When I started SOTA in 2006 I “borrowed” my wife’s rucksack from her student days. It was a Berghaus one and was 20+years old but in excellent condition. After 3 years of use I could see it was starting to wear in the odd place so I though I should really buy my own. I spent a while looking trying to find one that suited my needs better. I settled on a Deuter Futura Pro in May 2009. This is an internal frame bag with mesh panel, and so stands clear of your back and allows good air circulation. Many makers sold bags like this with names like Freeflow, Airflow, Aircontact etc. but they seem less popular now. I found the new back was a significant improvement over the old Bergahus which was an early frameless type that made a chubby FMF’s back very sweaty.
Rolling on to the present, well say Autumn 2019. I noticed that my shoulders were aching a lot when I got back from an activation. The bag didn’t seem to sit right any more and I was constantly tightening or slacking the shoulder straps. I really wasn’t sure it wasn’t me. By the time I came down fro Sgor Mor GM/ES-026 the other week after a 15.5km walk on a hot day my shoulders were not happy. Back home I had a study of my bag and came to the conclusion the foam in the straps/belt had lost its “mojo”. Basically 11 years of lugging 817s, batteries, antennas etc. had taken the springiness out of them.
I had a look online and the model I had was no longer made. I’d looked at some Lowe Alpine and Osprey bags in the past so I thought I’d see about getting one of those. Searching online I found that whilst my Deuter 38L bag was no longer made, they made a 36L and 40L model instead. My 11year old Deuter bag has lasted exceptionally well. There is a small tear and a small hole were a hard plastic box was rubbing against the fabric. Both were fixed with some patches of similar material and some flexible glue and they never got any worse. The elastic in the side mesh pockets finally lost its stretch and return a few years back. No zips or plastic clips failed despite the bag being used for probably 500 activations. I thought the wear resistance and longevity made buying another Deuter bag a good idea.
A bit more searching and I found some good prices online. I like having an outdoor gear store in my town and I know if I buy everything online then eventually my store will close. However, they don’t stock the 36 or 40L bags but can get them for me. 14day lead time and I think there is a hefty non-refundable deposit to pay if I decided I didn’t want it. Hmmm.
Anyway checking a few online stores for customer reviews, the one selling it cheap had terrible reviews, items taking months to arrive, items never arriving etc. People did get their money back but with some effort. Another shop was quoting 5 working day delivery and was £6 more. Their customer service reviews were excellent. Better still, I would have a no-questions-asked 14 refund window with free collection and return. So the price was about 15% below list, 5-day delivery, 14-day refund policy, excellent service reviews… I got out my credit card and ordered.
The first problem was despite having the same email address for 14years, I typed it in wrong twice. OK this was 3.05 pm on a Sunday. I had a snapshot of the confirmation of the order but no emailed receipt and no tracking emails. I mailed my work computer a reminder to contact their customer service and get the email changed on Monday. Checking the customer service link for phone numbers it said “Customer service 8am-8pm Mon-Fri, 10am-4pm Sat/Sun”. No way, customer service on a Sunday. I rang the number and it was answered… “you are second in the queue”, then 3 mins later “you are first in the queue” then I spoke to someone. On a Sunday! Email fixed. Amazing!
I got an email Wednesay PM saying my bag would be delivered between 3.45pm and 4.45pm on Thursday. Thurs 4.15pm it arrived.
And it’s brilliant. It’s a slightly different internal shape/size so it needs packing a little differently to the old one. No doubt I’ll refine that over the months ahead but everything I take fits in. Better still there’s plenty more room for Winter Down jackets etc. without squashing them down so much. But the most amazing thing is how it feels on my back. It feels fabulous and unlike the old one, it sits properly on my hips and the shoulder straps are locating it in position rather than taking lots of weight. I took a close look at the old one and it looks like the most worn part is the foam on the waist belt which has lost most of its give.
I’d like to say it’s great in use but I still nursing a knee injury from the last activation. Rod M0JLA (@m0jla) sent me some knee physio exercises to try and after 2 days they have made a huge improvement, thanks Rod. So a field trial will have to wait for now.
I did give the old bag a damn good wash in the bath in hot water and handwashing soap. I certainly didn’t put any Nikwax treatment in after Paul G4MD’s (@g4md) description of how it made the adjustable straps slip all the time on his bag. Anyway it need 5 wash/rinse cycles till the water didn’t look like Brown Windsor Soup
Old bag cost £108 in May 2009. Since then we can assume 42 weekends walking/year giving 472 outings. One wear hole from my misuse, one tear from an angry Gorse bush, degraded elastic in side pockets, no other failures. I think that says that Deuter know how to make a bag that lasts and why I was happy to buy the Mk2 version.
That gives a cost per outing of approx £0.23. or £9.60 / year. Peanuts really.
The company I used is outdoorsupply.co.uk (part of etrias.nl in The Netherlands), I have no connection other than as a highly satisfied customer. YMMV but I doubt it.