At the end of August, I tried to combine walking an cycle touring for the first time. By that, I don’t mean bike packing. I mean using the bicycle as a means to travel between lots of hiking destinations. Cycle to the mountains. Get off the bike, then go for a day or half day’s walk in the hills. Get back on bike and travel to more mountains.
When I first started talking about the Irish 3 Peaks Ride, I was all for going out and finding panniers that convert into rucksacks. But, after much searching, this just didn’t seem to be practical for a long tour. Instead, I ended up looking for the opposite: a day bag that could pack down small enough to fit into a pannier. The result was the Montane Featherlite 30.
Fit for Purpose?
This little bag did remarkably well. I think it is designed more as a lightweight running rucksack (at least that’s what it felt like) than a hill walking rucksack. The back panel comes out, allowing the rest of the bag to be stuffed into its own top pocket. All 30 litres – waist straps and all – fit down into a package that’s smaller than 30cm x 30cm x 15cm.
The back panel is made of closed-cell foam. It describes itself as a “sleeping mat”, which it might be if you are a small dog or ultralightweight mountain marathon runner… We left those bits at home, which meant the bag was more floppy to wear (without a rigid back panel) but this wasn’t a problem.
The Montane Featherlite was very easy to pack in and out of itself – making it perfect for throwing a bit of kit into for a spontaneous outing. Aside from some great days out walking in Macgillycuddy’s Reeks, Bera and Brandon Mountain, it was also very convenient for taking across to Dursey Island and around Blarney castle. I guess what I’m saying is that it’s a useful travel bag, not just for mountaineering.
Features I Loved
There are several packable rucksacks on the market, but the Montane Featherlight was the only one that looked like a serious walking bag. That is, without being too tiny to be useful. It didn’t disappoint. It has all the features you’d expect in a good day bag: Camelbak pouch pocket, inside lid pocket, a clip in the outside lid pocket… The straps all had padding and mesh, as did the back system.
My favourite features, though, were the pockets in the waist belt and the mesh side pockets. These could take a full 1 litre water bottle, plus some, without any chance of it falling out. I wish more bags had side pockets like these!
I can’t go without mentioning one of the biggest, strangest features of this rucksack. Let’s talk about how long the rucksack straps were. I had a size S/M (done on back length) and couldn’t get the waist strap quite tight enough to fit me. I’m a size 8, but still… Never had problem with that in other bags before.
I kind of assumed it was just because the bags were designed for men. But then Joe also found himself at the skinny end of the strap (despite being over 6ft tall). What this means is ridiculously long reams of spare strap at the other end – enough that I’m tempted to cut it off and re-sew. I tucked the waist strap ends into the pockets, but there’s not a lot you can do with the shoulder straps.
All in all, this is a really nifty little backpack. It was incredibly handy to take cycle touring and I wouldn’t have been without it for the hiking. Goes without saying that it’s better to take a bag designed for the mountains into the mountains than try to convert a pannier in to a rucksack.
The length of the straps is a bit weird, but it hasn’t annoyed me enough to take scissors to it yet. I’ll definitely be taking this on trips abroad when I want to only take one expedition bag but might have use for a daybag too (e.g. mini via ferrata trips).
Many thanks to Simply Hike for providing these bags at short notice for our trip.