There are quite a lot of bushwalkers in Australia, the terrain and weather are a bit different from other countries, and Australia is a long way from all other major gear making countries (with the notable exception of New Zealand). What all this means is that Australia does have its own gear culture and quite a few local gear manufacturers. Basically, traditional Australian gear is made rugged, to cope with our bush and our weather. I can have a nice hot day with a hailstorm in the afternoon.
Unfortunately the Australian gear culture seems to be frozen in a time warp these days, with a strong focus on heavy canvas packs being a well-known example. The local shops are terrified of returns and simply won't stock modern UL (or even lightweight) gear (the American idea of buying two with the intent of returning one would be regarded with horror and rejection here by the retailers). This makes it hard for local manufacturers to move into the lightweight space. However, one company - One Planet - has been cautiously testing the water, spurred on in part by the author nagging away at the company owner, who he has known for years.
In addition to making bushwalking gear, One Planet also makes gear for adventure organisations (eg schools), government departments (eg Post Office workers), and for the Australian and New Zealand Antarctic research organisations. The latter is rather impressive: the tents and outerwear have to withstand full-on Antarctic weather. But that gear is not UL!
One Planet Shadow Pack
|Shadow UM||Above average||Very robust for scrub|
|Shadow W||Above average||Very robust for scrub|
The Men's and Women's models are very similar, with the Women's version being essentially a Small size. For this reason only one photo assembly is shown: you can't tell the difference between them.
Despite my urgings, according to the manufacturer, the Shadow is pretty rugged: "constructed of 420 denier and 500 denier nylon with a 1000 denier base." Actually, I am not sure that the fabric is pure nylon: it looks and feels more like a nylon/cotton blend to me, but I can be fooled. Well, given the nature of our scrub and the historical emphasis on 12-ounce canvas here, that is at least a step forward. More surprising is that the Shadow actually is not all that heavy, despite the fabric. Indeed, the volume/weight ratio is certainly not at the bottom of the table. This does place some emphasis on the fact that the weight of the fabric making up the main bag is not that large a fraction of the overall pack weight.
One Planet Shadow (M), 1.51 kg (3.33 lb), 53 L (3200 cuin), M. One Planet Shadow (W), 1.45 kg (3.20 lb), 51 L (3100 cuin), S.
Where these packs score very well is in the fully-adjustable harness: the torso length can be finely controlled by buckle hidden behind the lumbar pad. I can attest that this adjustment does make a significant difference in comfort, at least to both myself and my wife. I tried the packs with the torso length too long and too short, and those settings were definitely not as comfortable as the correct torso length. The hip belt and the lumbar pad are definitely well-padded. Curiously, there is no slab of continuous foam padding all the way up the back: just a single aluminium rail which carries the (adjustable length) shoulder straps. The bit of the shoulder straps against the harness face is well padded. I expected that we would notice the lack of padding up our backs, but apart from the observation that it did feel different, I have to say the design works well and is comfortable.
The webbing on the hip belt is a solid 50 mm wide. I challenged this, but the owner replied that the wide webbing was an important part of the hip-belt design. Well, the extra weight of the wide webbing is very small. The adjustable parts of the shoulder straps are 25 mm and the compression straps are 20 mm. The shiny 'buckles' on the compression straps and the lid strap are not plastic: they are stamped aluminium adjustable hooks! Yes, that makes them heavier than the typical plastic side-release buckle, but they are indestructible. The extra weight incurred by the use of aluminium for the whole pack is only 25 grams. Hum... The sternum strap was fine and did not have a whistle.
The design of the Shadow pack is still evolving as some 'American' ideas get tested - not always successfully. A recent addition to the design of the pack is the provision of holders for PET 1.25 L water bottles at the bottom corners. One of these can be seen in the photos, with a PET water bottle in the right hand one. The bottle had the unfortunate habit of working its way up and out of this pocket, pushed by the hip belt side strap. It was doing this in the right hand photo. This was discussed with the owner of the company who could see the problem and undertook to fix it. Of course, if you are like me, you could just ignore the pocket and not use it. A more serious problem was the length of the throat: way too short. How this happened we are not sure, but the problem will be fixed according to the owner. The haulage loop was far too narrow (see the middle photo): this is being rectified in the design. There was no security pocket inside the lid pocket, but that too will be fixed. (Us reviewers do earn our keep...)
The main side pockets are very short: made to support the bottom end of a bundle of tent poles and nothing more. There is a little loop on the side at the bottom: this can be adapted to hold an ice axe by adding a short loop of cord. There are not many places in Australia where you need an ice axe after all. I thought the loop was too far forward and said so: it is now being moved a bit more towards the back face. Evolution!
The main bag held the Test Gear quite easily. The seams have been bound with tape in the conventional manner. There is a single strap under the lid, which can be used to hold a tent as well, and the design of the lid should add considerable security to that. While the main bag held only fifty-odd litres, they were very usable litres as the bag was wide enough.
Otherwise, the design is remarkably free of all the little marketing frills and add-ons and can survive considerable bashing through the bush with no visible damage.
This is a mini-review in the 2010 Lightweight Internal Frame Pack State of the Market Report. The articles in this series are as follows (mini-reviews can be found in Part 2), and a subscription to our site is needed to read them.