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.
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 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).
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.
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).