* Prices may differ from that shown
I've always been more of a rucksack gal than a suitcase lady. If I'm honest I'm a bit smug about it. I find it hilarious to watch people try to haul their heavy cases over cobbled streets and up staircases as I throw my luggage over my shoulder and get on with it. The older I get the less worried I am about my clothing, increasingly becoming a candidate for Milletts Cover Girl of the Year, so I'm happy to shove everything into the rucksack and hope for the best.
The only problem with a rucksack is that standard sized rucksacks don't meet the maximum size requirements for the budget airlines cabin baggage and stowing baggage in the hold is too costly. There's also the consideration that since we bought our flat in Slovenia we don't really do long trips anymore and I don't need to take much clothing when travelling as I have everything I need over there. A smaller backpack was what was needed to solve this little quandary and, feeling the financial pinch at the time, I put myself in the capable hands of Lenny, a colleague who is an army cadet leader in his free time and knows a thing or two about outdoor gear. He knew roughly what I wanted to spend and came back with two of these Vango Trail 45 Litre backpacks.
This is an ideal rucksack for people who can travel light and may be of interest to people who do a lot of hiking because it does have some features you wouldn't get in a very basic model. If you are the sort of traveller who is willing to hand-wash items while on the go and carries things that can be used for a variety of purposes you'll manage well with this capacity for a couple of weeks. If you pack it wisely, rolling clothing rather than folding it, you can really get quite a lot in.
These days we don't usually plan much hiking with the backpacks but sometimes, arriving somewhere new, we might find ourselves walking further with our luggage than we'd anticipated. Fortunately the Vango Trail is comfortable to carry, even when at its heaviest but you should have a trial run at home, experimenting with the adjustable should straps to get the best carrying position. One of the things I like about this rucksack is that I don't find any slippage of the strap position with prolonged carrying; I've had this problem before with other rucksacks and it's frustrating to have to stop repeatedly to re-tighten the straps. The shoulder straps are nicely shaped so that they offer cushioning in the right places. I'm guilty of mistreating my rucksacks and frequently carry them on one shoulder if only going a short distance and so far the stitching where the straps join the body of the rucksack has held up well (other rucksacks of mine have not held up as well to such abuse). Additionally there's a padded hip belt which fastens at the front though I never use it.
Another great feature which helps when carrying the rucksack for prolonged periods, or even for short periods in hot weather, is the airmesh on the places where the rucksack is in contact with your body which is a bit like a wicking system, pulling the moisture away from your body and making it a bit less unpleasant to carry the backpack. I say less unpleasant because there's still some moisture, it's not perfect.
The main material is hard-wearing and easy to clean if it gets dusty; to quote the exact technical specification the body is Excel 600D polyester, I'm assuming the D stands for denier. Our backpacks are black with grey trim which doesn't look too bad when they get a bit dusty and dirty if shoved around on the ground, or if rolling around in the grubby luggage compartment of a Kosovar bus.
Unlike a particularly irritating day pack we have in the flat in Maribor, this model does have too many hanging down bits that get in the way; in fact it's rather lacking in the 'what's this bit for?' department which is just fine by me although it does mean that you can't make adjustments to pull in the sides when you haven't used all the capacity. A very well stitched grab hand on the back of the rucksack just at the base of the lid section is very useful when you just need to shift the bag a small distance.
Identical zipped side pockets are a very useful addition; I use them for keeping toiletries separate or for stashing things I'm likely to want while travelling. The lid has a small zipped section which is perfect for books. All the zips are covered with a small flap which is good for security as they make it difficult for someone to stealthily unzip a pocket while your attention is distracted.
One of the more interesting features of this model is a hydration bladder pocket which is tucked neatly in the main compartment o the rucksack. I've never had any cause to use it myself because I've never taken the rucksack out on a hike that warranted it, however some people might appreciate it and as my dear departed grandmother would say it's a feature that will 'eat no meat'. Lenny informs me that there's a knack to filling the bladder with liquid but it's easy when you've sussed it. He buys this one for the kids he takes on camping weekends finding that the capacity is ideal and the price makes it a good value buy given that these things can stand a bit of knocking around and they have the hydration feature which the kids think is great.
A feature I have used is the little strap for securing walking poles. It's a simple little feature but it holds my walking poles securely and in a position that doesn't interfere with walking.
The dimensions are 55 x 42 x 15cm and the rucksack weighs 800grams when empty. Ryanair, usually the most stringent of the budget airlines, permits a piece of hand luggage with maximum dimensions 55 cm x 40 cm x 20 cm so this rucksack is ideal.
A couple of years on after frequent use (and abuse) our Vango Trails are still going strong. It's safe to say that I would thoroughly recommend this design. They've served us well and continue to do so, standing up to heavy rain brilliantly and scrubbing up well from time to time.
Thanks to Lenny buying frequently from a local independent supplier we were able to get a substantial discount on the cost of our rucksacks. Currently the Gap Year Store (an online retailer) is selling it for £19.99 (that's with a 20% discount). This is a good price as the Vango website has this listed at £32.99. It's probably worth shopping around however to check the combined price of rucksack plus postage.
Note: if you expect to be doing a lot of walking while carrying your rucksack it's advisable to try rucksacks in store first with the advice of an expert, even if you then purchase one online. Models do vary quite a bit and you need to know it's going to be comfortable.
Other colours are blue and cactus though black is stocked by more retailers.