What’s your favourite gear? For me its definitely rucksacks. I don’t think I’m a gear geek but I do have a lot of rucksacks from 5ltr all the way through to 70ltr, ultralight to tough and traditional. I am constantly on the lookout for my ideal expedition pack and I think I may have found it! This review is based on a genuine purchase and personal experience.
Choosing a brand.
Many of my smaller rucksacks are Osprey, they are versatile and fit well and are generally lightweight but I have never got on with their expedition packs. Osprey’s larger packs feel like they are clamping you in with their excessive hip belts and back systems and there are two many toggles and tags, straps and gadgets that make them feel cumbersome and faffy.
Over the past few years I have been on the lookout for perfect simplicity. Enter the Fjallraven Kaipak. Prior to this I was using the Montane Grand Tour 70ltr pack, which is simple and lightweight, but it feels flimsy and requires a packing system planned to perfection. The Grand Tour needs to be full to feel balanced and secure, it was also far too big for any expedition I have been on. The Fjallraven Kaipak however is 58Ltrs and cuts away all of the attention grabbing features of other new bags vying for our attention.
The Kaipak is made from their own G-1000 HeavyDuty Eco fabric, which consists of recycled polyester and organic cotton. Already they have my attention, too many brands use harmful materials in their products, whilst attempting to peddle an environmentally conscious approach. But here is a bag made out of predominantly recycled materials and that can be repaired and cared for to make it last.
The fabric is indeed heavyduty and already it has taken a battering from me on expeditions trekking in Morocco, South Africa, Swaziland and around the UK. It feels tougher than any other packs I have used before and if any tears do happen, I feel confident that good quality repairs will be possible.
The design of the bag keeps things very simple, there are no unnecessary toggles or straps but well-thought out and useful features have been included. The bag is top loading, with an adjustable hood and bottom access as you would expect with a rucksack of this size. However, what I really love about the Kaipak is the front zipped pocket. This pocket keeps items you may need quickly separate from your main gear and I use it for snacks, maps, waterproofs and other small items I may need. The compression straps on the side double up as secure pole or axe attachments and the water bottle mesh pockets are large enough to securely stow your 1tr water bottles on each side.
Most rucksacks come with adjustable back sizes, but the Kaipak relies on the initial fit being comfortable. It is only possible to make adjustments with the shoulder straps at the tops and under your arms and with the hip belt. Initially I was apprehensive about this lack of adjustment, but it fits me perfectly and feels extremely comfortable on the trail. The hip belt also has two good size pockets for more essential snacks!
In bad weather you can wax your pack to increase its water resistance. It does come with a pack cover but I have never used it and find that the bag’s own repellency combined with waterproof stuff sacks is sufficient to keep all my kit dry in even the worst weather.
The Kaipak 58W does weigh in at slightly more than other women’s packs of the same size at 2100 g. Weight has been saved by cutting out the adjustable back system and additional features but the durable fabric does mean you will be carrying additional grams. However, after using other lightweight packs I would choose durability over weight for an expedition pack. Also, choosing to use a 58ltr pack inevitably saves you weight as it is smaller than the standard +60ltr packs usually recommended for expeditions. I can comfortably fit all of my gear in this pack for expeditions of any duration. I have used it for days out with groups climbing, a weeklong trek along the Pembrokeshire coast path and for a month in Sub-Saharan Africa and it has been perfect for all of them.
If you buy the Kaipak directly from Fjallraven it will set you back £220 but it can be bought for £170 if you do some shopping around. The price puts it towards the upper-end of packs grouped by similar volume but I would argue that for an extra £50 you are getting better quality and a longer-lasting bit of kit.
Taking things back to basics works beautifully for the Fjallraven Kaipak and it is now my go-to rucksack of choice. I have been won over by its simplicity and i think it has moved into the territory previously occupied by Macpac, but with more intelligent and aesthetic design. I love that the rucksack uses large amounts of recycled materials and because it is so durable, I hope it will last me 10 years or more of heavy use around the world.