For over 25 years Montane has been one of the Uk’s premier outdoor clothing and equipment manufacturers and its safe to say you wont have gone far in the mountains without passing somebody wearing their kit. Items like the Prism jacket and Terra pants have become the brands most recognisable products and are recommended and worn by outdoor professionals and mountain rescue teams across the country.
In the early part of this year Montane got in touch and asked If I would test out the new range of backpacks called the Trailblazer range. The main principle of the range was to offer lightweight packs for people who want to move fast in the mountains. When I agreed to test them out I wondered if I would have the necessary time to test all the packs out, little did I know just how much free time I would end up having on my hands in the months ahead.
For this review I figured I would talk about the Trailblazer 30L as it’s the pack I’ve used the most and it’s similar to the Trailbalzer 40L so will be a sufficient review for both packs.
Montane and many retailers advertise this pack as being ideal for travelling fast in the mountains but I think it’s a great for hiking, running or both. the lightweight design makes it perfect for the multi day running days but its great if you just want a comfy day pack for carrying extra layers, some food and a flask.
How does it fit.
The Trailblazer packs come with the ZephyrAD adjustable back system. In real terms that means the size is easy to adjust using Velcro pads on the back panel. This is great if your using it as a running pack one day (and prefer the back shorter) then a hiking pack the next (Longer so the weight sits on the hip belt more).
The packs also come with a multi adjusting shoulder strap called the Covalent system. Again in simple terms this means you have two cords to adjust each shoulder strap and this enables you to make the pack fit more snug, and reduce the rolling or bouncing if your running with it. The mesh padding also provides plenty of comfort and allows the back to breathe more when using it in the warmer months. I was pleasantly surprised at how well the back breathes and how quick it dries when using it in the pouring rain.
Pockets, pockets and more pockets.
When I’m out running the last thing I want is to keep taking my pack off to access food, drinks, maps etc. Across the whole trailblazer range, Montane have introduced chest pockets on the shoulder straps that are big enough to fit your mobile phone, map, snacks and any other small items. The Trailblazer 30L pack also come with wrap around mesh pockets on the sides that allow larger awkward sized items and water bottle to be stored and accessed while on the move. In my opinion it’s a great addition and reduces faff time when your trying to cover long distances. The back of the pack comes with a mesh outer pocket which is perfect for storing waterproofs or a wet outer sheet of a tent if your using it for multi days adventures.
When your talking lightweight you don’t often get durability in the same sentence ,the Trialblazer however, is an exception to that rule. On a fastpacking trip to the Alps I used the Trialblazer 30L pack for three days running from France into Switzerland following the UTMB route. Its would be fair to say I gave it a hard time and it put up with everything I could throw at it. The material they use is a 70 denier Raptor Cross lite fabric which stops the full length of the material ripping if you catch it on something sharp. The bottom of the pack is a 210 denier fabric which is much tougher than the sides and is well placed as the bottom of a pack is where the majority of the wear occurs.
The Trailblazer packs all come with pole storage and the new Trailblazer 30L has options on the front and rear of the pack. I found the front pole attachment to be useful as I often run on technical ground where poles are only needed for short sections and need to be stowed away when I’m using my hands. I use Black Diamond carbon poles which fold up and easily attach to the pack.
For me the trailblazer is a fantastic addition to the Montane range and it’s perfect for multi day running trips or a days hiking in the mountains. I found the fit to be nice and close and the mesh padding allows the pack to breathe so it doesn’t feel too hot if your running with it. The expandable flexi pockets are one of the best additions to this range as you can stuff in weird shaped items without losing too much space or store wet items like waterproofs or tent outer on the outside of your pack.
On the whole I’m really impressed with this pack and would certainly recommend it for people looking for something lightweight and versatile for mountain running or hiking. At a retail of £85 you certainly get value for money and I don’t think you will find a better backpack for the money on the market.
About the author.
Fastpacking across the Aguille Rouge in France into Switzerland.
Matt Cooper is a mountain runner and Mountaineering Instructor (MCI) based in North Wales who spends the majority of his time in the mountains for work or play. Matts business The Mountaineering Company offer a range of courses and events to climbers, hill walkers and runners helping them realise their dreams and ambitions in the mountains. More details about the courses and events can be found at www.themountaineeringcompany.co.uk
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