Review part 2: I have been using the Lowe Alpine Airzone Z ND rucksack for a further 2 months since my last review and am pleased to say it is proving to be a durable and useful piece of kit. Despite the bright colour, it still looks clean and fresh, and any marks have been easy to sponge off.
In the past when I have taken walking poles with me on a walk, I have often ended up storing them in the main ruck sack compartment, which leaves the handles or tips sticking out of the top of the bag. As mentioned in my last review, I was keen to try the ‘tip grippers’ on the side of the Lowe Alpine bag, which are used to secure the poles onto the outside.
I found these to work well and stow the poles neatly; at the same time the poles could be easily detached when required.
Another potentially useful feature which I discovered is an emergency whistle on the chest strap, which as I spend a lot of time in the mountains, could come in handy sometime!
Being based in the Lake District, I have obviously had several occasions where the rain cover has been very necessary and I am pleased to say that it is still securely attached to the bag and has not blown away!
The only downside to the rucksack is the fact that like most airzone bags with curved backs, it is difficult to stand it up when packing or unpacking it. This can be irritating, but is easily solved by propping the bag against a wall or rock.
So to summarise overall, I am impressed with this versatile, well built and comfortable rucksack. The suspended mesh back system keeps your back cool and the rucksack is surprisingly spacious for an 18l sack. It is well designed with lots of useful features and would be suitable for those wanting a lightweight sack, whether that be for round town, day walks, biking or summer hill walking. I shall enjoy continuing to put it through its paces!
Review part 1: I am looking forwards to thoroughly testing the Lowe Alpine Women’s Airzone Z ND 18l rucksack; it is smaller than the rucksacks I usually use (which range in size from 35l – 65l), and weighs only 0.96kg. I am intrigued to see just how much gear I can actually fit into the 18l capacity!
The rucksack is designed to be used for many different activities including walking and biking (it includes a bike light holder). I intend to use it for walking in the mountains of the Lake District, where it will be battered by rain, hail, wind and all that the elements can throw at it. I am therefore encouraged by its durable ‘N6.6 210D Mini Rip’ fabric, rain cover and features such as the AirZone breathable suspended mesh-back system, which is contoured to the shape of your back. I have found in the past that some bags with a contoured shape put pressure on my lower back, but as this rucksack is a women specific fit, I am hoping that this will mean the bag is comfortable from the start to the end of the day.
My initial impression of the pack was that it looked roomier than I had imagined, fortunate given the amount of gear I need to fit into it. It was also perhaps brighter in colour than I had envisaged, being turquoise, but this did contrast quite nicely with the yellow trim.
It looked quite robust and I was pleasantly surprised to discover the internal and external zip pockets and a key clip, which all help you to keep your kit organised.
As I will often be filling it to the brim with gear, I am glad to see that it has lots of other storage options too- 2 side pockets on the outside, a stash pocket on the front of the bag, a small but handy pocket on the shoulder strap and the option to use lash points on the front of the pack to create extra storage. The cord for using the lash points is not included, but would be easy to attach.
I am also interested to try the walking pole ‘tip grippers’ for keeping walking poles secure, as I have not come across this feature before.
The pack is hydration pouch compatible, which is useful rather than having to carry water bottles or try to feed the tube out of the lid.
For its first use, I took the pack out for a 6 hour walk round the Fairfield Horseshoe in the Lake District. I was amazed at how much I could actually fit into the bag, including a microlight down jacket, first aid kit, hydration pouch, gloves, hat, food and snacks, camera, and map case. The all-round main zip helped when packing and was fairly stiff, meaning it didn’t have that annoying habit of sliding open fully on the hill whenever you opened the bag. It rained incessantly for the whole time, so the pack’s rain cover was thoroughly tested. On the whole I am not a fan of rain covers, having lost several to the wind. Rain did work its way onto the bag in the end, but I was impressed with the fact that the cover can be drawn really tightly around the bag, is designed to fit properly rather than being ‘one size fits all’, and is securely attached to the rucksack by a decent length of Velcro so is unlikely to blow away.
I was wearing my waterproofs for the whole day, so did not have to fit these in the bag – my waterproof trousers would have fitted inside, although my jacket may have needed to go in the front stash pocket due to the amount of other gear I had with me.
The chest strap was initially a little high for me, but was easily adjusted as I walked along, and I was pleased to see that the simple but effective method by which it was attached to the bag straps, meant it couldn’t become detached when taut, (a problem I had with a previous Lowe Alpine rucksack).
The bag fitted well and was comfortable throughout the day, the women specific back length seemed to suit me and didn’t put pressure on my lower back at all.
Despite the atrocious weather and putting the rucksack down in the mud several times, it still looked remarkably clean when I got down off the hill, surprising given it’s light colour. It will be interesting to see how it fairs over the coming months! I did not take my walking poles so aim to try the ‘tip grippers’ on my next outing and I will update this review over the coming months.