Montane Trailblazer 30 Rucksack Review

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Montane release a new range focused on ‘fastpacking’ for spring / summer 2019, and so local expert Rik Henderson brings us his review of their Trailblazer 30 Rucksack.

Montane Trailblazer 30 Rucksack Review

It’s no secret that I am a big fan of the Montane brand. A UK designed outfit who are at the forefront of the Fast & Light game right now, a manufacturer that is using the latest textiles and technology in their clothing and equipment and achieving high performance that doesn’t break the bank.

With that in mind I was delighted to receive their newly released fast pack addition, the Montane Trailblazer 30 Rucksack to test and review for Mud and Routes.

Montane Trailblazer 30 Rucksack Review

What Montane say:

The Trailblazer 30 is designed for rapid, long-distance mountain trails, where low-weight, stability and quick access to your kit is essential. With an ample 30-litre storage capacity and a multitude of pockets, it offers easy access to hydration, food and essential kit while on the move.

At first glance the Trailblazer 30 Rucksack is light, very light in fact (800g approx) which always begs the question of how durable it is. A quick look round the pack quashes any fears though as the quality and build is second to none, tough Raptor Cross Lite 70 Denier fabric making up the body of the pack with even tougher Raptor Resistance 210 Denier at its base for added protection against wear and tear. Obviously, I have only used this pack on a handful of mountain days, but I am in no doubt that it will last the duration.

The Trailblazer 30 Rucksack has a unique back system that is fully adjustable apparently fitting any back size and is in fact unisex, don’t let this put you off though as the adjustment scale is quite wide, which is unusual for such a lightweight pack, a feature usually displayed on bigger models. The Zephyr AD back system is easy to set up with a quick lift of a pad, a slide up or down of the back system, and then closing to secure . . . and away you go.

The shoulders, hip belt, back and chest rig make up Montane’s Covalent Harness System, a set up that allows for a great deal of tweaking and adjustment to create a stable and comfortable fit. Noticeable straight away is the amount of storage on the shoulder pads and on the hip belt, made of mesh they can store a great deal, especially the wrap around zipped wand pockets. These pockets are useful for storing snacks, hat & gloves, phone, compass etc.

The mesh storage doesn’t stop there though, a massive stretchy pocket sits on the body of the Trailblazer 30 Rucksack and is the perfect size for maps or additional layers. This pack really does make the most of surface area storage, other manufacturers should take note. Other features include walking pole attachments and all the features that allow for integration with hydration systems.

On the Glyderau on a chilly but dry day I put the Trailblazer 30 Rucksack through its paces. The 30ltr compartment was perfect for storing all the necessary items for a full mountain day. The fast access bivi opening with easy to use Cord Lord works very well and is designed to be operated with gloved hands, your kit is secured with side Load Stability straps that require just one pull adjustment on each side. The lid fasteners clip into the side of the pack instead or directly below. I like this as it really hunkers the pack down, combined with side compression this pack really minimises movement of its contents.

When on the back for the first time a few adjustments are needed on top of the shoulders and underneath the arm, the under arm pull straps have two connective points to the pack which means when tension is applied more of the bag hugs your back, another awesome feature that makes up part of the Covalent Harness System.

The chest part of this system is quite busy, not only are there more than ample chest pockets on the shoulder straps, the chest adjustment comprises of two off-centre Click and Go straps. These can be a bit fiddly to start with and I was very aware of the amount of harness/strapping on my chest.

Our walk started at Ogwen Cottage car park, my partner yawning into her warm layers and throwing frowns at me for the ridiculously early start! We had beautiful views over Llyn Ogwen and across to Pen yr Ole Wen, our route heading in the opposite direction though with a boggy trail up towards Llyn Idwal and then a direct line up the eastern side of Y Garn.

As always is the case the first 30+ minutes from the car park gives the cobwebs a good old dusting off, a zip pulled down and up comes the sleeves, or if you were too keen at the beginning of this chilly outing a stop to shed a layer (or two) and a slug of water.

