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MontBell Versalite 20

in Backpacks - Frameless

Average Rating
4.50 / 5 (2 reviews)

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Ben 2 World
( ben2world )

So Cal
MontBell Versalite 20 on 06/04/2007 19:18:12 MDT Report Post Print

Rating: 4 / 5

This is a no-thrills but well-constructed frameless day pack. You can see photo and specs here. You can also see BPL's spotlight review here.

The pack weighs 12 oz. on my digital scale. By shortening the straps and whacking off unneeded lash points and whatnot's, I got the pack down to 10 oz.

This pack reminds me a bit of GoLite's old silnylon packs -- such as the GoLite Dawn. Both keep weight down by dispensing with thrills and bombproof fabrics -- except in places where they really matter. The pack's shoulder straps are soft and comfortably padded, with an adjustable sternum strap -- quite luxurious compared to many other frameless packs. Critical areas are all reinforced with more robust materials and stitching.

While most people will use this as their day or peak bagging pack, I actually bought it as my travel pack. The pack volume doesn't look like much (and at 20L, it isn't), but the volume that's there is all usable. There are basically three compartments:

1. Top pocket (zippable)
2. Main compartment with a sleeve inside for water bladder and two ports
3. Mesh outer pocket all around near the bottom of the pack, with one opening on each side

I begin packing as if I were going on a month-long hosteling vacation to a temperate region (say 32F and up). I pack my pen, writing pad, and small flashlight in the top pocket. I then pack my clothing, toiletry, first aid, guidebook, etc. into the main compartment. Finally, my umbrella and wind jacket go into the outer mesh pocket (with plenty of room still for one or two 16oz size water bottles).

Amazingly, everything fits with room to spare! I would say the pack is only a tad over half full. Yes, I travel lighter than most, but I am also impressed with the pack's design.

All packed up and ready to go, the total pack weight is just 7 lbs.

Anything to watch out for? Yes. This is a UL pack. While critical areas are reinforced as mentioned, the pack body is silnylon -- and a bit of babying will be required. Rudely tossing the pack into the cargo hold of a Grey Hound or carelessly dragging it over talus will likely spell the end of this pack. Luckily, being so small and light, it can go wherever you go, and will never need to be tossed in with other people's huge luggage.

Edited by ben2world on 06/28/2007 11:28:43 MDT.

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Jonathan Fitz
( fitzjo1 )
great for kids and dad, too on 08/22/2007 18:53:28 MDT Report Post Print

Rating: 5 / 5

I purchased one of these after reading the article about gear for kids. I had previously purchased a "kid's" pack that was well-made and feature-packed--but weighed in at around 2.75 pounds. At the time, that worked out to more than 25% of my son's total carry load.

The pack is, in my opinion, a really good value at $60. It is well-made and has quite a few useful features. I was initially disappointed that it was not more minimalist (and therefore lighter than 12 oz.). However, after using it on a BP trip, I have come to appreciate the features. The mesh stuff pockets are good for snacks or wet stuff. The lid is great for the little things your kid will inevitably want to store. The straps work nicely, and the bladder pocket is a good way to keep water where you can find it. You may not need these things for yourself, but they can save you a lot of aggravation when trying to find stuff while under way.

The pack would be perfect for my kids if it was shorter. But, it still worked OK for my 5-year-old daughter on her first BP trip. She had no complaints about the pack's comfort. She carried only her personal gear, for a total weight of about 5.25 pounds. I think the key to using it without the waistbelt is to keep the weight really low--which should be done in any case for little people.

I found that it also worked nicely for me during dayhikes from base camp. I wouldn't suggest it for heavy-weight use. But, it's a nice alternative for dad in a family BP trip setting.

One area for possible improvement would be some loops for attaching a bungy-cord drawstring on the back. This is a feature on the Mountain Hardware Scrambler that is really nice for attaching a sleeping pad. But, you can make do with the strap that holds the lid down. Another is a shorter version. If MontBell offered this, I think they would pretty well own the market for lightweight kids packs, with minimal incremental investment on their part.

I gave it a 5 because of the combination of value, features and relatively light weight. It's not perfect, but it is definitely the best pack I have seen in this category.

Edited by fitzjo1 on 08/22/2007 18:58:53 MDT.

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