This new rucksack has a lot to live up to, I think as I pack for a night in the hills. I’m rather partial to the 35L daypack I’ve been wearing thin for the last five years, to the point I feel slightly as though I’m cheating on it as I prepare for an overnighter with this fancy new piece of kit. Dirty getaway, here we come – in the muddy camping sense, of course.
The Vango F10 Hut 45L is the second rucksack to be despatched, it being evident on the arrival of the first that the size just isn’t right. Not the size of the bag, but of me; at 5’3, my head’s inconveniently in the wrong place. As soon as I hoik on the Vango Hut 65L and straighten up, I just know it isn’t an option, not even if I smooth my hair to its very flattest. The rigid frame towers above my head, pushing it forward slightly, and no amount of strap-tightening can change the structure. I gamely try pootling about the house, but being concertina-ed into permanently staring at my shoes isn’t great for navigation. I order the 45L, apprehensive as to whether it will accommodate full kit and a tent. The answer is yes, and then a bit more stuff too.
The 45L is classed as a medium sized rucksack, but I pack absolutely everything, strap my tent onto the front and there’s still room to spare. I delve in to double check survival essentials – camping stove, pans, warm layers, cider – but no, there’s nothing I’ve forgotten. I’m also testing out a snuggly Vango Venom sleeping bag from the lovely folk at Outdoor World Direct and it’s a winning combo; the sleeping bag squashes down so compactly and the rucksack is so roomy that I could even squeeze in a few more ciders.
Given the weight of the camping kit, the comfort is astonishing, with thickly-cushioned shoulder straps easily taking the load. The sternum strap isn’t in quite the right place for us women – a perpetual problem for manufacturers, I guess – but, with the padded hip belt clicked into position, the pack sits well, with even distribution. I lament the lack of a pocket on the hip belt; I’m really not joking when I say I’ve put off updating my phone past an SE because anything larger won’t fit into the hip pocket of my existing daypack, and I can take easily take 100 pics on a day in the hills. But, after a few months’ testing in changing seasons, I suspect that the Vango’s about to come into its own on longer winter hikes, when I’ll be wearing plenty of layers with well-placed pockets anyway.
The top opening takes some getting used to, with a deep zip main compartment rather than the drawstring centre with overlapping top section I’m familiar with. But, having pitched my tent and declaring it tea o’clock, I lay the rucksack flat to rummage for those pans and it’s a marvel, opening up like a suitcase for the hills. It’s got the two side pouches I absolutely need, one for my poles and one for my Yorkies, both with compression straps to secure the contents. There’s a very spacious pocket at the top of the front panel for all the bits n’ pieces I might need at an instant, as well as a deep slide-in map pouch with safety clips. A hi-vis orange rain cover is tucked away in a compartment underneath, clipped in via a detachable strap.
The SBS zips are sturdy, which is important as I’m still not over losing my favourite bobble hat last winter, when the zips on a not-so-quality 20L rucksack (you can see I have quite a bag-shopping problem) worked their way open somewhere along the Glamorgan Heritage Coast. The Vango has strong mesh ventilation and a concave frame that takes the bulk well away from my back, preventing that mid-climb sweat from getting trapped, and there are two well-placed bungees that I assume are to tie on a tent with. Intentional or not, they work a treat.
Made from rip-stop nylon, the bag itself is always going to be a lightweight option, but I can’t get over how easy the going is with a full load. My first test is a quick march up to the far side of Llyn y Fan Fawr; I expect to take more than an hour under that camping paraphernalia but I make it easily within 55 minutes and I’m not gasping for breath. The extra space opens up the option of carrying a stove on long winter walks, too, in order to replace the customary salmon bagels with a nice hot meal mid-trek. And, above all, I have a Year 11, senior scout teen with one eye on the Duke of Edinburgh Award and the other, yes really, on a career in the Army. I think this Vango’s about to be well used.
The F10 Hut 45 is billed as perfect for day walking and short backpacking adventures, and my hikes certainly vouch for that. Its name harks to the Alpine practice of trekking using mountain huts for overnight shelter and, as with all Vango products, it’s the small, thoughtful details that resonate. For the time being, my forays are relatively close to home, more Dora the Explorer than Marie Paradis. But with this highly recommended rucksack, I’ve got all the gear and some very good ideas of adventures to come.
My Vango rucksack was kindly gifted by Outdoor World Direct and costs £99.99 from their online store. Outdoor World Direct is a leading family-run outdoors retailer – give them a follow them on Facebook and Instagram!