Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Deuter Race Exp Air

Deuter 20L Backpack
EDIT (20/2/13) - just to mention that since have the window of my car smashed and my Deuter Race Rucksack stolen (thanks low life scum) I have since replaced it with a 2013 version off the Deuter race Air. I suppose there is no better recommendations than someone buying the same rucksack a second time? 

The new one is much the same as the last one, except that it is a little lighter and the colours (black and white) are a little cooler in my opinion. The straps are a little better (especially around the stomach) the back is also a little more comfortable. The bag still suffers from a lack of internal compartments though.

A serious review for once.

I have spent a long time looking at different models of rucksacks – for once I was sensible and bought a cheap £10 backpack, it was about 18 litres and had a reasonable amount of vented padding at the back. It did the job well enough for 6 months until I figured out what I really needed. As part of my save £160 a month by not using the train and then spending a 1/3 to 1/2 of that on new equipment policy, I decided it was time to get a new backpack this month.

I really did do a thorough job of investigating this and even at one point dragged my wife being around various hiking shops looking at various models. I had some very definite needs:

  1. It needed to have an air mesh back 
  2. It needed a rain cover that was high visibility 
  3. It needed a helmet holder.   
  4. It needed to be large enough to carry a shirt and some underwear into work and various odds and ends 
  5. If possible it needed to be able to carry a hydration pack.

So why these requirements?

  1. For me the Air Mesh back padding was very important – one of the main problems with my cheap backpack was the amount of sweat I ended up with on my back after cycling even 8 miles on an average warmth day, maybe it is just me and I sweat a lot, maybe it is old age – maybe it is the fact I try and push myself hard when I cycle. Either way it is not pleasant – the only sensible solution I could see (given that my cheap backpack already had padding with air gaps) was to go for a mesh back (a little like those office chairs) this solution not only allows air in to cool you down but it also spreads the load on your back and stops certain items digging into you on the ride. A surprise bonus of the Mesh Back has been the slight reduction of the effect of cross winds and anything that stops the wind from blowing you in front of a bus is not to be sniffed at. 
  2. Generally speaking my cycle gear is black / grey – all fine on a warm sunny day with high visibility. But when it rains or is dark I like to switch to high visibility clothing.  Nothing seems more crazy to me than to buy one of these high visibility backpack covers (about £25) this on top of the cost of the backpack seemed a crazy waste of money. Therefore I decided that any backpack I would buy would come with its own built in rain cover and this needed to be bright. 
  3. Same with a helmet holder – I tend to not wear a bike helmet unless it is raining, icy or dark. The trouble I have found is that some days it is sunny in the morning and raining in the evening. You need an impractically large everyday rucksack to carry a helmet in it. Therefore if I wanted to make sure I was in possession of my helmet for such an occasion I needed to be able to carry it on my backpack (I realise this is a very personal reason but I think all cyclist need to be able to carry their helmet around from time to time). 
  4. The size of the backpack is always very tricky – it really is a personal needs choice. The Deuter Race Exp Air is a 12 litres (+ 3litres expansion) is enough for me personally to meet my commuting needs 98% of the time. If I ever need more, then I will just use a less comfortable but larger backpack on those odd occasions. But if the backpack is too large, then it is just additional weight and wind resistance you are carrying around with you every day. 
  5. With respect to the hydration pack – I don’t need one now but it is certainly my intention to do longer and longer rides next year and the ability to carry sufficient fluids will be a requirement. But why pay for hydration now when I don’t need it? For me it was important to be able to add a hydration pack when I needed it and also to be able to buy one of my choosing, not just one that happened to come with the backpack. Additionally the ability to carry a hydration pack also means you have “the plumbing” to run earphones from your phone etc. from your backpack into your ears and therefore not have to put your phone in your pocket or wherever you keep it.

So there is my eminently sensible list of requirements – on top of that obviously it needs to look the part!

Having search high and low I came down to the  Deuter Race Exp Air. My search was made shorter by the need for a Mesh Back – this cut out 95% of the backpacks on offer. In the end there were only 3 backpack that it came down to – another one by Deuter (20 litre Exp Air) and one more by Vande.

Deuter Race Exp Air - with the helmet holder in use.
I was really torn between the two Deuter backpacks and initially I was going to go for the 20 litre version as it had a helmet carrier. In a trip to the shop though, on seeing backpacks in the flesh, I discovered that the Deuter Race Exp Air did actually have a helmet carrier and even better it folded away into a specific pocket and could be taken out when needed. Also I had a good look at the insides of them to see how much they could carry. So my three main reasons for choosing over the 20 litre version were as follows.

  • The size was better for everyday use 
  • Price 
  • Comfort

There was also a far more frivolous reason in that this is black and grey and therefore matched my clothes in general.

Deuter Race Exp Air
So what does this rucksack offer? Quite simply everything I need. It has the helmet holder and better yet I can fold it away for all the time I don’t need to carry a helmet. It has a built in rain cover in high visibility colour – perfect! Now I will not have to waste another £25 of a separate high visibility rain cover. It has the compartment and a required routing hole for a hydration pack and at the same time it has not got some standard pack in it (that I might not want in the long term and will replace anyway when the time comes when I am looking for a good one).  It has a mesh pack to reduce sweat and increase comfort. What did surprise me though was the fact that it was more comfortable on the shoulders than the far more padded 20 litre version – this is very much a personal fit thing though I am sure – also the shoulder straps are very much set-up for increased airflow (once again keeping you cooler). As mentioned above the size was also perfect for me for everyday commuting. An additional small but nice touch is the fact that you loop you shoulder strap lightener onto the stomach strap to stop them flapping around as you ride (this is one thing that really bugged me about my cheap backpack).

Deuter Race Air - here you can see the Air Mesh back
You can really see that this was a backpack design predominately for the cyclist, in my opinion it really pays off when you buy something that was designed for a sole purpose – yes you could use it in other circumstances after all a bag is a bag but this excels at being a backpack for the cyclist.

Any negatives? Yes there are two – firstly I think there should be a few more or larger internal compartments – I carry around not only keys and money but also things like mars bars (needed for any potential diabetic hypos) phones and wallets. A separate compartment to store these things would have been nice, I like to keep them separate so I can access them quickly if I ever need them and leave them in my bag at all times. The other minor gripe I have is that it would have been nice to have a loop on the chest strap to stop the loose bit flapping around (easily remedied though with a piece of elastic). I also think they could have pushed harder on the expansion of the backpack and instead of making it +3 litres they could have gone for the + 8 litres size – this could have been possible, but I guess they have to take into account their whole range and make sure there is no overlap of products and also maybe they felt the straps were too weak to take the potential extra weight.

So now for the biggy – price. I bought this backpack from Evans. It retails at £65 – but if you buy online it is £58. But they also do price match and with a quick hunt on the internet I found someone selling it for £47. So I printed that off and took it with me to the shop – no arguments they matched the price. When I take into account the fact I don’t need to buy a separate rain cover, I effectively bought this backpack for £27 and that is a bargain!

MAMBO Score – a very pleased 9/10


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