Ever since my son Ethan was born around eight months ago, my number of multi-day camping trips has reduced, opting more frequently for day walks instead. When Osprey sent the HikeLite 26 for review, it seemed a day pack was a good fit for my recent activities.
I’ve taken the HikeLite 26 on a couple of hundred miles of solo greenway walking, in addition to some hikes with friends in the Belfast hills and Mournes.
26 litre capacity
Airspeed Trampoline mesh “off back” system for ventilation
Integrated rain cover
Price (direct) £80.00
The HikeLite 26 is a lightweight pack intended for day hikes or commuter use. It has a slim profile which lends itself well to city use, or passing through town on your way to/from a hike. As someone who has had more than a few odd glances for lugging around a mammoth pack, this makes a welcome change.
Slim profile stays between the shoulders
You’ll notice the outer compartment in this pack is just below the Osprey logo. Rather than a webbed pouch or zipped compartment, this is a pocket which is held in place by two compression straps. It’s pretty handy for stuffing a hat or ultralight waterproof vest when not in use. Just don’t expect it to be the cavernous stash pocket you get on the likes of the Xenith.
The side pockets are large enough to accommodate a large bottle of water without worrying about it falling out and are positioned as such that you can reach for them without taking the pack off, provided you have decent shoulder mobility.
There’s two main compartments, the outer one being the lower of the two zips. The outer pocket has a clip for your keys and enough room for a mobile phone, charger, hat, gloves and a few small bits and pieces. You can also stow walking poles. I don’t use them, but this pack can accommodate them if you do.
The main compartment is hydration compatible, or you can use the bladder slot for a laptop if you’re using it to commute. I’ve brought my 90 litre pack on commutes before I had a car, when I was camping straight after work. The looks I got from confused yuppies were priceless. This pack blends right in.
As you can see the hip belt is very thin. It consists entirely of strap and buckle and has zero padding. It sits a little higher than I’m used to, but this hip belt isn’t there for weight transfer like you get with the heavier load luggers. Its main purpose is to prevent the pack from bouncing when walking and it serves that purpose well. Small and light comes with limitations and this is not a pack you would want to overload due to the lack of weight transfer to the hip belt.
The sternum strap does its job and keeps the shoulder straps sitting at the right width.
Good airflow is a good thing in this weather
A side profile shot gives a good indication of how well the pack sits back from your body. This helps to prevent the excessive back sweating and bad posture you can get with packs which hug the back too closely. Much of my walking lately has involved anywhere between 2 to 8 hours of greenway walking, arriving straight into work for an evening shift, so I’ve found it useful that the off-back posture of the pack keeps things a little fresher.
As you can see the shoulder straps have decent padding for a pared-down day sack. It’s nowhere near as luxurious as the memory foam you see on heavier load luggers, but this pack isn’t meant to be carrying that kind of weight. The longest I’ve walked with this pack in one stretch is 8 hours so far and it hasn’t irritated my shoulders or chest yet. Next weekend I’m due to use it on a three way hike on the Burren Way, so will be in a position to comment further on usage for longer spells.
The bottom of the pack houses an integrated rain cover. Its made of the same material as the other Osprey rain covers so should turn a few showers, but don’t rely on it to protect critical electronics, dry bags are best for that. The recent extended spell of dry weather has kept me from testing this aspect of the pack, but the cover gives good coverage of the pack and should perform as well as the other rain covers on Osprey’s packs.
The HikeLite 26 is an excellent lightweight day pack. It has good features for a pack in its class and sits nicely back from your body due to the Airspeed back system. The slim profile makes it suitable for city / commuting use and the integrated rain cover and hydration support are welcome in such a lightweight pack.
The lack of an adjustable back system may bother some but I never found it to be an issue. The price of 80GBP is on the higher end for newcomers or occasional casual use, but worth it for a comfortable pack getting regular trail or city use.
The HikeLite 26 is available direct from Osprey here
Aimed as a fast and light backpacking pack, the Exos 48 offers the comfort and stability the larger Osprey packs already provide at a reduced weight. Having already used the Osprey Aether 70 I had already experienced Osprey’s feature set at the higher capacity end of the scale. I was also interested in the concept of using a smaller pack, would this make me consider my kit list and therefore carry only essential gear.
