Which rucksack?

My aging Berghaus Vector rucksack is starting to really show its age. It’s starting to wear through at the bottom of the back and on the waist belt. Now this bag is old… it’s actually Sarah’s and she bought it 1982. It served her as a student and has been used on and off by both us till I caught the SOTA bug in 2006. Since then I’ve carried up 120+ summits.

It’s time for a new one. I could use it till it falls apart but by putting it out to stud now, under the stairs with all of Sarah’s old handbags, it will still be available for occasional use. Anyway, it deserves better than being used till it fails as it has given such fantastic service over the last 27 years.

The question is what to replace it with? Something that’s 30L minimum. I’d like an airflow back, more pockets and an integrated raincover. So far I’m looking at:

Berghaus Freeflow IV 35+8
Osprey Kestrel 38
Lowe Alpine Airzone Centro 35+10

Cost is not really a worry. I want a bag I can use every weekend with 12-16kgs in it that will not fall apart. Something that will cope with sun, snow, rain, hail, wind and the icky stuff that leaks out of me when I’m working hard.

Suggestions, recommendations please.


In reply to MM0FMF:
I’ve just bought a Berghaus Verden 45+8. Tom ( M3XFG ) and I want to share the sack so needed a fully adjustable one.
We spent a lot of time in the shop looking at sacks and this one ticked the boxes for us.

I think there is another thread in the making here. A ‘who has the oldest still functioning bit of Berghaus kit?’ thread.
I have a 1986 vintage jacket, still in use in the winter and on summer holidays in Cornwall of course!!

Good luck with your search

73 James

Look no further than the North Face Terra 35
Airflow back
Handy zip close bottom compartment for SLAB’s etc
Integrated rain cover
Very comfy to cart around and plenty of external pockets etc

I bought mine from Blacks a couple of months ago in the 50% off sale for fifty quid.
My HF QRO pack is around 16Kg too and it copes well with weight distribution etc.
Cant say enough about it.


In reply to MM0FMF:

Hi Andy,

Thanks for the frequency yesterday even if you had broken it!

I use an Osprey pack (around 50 litres) and it is very light and very comfortable but has a number of drawbacks:

  1. It is made of very lightweight material so I am not sure how rugged it will be in the long term
  2. It is expensive
  3. The mesh back is great but the shape of the frame presents problems. It effectively forms a turtle back inside the main compartment and, once a drinking bladder is fitted inside, the internal shape is, at best, frustrating. It is awkward to pack and unpack necessitating the loosening of all compression straps to extricate useful things like the FT817.
  4. The lid is a typical US joke. It is designed to be a bum bag but however you tighten the straps it really fails to properly cover the main compartment on the frame side - a real problem in UK weather conditions.
  5. Once you add an essential waterproof liner (the bag leaks like a seive) the weight advantage isn’t that advantageous.
  6. It has plenty of straps, external pockets and wand pockets and yet I still find it problematic strapping the pole to the bag and stopping it bumping about (which I find unpleasant on a long walk).
  7. It is very very comfortable in use though and I find it better than the equivalent Berghaus plus there are wind shields protecting the vented back which means I do not get a howling gale across my (sweaty and very wet) back.
  8. I cannot see the use for the zipped pockets in the waist belt as it is necessary to undo the belt to easily acccess the pockets - but that might be me!

Having said that, I compared it with the equivalent Berghaus and chose to spend the extra - your mileage may vary!


Barry GM4TOE
PS SS-123 may not be a shandy drinkers hill but it is designed for lager drinkers - and half pints at that!!! Come North lad for real ale hills!

In reply to MM0FMF:
Hi Andy,

I have been using a Berghause Freeflow 25 since 2003. It does the job quite well but it wouldn’t hurt if it were a bit bigger. A lot of stuff gets tied to the exterior by choice. (HF mast, 2m aerial, thermometer, whistle etc. plus shelters or golf-umbrella).

The freeflow feature is good but it not only pinches space from the interior it leaves you with a less than useful volume which demands a curved HF rig. You don’t see too many of those on the market! The pockets are good. waterproofs & a hat fit in one, while the other takes VHF H/H and water. The top compartment is a useful size too. There is a bladder comp inside if you need it but I rarely use it.

Before that I had an L-Frame 35 litre, which lasted from 1978 to 2003. I also have an 85 for expeditions.

I think 35 plus 8 would be good.

73, John YSS.

Thanks for the suggestions so far. This is turning into a complete nightmare! I’ve just been to have a look in my local Cotswold Outdoor, OK it was 6.00pm when I walked in and they close at 7.00pm, but in the 40mins I was in there nobody wandered over and asked if I was OK. 40 mins fiddling with about 6 different bags and nobody tried to sell me anything. Obviously the recession hasn’t affected them and they need to fend of excess customers with a dirty stick. :frowning: Looks like I’ll order it online if that’s their attitude!

Compared to the material my old Vector is made from, the new bags appear to be made from rice paper. I had a look at a range of makes and most feature tiny little flimsy looking plastic hooks. Lowe stuff looks like a 10 year old girl would break it trying to do and undo the fastenings. Never mind a beefy, overweight nearly-50 idiot like me.

The freeflow back system still attracts me immensly but as John says it makes the internal shape rubbish. My old bag is almost rectangular in shape and all my SOTA gear has been designed to fit into lightweight plastic lunch boxes, everything has a place and place for everything. It makes it all so easy to know where to find things when it’s misty or snowing and blowing a houlie. Now these funny shaped bags mean either I go back to just dumping everything in the bag or buy a bigger freeflow bag. Of course the shops stop at 35+8 and then jump to 65L monsters.

