WHEN YOU THINK about what makes a good pack, one of the key things is that you should hardly notice it's there – you want the environment around you to be the focus, not a niggling pain in your shoulders or lower-back.
In that regard, these packs – Deuter's new 75+10 and 60+10 SL Aircontacts worn by my partner and I – are off to a good start, and the name 'Aircontact' suggests the brains behind the design had the same end-goal in mind.
A lot of thought has gone into Deuter's redesigned back construction. But while it's all well and good to tell you about the new technical features – such as the 'Active Fit' shoulder straps designed to adapt to the wearer's shoulders' width and angle; the 'pre-shaped 3D hip straps'; or that the SL female-specific version I wore has proportions and details optimised to suit more feminine physiques – like any pack, the real test is in loading it up, putting it on and pulling, tightening and adjusting until it feels just right.
A 20km hike in Barrington Tops National Park, NSW, was a good first test for the packs. (Image: Gemma Chilton)
And for both of us, these packs sat well: there are straps in all the right places to make sure the weight is pulled in close and sits on your hips, not your shoulders. There is space around your lower back and I was pleased to find the back-sweat situation didn't get out of hand – this would also be down to another nifty feature: a 'pump effect' that circulates air through the back's breathable hollow-chamber padding.
In fact, after a recent hike in Barrington Tops National Park, NSW, I was shocked to find my old-faithful hiking boots were giving me more grief at the end of one particularly long 20km day than my shiny new pack.
Another handy feature of these Aircontacts is the big front opening that allows quick access to the entire contents, as well as a separate bottom compartment. That means you can pull out that tent buried at the bottom as soon as you arrive at camp, without having to eject all your gear from the usual deep narrow tube, which can be particularly annoying in bad weather.
The only possible downside I can see so far from all that fancy technology – the extra straps and zippers – is the introduction of new potential points of failure. However by all accounts Deuter packs are renowned for their durability, and nothing about these slim, smart looking Aircontacts looks flimsy.
Time will tell, and given their performance so far I rather look forward to continuing to put these packs to the test.
RRP $AU499.99 (Aircontact 75+10) / $AU439.99 (Aircontact 60+10 SL)