On unboxing the Exos 48 pack my first impression was just how light it was, and how many straps and pockets it had. I’ve always liked the idea of been able to add or subtract gear as needed. I was intrigued by the suspended trampoline mesh back system and how it was engineered. Having already used this system on Aether pack I was already impressed with it. The Exos 48 litre pack back system appeared to have a larger channel for airflow.
Osprey Exos 48 backpack
Weight – 1.19 kg
Maximum dimension (cm) 79L x 40W x 33D
Main fabric- 100D high tenacity nylon.
Two pull toggles and three loops adjust 7mm side compression straps. To tighten the strap you place your thumb on the pull toggle while pulling the cord with your other hand. Practical and easy to use.
Note: I really like how the compression straps extend to the top of the Exos 48.
Airspeed trampoline suspended mesh back panel.
As I mentioned in my first impressions the Exos 48 litre pack seemed different. Here’s what I noticed. Firstly the mesh back panel extends the entire length of the back system. The panel itself has large 7mm diameter holes right across it. The panel itself is supported to the pack by a lightweight peripheral frame which encircles the pack.
Indeed the main shoulder straps and hip belt are also incorporated into the back system. I measured the distance ( mid-back ) and found the gap to be a considerable 6cm.
ExoForm™ mesh hipbelt and harness
Both the shoulder straps and hip belt are constructed from ExoForm mesh. The shoulders straps are padded in the right places and allow perspiration to escape yet providing comfortable support where it is needed on load points. As with all Osprey packs a functional whistle is incorporated into the sternum strap.
The hip belt is without pockets, although this lack of hip pockets is cleverly replaced by a stripped down hip belt with a panel removed to allow airflow. Admittedly I did have a little grumble about losing the hip pockets but I soon realised the side stretch pockets were accessible whilst still wearing the pack, excellent.
Exos 48 hip belt
Compatible with hydraulic reservoir (bladder pack)
I always look for a bladder pack storage in any pack and was glad to see it used on the Exos 48. A gap on the centre of the pack allows a drinking tube to pass through. The bladder pack itself can either be housed in the sleeve or secured with the Osprey clip.
Compatible with Hydraulics™ and Hydraulics™ LT Reservoir
Cord tie off points
The adjustable cords allow compression or attachment of kit/gear I like housing loops which hold the two main straps on the Exos. These housing loops help compress the packs load evenly.
This feature is a definite plus. Two toggled clips release the main lid allowing you to use the simple lid or use the removed lid as a hip pack/grab bag around camp.
Exos 48 removable lid
Stretch mesh side pockets
Located on each side of the Exos 48 pack you’ll find a double opening mesh pocket. You will be pleasantly surprised at how much kit you can get into these pockets. Reachability is key, since you will be using these often in the absence of hip belt pockets. I found them accessible and not too much of a hassle to use.
Stretch mesh side pockets
Trekking pole attachment
Not that I use a trekking pole much, but I did attach my trekking pole on a number of occasions and found it worked fine.
Stow-on-the-Go™ trekking pole attachment
Ice axe loop
Sorry to say I never got trying this feature out. I looked over it and it seemed good, maybe next year.
Stretch front pocket
I must mention just how cavernous the front mesh pocket is. I can store a full set of waterproofs, hat, gloves and buff in this pocket. Tension and closure is via a hooded toggle. Handy for absent mindedly stuffing things in when you need to get moving quickly in the rain.
Stretch front pocket
Toggles, loops and clips
There is a vast array of toggles, loops and clips on the Exos 48. Throughout the pack I found they all worked functionality well. If you’ve never used an Osprey pack before you’ll notice some oddities when using the main draw cord. To open the draw cord you pull the tab away from the pack. To close the pack you hold the cord out and draw the toggle towards the pack. There’s a key clip in there too. Not a huge feature, but nicer than rummaging around on your doorstep or at your car door at the end of a tiring trip.
Toggles, loops, and clips
Build quality 99%
If you’ve never owned an Osprey pack before go along to an outdoor retailer or follow online instructions and have your back measured. As with boots, all the features in the world are useless to you if the fit isn’t right. I can’t overstate the importance of getting this detail right.
