First published in Singletrack Magazine issue 99
Vaude’s Path flirts with the ‘place for everything, and everything in its place’ theory of luggage, but circumnavigates its common pitfall – there being no space for large loads of the sort you’d find yourself wanting to carry on full day rides, thanks to there being too much sub-division – by basing itself around a large ‘mother lode’ compartment. This runs the full length and width of the pack, and while the pack’s footprint is not enormous (25 x 45cm), this, combined with the depth, means it accommodates a decent chunk of kit – commonly for me that’s waterproof jacket, tool bag and knee pads (when they’re not on my knees), which it comfortably swallows with room for a conservatively-sized sandwich on top too as long as I don’t mind it getting a bit squished.
There’s then another full-length front pocket – good for more tools/tubes, spare gloves/Buffs and snacks – and a small, flat, zipped pocket on the front that’s ideal for a map or wallet, though doesn’t easily accept anything larger as it’s not gusseted. Lastly, there are two zipped mesh pockets on the waist belt, and an integrated (and bright orange) rain cover stashed in a zip pocket under the front of the bag.
With all this carrying capacity, you’d expect the Path to be a bit unwieldy when full. Not so; it’s stable and waggle-free even when packed to the gunnels, thanks in part to that compact footprint and also to the four compression straps, which are easily cinched down to keep everything in place, even when the pack’s pretty much empty. The top two also double up as a helmet carrier – handy for trains, lifts and the like. When fully loaded, it does protrude quite a long way out from my back – but 18L of kit is quite a lot of kit, and I’d rather that than have it protruding sideways and limiting my arm movement, which the Path doesn’t do at all.
The pack doesn’t come with a hydration bladder included – a smart move, as most folk have their favourites – but still includes a sleeve in the back of the main compartment to house one, as well as hose routing on both shoulder straps (lefties rejoice). Contact points are covered with a softer honeycomb mesh fabric for improved sweat wicking. This brings me neatly to the harness, which is excellent – the two ‘wings’ at the base of the pack to which the slim webbing waist belt attaches give the support of a wider belt, without the discomfort of a wider belt/buckle around your waist. There’s also really good contact between bag and back thanks to the two vertical pads, which stretch from your shoulder blade to the lumbar region and are soft enough to conform to whatever’s underneath them. That’s key to the pack’s overall stability – too many packs try to balance weight on smaller, firmer pads, which is uncomfortable as well as being unstable, but I’ll take a slightly damp back over blisters and chafing any day.
I’d like the waist belt pockets to be a little bigger – my iPhone 5 just fits inside, but anything bigger doesn’t – and the rails for the chest harness could extend a little further up the shoulder straps, but other than that, this is a top bit of kit that I expect to be using for months to come.
A neat and well-made haulage tool with ‘just enough’ storage and superb quality in both materials and manufacture.
BEST DEALS ON VAUDE PATH 18L
|Product:||Path 18L backpack|
|Tested:||by Jenn for Four months.|