This rucksack was given to me free of charge for the purpose of review.
The Berghaus Freeflow 25 + 5 rucksack‘s swing tag describes it as a “fully featured lightweight daysac ideal for hill walking and long treks”. However, my first observation was how heavy it is. With a stated weight of 1.42kg (although mine weighed in at 1.51kg), this is a lot heavier than my 46 litre Osprey Exos but with only roughly half the capacity. The rucksack is marketed as being designed with comfort in mind, and it’s the heavy-duty hipbelt and shoulder straps and rigid back-plate which account for most of the weight.
I’ve used this rucksack on two trips; the first an overnight bivi when, really, I’d overpacked the rucksack. The second trip was a couple of day walks when I only needed to take waterproofs, lunch, spare jumper etc.
25 litres is quite a small size of pack in which to carry full overnight camping gear, so I expected that the “+5” would make all the difference. The pack has zipped compartments at each side and I expected that these would act like bellows which make the internal compartment bigger, but that’s not the case. The “+5” appears to just be the capacity of the two vertical compartments accessed by the zips and behind the two compression straps.At first, these pockets seemed almost unusable because the main compartment was so full and there was hardly any room in the zipped pockets but, on the second trip when the pack wasn’t so full, I did make use of them for sun cream, insect repellent, hand gel etc. The pocket in the lid is a good size and contains a key clip. There is also a flat, zipped pocket on the underneath of the lid.
The stretchy net pockets are big enough to carry a 750ml water bottle – or possibly 1 litre but I didn’t have one to hand. I could easily reach, remove and replace a 500ml bottle whilst wearing the pack. The 750ml bottle was a little harder to replace, one-handed, but it was do-able.
I’m not tall but I do have a relatively long back. After yomping round the back garden, I lengthened the back length from M to L and this made it more comfortable as I do like to have a hip-belt quite low down on my hips. When using the pack for real, I did consider extending the back even further to its XL setting but I didn’t get round to it. However, it’s really easy to change the back length so I probably will have a play with it at some point.
The hip belt closes with a standard clip but to tighten the belt you have to pull the straps backwards, ie away from your belly and towards your sides. I find it very difficult to apply enough force, possibly as I don’t have particularly good upper-body strength, and I now realise how much I appreciate the Osprey’s hip-belt which is tightened by pulling forwards which I find a lot easier.Berghaus make a big point of how the Freeflow backsystem and the EVABreathe Matrix Foam should allow air to circulate and reduce perspiration, but I’m afraid I found this the sweatiest rucksack I’ve used for years. In my opinion, there’s just far too much padding, especially at the top against the shoulder-blades, and I personally did not experience all of the advertised benefits of the Freeflow system. Admittedly, both trips were on warm-ish days but I think this pack will be better suited to cold, winter day-walks (when I’ll be wearing a mid-layer that doesn’t show the wet patches when I take the pack off my back!).
My biggest gripe is the lack of pockets in the hip-belt. After years of not having them, and having to use a small clip-on pocket for my GPS, sweets, money etc, I now realise that I’ve come to expect to be able to carry a few small items in the hip-belt pockets. For a “fully featured” pack, I was really surprised not to have these pockets.
The rain cover fits well but the rain was not heavy enough for me to properly test its waterproofness. Berghaus describe it as “showerproof”. There is an internal hydration bladder pouch/sleeve but I prefer to use a bottle so I used that sleeve to keep my sit-mat tidy instead.
On my second trip, I walked about 22 miles carrying a relatively light load. The pack was comfortable all day – notwithstanding the sweatiness around the hipbelt and upper back. I didn’t do any scrambling but the pack did seem quite steady on my back and I think I’d be happy to scramble in it – not that I’m ever happy scrambling.
In summary, I think this pack is over-engineered for a daypack. Yes, the build quality is excellent and I think it should last for years, but I don’t think that much padding is necessary unless you’re planning to carry some very heavy gear on your day walks.
The Freeflow 25 + 5 has a recommended price of £80 but is available for less at various online retailers.