.49kg
40L - 1.84kg
Harness System No No No Yes
Back Panel Padded mesh Padded mesh Padded mesh Padded mesh
Shoulder Straps Adjustable padded mesh Adjustable padded mesh; Contoured Adjustable padded mesh; Contoured Adjustable padded mesh; Contoured
Chest/Sternum Strap Yes (adjustable) Yes (adjustable) Yes (adjustable) Yes (adjustable)
Hip Belt No Yes (adjustable) Yes (adjustable; padded) Yes (adjustable; padded)
Load Adjusters No No Yes (shoulder) No
Main Access Top-loading U-shape opening Top-loading U-shape opening Top-loading U-shape opening Top-loading U-shape opening
Bottom Access No No No Yes (zippered)
Front Access No No No Yes
Front Pocket Yes (zippered) Yes (zippered) No No
Hood Pockets No No Yes Yes
Side Pockets Yes (mesh) Yes (mesh) Yes (mesh) Yes (mesh)
Internal Divider No No No Yes
Adjustable Hood No No No Yes
Hiking Pole Loops No Yes Yes No
Compression Straps - Side No 2x 2x 2x
Compression Straps - Top No No No No
Compression Straps - Bottom No No No 2x
Rain Cover No Yes (stowable) Yes (stowable) Yes (stowable; travel tote)
Hydration Compatible Yes (internal bladder sleeve) Yes (internal bladder sleeve) Yes (internal bladder sleeve) Yes (internal bladder sleeve)
Fit & Harness Adjustability ★★★ ★★★★ ★★★★ ★★★★
Breathability ★★★★ ★★★★ ★★★★★ ★★★★
Durability ★★★ ★★★★ ★★★★ ★★★★★
Lightweight Feel ★★★★★ ★★★★ ★★★★★ ★★★★
Gear Protection ★★★ ★★★★ ★★★★ ★★★★★
Gear Accessibility ★★★★ ★★★★ ★★★★ ★★★★★
Storage ★★★ ★★★★ ★★★★ ★★★★★
Ideal   Everyday Outdoors Hiking Hiking Hiking
Camping Camping  - Travel
 -  -  - Everyday Outdoors

Photo Credits

Images supplied by Harrison Candlin

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