Review: Osprey Hikelite 26

RRP: £80
Weight: 0.73kg

This is a 26 litre unisex day pack, part of Osprey’s 2018 range that also includes an 18 litre version. Osprey describe it as a pared-down pack; as someone who feels their packs tend to have too many features, complicated closing mechanisms etc this can only be a good thing. I’ve been testing this pack over the last few months on lower level and shorter walks where full winter gear hasn’t been necessary.

The main feature is the ventilated back where the actual pack is kept away from your back by a taut mesh tensioned on a strong metal wire frame. This tensioned trampoline-type mesh has been used for a number of years by manufacturers such as Dueter and Gregory and in the case of the Hikelite it really keeps the pack a long way from your body, preventing much of the sweaty back experienced with closer-fitting packs. As the mesh is very taut on the steel frame it helps distribute the weight evenly.

The pack has an unusual wrap around zip opening at the top that extends down the sides to access the single compartment inside. This adds simplicity to the design but means the zip is exposed and vulnerable to water seeping in during rain. Osprey’s solution is to provide a rain cover in its own zipped pocket at the bottom of the pack. Whether you like rain covers is a matter of personal preference – in this case, whilst the cover itself is robust it’s just held in place by an elasticated cord which can be tightened but I found it inadequate to hold the cover in place in the windiest conditions; it really needs a small buckle at the back to hold it in place. It’s also impossible to easily access any of the pockets or the main pack with the cover on, adding to the general amount of faffing in already wet conditions. However for less windy conditions the rain cover does keep the pack and contents dry and I find the cover useful as something to pull out and sit on when its not being used as a rain cover. As it’s detatchable, ultimately it’s up to you whether you feel the additional weight is worth it.

There are two mesh side pockets which are slightly larger and looser than on some similar sized packs which means they are easy to use for water bottles. An open pocket on the front will hold a jacket or climbing helmet but is a bit too open to be a secure place to store a map. A useful front top pocket made from scratch-free fabric is big enough for sunglasses, phone, windshirt and gloves and has a key clip as well as tiny pocket which could be used for stowing keys but is too small and fiddly for most phones. There are four compression straps that do a good job of tightening the pack. Inside the main compartment is an sleeve for a hydration bladder with a central hole for the tube so that you can run it down either arm strap both of which have two elasticated loops to feed the tube through. There are also loops for holding poles on the outside of the pack.

The arm straps are padded and proved comfortable on long days. I was less convinced by the lack of padding on the hipbelt – made from basic webbing with a buckle. This restricts the amount of weight you will want to carry in this pack, but the size suits lightweight days in any case. The sternum straps helps a bit and can be adjusted up and down which is particularly useful for women, it also has an emergenvy whistle on the buckle. This is a unisex pack with no different back lengths available. Whilst it fitted me perfectly (size 10 female), if you are alot taller or broader across the shoulders then it’s probably one to try on for comfort first.

The fabric feels very robust and there is no sign of any wear on the base. 26 litres is a good size for Scottish summer day walks, the 18 litre version (which comes minus the large front pocket and bottom two compression straps) is more likely to be used for shorter walks. Overall the lightweight, robust quality and design of the Hikelite makes it a good choice as an all round summer day pack.

Pros – ventilated back system, large side pockets, lightweight
Cons – non adjustable back length, lack of padding on hip belt, fairly high price

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