Osprey Exos 48 lightweight hiking pack
My only gripe is that there’s no rain-cover is included in this version.
The Exos 48 ticks all the boxes, it’s lightweight, insanely engineered and jam packet with features. In my first impression I explored the concept of ‘ smaller pack, smaller kit list’. Under this principle I’ve considered each item I pack and found that I can use the Exos 48 rather than a larger pack. I found the suspended mesh back panel simply outstanding. The mesh side and front pockets allow you to store loads of kit that can be grabbed really easily. Hikersblog have given the Osprey Exos 48 full marks
The opportunity arose for me to field-test the Thermarest Neo-Air Voyager sleeping mat. I currently use the Thermarest Xtherm Max which has vastly improved my camping experience. I enjoyed taking a look at how the Voyager differs from the xTherm and how it compares in performance, comfort and weight.
Thermarest NeoAir Voyager sleeping mat.
Winters chill could be felt as I approached the Mourne mountains, an ideal location to try out the Voyager sleep mat. I looked forward to comparing the properties between the Voyager and Xtherm Max mat. The Voyager mat incorporates Wacecore construction and heat trapping Thermacapture technology providing heat without excess bulking. Thermacapture is a series baffles with reflective material that protects against radiative heat loss.
Thermarest wavecore technology.
Simply put, this mat reflects the bodies heat from the mat back into the person using it. I first experienced this effect trying out the Thermarest Max mat and was won over by the heat reflexing technology behind these mats. As I mentioned previously I already own the Thermarest XTherm Max mat which has changed my camping and sleeping experience. The Voyager mat I tested was 51cm wide and180cm in length, more than enough space for anyone. The voyager is available in three sizes; regular, regular wide and large. The ( R-VALUE ) of the Voyager mat is 2.2, basically this means it can be used up to temperatures of minus -7, more than suitable for Irish mountain climate. The Voyager mat is noticeable smaller that the Xtherm Max mat, something I welcomed as I found the Xtherm mat was to big to use for a bivvi.
Thermarest Voyager mat.
When inflated the Voyager mat is 6.3 cm depth, providing a air cushioned distance between you and the cold mountain ground. A welcoming difference was the noise reduction between the Voyager and Xtherm mats. The Xtherm had a crinkling sound when moving around on it, although this was not on the annoying level, you were aware of it. The Voyager mat has no such noise!
The Voyager mat is not a self inflating mat, this leaves a few choices-
– Use a Thermarest battery pump ( this inflates it nearly full )
Thermarest inflating sack ( not included in this model ) I found this a bit tricky to began with but after about 6 minutes I had the mat inflated.
Good old lung power ( 52 deep breaths to be exact ) although I have to mention that its not recommended to fill Thermarest mat with hot breath – best to avoid moisture and algae build up.
Just like the Xtherm Max the Voyager inflating valve is a twist and pull style which protrudes outwards about 2cm. I tend to sleep with my head on the valve end of mat, this allows me to adjust air pressure if necessary. It also means I can deflate the mat easier the next morning.
The Voyager mat weights ( 620 grams 1lb 5 oz regular model.) and packs down to the size of a 1 litre nalgene bottle. As with all Thermarest mats a stuff sack and repair kit are included. The Voyager mat come from Thermarests ” Trek & Travel ” range making it suitable in a range of environments . I found the Voyager mat to be very comfortable with stablished loft throughout the mat. I had no issue with loss of compression or air displacement.
voyager mat- packs down well.
The Voyager mat is made from 75D nylon . Having used my Xtherm on varied terrain I can vouch to the toughness of the material. The warmth to weight ratio the Voyager achieves makes it more than suitable for year round use in the Uk. Although targeted towards Autumn use I have used this mat in Winter conditions. I’m more than impressed with the Voyagers performance, Thermarest has created mats with cutting edge technology that reflex the heat of the body. The Voyager mat is also smaller which allows me to use it with a Bivvi bag.
pack size 80%
Quite a high score for the Voyager mat, the only slight negative thing I could find was it that it was quite hard to fit into the sack provided.
