Last weekend, I was tasked with finding a replacement for my trusty North Face Hot Shot backpack. I have had this bad boy since Christmas 2001 and it has been with me while travelling all seven continents. It is a very simple backpack consisting of a standard main compartment and a second compartment on the back. It has a chest strap, a waist belt, and some compression straps. Here is a picture of it as of today:
I have to replace the Hot Shot because after continual use some of the teeth in the zipper have become dislodged. These dislodged teeth cause the zipper to derail at these points and not seal. I can normally get it to work the second time around, but while being a courier I don’t have time to fight with a zipper. You can see one of the dislodged teeth in the blurry spot of this picture.
The water resistant lining had also started to peel off:
I wanted something bigger and hopefully waterproof. Finding a fully waterproof backpack was a challenge. Most of backpacks I looked at were water resistant and rely on a backpack cover to provide water proofing. Therefore, I decided to just focus on big. I also wanted to make sure it was sturdy and would be able to last at least as long as the Hot Shot. I explored Kathmandu, the North Face website, the Columbia store, and a Mountain Designs store. Mountain Designs had what I was looking for in the Escape 30. Check out the Side by Side of the Espace 30 and the Hot Shot:
The Escape 30 is bigger, supposedly holding 30 liters. I believe it holds more. It has a bigger main compartment with a divider at the bottom of the main compartment similar to expedition backpacks. The shoulder straps are padded and contoured and the pack appears to have a light internal frame that makes wearing it very comfortable. The padded waist strap has a hip belt pocket. Two mesh pockets exist on both sides of the backpack providing easy access to water bottles or other items. There is also an interior mesh pocket that exists in between the back pocket and the main compartment. This allows you to have easy access to bigger things or carry a pair of sandals or shoes without getting your interior compartment dirty. The back pocket has mesh compartments that allow you to organize items like sunglasses, camera items, or small first aid items. The backpack also has two compartments on the top with water proof zippers. One of the top pockets is a simple pocket, but the other larger one closest to the main compartment has a zippered mesh compartment that would be a good place to keep keys or a cell phone handy. This larger top pocket would also probably remain drier than the rest of the backpack in the rain.
So far, using the Escape 30 has been great. It holds a great deal more than the Hot Shot and is comfortable as a day pack on foot and on the bike. The main compartment zippers have been a little pain to deal with when the backpack is full and when the back compartment is weighed down. This is the a common problem on most backpacks when they are fully loaded because of the angle the zipper is required to seal. Additionally, the zipper that allows bottom access to the main compartment has opened on its own twice. I haven’t lost anything because of this, but am trying to figure out how this happens and how to prevent it. The Escape 30 is an ideal backpack for people looking for a little more carrying capacity in a daypack. It is designed and fits like an expedition backpack, but exists in the 30 liter range. Mountain Designs also offers the Espace 40, a 40 liter in the same design, for those looking for even more space. At that size it might be better to go for something made by Gregory or another small expedition style pack. Perhaps the Gregory z35.