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Pilot tester Emelie: "My backpack is like a part of my body"

Report from our pilot tester Emelie Torstensson

"My backpack is like a part of my body"

I’ve been one of the testers involved throughout the journey to develop Lundhags’ new lightweight model Padje Light. It all started on a trip to Munchen when I ended up next to Lundhags’ product developer of backpacks Håkan Nyström on a flight. We started talking about hiking, and I mentioned my plans to finally realize a dream I had had for many years – going on a long hike. Håkan told me that he was designing a lightweight backpack for Lundhags and asked if I would be interested in testing it during my hike. I work in the outdoor industry myself, so it is important for me to represent the Swedish outdoor labels as well as I can during my hikes. But when it came to my long hike, it was also very important to reduce the weight of my pack as much as possible, which is why I sometimes opted out of Swedish brands. If a Swedish company were to succeed in developing a lightweight backpack, I was definitely interested in testing it. Said and done. From that day onward, a fun collaboration began to develop a lightweight, comfortable and durable backpack.°

The first step in the project was that I participated in a survey conducted by students from Chalmers University of Technology. The students were involved in the project to design the backpack, and they gathered a lot of information that they then used as a basis for starting to design the backpack. It was also very beneficial for me to participate in the study and the development of the backpack since I really had to think about what was very important to me and what felt less important.

Just when I was about to embark on my long hike, a pandemic broke out, which meant that I had to postpone my hike for a few more years. I’m grateful for this now in retrospect because I tested and°evaluated four different prototypes of the backpack during this time. The backpack is a crucial part of the pack. It should be light, comfortable, durable and weather resistant. It should be designed so that I can easily access things in my pack, but at the same time I want a slim bag without unnecessary pockets. I’ve continuously sent feedback to Håkan about things I thought worked well and things I felt were less optimal. They made adjustments and sent new prototypes. And this continued until the final model arrived, right around the time I was ready to set off on my dream hike.

Mesh pockets are key

I’m very happy with how the compartments and pockets are arranged on the backpack. The big mesh pockets held a lot of the things I used every day. I kept reinforcement garments, snacks, water, hand sanitizer, etc., in them. Things I used often and that I could easily access. The mesh pockets in particular were something I asked for. If the backpack hadn't had mesh pockets, I’m not sure I would have wanted to use it on my long hike. The very first prototype lacked the large mesh pocket on the front, which resulted in me not using the backpack very much. I used it on a hike to the High Coast and a trip to Helags, but after that I went back to my old backpack while waiting for the next prototype.

When it arrived, it had a large mesh pocket on the front as well as two on the sides. I immediately liked this model much better. I received the backpack in the fall, and it went with me on a winter trek up to Abisko. As a winter backpack, I thought it was fantastic. Because the backpack has a roll-down opening with a clasp closure, it was very easy to open and close, even with cold fingers. The biggest problem I had with this model was the sewn-in hip belt pockets, which were a bit too small. During my hikes in Sweden, this wasn't something I felt was too big of a problem since I often had pants with pockets where I could carry some snacks and my cell phone, but I knew I wouldn't have access to pockets in the same way in France, so I wanted larger hip-belt pockets for the next model. The preference for hip-belt pockets is very individual, and I think Lundhags solved this dilemma nicely by making the hip-belt pockets on the final model available as an add-on option that were available for purchase.

From heavyweight to lightweight

Whenever I received a new prototype, my partner got to take overand test the old one. He has previously liked large, robust bags, but after a few hikes with lighter packs he has also discovered their charm. But I would like to point out here that it’s not just about having a light backpack. In order for a light backpack to fit comfortably, you should, of course, also have updated the rest of your pack so it is also light. A heavy pack in a lightweight backpack will never be comfortable to carry. Nevertheless, I think that Lundhags Padje Light has worked well even though I sometimes had a pack of about 16 kilos, which I consider to be heavy. I think the backpack handled the weight well, but I would say that it was the limit for maintaining comfortable carrying comfort.

Comfortable to wear

"During a hike, the backpack becomes almost a part of your body, so it’s extremely important that it fits well and meets your needs."

I think Padje Light sits very comfortably on my back. I used the smallest size (45 liters), and I could adjust it to perfectly fit my 5'1 (156 cm) frame. I met a lot of people during my hike who complained or had major problems with their backpacks. Some lost their shape, some had straps that "slid" and required constant tightening, and others quite simply were very large and heavy. Several people tested my backpack during the hike and decided to update their backpack and pack for their next hike. The frame of Padje Light makes the bag feel sturdy even when my pack in it is heavy. Compared to other lightweight backpacks I’ve tried, this is definitely one of the most comfortable to wear. I also like that there’s a little air between my back and the bag itself. I was hiking in the heatwave in France, and on some days we had temperatures of up to 102 °F (39 °C) in the shade. I was particularly grateful then that the backpack did not sit flat against my back. I also think this meant that I had no chafing or heat rash on my back, like others that I met.°

I rarely found it uncomfortable to carry the backpack even though it was very heavy on some days. I modified the backpack to suit my needs and attached a pocket to the front of the chest strap to hold my phone and camera. I think it’s important to experiment and test which functions you want yourself and then dare to adapt your backpack so it meets your needs. This could mean modifying the same backpack depending on the trek and the environment. During a hike, your backpack almost becomes part of your body, so it’s extremely important that it fits well and meets your exact needs.

Sustainability, features & material

For me, it’s important to buy high-quality products that I know I can have for a long time. Products that can withstand weather, wind and wear and tear, just like on a long hike. When buying lightweight products, you often have to compromise a little on something, so I think it’s remarkable how good the condition of the backpack is after 2,100 km through France. During my 120 or so days of hiking, it has been exposed to a lot of wear and tear. Some days I’ve walked through scrubby forest and gotten stuck on branches and brush, and on other days I’ve almost been lying on my back sliding down steep mountains with my backpack scraping against rock. Despite this fairly rough treatment, the backpack only has a few small holes in the mesh fabric, which I classify as very high durability.°°

In conclusion, I can confirm that I think Lundhags succeeded in creating a durable, lightweight variant with a high level of carrying comfort. The backpack weighs just over 2.2 lbs (1 kg), which is still heavy to be classified as a lightweight backpack. But given the frame and carrying comfort, I think it was worth having a slightly heavier backpack that sits comfortably on my back through all the challenges it and I were exposed to. I felt safe, and I trusted that the backpack would last throughout my hike. The fact that it is designed in such a way that you can easily adapt it to your own needs is another major plus. I’m very pleased with the backpack, and I warmly recommend it to anyone thinking about a new, lighter backpack.

/Emelie Torstensson