Did you know, you can fit 6 whole months into a 65 Litre backpack?
Trust me on this one, I’ve done it. 6 months’ worth of clothing and essentials which accompanied me around the world a couple of years ago on buses, planes, trains, boats and overcrowded taxis. And with all your worldly goods in a single pack, that pack needs to be both damn comfortable, and damn clever.
So it was with some wide eyes that I opened the box last week and saw that Gelert, a brand which I’ve known for inflatable mattresses and budget tents, have upped their game and come out with a stonker of a pack which is miles better than the one I took on my travels.
Gelert have launched a new range, called Beyond, which is clearly aimed at the more technically savvy gear user than their mainstream products. They’ve figure-headed that range with the Phoenix Rucksac, which is a big step up from an entry level pack and sized at 65+10L it’s squarely aimed at travellers, expeditionists and those who just couldn’t decide which shoes to take so took them all.
When you’re dealing with a big pack like this, it’s important to start with the structure and work outwards.It’s a newbie mistake to take a pack’s weight through your shoulders – you should have a nice, padded hip strap carrying 90% of the weight and very, very little weight on your shoulders. It’s important, therefore to make sure that there’s plenty of comfortable and adjustable padding on the hips, and that any waist-strap is easy to adjust and stays nice and tight. The Phoenix scores excellently on both counts here. It has a big, comfy lumbar pad and wide, breathable foam hips. I wore it on a warm day (17C) on a 5 mile hike and didn’t get too sweaty.
The Phoenix is built around two very sturdy aluminium rails (staves) which run the length of the pack from the hip padding upwards. These act in combination with the waist/hip strap to carry the weight of the pack, and make sure that the shoulder straps can do their job of keeping the pack secure on your back so it doesn’t bounce around. The Phoenix has a hidden adjuster with 5 marked settings so you can fine-tune your back length and have the shoulder straps at their best position. Any good outdoor shop can adjust a pack for you.
The shoulder straps themselves are very comfy. They chafed my neck a little at first, but after a fiddle with the back length they were fine. They are wide, very soft and have a breathable mesh so don’t get too sweaty. They also have very useful rubber loops to tie things like compasses, cameras and carabiners to. The shoulder strap adjustments work as they should, but are just a smidgen difficult to locate when you’re wearing the pack and want to adjust it.
The carrying spaces are divided into three. The lid is expansive, and worked well with an SLR camera in it, along with a few bits and bobs. I found that I could access the behind-head pocket whilst wearing the pack, which was handy. The main section is protected by a showerproof double bungee, and secured by a webbing and buckle so you can nicely compact its contents. Decent webbing straps on both sides help to compress the bag further – you don’t want loose stuff flopping around when the pack isn’t full. There is a divider in the main pocket so you can keep a hydration bladder in there easily.
The base pocket (10 litre) is roomy enough for a bivvy or maybe a set of waterproofs and liquids. There’s a zipper to allow you into the main compartment from the base, which is handy for finding socks at the bottom of the bag.
The outside of the pack is littered with handy zipper pockets, two elasticated bottle pockets which are accessible when wearing the pack, and bungees to attach a rollmat, or ice-axes. And in case that wasn’t enough, there are various webbing loops on the lid for attaching yet more gear.
Materials used in the Phoenix are 420D Nylon Ripstop (Medium thickness and a compromise between weight and strength) and 600D Polyester (abrasion resistant and rugged). They’re both waterproof coated, but the seams are not taped, so the bag itself isn’t any more than shower-proof. There is a pocket on the base which contains a pull-out rain cover. I’m quite a fan of these since they deter prying hands and airport luggage conveyors as well as the rain. The Phoenix’s rain cover is a tasteful silver.
Gelert say that this pack weighs 2.46Kg, which is at the heavier end of the scale for a 75L pack, but I think that you get a lot of pack squeezed into that package. Sure, you can buy lighter packs, and spend a lot more money on a bigger brand name, but you can save as much weight by having a decent morning constitutional and spend the money you saved on a slap-up meal at the end of a day’s hike.
The Phoenix has an RRP of £115, which is firmly in the midst of competition from Berghaus and The North Face. I think the price is spot on for what you get.
SUMMARY: The Phoenix 65+10L Rucksac represents a good investment for the traveller, expeditionist or long-distance backpacker. It’s a big pack, and the aluminium support system works well with the comfortable padding to keep the weight well balanced. It’s not too sweaty, and the straps work well to fine-tune the fit. There are plenty of pockets for keeping things in their place, and compression straps to stop those things moving around. It looks great with a subtle, yet technical design and the construction seems sound. No waterproof seams, but a rain cover is supplied. I’ve travelled the world with a similar-sized pack and would happily do so again with the Phoenix. It’s a lot of pack for the money, and I reckon the price is spot on. Very impressive.
From: Gelert Stockists List
More info: Gelert
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