Being a hiker and mountain biker means investing in equipment that makes the experience more enjoyable. Since I am far from being wealthy, I am always on the look out for equipment that combines the best quality with a great price. So when I was looking for a hiker’s backpack, I set out with four points in mind:
1. Not too large
2. Waterproof dry bag
3. Good price (click here to find more ‘good price’ backpacks)
4. Decent quality for the price
After doing my research, I settled on the “Aqua-Quest Himal” backpack. While waiting for the bag to arrive, I kept wondering what a Himal was. After pouring over reference materials (i,e, the web) I guess it is short for Himalaya (as in the mountains).
Once I had the Himal in hand, I was eager to put it to work and see how it performed on a hike.
• Capacity: Once the Himal arrived, I was surprised how small it looked. This is a good thing because I wanted a smallish hiker’s backpack to try out. The pack is rated at 25L or 1200 cu. in. This is not a lot of space if I was going hardcore hiking, but I wanted something for my more laid back trips. I do not usually pack a lot, but I spent some time thinking how to pack a hiking backpack in the most efficient manner possible. The best advice I got was from a buddy who was in the army. He walked me through the basics, explaining the best order to place things in the pack. Now I realize that packing for a day hike is vastly different than packing for a combat patrol, but the basics are essentially the same (minus the ammo). I was able to fit everything I needed into the Himal, but depending on what you normally carry, your mileage may vary.
• Waterproofing: I am not so hardcore that I will set out for a hike rain or shine. I generally check the weather and if rain if guaranteed, then I’m playing Xbox. However, there are times when I get caught in a downpour even though I set off on a sunny day. This is why I wanted a bag that was waterproof rated. After a couple of sun showers and one scary thunderstorm, the Himal gets a thumb’s up. Aqua-Quest claims its roll top opening adds an extra level of waterproofing protection on the main opening. Who am I to argue when it seems to work as promised? My gear has remained dry under wet circumstances. I won’t be throwing the Himal in my neighbor’s pool for the ultimate water test, but so far, so good.
• Price: No complaints in this department. I was able to get my model at a great price from everyone’s favorite online mega-corporation. Should you place a gun to my head and ask me if I got my money’s worth, my first response would be please take the gun away. However, my second answer would be, yes, I think the Himal was a good value, as long as you take the following point under consideration.
• Durability: Here’s where the Himal might lose points with a hiker/user. The material that makes this pack so lightweight might not withstand serious abuse over time. My experiences with this pack have been relatively trauma free, but after a few spills down a hillside, the pack shows some wear. All the straps and buckles are intact, but it is the body of the bag where the wear shows most. It is holding up, but I can’t guarantee it would survive a serious trail beating. This could be an issue for those worried out compromised waterproofing.
• Comfort: This probably should have been one of my initial search criteria, but since I was looking for a smaller, lightweight backpack I figured comfort wouldn’t be an issue because I would not be hauling a lot of gear. Not a smart move, because any backpack can be uncomfortable when strapped to your back. Luckily, the Himal is just fine. The pack has enough straps and buckles to keep it secured to your body. After a few trips out, the Himal wears really comfortably.
Thoughts and Trials
Aqua-Quest has made some of the best outdoor gear I own, especially when price is factored into the equation. I’m not the type who goes screaming through the woods banging my gear off of trees. I’m the laid back hiker type. So I always felt my equipment experienced normal usage. Honestly, the Himal might not be the strongest built or best lightweight backpack out there, but for the price, it has served me well. So far.