As I studied the map and gazed up towards the snow crested ridge it dawned on me that I that I hadn’t even noticed the pack on my back, it felt so light due to the close hugging harness, it is remarkably different to other packs in my armoury. This is of course due to the harness evenly spreading the load across the hips, back and shoulders, with great comfort and breathability from their CONTACT Air Mesh back panel and CONTACT Air Mesh Plus harness . . . the chest straps although quite over baring at first, make complete sense now.

Montane Trailblazer 30 Rucksack Review

As we gained height the temperature dropped significantly, whilst is was just less than 10 degrees C in the valley and the going was tough on the incline, my hands started to really feel the cold, I was prepared though and had stuffed gloves into the wrap around wand pockets, I’d even stuffed a handful of energy rich treats into them, they could take much more.

I used the large mesh pocket to store the map which my partner could access easily so we could reference the route against our location, Y Garn is a straight forward route but it’s always nice to keep orientated and point out the surrounding peaks (much to Bridget’s annoyance). For this the pocket worked really well and put minimal stress on the folded map, much better than stuffing it into the hip belt or into a map pocket.

As we reached the cairn and set about rummaging through our packs for something warm to drink and a bite to eat, I gained easy access to the main compartment with gloved hands. A few quick mountain top selfies and another run through where we were on the map and what surrounded us – “Tryfan, Glyder Fach, Glyder Fawr, Snowdon, Lechog Burtress………”, my better half looking more cold than impressed.

Bags on our back with some minimal adjustment we headed down towards Llyn y Cwn before making our way back to Llyn Idwal via Devils Kitchen. Scary by name but not quite as scary in nature, although real concentration is needed when descending this rocky and steep boulder field, crossing streams and the odd tricky downclimb move. The decent would usually move and jolt a pack around, but not today. The harness came in to its own again and secured the load against the back with minimum roll or movement.

The exit of this route is a beauty, the terrain levels out as you hit the edges of llyn Idwal and follow it to its mouth, spitting you out and down towards the car park, and on this early occasion toward hordes of slightly jealous looking walkers starting their route in the opposite direction. The smug look on Bridget’s face beamed as she knew our next destination would be Beddgelert for a bite to eat and jar of something rewarding, “Is it too early for beer?” I said…” I hope not!” B replied.

Montane Trailblazer 30 Rucksack Verdict

In summary I do love this pack, it is packed full of useful features and is well thought/laid out, Montane have a knack at including all your wish list when it comes to features, and some you didn’t even think of. I do find the chest rig quite fiddly and over powering at the start of a walk, but that feeling soon fades away. The Covalant Harness really is a thing of beauty and you can almost smell Montane’s further faster heritage, you can tell they have been listening to their athletes and adventurers who play a massive role in the development of equipment and indeed the mantra of the brand itself.

I wish the lid outer storage wasn’t mesh like the other external pockets, whilst I can tolerate and even appreciate it across the other areas of the pack, I would always want a weather proof lid to keep valuables safe and dry (it does have an internal protected pocket).

I wasn’t too keen on this particular colour – Electric Blue to be precise, a tone that Bridget suggests is her kind of colour. They do offer a charcoal version which looks really nice and the same colours apply to their larger brother, the Trailblazer 44 and their smaller sibling the 18-litre running pack. Its highly likely my partner in crime will be steeling this pack for future outings more often than not, especially with it being a unisex pack . . .Will I be steeling it from her when soloing it in the mountains though? Of course I will!

The Montane Trailblazer 30 Rucksack is priced at £85 (at time of publishing)

Montane Trailblazer 30 Rucksack features and specifications:

  • 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
  • Customisable, body-hugging Montane® COVALENT harness designed for a superior fit and extended comfort, adjusted via the duel direction under arm pull
  • Fast access bivi opening with glove compatible Cord Lord quick release system
  • Low bulk webbing waist strap for added stability
  • Front of pack daisy chain with reflective detailing for added safety in the mountains
  • Two harness pockets with security zip for easy to reach storage
  • Accessible, wrap-around wand pockets with locking security zip for extra storage options
  • ‘V’ side compression system allows for quick stabilisation of the load on the move

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