So far, based mainly on the thickness of the material used and the amount of plastic in the buckles and fasteners, Berghaus gear is in the lead. Probably a Freeflow 40+10. Its dimensions are given as 683427 (I think this includes the top pockets and my old Vector is 603325 (just the main bag).

Gah! Why is everything so difficult nowadays?


In reply to MM0FMF:


my pennies worth of ramblings…

I’ll chuck something else into the mix, the OMM Jirishanca,


Now, I haven’t used one myself but they have a very good reputation. I keep looking at them and thinking I must try one, one of these days.

I think you’re right on the size, 35+, but it’s got to be what ever suits the individual. I’m using 40L packs for sota day expeditions but then I take lots of “just in case” stuff, you’ll need room for those spikes come next winter too :slight_smile: Funnily enough I’ve just retired my Vango Super Canyon 40+ from active service, at the moment I’m using a Coleman Kwansan 40L (an ebay purchase).

Like you I noticed how much “lighter” the material is and I only got the vango about 5 years ago :slight_smile: But I’m hoping that “advances in technology” mean that the same strength is now obtained from less/lighter material, I certainly notice a difference in weight.

My trouble is I kind of collect kit, I was just discussing rucksacks with a friend last week and realised I have 6! and that doesn’t include that vango.
I wonder if there is some kind of retirement home for rucksacks?

Iain, M3WJZ

Well I took what everyone said on board. Yesterday (Saturday) I took the boss into Edinburgh for a nice lunch and also to try some more bags. The alternative was to go for a walk in the not too pleasant weather as we were children-free for the day. There were quite a few severe showers during the day and the cloud was touching the ground. So some retail therapy seemed like a good idea.

As I’ve previously said, I have a Cotswolds Outdoor shop about 2.5miles from where I live. Edinburgh boasts a Nevisports and Tiso. The staff appear to know about the products in Tiso and Nevisports! I’d narrowed the selection down to a few, Berghaus FreeflowIV 40+10, OMM Villain 45+, The North Face Prophet 45, Berghaus Sentinal 45. The last 3 bags are classed as Alpine rucksacks, more suitable for climbing than walking and having features like haul loops etc. and the ability to strip the bag down to a leaner lighter feature set.

So after a nice lunch we checked out the stores. The prices on offer were the RRP, online prices are of course better. However, I take the view that if I want to have specialist niche stores like these in easy reach, then I have to buy from them. It’s far too easy to checkout the gear in the store and then buy online from Amazon and save a tenner or so. If everyone does that then one day there’ll be no high street shop, just the online shop. Great if you know exactly what you want but awkward if you want to try on boots or bags. Also the staff in Tiso have always been helpful and knowledgeable. The extra seems worthwhile to me, you may feel differently!

So the Bergahus was dismissed early on as it lacked attachment loops. Or for what it cost, there were similar bags that did more. The OMM was exceptionally lightweight. The downloadable owners manual is very detailed showing how you can customise the bag. However, to my mind it just felt too flimsy. I’m sure it would be fine but I was worried it wouldn’t last. The Sentinal 45 is another league. Hugely customisable, well made with a neat ice-axe stowage system for when you need to stow it but might want to get it without removing the bag. A removable dry liner and more attachment points that you could imagine. The price was £40 more than the others but Nevisports’ online shop had it on offer for £40 discount. The Prophet 45 looks to be an excellent bag, well made with decent size clips. However, I dismissed them as none of them had airflow backs. That was one of the major requirements as I’m fed up with how wet my back gets with any close fitting bag.

So that left 2 bags not on my short list, Lowe Alpine AirCentro 45 and a Deuter Futura Pro 38. Both are framed with mesh backs and they stand clear of your back with the downside of awkward interior shape. The Lowe was lovely but the clips were just so teeny tiny and flimsy. The boss agreed, she didn’t expect the clips to last at all with my big paws. So to the Deuter. Well featured, not too curved a frame, lots of attachment points, the clips and belts were almost as big as Berghaus. It also felt so comfortable to wear. After a lifetime of indecision the sales guy said “Well don’t forget you can take it home and check everything fits and bring it back if you want a bigger or smaller one.” The Deuter was swiftly purchased.

I’d also had a realistion whilst working through these bags. 99% of the time I carry the same stuff, so what I need is a bag that fits all I normally take that is comfortable. There’s little to be gained sacrificing the advantages of airflow backs just to have a bag that can occasionally carry more gear. What seems the best idea is a bag that does what I need for the vast majority of activations. For the odd occasion when I need more space I can strap extra to the outside or buy a bigger bag that will be a comprise for those few times. Anything that gives me the chance to buy more toys has to be good!

With the Deuter back home I transferred all the gear over. It all fits without anygreat trouble and like my old bag, this one feels quite full. However, there are lots of pockets of unused space primarily because my SOTA gear is currently packed into boxes that fitted inside the old almost rectanguloid shape. Fitting them into a curvy shape in the Deuter is not optimal. So I’m working on alternate packing arrangements. Watch this space.

How does it feel? Well the bag is lighter than the old one. But the difference loaded up is amazing. The same contents as before in the new bag feels about half as heavy! This is simply because the weight is now effectively transferred to the hip belt and less on the shoulders that with the old (27 year old) design. It feels nice and stable too. The proof of the pudding will be in the use. Sadly not this weekend, I’m just about to go to the office to enjoy an few hours unpaid overtime just to keep a client happy. Pah! Still I had the company of the boss yesterday, a nice lunch and hours pouring the contents of outdoor shops. Nice!