I know many of you will have continued to be out on the hill, enjoying the cold, brisk, often snowy days of late, tramping through the powder, walking axes to hand.
Others will no doubt have been tucked up in front of the fire with a good book and a wee dram, waiting for brighter skies before heading to the great outdoors. Whichever camp you sit in, and I actually admit to both at some time or other, I have selected four new multi-purpose backpacks which I have been extremely impressed with, so I thought I would bring them to your attention.
Aquapac Toccoa TrailProof Backpack 28L
If you have never thought about taking a fully waterproof backpack on the trail, believing them to be for the sole use of watersports enthusiasts, then I urge you to think again, because Aquapac have a range of packs that fit the bill perfectly. Take, for example, the super-tough but lightweight Toccoa, which I have been trialling in 28L format. What is great about this pack is that it will cope with everything the trail – and you – throw at it, because that is exactly what it is designed for, yet it sits at a really affordable price point. Aquapac class it as multi-purpose, so it doesn’t matter whether you are paddling, hiking, biking or heading off to enjoy some extreme sports, this is the pack for you. Available in three colours – acid green, cool blue and matt black – the pack is manufactured in tough 500D vinyl, sealing out water thanks to the all-welded construction. I particularly like the roll-down seal with either side compression or top (maximum volume) closure. Basically, if you only a half-full pack, then the compression straps keep your gear, and the pack, nice and compact. Should you have a full bag, then go for the maximum space allowance with the top closure. Three rolls and you are sealed and ready to hit the trail. Other features include mesh side pockets for those quick and easy access items, daisy-chain webbing so you can secure carabiners to the side of the bag, lash points for lights, breathable mesh straps and padding. and an easy grab handle. Should you be wondering, as I was, Toccoa is the name of a whitewater river in Georgia, USA. £49.99, www.aquapac.net
Mammut Seon Cargo 35L
It took me a while to get my head round the Seon, for the simple reason that it comes with anatomically shaped, soft padded mesh shoulder straps with grab handle, a convenient side handle and another handle which I thought at first was positioned at the top, but is in fact at the bottom! Having said that, it all made sense when I got to grips with the various zip openers, and realised that this generously portioned and proportioned bag is extremely versatile, and therefore nigh on perfect for commuters and those off on foreign travels. Let’s start with the main compartment. Zip it open, and it reveals a generous space for clothing and other essentials. The lid comprises a zipped, padded area for a laptop and a further slide-in compartment for an iPad, papers, etcetera. Above the zipped main compartment is another zipped enclosure with padded inserts for your camera body and a couple of lenses or the like, plus a zipped pocket in the lid and a small, Velcro closure mesh pocket for SD cards, leads, etcetera. And there’s more… including a zipped accessories pocket across the top of the pack, and two side zipped pockets which, when the main compartment is full, offer plenty of room for handy items such as passport, wallet, pens, etcetera. Head to the bottom of the pack, and under the handle is another zipped, spacious enclosure, which Mammut suggest is there to stash climbing shoes for your next visit to the gym. Well, yes, fair enough, but it is also great for a ton of other uses, and especially if you are looking for a wet or dirty clothing storage area. Both comfortable and efficient, the design team have clearly put a lot of thought into the Seon, and it pays off handsomely. £106, www.mammut.ch
Mountain Warehouse Peregrine 30L
If you are wanting to source more of a mid-sized option, then the Peregrine is a neat contender, as it is again packed with features, and therefore can be classed as multi-purpose. I’ll start with the back, because that is always going to be important if you are intending on wearing the pack for long hikes. Rest assured, as it has a soft and breathable, padded air mesh back which is both raised and contoured, thus providing the comfort you require, nay, demand these days. Stabiliser straps at the chest and hips help with, well, the stabilisation, provided you have distributed the load in a sensible and convenient manner. The main storage compartment is standard fare, with a small, easily accessible pocket. You then have a zipped compartment which will take a 17” laptop, with an assortment of other useful organiser pockets for papers, pens, passport, phone and the like, and yet another side zip access pocket for any other items you fancy carrying. This is always useful for stowing a shell, hat and gloves. Finally, there are two side mesh pockets suitable as drinks holders. £49.99, www.mountainwarehouse.com
Mountain Warehouse Inca Extreme 35L
I was part-way through checking out the Peregrine, when Mountain Warehouse contacted me to tell me about the new Inca Extreme, so I was happy to include a report. MW have certainly gone to town on this pack, which is made of rip-stop polyester, and which covers about every need for either a day trip across the fells, a daily commute or a flight. For starters, you have copious amounts of room in the main compartment, complete with 17″ laptop section, plus a zipped mesh pocket. There are further pockets in the lid, plus a central zipped pocket which is just perfect for a hydration pack, and large elasticised side pockets for bottles. The waist straps each have a small zipped compartment for easy access snacks. Fortunately, neither will take my iPhone 6+, so that is shoved in the main compartment, so if anyone rings me, they will have to wait! Oh yes, I forgot to mention the rain cover which is neatly concealed at the bottom of the pack. The Inca Extreme has a tension suspended mesh back, allowing air to flow freely between back and pack. Roomy, comfortable, nicely designed and affordable, what’s not to like? £89.99, www.mountainwarehouse.com
Regatta Blackfell II 25L
The first thing I noted about the Blackfell II was the Stream Air ventilation system with cushioned mesh back panels, allowing plenty of room between the back and actual pack. This top-loading pack has a small zipped lid pocket with internal key clip. an internal hydration storage pocket and drinking tube retainer. Other features include soft micro mesh water bottle side pockets, a front bungee storage system, integral bungee walking pole holders, side compression straps and a detachable rain cover. I was also impressed with the large sternum belt, which is extremely well padded. The pack is made from tough-wearing ripstop fabric, complete with a reflective trim finish. Being lightweight with a vented back system, this is one great pack for daily use. £65, www.regatta.com