A-hiking we shall go.
If you're planning some outdoor adventures this summer, the only thing that is more certain than rain is the fact that you'll need some stuff – lots of stuff. To ensure that all your essential kit is safe, dry, and within easy reach, our Swedish mates at Thule have put together the perfect day hiking pack. We test the Thule Stir 35L Hiking Pack.
Bigger than your average commuting backpack, but smaller than a full-blown camping carrier, the Thule Stir 35L Hiking Pack has been designed for a full day outside. With a capacity of 35 litres you get enough space for clothing, shoes, some grub, your all-important gadgets, and maybe also a tent clipped to the outside. We were sent the darker coloured version (apparently called 'Dark Shadow' – nice!), made from a dark grey elastin coated nylon with a contrast bright green draw-string opener, but there is also a pretty bright red version up for grabs too.
Speaking of the draw-string opener... the first thing we noticed about the Thule Stir 35L Hiking Pack was not the general size, or the adjustable back straps, but rather the way in which one opens and closes the main compartment. It all seems rather flimsy and insubstantial at first glance; especially for a pack designed to be used in all weather. However, that simple cord-drawn closer is actually pretty clever, as once sealed up it folds over itself and uses a metal clip to stay shut. It then becomes splash proof while also being super quick to reopen, should you need to do so in a hurry (“Quick! The waterproofs!”).
Thusly sealed, your Thule Stir 35L Hiking Pack will protect the internal contents from splashes and light rain, while to hold off against a torrential downpour you'll need the rain cover. Uniquely, the cover, which deploys from a compartment toward the base of the bag, does not stretch over the entire pack. The bottom section is left 'exposed', which at first was also rather strange to see. However, the bottom section of the Thule Stir 35L Hiking Pack is completely waterproof. This means you can set it down in a puddle and be confident your sarnies aren't getting a muddy soaking.
The main hold can also be accessed via a side zip pocket, allowing you to grab things lower down in the bag without disturbing the things on top (and potentially getting them wet if it's raining), while there is a whole other button-fastening 'shove-it' pocket on the front, good for maps and coats and other stuff. On each side of the pack you 'll find a bottle pocket, a small mesh compartment on the inside, and smaller handy pockets on the hip belt and one on a shoulder strap.
The straps are pretty cool as the whole system of getting the bag affixed to your back is adjustable. First off, the hip straps can be removed, being as they are attached with large sections of Velcro. The sternum strap can also be taken off, helping to reduce the number of straps and ties which could get in the way if you're using the Thule Stir 35L Hiking Pack around town one day. But - and this is a real benefit to those of us planning long and arduous hikes while wearing the bag - the entire torso section can be lowered or raised by up to 10 cm – again using big patches of Velcro. Not only does this mean you can fit the pack to your size and shape much better than simply fiddling with the strap adjusters, but you can also use it to raise or lower the pack on your back, letting you find your ideal comfort spot.
Once adjusted, the Thule Stir 35L Hiking Pack is exceptionally comfortable to wear, even with a full load. Like we said, at first we were a little lacking in confidence when it came to the top draw-string fastener, but once we used it and lived with it for a few adventures, we realised it is actually pretty genius. Heavy rain is what the separate rain cover is for, but for day-to-day hiking it performed excellently, and let us – in mere seconds – open up the entire main section to quickly get what we needed. And hey, it's a damn sight better looking than most other hiking packs! Clever Swedes.