I’m fortunate to be frequently offered hiking and camping kit to review and, until now, my first question has been: Is the brand ethically sound? Increasingly, this is followed by: Do I really need it?
Along with many outdoors bloggers and my fellow Ordnance Survey champs, I’m thinking more carefully about how – and how much – I use products, as I reflect on my own consumerism and footprint. While it’s lovely to be gifted all things outdoorsy, from socks to sleeping bags, there’s little point in accepting yet more ‘stuff’ if it’s only going to end up at the bottom of the wardrobe.
In the case of a new day pack, however, the answer to the second question is a resounding YES. The wear and, quite literally in some places, tear on my beloved current 35L rucksack is showing. It’s been my hiking second skin since those long-ago days when my kids still loved coming on adventures, and was ‘gifted’ in the kindest sense by my mum. I love it to the point of refusing to upgrade my phone for a whole two years, simply because the bigger version wouldn’t fit in the rucksack’s hip pocket.
But just as I reluctantly start to accept my trusty backpack hasn’t many seasons left in it, here’s the Salomon Out Night 30+5, coincidentally the same gorgeous ‘Mediterranea’ colour as its predecessor and boasting not one but two ginormous hip compartments. At first glance, I’m a tad suspicious of the absence of a frame to give space and breathability between the pack and my back, but the fabric is certainly enticingly lightweight and supple. I fill it up with enough goodies to tempt a teen out on an evening hike, and off we go.
The main compartment is roomy, with easy access from the top and also via a full-length zip. It has an inner section ideal for a hydration bladder, with corresponding loops on the shoulder straps for the water pipe, and there’s also a spacious front pocket. The two side pockets are extremely stretchy, perfect for bottles and poles, the latter of which can be secured with bungee loops on both sides. The five-litre lid is removable – hence the 30+5 – although, with an outer lid pocket surely designed for easy access snacks, and a secure cubbyhole tucked into the lining for keys and my purse, I can’t imagine ever using the pack lid-less.
The sternum strap takes some getting used to; I look fruitlessly for a traditional clip and it takes a streetwise teen to figure out how the rather small peg works. It’s a little fiddly but, once in place, it remains secure. More importantly, the straps are in exactly the right place for women. I’ve blogged previously about the perils of buying backpacks designed for men, who have less to adjust in this area, but the Out Night chest strap sits in the right place, without any squashing. One shoulder strap also has a deceptively large mesh pocket for close-at-hand essentials such as energy gels.
I can’t vouch for the pack’s waterproofness, partly because we’ve had a surprisingly dry summer in Wales and also because I don’t venture anywhere without a dry bag lining the main compartment of any pack. The Out Night doesn’t come with an attachable rain cover, so I’d recommend bearing a dry bag in mind if using this pack in the good old British weather. The extra chunky hip band sits well, easily supporting the rucksack’s weight, and has those all-important, generously-sized pockets.
The blurb says the Out Night 30+5 is ready for ‘any fast-paced adventure up to two days’ and, over a British summer of testing, it certainly fares well on evenings treks and near-heatwave day hikes, comfortably accommodating the litres and litres of water three people need to scale a scorching Snowdon and make the return journey. But is it really suitable for an overnighter?
If you’re camping as a couple or in a group and can divide the pans, stove, tent canvas and poles between you, well – possibly. But my experience as a solo backpacker is that it’s just too small for all the necessaries for a comfortable camp. I set off along a remote Beacons track for a Friday night adventure, and too many items are tied to the pack, not stowed inside it. My load is unstable, things are bumping against my knees and I’m grateful that I’m ‘only’ setting up camp a mile from my van, and not trekking for hours into the horizon. I haven’t packed well in my post-work haste as it is; on discovering I’ve forgotten the teabags, I’m not convinced I have room left to cram in even a few Tetley anyway.
Salomon offers a larger version in the unisex Out Night MTN 45 backpack, which, at £160, looks worth investigating for wild camping. For day-long treks, however, the 30+5 is a treasure. It’s superbly lightweight, fits extremely comfortably and has stash areas for all the essentials and teen-bribing treats you can think of. My beloved old backpack may have one or two outings still left in it, but this is the perfect understudy to have waiting in the wings.