Originally posted on Carryology.
Bergans provided me with a Skarstind 32 for a quick ramble in my home turf in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness region of Washington. I hit the soggy, fall trails for a 10-mile afternoon hike and have formed an opinion. Spoiler alert: It’s a love/hate story.
Who it suits: Beginner hikers and backpackers, this is full-feature bag with a great trampoline suspension and exterior stretch mesh pockets. It’s got everything you need and nothing you don’t. This is a solid entry bag if you’re looking to spend longer days in the mountains, especially if you live in a warmer climate—I was really impressed at how well this ventilated.
Who it doesn’t: Commuters and the EDC crowd looking for a multi-role bag. The rigid frame doesn’t give you much in the way of versatility. The back panel is curved for comfort while hiking, so when I slide my laptop into the bag you end up with dead space on either side. Much like laying a board on a cylinder.
The Good: For lightweight adventurers, this really hits a sweet spot with its feature set. Sub 2 pounds, ventilated back panel, huge stretch mesh pockets, and a floating lid. This bag checks a lot of boxes for me, and that’s pretty tough to do.
I’ve said it before, but when you’re buying a bag, pay close attention to everything that’s touching you: the suspension system on an outdoor bag is the most important part of the whole contraption. Bergans was able to get it done with the tensioned mesh back panel.
Sub 2 pounds, ventilated back panel, huge stretch mesh pockets, and a floating lid. This bag checks a lot of boxes for me, and that’s pretty tough to do.
The floating lid actually is a big deal, especially in a bag this size. Being that this bag is a cinch top, a floating lid allows you to really abuse that 32L capacity limit. I can easily carry a tent or pad between the lid and the main compartment, turning a “daypack” into an overnight bag no problem. It’s also pretty big, which means more room for snacks. Excellent.
The stretch mesh pockets are awesome. They completely swallow a 1L Nalgene and can easily handle a pair of rain pants, a hat and gloves, or pretty much anything else you want to stash for quick access. The stretch mesh front-face pouch works great for shells and layers and has an expansion zip that allows you a little more space for when you’ve really got to pack it in (though I’m not sold this actually does anything).
The Not so Good: The hip belt is not up to snuff for me; the foam is way too flimsy to be taken seriously, and when I’m not using it, there’s nowhere for it to go, so it flaps between my legs like a bad fishing experience. They’re also sewn in in the wrong direction. What I mean by this is that their natural resting place is across the back panel rather than out around your hips.
The carry handle at the top of the pack is nearly useless. It’s short and rests just beneath the lid of the bag so most of the time when I go to grab it, I’m actually holding the weight of the bag via the lid rather than the carry handle.
The hardware on this bag is also a bit of a turnoff: the clips just aren’t as snappy or as rugged as I want them to be on a bag that’s solely going to be toted around in big environments. The cord lock on the cinch top and collar didn’t install confidence in me either.
Lastly, the bottom of bag seems unfinished in my eyes. The frame extends below the seam where the bottom panel is sewn in. Typically, I’ve seen the bottom panel wrap around or cover the bottom of the frame and the seam placement there would rest of the very bottom on the back panel closest to the wearers back. In the Skarstind case, it’s apparent that the bag is attached to the frame—I feel like most manufactures try to make this fact a little more discrete. It’s
Lastly, the bottom of bag seems unfinished in my eyes. The frame extends below the seam where the bottom panel is sewn in.
hardly noticeable when you’re carrying a full load, but when you’ve got a half load, or on inspecting the bag empty, it’s a noticeable design element.
Alternatives to Consider: Most obviously, Gregory’s Zulu 35 and Osprey’s Talon 33 are comparable in every way. While both options are pricier, I think the attention to detail they offer is worthwhile.