This pack I'm sure will hit the spot with many lightweight fans, as the features are well thought out, the weight is perfect and the price is just fantastic!
The fact that it includes an adjustable back system, which comes without much of a weight penalty, if at all, is great. So you can get the right fit for you and anyone else in the family.
The main pocket is capacious and the long neck of the roll top allows for a sudden increase in load, when you do a food drop or store bulky clothing for example. The neck has a male/female catch at each side of the roll top so can be cinched down either side of the pack, or together at the top.
Inside the main pocket is a handy small zipped pocket to keep your wallet, keys and important items you don't want falling to the bottom of the pack.
Between the front mesh pocket, which will take plenty of wet gear and the main body is another zipped deep pocket, ideal for maps and thinner items to be stored.
With an adjustable back system, the main issue is often the hip belt pockets, which can disappear around your hips if you are like me tall and broad, as the harness is lengthened. However Montane have cleverly solved this by angling the zipped pockets so they are further back on the hipbelt itself. Hard to describe, but it means you can reach back at an angle of 45% on both sides and access two very large and deep stretch areas, which will store hats and gloves galore.
There are many other little touches which users will love I'm sure, such as the hidden pole clips on the front or under arm. The mesh chest harness pockets big enough for phones and tech gear and the dual chest brace straps, ideal for the female form.
Finally the metal stay is easy to remove so if you want a frameless bag to roll up and take travelling you have that option.
Personally I would think that a load of 12kg would be about the max it would take to be comfortable, due to the thinner belt support and shoulder harness. But this sits very nicely for the lightweight fans, as they tend to be between 8 and 10kg when doing weekend or longer trips.
Did I mention the price? Because that's why we love it!
This is what the manufacturers say ...
When self-sufficiency is key, the Trailblazer® 44 allows you to move fast and light over long-distance mountain trails, where low-weight, stability and quick access to your kit is essential. The innovative Montane® COVALENT harness delivers a customisable, body-hugging fit without restricting movement. With a plentiful 44-litre storage capacity and a multitude of pockets, it offers easy access to hydration, food and essential kit while on the move.
CONSTRUCTION RAPTOR Cross Lite 70 Denier fabric in the main body is tough and lightweight. RAPTOR Resistance 210 Denier base panels provide excellent durability. CONTACT Air Mesh Plus on the harness for added breathability and reduced weight. Durable HALO lining MONTANE COVALENT HARNESS Customisable, body-hugging Montane® COVALENT harness designed for a superior fit and extended comfort, adjusted via the duel direction under arm pull ADJUSTABLE BACK SYSTEM Adjustable ZephyrAD back system allows the wearer to quickly adjust the back length to their exact requirements with additional core body ventilation from the CONTACT Open Mesh back panel FRAME Pre-curved, lightweight, central aluminium frame for load carrying support BIVI OPENING Fast access bivi opening with glove compatible Cord Lord quick release system WAIST STRAP Low bulk webbing waist strap for added stability REFLECTIVE DETAILING Front of pack daisy chain with reflective detailing for added safety in the mountains HARNESS POCKETS Two harness pockets with security zip for easy to reach storage WAND POCKETS Accessible, wrap-around wand pockets with locking security zip for extra storage options COMPRESSION 'V' side compression system allows for quick stabilisation of the load on the move
Colours: Electric Blue, Charcoal
One size: Adjustable
Capacity: 44 Litres
Maximum dimensions (cm): 57 (H) / 30 (W) / 26 (D)
RAPTOR Cross Lite 70 Denier fabric
RAPTOR Resistance 210 Denier base panels
CONTACT Air Mesh Plus on harness
CONTACT Open Mesh back panel
Customisable, body-hugging COVALENT harness
Structured, easily adjustable ZephyrAD back system From Small 16" to Large 21"
Waist belt minimum 32"
Pre-curved, lightweight, central aluminium frame
Two off-centre Montane Click and Go chest harness straps
Two harness pockets with security zips
Accessible, wrap-around wand pockets with security zips
Front zipped pocket and stretch pocket external storage
Now, I have been round the block a few times, and I'm not easily impressed, but - I think that the thought that has gone into this pack and the way it has been executed NEARLY makes this the best 40-50l pack I have ever used. Why precisely 44 litres it is hard to fathom, maybe that's just how it turned out, and the designers thought, well, we'll leave it at that. Often, with any design of anything, the more you fiddle, the more the compromises creep in... I do like the angled side/hip pockets, but the more standard positioning of the other 2 side pockets - which are kind of underneath the angled ones - and the fact that there is no stretch in them - for obvious reasons when you see it/them as the fabric is part of the hip 'belt'/tensioning system - means that neither side pocket on either side (bear with me here!) will really accept a water bottle. I found I could, sort of, wangle a 3/4l bottle into the 45 degree angled zip pocket and slide the zip up against the bottle to stop it falling while out on the move, but it was really only the weight that held it in, and when empty, the bottle would slowly work its way out. I wonder how long the zip would last if used repeatedly in this way? Also, the bottle would fall out if I stopped and bent over to eg. tighten my boots. But this is a relatively small grumble - if you are a bladder/bite valve person, this is of no concern! And maybe a smaller platypus would slide in to either pocket more easily than a hard bottle (actually, mine was an ex-mineral water bottle, light and 'crackly' and therefore a bit flexible) which I have yet to experiment with. In any case, you'd have to see and pack and use this pack at first hand to work out how best to use its many pockets and features, which will be different to, say, what are now quite old school Golite Jam 35 or 50 packs, or any of the Gossamer Gear super-lightweight types.
