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Wenger has been producing their high quality, versatile Swiss Army knives for over one hundred years. Mention Swiss Army, and most people immediately think of knives that are robust, multi-featured outdoor tools with a reputation for durability and usefulness. (And then they think of MacGyver) Because of their dedication to making these rugged multifunction tools, it seems natural that they would expand their brand to include outdoor gear that is just as functional and useful as their famous knives.
We recently had the opportunity to review their Almer 30L backpack. It is a 30-liter, medium-sized, top-loading hiking backpack, and is designed for use as a gear intensive daypack or a less gear intensive overnight pack. The body of the pack is constructed of lightweight yet strong 210D Kordura Double Ripstop fabric, with reinforcements of 500D Kordura. The suspension straps are made from 630D ballistic fabric. The overall construction is very sturdy, with quality stitching, and an unpacked weight of 3.5 lbs.
The Almer is loaded with features, keeping in line with the knives that share their namesake. It is fully hydration compatible, with a separate water reservoir compartment between the mesh back and aluminum frame. Elastic plumbing loops, which are labeled as such, serve to keep your hydration tubing in place against the shoulder straps, allowing for easy access. It also contains pockets in the top lid and main compartment, as well as a side pocket for a media player. A zippered front pocket with organization panel, stretch-mesh front and side pockets, and a pocket for your Swiss Army knife round out the array of storage spaces on this pack. The integrated rain cover is a great touch.
One of the first things you’ll notice about the pack is the abundance of straps. Perhaps it’s the sharp contrast of black on red (which we really like) but at first glance, it seems like there are more than usual. In addition to the standard shoulder straps and hip belt strap, it has vertical and side load compression straps, sleeping pad straps, ice-axe loops, and a sternum strap. The shoulder and hip straps are quite beefy and have a comfortable yet dense cushion built in to them. To manage all the supplemental straps better, Wenger added elastic bands to each one, allowing the wearer to secure the excess strap after adjustments are made.
The Almer 30L wears well, although it is a bit narrow. Those with broad shoulders may find it a tight fit, but initial adjustment was easy. Weight is distributed well across the wearer‘s back, and the integrated aluminum frame provides ample support when the pack is filled to capacity. The mesh back panel should contribute to comfort, but it was already pretty cool out when we reviewed it. A nice detail is the side zipper that allows easy access to contents near the bottom of the bag without having to take off the lid and unpack everything.
With a multitude of storage spaces and adjustable straps, the Almer 30L by Wenger continues the company tradition of functionality and utility, and the high quality materials it is constructed from reinforces their commitment to producing long-lasting, rugged products. With a MSRP of 144.99, you may think you‘re paying for the name, but like all Swiss Army products, the overall quality and usefulness makes it an excellent value.
For more information on the other fine products offered by Wenger, check out Wengerna.com.
*Between now and 10/31/11, enter to win the Wenger Swiss Army Knife / Dolphin Tale Sweepstakes. They’re giving away movie tickets, Dolphin Tale DVDs, Swiss Army Knives, and a trip to Florida to see Winter, the dolphin.