The Voyager mat offers maximum comfort, coupled with heat retention, low weight and pack size, this mat is a great choice that ticks all the boxes. The Voyager mat is easy to inflate, deflate and store making it a clear choice whether you’re experienced camper or just giving camping a go. If you like the look of this product simply click on the link below for more details about the Voyager mat.
The new Osprey Atmos is loaded with impressive features but there’s one in particular that makes it stand out among the best rucksacks available today, the Osprey “anti-gravity” system. The Atmos 65 has a “trampoline suspension system”, a large span of mesh which separates the back panel of the rucksack from your back, allowing airflow, thus stopping your back from becoming as sweaty as it would be if there was direct contact with the back panel. The trampoline suspension system has been about for a while but it’s something that’s only really been seen on small capacity day sacks. The Atmos has a maximum capacity of sixty five litres and has a fully adjustable back system providing a custom fit, this is what makes the Osprey Atmos and other larger capacity Osprey packs with the anti-gravity system something special.
Osprey Atmos 65 ag
The Atmos 65 AG has all the usual features seen on an Osprey pack, load adjusters above the shoulder straps and adjustable sternum straps with a functional emergency whistle, a fully adjustable “fit on the fly” hip belt is included and the whole back system is adjustable to provide that quality custom fit. The Osprey “Stow and Go” can be found in its usual place for quick and easy access to a walking pole along with more elasticised straps and loops for securing similar items. There are some other features on the Atmos that should be mentioned, this pack comes supplied with a rain cover and they’ve had to put a sleeve inside the main compartment for a water reservoir since the anti-gravity system doesn’t allow for an easy access back panel pocket like that seen in some of the other Osprey packs, however the space between the back panel and the trampoline mesh hasn’t been made completely redundant and can be accessed if need be and used for additional storage space. As for secondary compartments there are the usual two on the lid in addition to two either side typically seen on an Osprey pack. A sleeping bag compartment can be found on the bottom of the pack and has the usual divider on the inside separating it from the main compartment, removable straps for carrying a sleeping mat or similar bulky kit can be found on the outside of the sleeping bag compartment. Mesh pockets are located on both sides of the Atmos with entry points that allow you to reach a water bottle or such while still carrying your pack, the hip belt compartments are there too, these are sometimes considered too small for any practical use but in my opinion those found on this version of the Atmos are more than adequate as is the front mesh pocket which is large enough and ideal for storing items such as wet gear which my need accessed quickly.
Build quality 95%
There is another new innovative feature unique to the Osprey, the lid of the rucksack can be completely removed and a secondary panel called a “Flap jacket” used to cover and close the main compartment enabling you to drop weight and bulk if required.Removable top compartments are something that are not new to Osprey rucksacks, packs such as “Aether” and “Xenith” have removable lids with a small hip belt incorporated into them so they can be used as a small bumbag/fannypack style daypack.
Osprey Atmos 65 ag
Sometimes other Osprey rucksacks have a small mesh pocket located on the underside of the top compartment, there are neither of these on the Atmos 65 ,obviously this isn’t a major issue or problem with the pack but being able to use the lid of the Atmos as a daypack is an option I would love to have and having that extra mesh pocket for your wallet ,keys etc is always nice.
Atmos ag 65 – A workhorse of a rucksack.
As for actually carrying the Atmos I found what Id heard about the previous generation applied to this one as well it really hugs the contours of your body for a really close, snug fit .The anti-gravity system and the fact that the pack is the correct size and adjusted for a custom fit means it sits perfectly, on average I have been carrying around 14kg with the Atmos and it sits perfectly and if it wasn’t for the fact you can feel the weight of what your carrying in your legs you’d hardly know you were carrying that weight at all.
The Osprey Atmos 65 ag can haul a lot of kit.
Overall I found the Atmos 65 ag a superb piece of kit, it has all the quality features expected to be seen on an Osprey product and the anti-gravity system is an amazing innovation in rucksack design that I cant praise enough. It really does what its supposed to do. When first using the Atmos on a longer hikes I noticed my walking partner removing his pack which was soaked with sweat to the point where he had to change his t-shirt. I on the other hand had to do no such thing the Atmos AG had done its job and I was perfectly dry .
