Tested: Pioneering pack for trailblazers
Multi-day hiking has always been a fave thing of mine. It’s the anticipation, the prep and the promise of adventure – all get my blood pumping. But, ultimately, it’s the places I drop into that rally satiate my appetite for the outdoors.
Hiking Bouddi coastal track in the similarly named national park, about 1.5 hours north of Sydney, isn’t arduous. There are beaches, boardwalks and birdlife; sweeping views of the Pacific from craggy headlands, shady rainforest pockets and laze-about picnic spots. And the 8.5km one-way hike is bookended by picturesque camping sites at Putty and Pretty beaches. It’s the perfect easy weekender.
I camped overnight at Putty Beach and woke to a vast blue sky and the chatter of rainbow lorikeets, merry raconteurs feasting on the nectar of golden bottlebrush blooms. The melody to their lyrics was the ocean, its ebb and flow both rhythmic and relaxing. Wandering over the dune to the long sandy arc of Putty Beach – rocky cliffs at each end – I dove into the water (uncharacteristically warm for mid July) and spent the next half hour ducking under little left-handers.
Out of the water, dried, dressed and ready to roll I pulled my pack onto my back. At just 2.5kg (unloaded), Mountain Designs’ Pioneer 70 Technical Hiking Pack is way more than I need for this leisurely trek, but, hey, who can blame a girl for wanting to try out her new kit ASAP. Designed for the more advanced trailblazer (there’s an internal hydration bladder sleeve and hiking pole attachments, peeps), its large main compartment is accessible through the top hood or bottom zip, and has an internal divider to section off the bottom compartment for dirty gear, shoes or a sleeping bag (that’s where I’ve packed mine). The adjustable hood, multiple accessories pockets and compression straps keep it all tucked away.
Made from a ripstop outer and highly durable base fabric, the pack’s also all weather; it includes a Durable Water Repellent (DWR) finish and a rain cover. I had no need for that today though. Despite being mid-winter, it was a sparkling 20°C day and slogging up the track to the top of the cliff at the northern end of Maitland Bay, about 4km into the walk, is sweaty work. Good thing then that the pack has an adjustable bar harness 2.0 system, which includes an airflow channel that enhances breathability. The padded mesh back panel, contoured shoulder straps and pre-curved hip belt (with load adjusters) meant the pack sat comfortably on me too, even though I was carrying a two-person tent, sleeping mat, water and food for a couple of days, my Trangia and warm clothes for the chilly nights.
By the time I reached Pretty Beach, a sweet little spot with a half a dozen grassy camping sites, I was ripe for a swim. I dumped my pack, shoes and clothes and jumped in. Afterwards I lazed on the grass, head on my pack and watched the world turn. Other walkers came and went, appearing from the bush to disappear into it again at the other end of the beach.
While I’d initially thought I’d push north to Macmasters Beach, I decided to stay overnight here (I called NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service and booked a site), and set up my tent. Then, there was nothing for it than to enjoy my afternoon. Beside the sea and under a brilliant blue sky, it was a ridiculously easy ask.
Pioneer 70 Technical Hiking Pack
• Capacity – 70L
• Highly durable
• DWR Finish
• Rain cover
• Hydration compatible
• Top-loading main compartment with internal hydration bladder sleeve
• Adjustable hood features hood flap with cinch closure, plus internal and external zippered hood pockets
• Main compartment can be separated in two with internal zippered divider, and accessed through bottom zip
• Highly durable base fabric
• Top grab handle
• Contoured, adjustable padded mesh shoulder straps with load adjusters for comfort, breathability and support
• Adjustable padded mesh hip belt with load adjusters for additional torso support
• Hip belt is pre-curved for greater comfort and ease of movement, and includes two zippered pockets
• Adjustable chest strap for secure fastening and even weight distribution
• Two compression straps on each side, bottom and hood for minimising packing bulk
• Adjustable bar harness 2.0 ladder system features padded mesh back panel and airflow channel for comfort and breathability
• Hiking pole attachment loops
• External mesh pouch on front panel, two zippered side pockets and two elasticated mesh side pockets for bottle/umbrella
• YKK zips
• Built-in, stowaway rain cover
Main Outer: 420D ripstop polyester with PU coating
Secondary Outer: 600D polyester with PU coating
Base: 600D polyester with PU coating
Lining: 210D polyester with PU coating
Colours: Blue or raven
For more info on the pack, head to Mountain Designs.