This is more of an initial impression rather than a long term use review. However, my observations are valid for a pretty heavy duty user and given I had some experience with the Track Backpack. The only thing missing would be the information on the condition of the bag after 2 years on the road (I might update that later, in 2 years time that is :-p)
As it was for my Track 31 backpack, I got the Elevation 42 from the awesome Wayne from The Touring Store. He had the Bag on sale and gave me an excellent price! I was in Panama when I ordered the bag, and had it shipped to a friend, visiting me in Colombia, bring it. I Loved my Track 31 and would have gladly gone in for another of those, but I had some reservations on the track for Loaded hiking and Wayne measured the bags and told me that the Elevation 42 had a longer Torso! Sweet.
My primary use of the Elevation backpack was as a rack top bag. The bag being skinny and long made is fit into the space between panniers on my Tubus cargo rack. I mount it lengthwise so I can reach into my panniers easily. I tied it down to the rack with a pair of Nylon Belts and the straps in the sides are pretty nice to loop thro and keep the bag from sliding off.
There are a couple of things I miss on the Elevation 42 that I loved on the Track 31. Firstly, the front pouch. The elevation 42 has no external pockets and that means I had to keep some of the quick access stuff Inside the bag. That is a bit of a pain, because I keep my pump inside the bag now and when I have to open the bag in the rain, it tends to get moisture inside my camping gear. Hmmm. Well a bit of readjustment was needed.
There were no side pockets either. That means no water bottle holders for hiking. The bag supports having a hydration bladder, but given my multiple use situation, I do not prefer to carry a bladder in the backpack. I eventually added a Ortlieb External Pocket (Small) and picked up a small pouch which I attached t the outside loops.
I also loved the simplicity and reliability of Track 31’s Roll-Top closure design. Elevation had a more traditional drawstring closure with a hood. Everything is pretty toughly designed, however, I think given that my backpack lies flat most of the time, the Roll top Closure of Elevation Pro 42 would have been a better option. I eventually stitched on a Roll top closure over the drawstring and though it’s not perfect, its a good project to undertake and make the bag a little bit more waterproof.
So as a Rack-top bag, for bicycle touring, I think the Track 31 wins the comparison by a good yard.
As a backpack for long-distance hiking, well that’s a different story altogether. The elevation 42 is a frameless bag, but thereat is stiff enough to not cause wiggle and keep the load in place. The Shoulder straps, hip belt and the load straps make the bag close to a extremely well designed Back country Hiking pack. I think the space inside is ideal for overnight hikes with camping equipment and with all the loops all around the outside of the pack, I’d think one could carry a lot of gear. I added a Ortlieb Outer Pocket (Small) on the bag for quick access to small items I’d need. That just means that a couple of those Large pouches would make a shit ton more space on the bag.
The Torso length on this bag is not adjustable, but to me the size is ideal – I am 185 cm with a slightly shorter torso and the Track 31 was a bit too small for me. So if you are buying this pack primarily for hiking, check to see if it fits well on you.
At some point during my bike tour, in Ecuador, I decided to leave the bike for a few weeks and backpack and hike in the Ecuadorean Andes. The weather was super wet and I took the elevation, with camping equipment, a bunch of electronic gear & cameras and clothes. I’d say about 10 kg of gear. The bag worked fantastic on all the hikes we did.
However, there were a couple of Problems. The attachment of the shoulder straps to the bag started to unravel. This was a manufacturing issue and I suppose they need to stitch the ends folded over. I found the damage early on and found some webbing straps in a small village and stitched over it. That made it bomber. I notified Wayne and Ortlieb and they promptly offered to replace the bag under warranty. But being in Ecuador, it was going to be expensive shipping and I held out on exchanging the bag.
The hip belt is clipped on, which is fine while hiking, but over time the snap fit seems to loosen and I have to fix it before wearing my pack. A bit of a bother, to be honest, but not a showstopper for me.
With load on, the pack feels fantastic and fits snug and for Loaded Hiking, the Elevation 42 wins hands down in comparison to the Track 31. I like the extra volume (though I don’t need it all the time). I will revisit this review in a year or so and comment on how the material held up. But the fabric is different from the one used on my Older Track 31 and I feel the waterproofing will stay as long as I patch the occasional punctures.
- Overall Impression: Highly Recommended.
- Real World Features: 100% Waterproof, Drawstring closure keeps things simple, but does not protect from dunking. The Elevation Pro with it’s roll top closure is desirable. Waterproof fabric is light and seems like it will stay good for a long while.
- Durability: Very durable. I had a few manufacturing defects on the stitching, and the warranty was great. The hip belt connections are plastic slip on’s and seems to slide out often.
- Weight: Bag is lightweight (by my standards) and though it’s a frameless pack, it seems to hold up well for carrying load.
- Comfort: I am 1.85 m tall and a short torso for the height. The size is perfect for me and with the load straps, it works like a perfect backpack for long distance hiking.
- Size: The pack is great for day hikes and overnighters. for casual hiking, it’s probably too big.
- Other Features: The organiser inside is neat, though I don’t use it much. I miss the water bottle pouch on the outside. Bummer. Really need one. I had to attach ortlieb outer pockets to have some outer pockets. The little pouches on the Hip-Belt are handy, but too tiny. I really miss the front pouch I so loved having on the Ortlieb Track 31. Lots of loops and attachment points all around the bag.