Osprey Atmos 65 ag anti-gravity system
The materials used in the Atmos are all of the highest standard expected in an Osprey rucksack, lightweight yet durable and strong. If you do have an incident where your Osprey pack becomes damaged, Osprey have something called “The Almighty Guarantee” which means if they are unable to perform a quality repair on your pack they will replace it with a brand new rucksack, I’ve already used this service on another Osprey rucksack and found the work done and customer services to be excellent.
The following press release is from Osprey Europe:
Osprey Europe is extremely proud to announce its continued partnership with the European Outdoor Conservation Association (EOCA). Since 2013, Osprey has been a devoted Summit Member to EOCA and supported a number of campaigns including the very successful Bird Conservation Georgia’s project; protecting over one million raptors which migrate through the foothills of the Lesser Caucasus in Georgia each season from the threat of hunting.
Today, Osprey has donated £25,000 to the Mountain Wilderness project, which fully funds this exciting and important venture. The purpose of Mountain Wilderness (NGO) is to unite mountaineers and mountain lovers throughout the world; protecting mountain environments and preserving last mountain wilderness areas.
This Osprey funded project, “Cleaning the Alps”, has the goal of removing and dismantling obsolete constructions in the French mountains, such as barbed wire, abandoned ski stations and cables. These are a real plague and danger in the wilderness both for outdoor users and wildlife.
Catherine Savidge, Joint General Manager at EOCA said
We are thrilled this year to be able to support more conservation projects than ever before. All of the projects we work with deserve and need funding, so it is a pleasure to be able to facilitate the funding of this project with the generosity of Osprey Europe.
Since 2002, Mountain Wilderness has been working tirelessly with volunteers to remove harmful materials. Birds in the area, including bearded vultures, ospreys, owls, eagles, grouse and ptarmigans are particularly at risk from cables and wires but there is also a real danger for local inhabitants and people exploring the area. The 20 team leaders heading up the project on the ground will each be equipped with a Talon 44 and Tempest 40 backpack to aid in the day-to-day activities.
As a result of this great work, Mountain Wilderness will also communicate the success of these projects to raise awareness of the issue with mountain inhabitants, visitors, as well as politicians and decision makers. Their communications recently contributed to the development of the ‘Mountain Law’ in France (Oct 2016), requiring operators to dismantle ski lifts if they are not used for 5 years. Jonathan Petty, Head of Marketing at Osprey Europe said
We are delighted to announce our decision to put a significant amount of money into the Mountain Wilderness project, as at Osprey we are dedicated to the outdoors and a key aspect of our ongoing strategy is the protection and conservation of our natural environment.
Osprey Europe looks forward to the exciting results of this project and supporting Mountain Wilderness in their future endeavours.
This was my first time up a Munro and well you might as well do the highest when you’re there. The Ben Nevis race is steeped in history dating back far longer than some of the runners who go back year after year for more punishment. One of our team was on his 21st race and another on his 11th who still can’t get under the elusive two hour mark. Maybe next year Ricky.
Looking rather fresh faced at the start
Bunked up in our accommodation for the weekend we set off on Friday night for the first and last hot meal of the weekend in the Ben Nevis Inn. Wetherspoon chefs could do with keeping the food a few minutes longer in the microwave. Note to self ‘order a vegetarian breakfast’.
Fuelled up on square sausage and Braveheart I was ready for a day of torture. Concerned about the cut off times I knew if I kept Ricky Cowan close to me I’d make it to the Burn in under the hour. True to form I passed it in 57minutes and began the second half of the climb which is a lot more loose stone and rock. On the long slog to the summit the heat was fierce and anytime I looked at my HR it was in the 174bpm mark or so.
Somewhere past the half way point
Passing a few bewilderd looking walkers I got to the summit and took a quick selfie, looked around me briefly to take it in, passed my wristband to the marshals and stuffed a handful of liquorice allsorts into my dry mouth and swallowed a salt tablet.
