We’ve long used Thule racks for transporting gear on our vehicles (and more recently we’ve loved the brand’s luggage, day packs, and kid-bike products). Now, the Swedish brand has announced it is jumping full into the backpacking space in 2015.
We got an exclusive test of the pack line late last month in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Our contributing writer Jeff Kish backpacked for multiple days in the Thule packs.
Noted Kish, “Each pack is almost infinitely adjustable. They don’t come in different sizes. The guide packs have a pivoting suspension system that allows for more movement in your torso while still distributing the load weight on your belt. The guide packs also have lids that turn into backpacks for side trips or summit day.”
The company touts “ultimate fit” with the pack line. This is backed up by a few features, including the TransHub Suspension System (which is a “wide single aluminum stay and steel wire spring frame that transfers the pack’s load to the strongest part of the hiker’s body – their legs”); a MicroAdjust Suspension System (which “uses a strong aluminum frame to evenly transfer the packs’ loads to the hips” as well as “allow users to adjust the torso length of the pack on the fly”); and multiple hip belt options (Thule’s hip belts come in three sizes).
Kish continued, “They also have side water bottle pouches that angled forward, which makes accessing your bottles easier than the traditional vertical pouch. One feature I liked was that the traditional ice ax loops were sewn twice so they have a smaller hole to accommodate trekking poles.”
The packs have gender-specific designs, including male packs with a more generous cut around the neck line, and female packs with straps designed for a more slender neck line, curved chest, and wider hips.
Kish, who is an ultra-light backpacker and serious thru-hiker on trails like the PCT, said the packs carry “really comfortable,” but the adjustment and suspension seem overkill once you’ve got it set for you. “You’re carrying a bit of extra weight all the time just so the pack can be readjusted for other body types.”
On the upside, Kish noted, this adjustability would be an attractive feature for families or couples looking to share gear.
Kish liked the color choices of the packs, and the spacious pockets on the hip belts were a big plus, he noted.
“I think the Thule line is a solid first effort, and people that are looking at Osprey or Gregory should consider Thule as well. The new features are interesting and innovative. The packs are durable, comfortable, and generous enough to efficiently carry all your gear.”
Thule will release its Guidepost trekking pack, the Capstone hiking pack, and the Sapling child-carrier backpack in early 2015. —Stephen Regenold