This is an impressively lightweight and functional pack, with a streamlined design that strips away unnecessary weight. However, it doesn’t skimp on features, with plenty of practical pockets offering ample on-the-go storage. The price point is also attractive, and we think this is a great value choice if you’re looking to go ‘fast and light’ on your next adventure. The simple but effective back system feels stable and comfortable enough with loads of up to about 10kg.
- Great value
- Practical harness and hipbelt pockets
- No lid
- Relatively simple back system
- Mesh front and side pockets liable to snag
The Montane Trailblazer 44 is a pack that is squarely aligned with Montane’s ‘fast and light’ ethos. It can hold up to 44 litres in capacity but weighs in at just under a kilo/just over 2 lbs.
It sits sort of halfway between a fully framed backpack and a frameless ultralight pack: instead of a perimeter frame, there’s a single central stay that provides some rigidity without the added grams that would come with a full internal frame. Similarly, the harness foregoes plush padding in favour of lightweight, breathable mesh shoulder straps and low-profile hip fins, as opposed to a wraparound hipbelt.
When you put it on, it is slightly reminiscent of wearing a trail running vest, with a close, no-bounce fit and plenty of practical, easy access pockets. This includes two zipped chest pockets on the harness itself and zipped wing pockets on either hip.
Meanwhile, the main body of the pack has a lidless roll-top closure with stretch mesh front and side pockets, as well as a forward zipped compartment. There’s an inner security pocket inside the main compartment, plus a sleeve for a water reservoir. Then you get side compression straps, daisy chains and lower gear loops for trekking poles. So, Montane certainly haven’t skimped on features here, though not everyone will like the lidless design.
• RRP: £110 (UK)
• Volume: 44L / 2685 cu in
• Weight: 980g / 2lb 2.6oz
• Dimensions (HxWxD): 55 x 35 x 20cm / 21.6 x 13.8 x 7.9in
• Sizes: One size (adjustable back length)
• Fabric: RAPTOR Cross Lite 70 Denier fabric, RAPTOR Resistance 210 Denier base panels
In the field
The pack employs Montane’s ZephyrAD back system. The top of the harness is adjustable, so it can be tweaked to fit your torso length, and the curved foam back panel offers some lumbar support. It is also perforated, with a mesh overlay to provide some airflow.
The hip fins are flexible and forgiving, but lack much in the way of padding. It’s not the most sophisticated design around, either in terms of support, comfort or ventilation, though it does a decent job in all three respects provided your trail weight doesn’t exceed about 10kg/22lbs. Beyond that, you really start to feel the pack pulling on your shoulders, since the straps are relatively thin and the waist belt lacks the structure to absorb too much weight. However, that kind of load isn’t what this pack is designed for – and beefing up the back system would change the nature of the design, which is purely focused on fast and light backpacking.
Once we’d thinned out our kit, this pack really showed its true qualities. It is roomy enough to take a lightweight set of camping gear (such as a bivvy or small tent, quilt or down bag, mat, backpacking stove and titanium cook set), but also has plenty of easily accessible storage options to keep essentials close to hand (see: What size backpack do I need?). This means you rarely have to stop to rummage around in the main body of the pack, keeping you a) moving and b) focused on the trail.
We particularly liked the zipped harness pockets for stashing snacks and a smartphone (though we wouldn’t place electronic items in them in poor weather). Unusually, the pack has two elasticated chest straps. This helps to keep everything stable and secure, but they are Montane’s ‘click and go’ design, which are a bit of a love/hate feature. On balance we liked them, although admittedly the little toggles did occasionally get in the way.
Generally, however, the Trailblazer impressed. It’s light and functional, with a streamlined design that strips away plenty of weight. The price point is also attractive, especially compared to many other ultralight packs. All told, a worth addition to our list of the best hiking backpacks.
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