Don't let anyone tell you otherwise: When it comes to traipsing around South America, the backpacker is only as good as his or her backpack. From trail to train, road to runway, and everywhere in between, your life will revolve around what's on your back, so finding the right adventure pack for storing and hauling your gear should be the first order of business, after (or even before) buying that plane ticket.
Enter the Thule Versant 70L. Tasked with a month-long trip exploring Peru and Ecuador, Thule's newest rendition of its classic backpacker's pack stood up to the tests of transit, nature, and space requirements, making it the ideal traveling companion for our South American sojourn.
Designed with multi-day trekking and traveling in mind, the Versant is built with lightweight and durable 420 Cordura and 100D nylon fabrics. The pack also features an adjustable hip belt and a torso strap to reduce the weight on your shoulders by up to 15 pounds. Reallocating the weight off of my shoulders made long days between bus stations and airports much more bearable and meant that I could stuff the bag with more gear.
Speaking of capacity, with 70 liters of storage space, the Versant offered more than enough room to plan for adventures ahead. From hiking shoes to rain layers to wet laundry (a classic struggle on the road), the Versant had the space, and the pocket, for everything. In addition to the main storage compartment, which is accessible from both a top cinch top or a large U-zip panel perfect for accessing the dry socks you stowed a little deeper, the Versant has a removable VersaClick waterproof pocket for your wallet and phone, and a top pouch with three separate pockets for additional storage.
It's that top pouch that proved the real lifesaver on the road. For those of us that travel with a large pack as our primary storage, we know the hassle of day hikes or small trips around the city lugging a full pack. Instead of packing a day pack, the Versant builds one in, as the top pouch unfastens and becomes a small sling bag perfect for day missions into the hills or out on the town. This became my go-to for storing my camera and a little extra cash without carrying a massive tortoise shell on my back. It was a small adjustment by the team at Thule, but one that made a world of difference for anyone looking to incorporate a day pack into their travels.
Thule has also thought of other small features to make life off the beaten path a little easier. For one, the water bottle holder on the side of the pack is angled back towards you, which made it easy to grab a sip without removing my entire pack. The carry strap along the top of the pack has also been reinforced, so that I could grab the bag out from underneath an overnight bus or off the baggage carousel without worrying about ripping or opening my bag by mistake. Alone, these are small features, but combined, they really show how much time was put into making life on the road easier and more efficient.
For such a well-designed pack, my one gripe were the straps for tightening down the pack. While the two horizontal straps (one on the top and one on the bottom of the pack) do an adequate job condensing the pack, they create a bulge around the middle that creates an almost rounded effect on the pack, ultimately making it fatter rather than smaller. It's a small nuisance in an otherwise flawless backpack, but one worth noting nonetheless.
Overall, the Versant 70L is one of the best options for anyone trying to get the most out of the South American travel circuit. From comfort, to function, to innovative features, the Versant 70L has what it takes to handle anything the road has to throw at it.
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