REVIEW: THULE ALL-TRAIL 45L

product testing on expedition in the Wakhan Corridor

Written by Tom McShane

I’ve been told by my partner that I’ve got more backpacks than most girls have handbags, which makes justifying need for another quite tough, but with a three-week trekking expedition to the Wakhan Corridor of Afghanistan lined up, when the Thule AllTrail 45L landed, I couldn’t wait to test it out.

I’m an expedition leader as well as a professional photographer and drone operator and I knew I’d be carrying a large variety of equipment on this trip – up to four litres of water, safety and first aid equipment, personal warm kit plus my camera, lenses and drone. All this added up to about 15-18kgs which is reasonably heavy for a day sack. I knew the pack I’d take needed to be robust enough to deal with the conditions we faced and carry and support this equipment well.

Thankfully Thule, who are known for producing bombproof bits of equipment from laptop cases to roof boxes and bike racks, have made a foray into the adventure sphere, launching a large range of rucksacks for the needs of any outdoor junkie. Although rucksacks are no new thing, it’s amazing how regularly manufacturers get it wrong. Thule it seems, have started afresh, ensuring that every element has been thought through from the start, with good engineering and robustness seemingly as their guiding principles to lead design.

© Thule

Features

Down the side of the pack, the AllTrail features a full length zip, providing access to the deep down items in the sack without needing to unpack everything stacked on top. In reality though, I mainly used this to feed my water hydration hose through, as I found the dedicated drinks tube exit port to be a little small for to feed through every day, so it was handy to use the zip for speed and ease.

Another really useful feature Thule seem to have nailed is the top pouch. It sounds like a small feature, but there’s nothing worse than not being able to fit what you need in this pouch and it’s surprisingly common in this type of pack. The top pocket of the AllTrail however has plenty of room which I was thankful for as this was where I kept my emergency satellite devices, first aid items and a few trail snacks.

just as comfortable trekking on foot as it is on horseback Just as comfortable on a yak's back as it is trekking on foot © Simon Morris

The side pouches were roomy enough that water bottles aren’t squeezed out, and there’s a great protected front pouch which is ideal for stuffing in a wet jacket, or to keep crampons in. Due to the weight I was carrying it was important for the hip belt to spread the load, which it did well.

The shoulder straps were padded enough to provide all day comfort even with a heavy load, and as they were robustly built they coped well when carrying it without the waist belt on. One of the niggles I did have though was that the back/hip system creaked and squeaked a fair bit, though this may be simply due to it being a new bag as I’ve found with others in the past.

Accessories

Thule have also introduced the VersaClick system with a variety of accessories which are very handy. In the Wakhan Corridor, I used their padded accessory pouch in which I kept my GPS and GoPro. It’s worth noting though that Thule also do DSLR holders, which will definitely be of interest to me in the future.

As is pretty common in hiking bags, the AllTrail also features straps down the side of the pack, great for stowing walking poles or ice axes. Though I can’t say I used them on this expedition, it’s definitely something a lot of hikers will look for in a pack so it’s a nice feature to include.

Fit Systems

There’s really nothing more integral to a backpack than how it fits, particularly on extended trips, so as I knew I’d be trekking for 11 days in Afghanistan, I paid pretty close attention to how the pack sat on my back. The AllTrail has a pretty simple but perfectly suitable back system and it does have a very useful height adjustment, although straight out of the box the pack seemed to fit me perfectly so I didn’t need to make any adjustments there.

© Simon Morris

Durability

Upon return, there were some minor signs of wear in the lower-back protector and also the hip belt including some scuffing of the material due to the movement but nothing out of the ordinary after use on such a demanding trip. Though we were glad of the dry weather, it meant I didn’t test the waterproof-ability of the pack, but you can feel the material would be pretty water resistant and it does have a solid rain cover which stows away neatly into the bottom of the pack.

Summary

I’ve been really impressed with the AllTrail. It’s got a lot of bells and whistles, but they’re all well thought out and more importantly every item is robust and well made. Whilst a 45L rucksack is larger than most people require for a day sack, it’s an ideal size for a lightweight expedition, say to the jungle, or on alpine adventures going from hut to hut, with the need to pack ropes, helmet and climbing gear – and if you are looking to use this simply as a day sack, the AllTrail also comes available as a 35L pack.

All in all, it’s a perfect alpine or lightweight overnight bag, and I’ll definitely be using it as my main day sack from now on. If the other bags in the range are as good as this, then I’m sure we’ll be seeing more Thule bags out on the hills.

* The AllTrail 45L was kindly provided for review by Thule.

See more from the 2018 Wakhan Corridor Expedition here.

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