At A Glance
The enduro crowd seem to be disowning the backpack and attempting to fit the contents either in pockets or strapping tools and tubes to frames in order to ride unencumbered by the humble rucksack. There is no denying that riding without a pack feels pretty nice, but I still struggle to see the point to adding weight to my fancy lightweight bike when I can wear a comfortable and well fitting pack. Coupled with my own personal pessimistic need to prepare for the worst, even on a short lap, I find myself always riding with a pack.Buy Hydration Packs/Bags on
The Vertical LD Backpack from Bliss manages to squeeze in another great reason for wearing a pack, in the form of a back protector. This is nothing new, but certainly makes me feel even more justified in my love of a good pack. The spine protector is removable and flexible, made from ARG (Armourgel) with perforations to prevent things getting too hot, this is again one of those materials which go hard when you hit them, dissipating energy in the process. Elsewhere we see a lightweight and anatomical construction using mesh to keep things minimal and slim fitting. There are two main pockets, making up the 12 litre volume, one for hydration system (not included as standard) and one for tools. There is a glasses pocket and space to hang a helmet off the back and pads from the bottom. Waist and chest straps keep it in place and various reflective details and an integrated whistle keep you seen and heard if needed.
On The Trail
As I mentioned, I have a tendency to over prepare for rides, and take too much stuff. This 12 litre option forced me to stop trying to pack the kitchen sink and slim down. After months of use, I now can't imagine taking a much bigger bag, unless on a multi-day epic in the mountains. The size is perfect for all day rides, or just a quick blast, fill it full and it takes plenty of kit comfortably, but even when half full it won't rattle around all over the place.
The division of compartments works well, I'm never hugely keen on tool organisers as I am too disorganised, and use small dry-bags to organise kit within the main compartment. If needed, there are multiple mesh pockets within the tool organiser to keep things neat and tidy. The one pocket I sorely missed was a waist belt pocket. I am a huge fan of having access to a multi tool without taking the pack off, and I would have loved to have this additional feature.
The fit on the back is good and secure, which is essential given the back proector which needs to be kept in position to do its job. The waist, chest and shoulder straps adjust well, however they have become slightly stiff over the months of rain and mud - but better that than slipping. All tail ends of straps are held in place with either Velcro or elastic loops to keep flapping down to a minimum and keep the look sleek and subtle. This sleek look is evident throughout the pack, with no excess material or straps unless absolutely needed. The pack isn't a featherweight by any stretch, but if the pack protector is removed then what is left is a minimal and pretty lightweight piece of kit. That said, I would argue that the added weight of the protector is worth while and carried so close to your back it is not easily noticed.
Protection from the weather has also been excellent, and the waterproof fabric has kept all but the worst precipitation and spray out, whilst the contents have remained dry. No horrible rucksack cover here, just a good fabric which is easily cleaned, further adding to the stylish finish.
I have a lot of love for this pack, its size is ideal for general trail riding duty and the fit is exceptionally comfortable and stable. The back protector is an integral part of the package and does a good job of going unnoticed other than the weight, which may ultimately prove too much for those who want to keep the weight down on their back. The missing waist belt pocket was my only major gripe (and let's face it, that's a tiny grumble) in an otherwise very well thought-out pack. A great combination of protection and storage in a sleek, functional and stylish package.
By Ewen TurnerEwen Turner is a self-confessed bike geek from Kendal in the Lake District of England. He runs a coaching and guiding business up there and has a plethora of knowledge about bikes with an analytical approach to testing. His passion for bicycles is infectious, and he’s a ripper on the trails who prefers to fit his working life around his time on the bike.