It seems you can never quite have it all in one pack, but in all other respects this is a most EXCELLENT pack! The double front pocket - a zipped one under the mesh one - works better than first acquaintance suggests, as long as you don't pack the pack drum tight. The adjustable back is really natty, works well, though you have to forget the usual 'shoulder strap-to-pack connection about 2 inches below and just touching above the shoulder blade' orthodoxy as that isn't how this system works. There is a space between the main straps and the pack body (I put my folded map case in this space, and could fetch it out easily, great place to keep it for easy access, as long as you have reasonably flexible shoulders...) but this does not affect the carry which is very good, as long as you remember to pull the top tension straps in snugly.
The roll-top closure is good. It is only a tad more fiddly than a 'standard' lid with 2 quick release buckles, and much better than the roll-up-and-cinch-strap set up seen on some minimalist packs, and makes for a very neat looking pack top which I feel also adds to the good carry and feel of the pack when on the move. Bob's suggestion that the roll-top male-female buckles allow for an occasional over-load situation may not be quite right - sorry Bob, not diss-ing your words of wisdom! - as I found that the alternative way of securing the top - like a normal dry bag roll closure - made for no more space than the more usual way of closing the top using the side, adjustable buckles. You need to roll the closure at least 3 times in either case or things will push at the opening and probably force their way out. The quite stiff edges of the rim/neck closure do a good job when not forced against an over-enthusiastic load.
How the fabric will wear over time, it is hard, yet, to say. It feels tough yet ? thin enough to make me wonder how durable it will all turn out to be. However, all the sewn attachment points eg. main shoulder straps and all the many smaller straps with their, naturally, smaller contact area and number of passes/threads with the sewing machine, look and feel about as solid as it is possible to be, quite confidence inspiring. The thinner straps themselves are quite stiff and firm, in the best sense, so there is no folding over through a buckle while adjusting which can happen with thinner, floppier webbing.
The hip belt is more a compound of the hip pocket plus a second 'under-layer' wing which actually sits on the iliac crests of the pelvis. The webbing of the hip belt is in fact 2 layers because the webbing attaches to both of the above. At first sight I did wonder how strong this could be, with half the hip belt load going through what is quite a flimsy looking and feeling pocket when slack. But when in use it all feels firm yet not over-stressed, and when you see how the load is shared out in actual use between all the attachment points any concerns soon disappear.
All in all this is a fabulous pack, and the price is pretty damn good too! Compare it to the £160+ price tag on American imports. Even with the extra delivery cost to my NW Highland lair (perhaps a change of courier, B and R? I rarely have to pay extra on deliveries with any other companies' couriers, or if RM is the default/chosen carrier) this is a good deal.
Final thoughts - I used it most recently as a day bag with a typical day fill, and the compression straps and other ways of cinching it down were excellent, making it actually feel like the most comfortable day bag I have ever worn! But for its main purpose, as a really pretty light, fully featured pack - even with the alloy stay, which I would leave in for the superior carry and comfort - for 1-4 night forays into the wilds, it gets the full 10/10 from me, and I am a man of many packs... I can't see myself using any other pack for quite some time. Its nearest rival in my gear store is an older Gregory, also 44l if I remember correctly, which also scores pretty well, is perhaps a little more robust in feel than the Trailblazer, is similar in carry and does most of the same things, but is a good 300gm heavier. And that is what we are talking about here - when you shave that sort of weight off the other Big Items - sleeping bag, sleep mat, stove set, tent/tarp - as well, then the gms become kgs, and there you have it - a 6-7kg base weight instead of 10kg or more. I carried 4 days/nights of food on a recent trip into the Letterewe/Fisherfield interior and was carrying at the outset, with .75l of water too, 12kgs total, becoming 8kg at the end. At this weight it is the perfect carry. Any more and you would be struggling to find the space anyway - this IS a 44l pack, not a bulk carrier! I lashed my Henry Shires DW Moment (a 1.1kg single hoop, full-spec tent) on the outside using the slightly awkward, non-detachable and barely-long-enough-for-this-use compression strap. If it were a bit longer, and with a quick release buckle... If you use a tent/tarp with no fixed stays - such as there are with the Moment or Hilly Akto - you might chose to put it inside the pack, but then you are losing valuable food space. It's all in the wrist action, to use a phrase from the ? 1970s, or rather, all in how you chose to use the available space and lash points and so on.
That's me done! Sorry to go on so, but this might be the decider for someone - it IS a super, and pretty light weight pack at sub 1kg, but it is NOT for the clumsy or ham-fisted or heavy-on-their-equipment type of backpacker. However, it should stand the test of time if you treat it as you should treat everything to do with the great outdoors - live and tread gently, leave no trace, and don't throw your pack around!