Lowe Alpine AirZone Quest 27
Best daypack I have ever owned. It actually works…
Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $125
Best daypack I have ever owned. It actually works well for a person with a longer torso, and no other trampoline suspension backpack I have tried is as comfortable or as stable. A great scrambling pack as well as hiking pack.
- Superbly comfortable, even with 20 lbs in it
- Stable, rugged, beautifully organized
- Tall, narrow, thin; perfect for scrambling and hiking
- Airzone suspension creates a tricky curve in main bag
I'm repeating what I said on SunnySport's website in response to another buyer's questions.
I chose this pack because it had an excellent combination of carry comfort, slim profile, and side portal access for carrying a DSLR. It turned out to be one of the best packs I've ever owned. This or the Quest 37, or the Airzone Pro 35:45 if you need a more alpinist pack, are excellent choices in technical daypacks.
It has an aluminum wire frame with a frame sheet and a trampoline style suspension, so the pack is quite rigid and carries well even when overloaded. I have recently completed a 3-week cross-England walk with this pack and have been extremely happy with it. The pack carries amazingly well, is ruggedly built, looks great in black, and is very intelligently designed (the included rain fly is great). It's probably the best pack I've owned in many years.
The pack is tall, shallow, and narrow somewhat like an alpine pack but fitted out with the organizational features of a hiking pack — example, the kangaroo pouch with pocket properly sized for an Ordinance Survey map. Its shape makes for a much better carry than any trampoline suspended pack I've tried — smaller packs of this type need to be tall and thin to keep the weight close to your body even though it rides an inch away from your spine. The Quest 27 nails the balance. And the load-lifters actually function as load lifters.
The side portal may seem like a gimmick but it is rather necessary to provide main bag access for bulky items. I used it to carry a DSLR for quick access, and it worked well for the purpose. Personal items are easily accessible from the top, and the lid is roomy with 2 pockets. I've had up to 20-25 lbs. in the bag. It doesn't protest, doesn't pull back on the shoulders, and stays comfortable, but it's clear that 20 lbs. is a better upper limit.
Note that the 27L rating is for all closeable pockets as per industry standard methodology. The main pack is about 22L, the top pocket about 3, the kangaroo map pocket about 1, and the shoulder and hip pockets about 1L in total.
One thing to consider is that because the bag is so shallow and the back so rigidly curved, a water bladder tends to consume much of the available depth. I used a 1.5L Platypus Big Zip. I would recommend that you limit the size of your bladder to less than 1.8L and ensure that it is soft-style — no Osprey bladders with frames. Something like the low-profile Platypus Hoser is ideal. If you will be carrying a big water bladder or will be hiking in colder/wetter conditions, you might want to consider the Quest 37 instead. It's only an inch deeper but is a more practical size for extended day hikes, and the compression straps are very effective at their job. However, there's enough external stowage places on the Quest 27 that you can easily carry full rain gear and extra clothing...and keep everything dry.
The stretch pockets on the left shoulder strap and hips are great, but as you might expect for this size bag are smallish. The hip pockets are more useful for storing energy bars and accessories. My Garmin Oregon GPS fit just fine and was easy to remove and replace. The shoulder pocket is advertised to be sized for cellphones, but doesn't work for anything much larger than an iPhone without a protective sleeve. These pockets are the reason for my half-point deduction, and that might be too harsh.
I'm now considering an Airzone Pro 35:45 as a weekender/winter bag. I expect nothing less than excellence from it based on my experience with the Quest 27.
Reviewer stats: 6' male, 185 lbs, 18.25" torso, 34" waist