In my book a good day sack is functional, lightweight, suitable for multiple activities and comfortable.  With one minor modification – easily addressed – the Montane Halogen 33 comfortably ticks all boxes.

I’ve been testing out the new rucksac over the summer during a round of Ireland’s highest mountains as well as on a Duke of Edinburgh silver expedition.  It’s performed very well and I’m sure I’ll get many years’ use out of it.

First impressions

I have to admit that I’m already a big fan of Montane gear, having first bought a featherlight smock almost 20 years ago.  I find their products very well designed and using lightweight, innovative materials.

The Halogen 33 rucksac fits this mould: an attractive pack that is packed with ingenious features.  At 880g it’s not going to handicap you before you’ve even started filling it up and the weight compares well with the crop of similar packs from other manufacturers.  Montane make a slightly smaller 25 litre version of the Halogen but if you want to go lighter still then there’s the 30 litre Featherlight (686g) or the 35 litre Featherlight Alpine (750g), both more minimalist in design.

What you get with the Halogen is a tough but lightweight and durable nylon fabric (210 denier), with an abrasion-resistant 420 denier base (the Featherlight is made with 100 denier ripstop nylon).  But what also marks out the Halogen 33 are the many features.  From the front-facing top pocket to the ice axe and walking pole attachments, as well as the two zippable waist pockets, it’s a functional and versatile pack.

 

 

What’s it like to use?

I found the Halogen 33 to be a good-sized pack and roomy enough to carry everything you’d need to take on a day walk, both in summer or winter.  It has one large packable space, together with a separate internal sleeve and opening for a hydration pack.  The shoulder and waist straps are very comfortable, even when the pack is loaded, and I found the waist band pockets very useful.  The only improvement I would make is to change the zips to waterproof zips to risk getting a phone (or sweets!) wet.

Montane have used their ZephyrFX back system which combines a stiff structure with a soft, comfortable moulded back pad.  This is covered with a mesh designed to allow air to circulate.  I certainly found this extremely comfortable but perhaps because it was close-fitting and moulded to my back, I didn’t particularly notice any ventilation benefit.

 

 

There are two features which I really don’t care for much at all.  First, there’s a stiffened carrying handle that sits between the two shoulder straps, just behind the top flap.  I’m not quite sure why Montane chose to stiffen this so much since I found it sticks directly out from the pack and rubbed against my neck; it really is quite irritating.  In testing I tied the handle out of the way by extending the top closure strap but I think I’ll just cut the handle off completely.  There is in fact a similar, stiffened carrying loop on the front of the pack that seems designed to secure an ice axe or walking pole, and so losing one grab handle is an easy modification to make.

The second, more minor gripe is the chest harness whose ‘Click and Go’ design allows single hand operation.  Since I ‘walk hot’, I never use chest harnesses and this one detached itself even before I even realised what it was designed for.  It seemed a weak part of the design but since I was quite happy not to have unused chest straps flapping about I wasn’t concerned.

Other features I liked a lot.  The zippable top pocket opens at the front to make it much easier for walking buddies to access a map or essential clothing, (and yes, an OS map fits easily), and there’s a neat key clip inside the lid’s internal security pocket.  There are lots of compression straps which work well and something that Montane call ‘baguette’ pockets on either side.  These are effectively a series of multi-purpose side features including an elasticated pocket at the bottom, a stretchy strip of fabric to help secure items as well as a compression strap at the top.  They’re great for water bottles of course but also wet gear, walking poles or a tripod.

 

At the base of the rucsac, just below the removable bungees, are a couple of ‘tool anchors’.  In layman’s terms, one of these is an elasticated attachment for a walking pole and the other, a similar attachment for an ice axe.  There’s also a sleeve of hard-wearing material to loop your ice axe through to secure it safely.

Finally, Montane have a  ‘Cord Lord Lite’ quick release mechanism to open and close the inside of the pack.  It’s a bit different to the usual plastic toggle and to open the pack, involves pulling the closure cord along with simultaneously pulling a short webbing strap.  It sounds a bit fiddly – and does take a little bit of getting used to – but seems to work well.

 

 

Overview

The Halogen 33 is a very useful size of pack and versatile enough for multi-activity, all-season use.  It’s packed with useful features and manages to combine these with lightweight and hardwearing materials.  Putting aside the stiffened grab handle that rubbed against the back of my neck – this can be easily removed – I found this to be a great day sack which will get lots of use.

What I liked:

  • Comfortable, even when loaded (with the exception of the irritating grab handle)
  • Easy to adjust straps
  • Zippable front access lid pocket and internal security pocket
  • Stretchy side ‘baguette’ pockets
  • Zippable hip pockets
  • Ice axe and walking pole attachments
  • Internal hydration pocket and opening

 

What I wasn’t so keen on:

  • The rear, stiffened grab handle sticks out and rubbed against my neck
  • The elasticated chest harness seemed flimsy and I have now removed this

 

The Halogen 33 is available from Nevisport for £89.99.

Note:  I am a gear reviewer for Nevisport and they provided the Montane Halogen 33 rucksac to me to review for free.  I have no connection with the company.  I have provided an honest and impartial review based on my personal experience in using it.

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