Review by Patsy Lourens
Thule gets it right again with their mid-range packs!
In my opinion the hardest packs to ‘get right’ are the mid-range sizes. The big daddies – from 50 to 100 litres, built for trekking and the like, come with all the bells and whistles, which make them robust, stable and comfy, and with plenty of space and pockets, etc for your kit. The tiny ones – from 10 to 20 litres, designed for trail running and for quick solo missions up the hill, come with very little – a small compartment to put essentials and your water bladder, and perhaps a small zip pocket somewhere to stash our keys or phone. The hip belt is a thin strap, the shoulder straps are nominal, and the back has minimal padding. All this to keep the weight to a minimum, for obvious reasons.
BUT, come the mid-range packs – from 25 to 40 litres, then it is a different story altogether. We want the best of both worlds, don’t we? We want a pack that is small enough to take on day trips up the mountain, must be light and comfortable, but we also want softer and more comfy shoulder straps, hip belts and back cushioning. And we want enough space to put our essentials plus a bit more, like a stove, lunch, camera, etc . . . and we want a few bells and whistles to make the pack a ‘nifty little puppy’. The Stir 28 litre, which I have had the pleasure of testing over the last few weeks, is just that puppy.
Fit and comfort
For starters, the pack is designed for a woman, which is great, as I often find that bags are a little too square or too long for my liking. The Stir 28 is sleek and streamlined so it fits the contour of your back and sits well within your body frame – so no hooking or snagging on rocks or trees.
The back panel is particularly awesome – it has a semi-rigid board on the inside, but also a ±4mm-thick aerated sheet of condensed foam padding, covered by a fine but strong layer of soft mesh material on the outside, which makes the area sitting against your back breathable, cool and oh-so-comfy. This padding and mesh design they have carried through to the broad hip belt (which is actually removable if you want to strip down even lighter) and also to the shoulder straps.
For a small day pack the Stir 28 is definitely not lacking in features, but at the same time it is not overdone. Let’s start with the main compartment. Certainly spacious enough for whatever you may need on a day trip, ie, warm clothing, waterproof jacket, lunch, snacks, stove, etc and the obligatory full-length inside flap that will easily accommodate a 2 litre bladder, but the nifty little extra is that Thule have placed a little strap at the top to connect to the top of your bladder, so it hangs straight, rather than sit all floppy.
The pack comes with two sizable elasticated side pockets to stash water bottles, cameras or anything that you may want to access readily, and just above the pockets are two little tie-in straps to clip your kit to, so it doesn’t accidentally fall out – just love this attention to detail. There are also two attachments for your walking poles or ice axes on the front, with a Velcro and clip strap at the top to keep them extra tight and secure.
The waist belt comes with a zip mesh pocket on each side, which I find really handy for snack bars, lip ice or sun cream and also for route descriptions, and anything else that you may need at your fingertips, and the left shoulder strap also has an expandable zip mesh pocket, which could house a small camera or phone. Along the top is another zip that allows access to a larger internal pocket, for other necessities, like car keys (which can be attached to a clip), toilet paper, sunglasses, specs and the like.
To finish off, the Stir 28 comes with 2 x carry/haul handles, a removable sternum strap, stitched strips of webbing down each side on the front of the pack in case you want to lash on any other kit and, get this, a reflective strip and a loop at the bottom of the pack on which you can attach a headlamp, making you more visible in low-light conditions. They really have thought of everything!
Constructed from 210d nylon, the pack has an incredibly robust feel, and weighing in at only 690 grams, is suitable for just about anything – short romps up the hill, long day hikes, alpine rock routes, and because of its fetching looks, colour and elegant design, it is equally at home around town.
The Stir also comes in an 18 litre unisex version and a men’s 28 litre. You may also be interested in checking out their AllTrail 35 and 45 litre packs if you are after something a bit bigger. For more info check out www.thule.com/en/za/backpacks/hiking-backpacks