Recently I have embarked on a year long trip during which I have and will be travelling around New Zealand, Australia, Fiji, Indonesia, Timor-Leste, Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Philippines and Laos before returning back to the UK in early January 2016. A key piece of gear that any traveller needs whilst travelling for this amount of time is a good quality functional backpack, as your backpack literally becomes your home whilst on the road.
Having searched for a backpack for a while, encountering and becoming confused by the thousands that are available on the market I was given the amazing opportunity to product test the brand new Quechua Forclaz 40 Air + that is to be released very soon. After 5 weeks of usage around New Zealand and another 4 weeks around Australia I figured that I would do an in depth review to detail just how good it has been along the way and also the main features that I have been impressed with.
We’ll start with what features, functions and technicalities the Forclaz 40 Air + offers to help you whilst out pursuing your passions. First of all as stated in the name, the Forlcaz 40 Air + offers 40 litres of storage space accompanied by a little extra space when you add the expandable side and front mesh pockets. This amount of space allows for enough to pack everything you need, but not so much that you have to carry around a huge and heavy pack. In my case it has provided me with enough space and pockets to house enough clothing and equipment for a full years travelling, not too much, not too little, a perfect amount of space.
The Forclaz 40 Air + doesn’t just have space to offer however, I mean what use is space for equipment if it isn’t going to be comfortable to carry whilst out hiking and travelling? Not much use would be the best answer to that question, that’s why the Forclaz 40 Air + comes fitted with a premium carrying system with the added benefit of air mesh for maximum ventilation. Within this system includes an ergonomic EVA foam hip belt and strong but light frame that is designed to place most of the load onto your hips rather than your shoulders which can be of great advantage on longer hikes with heavier loads, preventing that common shoulder pain associated with lower end backpacks. Also included within the carrying system are two EVA shoulder straps to keep your shoulders comfortable and happy, attached to these straps is an extendable elasticated chest strap to prevent the main straps slipping from their correct position. Aside from the comfortable carrying system you also have the obvious benefit of the air mesh back panel which raises the backpack from your back thus preventing the build up of moisture whilst exerting energy on long hikes, or just in hot environments such as where I am at the moment, in the Australian outback.
So, we have established that the Forclaz 40 Air + has an optimum amount of storage space and integrates a premium carrying system and air system to keep you comfortable and happy whilst out in the mountains, but what else does this backpack offer in terms of features and technicalities? Well, with compression straps on both sides of the bag you can ensure that all of your gear is secure and that when packed it isn’t too bulky, a great advantage when hiking through dense forest or when commuting in a busy city. Two expandable mesh side pockets give you plenty of space for easy access items and are also designed with zippers that are close to your back to help prevent theft and thus give you peace of mind.
A mesh front pocket can be found on the front of the bag which can be useful for storing a rain jacket or in my case a guidebook, and internal, hip belt and hood pockets can also be found on the backpack. Reaching for gear can often be annoying when the item you desire is right at the bottom, luckily Quechua designers have solved that problem by adding a zippered packing system that allows you to open up all of the bag when packing and unpacking making it very easy and user friendly. If all of these features aren’t enough you will find that the entire backpack is constructed using ultra strong tear resistant Strenfit fabrics which are guaranteed for 10 years of usage, and hey, you even get an integrated rain cover. Sounds good enough, but how has it held up during its harsh usage on my trip so far?
How Did It Perform?
First of all I will talk about the comfort of the backpack as when looking for a good pack this is always high on my list of key desired features, after all like I said earlier a backpack isn’t much use if it is not very comfortable. Having taken 3 main hikes so far this trip including the Tongariro volcano crossing and the Franz Josef glacier trek in New Zealand and also a 2 day outback trek here in Australia I have had a decent amount of time to test out the Forclaz 40 Air + in terms of comfort and overall usability.
From first placing the bag onto my back I could immediately feel the quality of the carrying system, the frame perfectly hugs the shoulders and hips placing around 80% of the load around the waist and the other 20% onto the shoulders thus economically spreading the weight where it should be to maximise comfort. Whilst hiking the Air mesh system allows for Breathability letting air flow through and thus cool you down, the only aspect that I think could be changed is the size of gap between the mesh and the backpack itself so as to allow more air to flow, that being said it still kept me nice and cool compared to backpacks I have used in the past and overall comfort wise it is the most comfortable backpack I have ever tested. Whilst travelling I have had to negotiate everything from volcanoes, rain forests and glaciers to bustling cityscapes and transport systems, because of this I have needed my backpack to stay very compact to firstly cut weight and secondly to avoid bumping in to crowds of commuters during rush hours.
One feature of this backpack that has allowed me to achieve this compactness aside from the medium size of the bag are the very handy compression straps integrated into each side thus allowing me once the backpack has been filled to compress it super small and therefore make it very easy to get it from A to B. I have had many comments from other travellers about this feature and its usefulness as there is nothing worse than lugging a bulky bag up a mountain or through a busy metropolis. Another nice feature which I originally underestimated in usefulness is the zippered packing system which allows the full opening of the backpack so as to allow you to get easily to items at the bottom of the pack that usually are very hard to get too, it’s also very handy for
￼packing the backpack perfectly allowing you to utilise every single piece of space inside for gear, my only problem with this part of the bag it that it would be better if the zip were longer to allow even more access, but still it works and is therefore a functional feature. Overall during my travels I have been very happy with this backpack, it is strong, functional and includes simple but smart design features, I will definitely be purchasing the 30 litre model as a smaller day hiking pack when I return home.
So there it is, a full in depth product review of the super technical new Forclaz 40 Air + Backpack from Quechua. For more information and expert advice why not head over to www.decathlon.co.uk to discover our full mountain sports product ranges and to find many other products that will help you pursue your passions.
(Notes on the author – Joe Broadhead is an avid climber, hiker, skier and snowboarder from our Sheffield Decathlon branch. In the past he served as our UK mountain sports expert product trainer and ensured that each of our mountain sports teams were fully trained to advise our customers professionally with sound expert knowledge. He is currently on a years travelling trip testing many products along the way. Are you interested in a job that lets you pursue your passion? Why not scoot over to our careers site and discover the many positions available – http://www.decathlon-jobs.co.uk/).