Macpac Hesper 52L backpack: Tested

By Justin Walker April 13, 2022
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Lightweight, robust and a versatile design means the Macpac Hesper 52L could be the ultimate load-lugging all-rounder. We head bush to find out.

Macpac has been producing high-end backpacks for decades, renowned for their robustness and excellent design, due to their having to withstand the often volatile conditions a few days in the NZ outdoors. The Kiwi company has now applied those years of pack design to a lightweight range of packs – the Hesper (Unisex) and Harper (Women’s specific). We nabbed a Hesper 52L to check out.


The key focus of the design of the Hesper is for lightweight adventures that can range from a few days to a month or more. The pack pares down what is essential in its design, and offers a single compartment that is, cleverly (and with reliability/durability in mind) accessed via a roll-top closure. Did we say clever? Well, the reason we do is that a roll-top closure offers the user an easy way to compress their load. So, if the pack isn’t full, they can roll down to take out ‘excess’ space and then close the compartment. This stops gear moving around in the pack, affecting load balance. The Hesper 52L and 40L, plus Harper 50L and 40L, offer this closure. The 30L has a zip closure. 

The Hesper 52L (along with the rest of the pack range) is made from UTS (ultra tear strength)-coated nylon – again, with long days on the tracks in mind – and adds stretch storage pockets and webbing loops, trek pole/ice axe attachments and hip belts (these are interchangeable, but in-store only, and one has a zipped pocket). The harness is Macpac’s new HeliumAir (the company’s lightest), while the base fabric is 100 per cent recycled 210D nylon. The pack is hydration bladder compatible.

The Hesper 52 is light (total weight is 1170g) but a design feature for those wanting to go lighter is the removable back-panel foam (use it as a seat), hip-belt and internal frame (this Hesper 52L has a removable lid; if you’re going to get rid of the internal frame, ditching the lid is recommended). Remove all this (390g) and you have a 780g load-lugger.

In the field

As an experienced multi-day hiker, I am always looking for that ‘one pack’ that combines light weight with a comfortable harness system and decent load capacity. The Hesper 52L offers a convincing case for that role (load capacity is 13-16kg). The harness system, in particular, is comfortable and supportive in use, while the stretch-
fabric back panel has been great for stowing a gear on a few forays. I have stripped the pack down, removing the ‘removable’ parts, and found it comfortable enough for a fast and light overnight camp, but I am actually happy with the weight of the ‘complete’ pack, anyway. The additional support of the internal frame and back panel make a difference to me, personally, but I can see the attraction in going total lightweight. All the straps and hooks are robust enough to make cinching the pack right down an easy task, too. 

The harness system on the Hesper 52L belies its slim lines to offer plenty of support and comfort regardless of how much gear you have in the pack.

The final word on the Macpac Hesper 52L

Macpac has been around long enough to know how to produce a top-notch backpack and its foray into the ultra-light pack realm looks to be a success. The Hesper 52L is not as light as some truly ‘ultra’ lightweight packs, but it balances an appealing base weight with a robust build quality and clever design touches. If there is a ‘negative’, it is only that there is not a larger-capacity model. A 75L version would make an excellent expedition pack. As it is, the Hesper 52L offers a very good balance of light weight and load carrying performance. 

RRP: $350 See Macpac for more info on this and the other packs in the Hesper range.