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AirDesign hike-and-fly Trail backpack review

Monday 27 July, 2020

This is a specialist product designed to fulfil the needs of the hike-and-fly or adventure-racing pilot: a lightweight bag that gives good load support.

We had the 70-litre bag on test and took it for some hikes to see how comfortable it was in use. With the bag in my hand I was instantly impressed with the quality of the materials and finish. It is obvious that a lot of thought has gone into optimising this bag for its intended use.

The material used is a slick looking ripstop that feels a bit heavier duty than some of the other bags out there. This and the design make it heavier than Supair’s Trek Light bag which is almost half the weight, for example, but it is similar to Neo’s Lite Bag. I measured the bag we had at 700g on our scales, which matches what AD say.

AD trail backpackWaterproof materials

Importantly, the material is water resistant, so your kit won’t get wet and heavy on those inevitable rainy days. The main zip is waterproof and two-way, so if you’ve managed to leave your waterproof right at the bottom you can still get to it without dragging everything out into the rain.

In our unscientific hose test the zip did let a little water in but the inside of the material stayed dry.

The top closure uses a rollover design, like waterproof kit bags. AirDesign have even thought about night racing  – their big logo is printed using reflective material which will shine brightly in headlights. Great for safety when road walking.

AD Trail backpack

Two chest-harness straps, pockets for water bottles

Tall and narrow

The bag is designed to be tall and narrow, to improve weight distribution. AirDesign say the 70l is suitable for a semi-light cross-country wing and a superlight harness. The narrowness means any harness with much structure won’t fit in. This is a bag for harnesses like Skywalk’s Range X-Alps 2,
Neo StayUp or Supair Strike.

The rucksack harness is well padded and features a trail-running inspired chest harness with two chest straps and shaped shoulder straps. This and the diagonal tapes running from the waistbelt give a really good connection to the load, so it stays in place and doesn’t shift around. The straps from the shoulders to the top of the bag can be adjusted in position.

I found the load stayed perfectly in place over rough ground and the weight was well distributed. The chest-strap can be slid up and down to adjust for your body.

Clever height adjustments for top shoulder strap

Loads of pockets

There are plenty of pockets. The shoulder straps feature a water bottle pocket on each side that could also be used for carrying a smartphone or tracker. On the waist-strap there are two zip pockets – fairly small but good for snacks and keys etc although I couldn’t fit my large phone in them.

On the top of the bag is another large zip pocket. Inside the main compartment is a water pouch pocket with a hole to route the tube through just behind your head. On the sides. two big mesh pockets can take poles or compressible clothing.

In short, this is a carefully thought-out, well-made bag for its target market. I would really like to see another size up for those of us that hike to launch with semi-light kit, as for comfort and load carrying this bag is hard to beat.

AirDesign Hike-and-Fly Trail backpacks, 38l. 55l, 70l, €120-192, ad-gliders.com

This review was published in Cross Country issue 210 (June 2020)

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