MANASLU ND50:65L WOMEN’S BACKPACK
Versatility and comfort.
(This review originally featured in Wild #188, Winter 2023)
By Martine Hansen.
Thinking back to my first pack-buying experience, I was quite clueless. I walked away with a big, blue and boofy 80L canvas pack, and I was thrilled. And while it’s still a good pack, if you fast forward four years, I’ve come to realise that I usually just don’t need something that big. Enter Lowe Alpine’s Manaslu ND50:65. (There’s also a men’s 55-70L version of the pack, but I had the women’s-specific ND50:65L.) Although its ability to increase its capacity to 65L makes it still sound like a ‘biggish’ pack, it also compresses down to a neat 50L when the hood isn’t extended. Combined with the narrow-dimension frame—hence the ND—this pack is a versatile option if you just want to buy one pack that does it all. Swift little overnighter? You betcha. Seven-dayer, with extra room for puffy jackets, thermals and trackies to stay warm in the snow? Easy done!
Weighing in a tad over 2kg, this pack isn’t as heavy or as robust as that first canvas pack, but nor is it a flimsy, featherweight one either. It’s a happy medium. It has lumbar support, padding in all the right places, an easily adjustable back harness, and a thick and secure hip belt. And with its extendable 15L lid, packing for a longer trip isn’t a chore. To test its limits, we loaded up the Manaslu with an array of items (including fresh vegetables and naan for our curries) for a seven-day walk in Kosciuszko NP. Despite bailing on Day Five due to weather, this pack was comfortable and carried the load really well.
Apart from comfort, this pack exceeds in the way of ‘extras’. It has three separate compartments, and three separate entry points: zipped front entry, separate bottom entry—which leads you to an internal zipped divider if you want to separate your wet tent from other gear—and the standard top entry. The options are really in your hands.
The Manaslu also has one of the most spacious hood compartments I’ve used on a pack. There’s no faffing about to manoeuvre your items into the space available. The zip on the hood provides access to a large, roomy opening in which you can store what you need for the day. Kitted out with YKK zips—which Wild’s Editor James insists are top notch—(Ed: they absolutely are!) all with large grabbable toggles, you won’t have to worry about them breaking on you. Sure, the zips add a few grams, but that’s the trade off with having so much choice.
I’m a big fan of the front grab handle. It offers an easy solution for your hiking buddies to help hoist your pack onto your back, or for you to swiftly shimmy your pack around camp as needed. It’s not essential, but neither are hip pockets—and it has those too! Just don’t try to add too many snacks; a couple of muesli bars and the pockets are close to their limit. Conversely, the stretchy mesh side pockets are exactly that—super stretchy, and huge too; stashing away water bottles of any size is really easy. I do wish that the front stash pocket had similarly stretchy fabric, or a larger opening, rather than its sewn-in design with two smaller side-entry points. I’m used to shoving my rain jacket down the front of my pack when not in use, but it’s a bit too bulky to easily stow away here. It would be perfect for stashing a map, a light wind jacket, or even rubbish you might find on the trail (like the shiny helium balloon that we traipsed upon thinking we’d found some mystical berries).
One thing to be aware of is that the sternum strap uses a T-bar toggle held in place by tension; on Day Two, as I took my pack off, the sternum strap dropped off. Luckily, it was found after a quick search around camp. I didn’t have this problem again, but it’s something to be cognisant of. (Unless you’re the rare person who doesn’t like using chest straps, in which case you can easily remove it entirely.)
All in all, though, I really love this pack. It’s comfortable with a great amount of padding, ideal for a range of trip types with its extendable lid, and it has a large top-hood pocket to stash any goodies you may desire. Oh, and there are the trekking-pole and ice-axe attachment points for winter enthusiasts as well. In short, if versatility is what you’re looking for, then the Manaslu could be a winner for you, too.