Helly Hansen Transistor Backpack review: an impressively versatile, lightweight pack with lots of features

This nifty Helly Hansen Transistor Backpack is ideal for swift little adventures on the wild side

Helly Hansen Transistor Backpack review main image size
(Image: © Pat Kinsella)

Advnture Verdict

The Transistor is a mid-sized, highly featured daypack that offers a huge amount of versatility, and can be used for just about any short-length mountain or trail-based activity, from day hiking and mountain biking in the hills and peaks, to scrambling along ridgelines.


  • +

    Nice wide U-shaped top opening

  • +

    Excellent hip belts

  • +

    Versatile, with plenty of tool attachment hoops

  • +

    Good zips with glove-friendly loops

  • +

    Hydration bladder compatible

  • +

    Sternum strap has an emergency whistle

  • +

    Some versions have a Recco Reflector


  • -

    No external pockets on main bag

  • -

    Sternum strap fiddly to adjust

  • -

    No rain cover

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    No women’s version

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    No recycled content

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Helly Hansen Transistor Backpack: first impressions

Multi-functional kit is all well and good, but sometimes it’s nice to use a product that has been unambiguously designed to do one job well. The Helly Hansen Transistor Backpack is a daypack that’s been made the perfect size to fit everything you need for a day-long adventure.


• List price: $170 (US) / £150 (UK)
• Size: Standard
• Volume: 30L
• Weight: 775g / 1lb 11oz
• Colors: Deep Fjord / Midnight Green / Black / Red
• Materials: Nylon, EVA foam, mesh, cord and YKK Zippers
• Compatibility: Day hiking, biking, running, scrambling, peak bagging, climbing and all sorts of one-day trail-based pursuits

That said, it’s a pack that can used in a wide range of outdoor scenarios, from hill hiking, peak bagging and trail running to cycling, rock scrambling and climbing. It’s really the versatility and handy size of the Transistor (not too big, not too small), plus its rich list of features, that make it a serious contender when it comes to the best daypacks currently on the market. 

The Transistor’s back panel, shoulder straps and hip belts are all made with perforated EVA foam, covered with 3D air mesh, to facilitate ventilation. There is no specific women’s version of the pack, but the harness is adjustable. Having said that, moving the sternum straps tends to be a fiendishly fiddly business, and you can lose the component parts.

The Helly Hansen Transistor Backpack’s whistle

The Helly Hansen Transistor Backpack even has a whistle (Image credit: Pat Kinsella)

Access to the main compartment is via a lovely, wide U-shaped top zip, which has a double zip and allows you to delve right in and find what you’re looking for. The Transistor has an internal zipped pocket, but annoyingly there are no pockets at all on the outside of the main bag (aside from one on the bottom, presumably designed to take a rain cover, which – also annoyingly – isn’t included).

There are two zipped pockets on the hip wings, though, which are big enough to take most phones, and are also useful for carrying a compass, credit card, treats and sweets, and various other things you want to be able to access without stopping to take the pack off.

Helly Hansen Transistor Backpack air mesh back panel and hip wings

The Helly Hansen Transistor Backpack has 3D air mesh on the back panel and the hip wings (Image credit: Pat Kinsella)

The pack is fully compatible with a hydration reservoir, boasting a dedicated pouch and Velcro hook at the rear, for hanging the bladder, and a two-way portal for the hose, so you can position it over either shoulder. There are two generous mesh pockets for water bottles or flasks, one on each side, but these can also be used to stash trekking poles and various other things, with the compression straps positioned just above them useful for securing longer items.

The pack also has loops for carrying poles and/or ice axes. The bungy cords on the front are useful for stashing waterproofs, the clip on the chest strap has an integrated emergency whistle. There is even a version of this pack that features a Recco Reflector.

Helly Hansen Transistor Backpack: on the trails

Man wearing a Helly Hansen Transistor Backpack while running

The Helly Hansen Transistor Backpack is great for running as well as biking or walking excursions (Image credit: Paul Rubery / Blowfish Photography)

I’ve been using the Helly Hansen Transistor Backpack during all kinds of outdoor adventures over the last six months, from booting around Bannau Brycheiniog National Park to doing a whole range of hiking and biking trips in the Surrey Hills, on Exmoor and along sections of the South West Coast Path. I also wore it during an off-road running marathon across the Quantock Hills, and it’s the versatility of this pack that really endears it to me. 

The harness is comfortable, and the hip belts are very substantial and comfortable considering the relatively small size of the bag. I found making adjustments to the chest strap awkward and time consuming, but once you have it set up, you don’t need to keep fiddling around with it. And once sorted, the fit is really secure – it doesn’t bounce too much when you’re doing something vigorous, such as trail running or mountain biking.

Man wearing Helly Hansen Transistor Backpack on the trail

The hip belts are pleasingly substantial and comfortable considering the relatively small size of the Helly Hansen Transistor Backpack (Image credit: Ed Smith)

The back panel isn’t as breathable as, say the Jack Wolfskin Crosstrail 32 LT, because although it’s perforated, the foam still sits directly on your back, which inevitably leads to sweating. However, the design of the Transistor is less rigid than packs that sit proud of your back, and it has better storage capacity for its size as a result. Although the bag looks small and feels light when empty, it is easily big enough to swallow a rain jacket, waterproof pants, a fleece, a lightweight puffer, gloves, a hat, a packed lunch, map and whatever else you might need for a fairly full-on day on the trails.

Helly Hansen Transistor Backpack

Hang on? Where’s the exterior zip pocket on the Helly Hansen Transistor Backpack? (Image credit: Pat Kinsella)

I have found the many of the Transistor’s features to be useful in all sorts of scenarios, but the lack of an easily accessible zipped pocket – either on the lid or the front of the pack – is really annoying, especially when you’re wearing the pack in a more urban setting and you need to stash small things somewhere handy.

Overall, though, the Helly Hansen Transistor Backpack offers a lot of form and functionality for an ostensibly small pack, and it’s a little Tardis when it comes to squeezing lots of gear in for a big day out.

The top opening of the Helly Hansen Transistor Backpack

The U-shaped top opening of the Helly Hansen Transistor Backpack makes it easy to access things buried deep inside the pack (Image credit: Pat Kinsella)
Pat Kinsella

Author of Caving, Canyoning, Coasteering…, a recently released book about all kinds of outdoor adventures around Britain, Pat has spent 20 years pursuing stories involving boots, bikes, boats, beers and bruises. En route he’s canoed Canada’s Yukon River, climbed Mont Blanc and Kilimanjaro, skied and mountain biked through the Norwegian Alps, run an ultra across the roof of Mauritius, and set short-lived records for trail-running Australia’s highest peaks and New Zealand’s Great Walks. He’s authored walking guides to Devon and Dorset, and once wrote a whole book about Toilets for Lonely Planet. Follow Pat’s escapades on Strava here and Instagram here.