Thanks to Mountain Hardwear, I was given the opportunity to test the Rainshadow 26 Pack in one of the most picturesque places on earth, Chamonix. And let me tell you, the views and the pack did not disappoint.
At first I was a little wary of how the pack would fit my small frame as not a lot of unisex packs do, and I tend to find myself using more female specific packs or those with shorter back options. However I was pleasantly surprised to find that the Rainshadow 26 fitted nicely and didn't sit too high on my back. I think one of the main reasons for the good fit was that there is no large padded hipbelt to arrange, instead a simple webbing belt and buckle system. You even have the choice to store the webbing belt in small side pockets to keep them out of the way when not in use. This design may not be to everybody's liking but the pack took heavy loads comfortably without the extra padding.
One of my favourite features on this pack is the 2 large stretchy side pockets. I was able to easily get my water bottles out without having to remove the pack, a big bonus in my book! The pack also has a separate bladder compartment in the back, which can easily hold a 3L bladder, if you choose to use one. If not this space would be ideal for storing maps or guide books. There's no worry about anything digging into your back either, as the pack has a sturdy internal frame with airflow ridges down the middle and soft padding down the sides. I found the back system extremely comfortable as it hugged my frame, and found it breathed quite well considering the heat during the 7 hour hike. I particularly like that Mountain Hardwear have used quick dry mesh on the shoulder straps, another bonus.
Accessing the rest of my kit was no bother at all thanks to the large zip top opening. It zips around just enough for you to get at all your stuff at the bottom without anything spilling out in the process. As there's no separate pockets in the main compartment, I was happy to see that the pack had a top zip pocket which was large enough to store all the essentials I'd need to get at quickly i.e snack bars - there's nothing more important than a snack bar! The pack also features a large stretch front pocket which is ideal for throwing wet clothing in to dry off as there's a small drainage hole at the bottom.
The major talking point for this pack is the OutDry waterproofing. As I was blessed with perfect weather on this hike, it didn't get a rain test, although I was incredibly tempted to jump in the Lac Blanc with it to cool off. As the main compartment is guaranteed watertight and it's combined with carry loops for ice axes, I dare say it would have been an ideal pack for those climbing up Mont Blanc that day.
The Rainshadow 26 has quickly become one of my favourite go to packs. It's incredibly versatile, comfortable and extremely spacious for a 26 litre pack. I look forward to putting it through the waterproof test soon, and being back in the UK I highly doubt that should take long.