When we went travelling around for 6 months, the Wife and I each took a 65L backpack which we crammed full of our all our possessions and hoiked about on buses, trains and planes across Australasia and South America. I took a traditional top-loading backpack and the Wife took what she dubbed a front-loader, and her life was infinitely easier, and quicker than mine whenever she had to find anything. So it was with rapturous joy that the Lifeventure Altai 65 was received, and tested during a couple of short trips and hikes.
The Altai is a very well thought out pack that has been designed with the traveller in mind, rather than the backpacker, and it has lots of nice touches that will aid your life as you face endless nights in hostels and hours in airports.
The aforementioned front-loading zip opens up two-thirds of the main compartment in one go, allowing you to get down to your socks and pants without having to unpack everything else. In this compartment are two strong retaining/compression straps which will help enormously to compact the unnecessary amount of clothing that most of us take on our travels.
The main compartment also houses two mesh pockets on either side which are perfect for housing small items like underwear or cosmetics, and in a touch of brilliance, they are padded on the outside to protect against enthusiastic baggage handlers.
The main zipper is a chunky affair that is easy to do up, and also to lock with a small padlock. Things can then be protected and compressed via 4 sturdy straps. My sample doesn’t have strap retainers, but the picture above suggests that they have been fitted to stop any loose ends being caught in conveyors. [NOTE: GWA was given a pre-production sample to test].
At the very top of the bag is a thick, foam-padded handle which, along with the same thing positioned on the side of the bag, are the natural way to carry the Altai when you’ve stowed the straps for airline travel. I’ve seen way too many bits of debris caught up in airport carousels to risk having any loose straps when I fly, so this is a welcome touch.
The straps themselves are ‘proper’ backpack straps with a generous amount of padding and full adjustability. The Altai has a stiffened back support and even when loaded to around 20KG I still found it very comfortable to carry. It’s not really a backpacking pack, but its comfortable waist padding will take all of its weight and let you wander from hostel to hostel without problem.
Extrernally, the Altai has a mesh pocket which is big enough to take a large bottle of water or some very smelly socks, and a zippered pocket for any items you’d need quick access to. There’s also a fleece-lined zippered pocket right at the top of the bag where I’d keep my camera when walking (compact camera, not SLR).
The Altai is constructed in a very rugged material somewhat like Cordura, which means it’ll stand up to abrasion well. It’s textured, so it will get dirty quite easily, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing for travellers. I fell less conspicuous with a well-worn, dark-coloured bag. The exception to this material use is in a large Lycra-like pocket on the front of the pack which is perfect for stashing a rain-jacket or extra layer. This has a webbing closure for security.
The Altai isn’t waterproof, but comes equipped with a bright yellow rain cover stashed in its base. These work OK for anything except prolonged monsoon rain, and help you be seen as you wander by the road in reduced visibility.
Looking at the Lifeventure website, I see that the Altai 65 is supplied with an additional lightweight daypack, which I think is a brilliant idea. We often found ourselves needing a small pack on buses, mainly for valuables.
All in all, the Altai 65 is one of the best traveller’s backpacks I’ve ever encountered. I think 65L is the perfect size for travel, being manageable and not anti-socially large. The build quality and materials are excellent, and the comfort and practicality are both spot-on. If I were going travelling again, this would be the bag I’d take.
SUMMARY: Lifeventure’s Altai is a traveller’s backpack which has obviously been designed by people who have travelled. It has some great features but nothing that is unnecessary. It looks good, feels tough and is comfortable. It’s now a firm-favourite in our house.
Price: £169.99 rrp