Lowe Alpine Mesa 6
A comfortable, well designed pack, which can carry the essentials for a day hike, dog walk, or mountain run, in a stable and unobtrusive way.
- Well designed
- Solid construction
- Durable materials
- Comfortable padding and straps
- Compressible, in two planes
- External carry options are a bonus
- No external or internal bottle pocket
- A little bulky for a smaller person, perhaps?
- Not super-lightweight
I chose this pack to replace a very old Pod Sac, from my climbing days. That was a minimal nylon bag, with a thin attachment strap. By contrast, 30 years later, this is a clever and complex design, which offers the potential for all-day comfort, fully or partially laden, during strenuous activity or a gentle stroll.
The bag is a roomy 6 litres in capacity, with a full width (12-inch) zipped internal pocket against the wearer's back and a 6-inch wide, external zipped pocket on the rear of the bag. The internal pocket also has a strap and hook, for your keys; I generally throw my phone and cards in there but, at 7 inches in height, there is ample room to store larger items, like a passport or map. There are loops, on the top and bottom of the pack, for attaching a light or extra strap.
The Mesa 6 weighs 9 ounces. The 1.5-inch waist belt fastens with a Fastex type buckle and the ventilated padding on the back of the pack extends for 3.5 inches along the belt, on either side, which adds an extra layer of comfort. I have a 32-inch waist and the bag lies flat against my back.
A female friend, with a smaller waist and more pronounced hips, wore the pack on a three-hour, hilly summer hike and was happy with the comfort level, with the bag's contents remaining stable, even as the load area curved around her torso to a greater degree.
Unlike some similar sized lumbar packs, this one has both vertical and horizontal straps, which allow for very tight compression of diminishing loads. The vertical compression straps can be extended, on top and beneath the pack, for safe attachment of clothing or accessories. Excellent if the weather deteriorates and you end up wearing your rain jacket and pants, then eat your sandwiches, only to be annoyed when your drink bottle starts bouncing on your hip. Even small, hard to balance loads can be tamed by the straps on the Mesa.
In addition, there is a full width, padded flap, which attaches to both the horizontal and vertical straps, which covers the back of the pack. At first, I thought this superfluous and needlessly complex. Once I started hiking with the pack, I found it an ideal, secure place to lash on a jacket, walking poles, and other items too bulky to fit inside the zipped enclosures. Some users might prefer to lose the added weight and complexity, whilst retaining the straps and thus, most of the functionality.
As a minimalist solution, which doesn't skimp on safety essentials, a six-litre pack with additional external stowage options is big enough for an experienced person to carry the important items for a day excursion requiring spare clothing, first aid, and sustenance. For some activities, in certain environments, a larger pack would be mandatory—but I could see the Mesa as a great option for fell runners, super-light hikers, adventure racers, and similar.
The pack was so comfortable, loaded or half-empty, I often forgot I was wearing it. It added support to my lower back muscles, without feeling clammy, in 75-degree weather. Access is easy on the move, of course, since the belt can be effortlessly swiveled around the body to allow the user to grab food, gloves, or sunscreen. I had to really pile on the heavy items before the bag started to bounce or shift around on steep or broken ground. In general use, when it contained a thin rain jacket, 500ml bottle, first aid kit, snacks, and navigation tools the Mesa proved an unobtrusive, solid carry.
At first glance, I thought the design a bit fussy and over-done. In use, the compression features add functionality and subtract the irritation of a bag which doesn't hold its contents securely in place. This would be a great sightseeing bag, a proper (diminutive!) carry-on bag, and an urban EDC for folks who don't like messengers, backpacks, or big handbags. The waist belt is long enough for most folks to wear the pack as a cross-body bag, but it might look a bit odd on a really tall, broad person.
The pack isn't constructed from the lightest grades of fabric. It looks and feels like a durable, multi-season purchase, with strong buckles/straps and good quality zips and pulls. It lacks the facility to hold a 500ml bottle upright and in place, which many competing designs have featured, but this is easy enough to work around with judicious packing and use of zips. I generally use screw-top bottles when hiking, but the use of cycle bidons has become more widespread, so some form of bottle friendly, internal organiser would have made sense.
There is a protective flap over the main compartment's zip, but I'm not sure about the water resistant qualities of the pack. Mine rides under a shell jacket or rain coat and has never succumbed to water ingress however, whether by accident or design. Were I to wear the pack on the outside of my rain wear I'd probably double wrap valuables to be on the safe side.
I like this bag and use it more than I expected to. The multiple external carry options and effective compression features make it one to consider for a wide cross section of outdoors folk.
I've used it on a dozen summer hikes in local mountain and forest terrain. maybe a hundred miles, in total. Generally, it's been lightly used, with three or four pounds of equipment, but I did load it up and throw all manner of extras onto the exterior of the bag on one occasion to see how that affected the carry quality. Even with fifteen assorted pounds of extra junk lashed on, the stability of the Mesa impressed me—and made me re-assess some of the bloated kit lists I've compiled over the years.
Source: bought it new
Price Paid: £23
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