Terra Nova Laser 20 Pack Review

The Laser 20 is Terra Nova’s most fully featured yet still fast and light adventure racing packs. It is designed for those who want to travel fast and light, or just slow and light if you so choose. It can bee seen as a runner’s pack, or one for the lightweight enthusiast who still wants the pack to have basic features such as pockets and comfort! It’s a spacious 20 litres too, and with the external mesh pockets you could ‘just’ about get away with this pack for an overnighter in summer, or definitely as a pack for bivvying.

the Laser 20 daypack …  is the lightest fully featured pack of it’s size currently available on the market.

At only 328g this pack is a true lightweight piece of kit, though you need to remove the chest strap and . It achieves this with the “lightweight material”, though this mysterious stuff isn’t elaborated upon, it lived up to it’s name and means much more than some pseudo-scientific UltraNanoFabrico™. The cordage has been kept to a minimum and made from the thinnest cord with the world’s tiniest toggles to boot. The fabric is exceptionally thin and you might think twice before taking this pack on a scramble, though the pack’s larger sibling, the Laser 35, is promoted as a climbing pack so the fabric must be stronger than it looks.

This has echoes of the arguments that abounded with packs such as the OMM 32 five or six years ago, when online discussion made out that the fabric used was just not durable enough for rough and ready activities. Time has proven that wrong, and I’m sure it will with this pack. I would really like a sample of the fabric to see how it fares against some typical Snowdonian geology, as I had to return the pack after testing and I don’t think that Terra Nova would have appreciated any attempts on my part to try and destroy it!

You also need to pack carefully, as in order to squeeze in all these features, one of the thing that’s lost is any sort of structure to the pack. It only gains rigidity and shape from what you pack into it. This isn’t much of an issue on a day walk when most kit tends to be extra clothing. If you do manage to go light enough for a wild camp, then you would just need to take care where you put that stove and pot.

The full length zip across the front of the pack seems rather strange to start with as we’re all used to the rigmarole of burying our kit in layer upon layer of other kit, with the ensuing struggle to find anything urgently needed inevitably involving an archaeological dig through the layers of waterproofs, emergency kit, year old mars bar wrappers and eventually the sandwich you’re after, nicely squashed.

Even so, it takes a bit of getting used to the idea of opening up the pack in this way, but once the initial uneasiness passes, you realise that this is how it should be done. You can still try and keep stuff at the top of the pack, as you can open the zip half way and get at the stuff you want.

The zips are rather stiff to start with, ensuring they don’t come undone while running, which is essential with a full length zip where failure would essentially mean the loss of all your kit. I felt safer keeping my phone and wallet in the pack’s waist pouches than in my zipped trouser pockets. Therere’s no way these are going to open without you doing so (at least, in the short term).

The pack was given the ultimate test with an easy jog from the summit of Snowdon to Llanberis. Being laden with a few emergency items, water and so on, I’d have expected a fair bit of movement as I have from other packs. However any horizontal or lateral movement from the pack was negligible, and was mainly down to the kit inside the half full pack having space to move.

The shoulder and waist packs are also suitably padded, and while it is a cliche, you do forget you’re wearing it. This is something that not even my loved and abused OMM 32 pack manages, as it does start to make itself known under the arms after about 15km.  This was true for myself and a walking buddy who tried it out (before me as it happens!) on the Moel Eilio circuit and is scouring the tinterwebs right now in order to get one to replace his overly bulky day pack.

There are also a pair of deep water bottle carriers, made from mesh and with a tight drawstring at the top to keep them in place. I tried it out with various shop bought bottles, nothing scientific, just what would quench my thirst that day and they fit securely into the pockets. Next to these are another pair of mesh pockets that could take your poles, snacks or as a quick place to stash your wind proofs. Finally, there are bungees in order to secure waterproofs or whatever you want, onto the outside of the pack . They’re placed either side of the zip so you can secure two items and still keep the zip clear. On each side of the waist belt, there’s a secure pocket that’s big enough for a compact camera or snacks that you’ll need during the day. The zips are stiff enough to prevent them opening accidentally.

At first glance it seems strange for the pack to have waterproof zips, however they’re just water-resistant. This appears to be done as regular zips would have created a weak point in the pack seeing as it is full length, and water would penetrate immediately. With waterproof zips, TN have found a middle ground by making the entire pack reasonably water resistant as opposed to waterproof (something at which very few packs succeed).

The only gripe I’ve got with this pack is that the only other pocket on the pack is a nice secure one, but just too small to take an OS map. Maybe it’s just a personal thing, but I like my map accessible yet secure as opposed to being in a mesh pocket or inside the pack where it had to go. To be fair, it is advertised as a “change pocket” and is certainly up to that job.

Overall, this is a quality pack at a quality price. I’d be wary of using it for scrambling or putting down on sharp rocks, but that’s not the point of this pack. If you want a pack for light and minimal exploits, be it running, cycling or walking then this pack is certainly worth considering. It may be suitable for overnighting, but the larger 35l version looks more suitable for backpacking and is likely to be my new summer overnight pack to replace my OMM 32 that I think has finally had it’s day.

Dave Roberts

Dave Roberts founded Walk Eryri in 2004, with the aim of providing routes that are off the beaten track. Walk Eryri is now part of Mud and Routes which continues to provide more off beat routes and walks in Snowdonia and beyond. Dave has been exploring the hills of Eryri for over thirty years, and is a qualified Mountain Leader.
Dave also established Walk up Snowdon, Walk up Scafell Pike and Walk up Ben Nevis just to mention a few.

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