Having came over to try and break three hours I took off knowing that I was going to have to pick up my pace. Luckily I can come down quicker than I can go up. Stopping for a cool off twice in streams I was having a tough time in the heat and my 750mls were nearly drank. The dreuth was wild and I was eyeing up people who looked like they’d have spare water. I asked a lady in a campervan for some but all she had was a tin of Irn Bru. I gratefully drank it then instantly regretted it but my watch was showing 2.50 so I pushed on.
I got my medal, grabbed some water and went in search of some shade from the Scottish sun. I was feeling rough but happy to get up and down the hill and I squeezed in under three hours.
Trying to look happy
The Irn Bru didn’t last too long though, I apologise to the Newcastle athletic guys for my horrific loud wretching and vomiting noises who were enjoying a coors light outside their accommodation. I seem to have history and vomiting is now quite normal.
A nice touch with the miniature whisky
Would I go back? Yes but not for a couple of years. It’s a great race to do and tick off but it’s fierce on the body.
I raised well over £600 for SANDS NI and they are a great charity. Final total still to be confirmed.
Well done to Diane Wilson from Dromore Athletics club who won the women’s race. Totally epic run and performance from a really fantastic runner. I’m in awe.
I stopped to draw my breath, my legs feeling heavier than they should have from the relatively minor incline, the weight of a full pack and soaking wet boots not aiding my cause. Whilst I gulped in a few lungfuls of fresh air, my eyes scanned my surroundings, the wonderful views providing the oxygen for my soul, and even the most weary of travellers would struggle not to be lifted by that view. On the horizon, the huge dark shark fin of the mountains on Achill island loomed large, as they pierced the blue-grey of The Atlantic. It was hot, a faint warm breeze offered scant respite, and sweat mixed with sun cream and midge repellent stung my eyes. The only sounds audible were the twittering of small birds, and off in the distance, the mournful throaty bleating of a lonely mountain sheep, calling to companions who didn’t answer.
As I panned around, taking in the huge swathes of bog and tundra encircled by the Nephin Beg mountains, I could see a portion of our group had stopped up ahead and were also taking a break to enjoy the view/catch their breath.
Looking back down the route from where we’d come, I could see the remainder of my companions approaching. The strains of Stealers Wheel’s song ‘stuck in the middle with you’ came into my head, this tickled me, and I smiled and hummed the melody, before tightening the straps of my pack, and squelching onwards up The Bangor Trail.
The Bangor Trail, situated in North Mayo, is an ancient, remote trail which winds its way from Bangor Erris to Newport through the Nephin Beg mountain range. Historians believe it may date back as far as the Iron Age, and it was used in more recent years by farmers driving their livestock to the market in Newport. I’d come across articles about it while researching walks in the Mayo area, and it seemed to be the ideal spot for a Hikers Blog outing. Months of planning and group chats about the route, gear, food and travel all came to fruition when, joined by a few friends of the blog, we made our way down to the west of Ireland. There were nine of us in total, which was the largest group we’ve had on one of our adventures.
We had agreed to rendezvous at The Robert Praeger Bothy, a beautiful little one room stone cottage, which is open and free for anyone to stay in. It’s named after the Irish naturalist who deemed this place ‘The very loneliest place in the country’. And staying there, it’s easy to see why. He made his comments in his book ‘The way that I went’ which was first published in 1937, but even in these days of mass transport and worldwide connectivity, this place has remained virtually unchanged, and as long dusk turned to night in Letterkeen, the silence was almost palpable. The group had all made the trip down safely, and when we arrived, low cloud and mizzly rain greeted us. A few of the guys had tents up, but the majority of us decided to bed down on the floor of the bothy. The weather dried up as true darkness fell, but there was no breeze to speak of, and the infamous Mayo midges appeared in their droves to feast on these new visitors to their territory. In the Bothy with the door closed we found respite from them, and a great few hours craic was had, before reluctantly calling it a night to prepare for our trek the following day.
Everyone rose early the next morning, and after some faffing about with cars etc, we all found ourselves in Bangor village, ready to get going. Everyone had availed of the hot food and drinks at the local shop as ‘second breakfasts’ as we watched Salmon anglers collecting their permits from the pub across the road to head off and fish the local river.
It was a damp and dreary morning, mist and cloud hanging around, with full blown rain at one stage. The weather started to pick up as we made the short walk out of the village, and then we were onto the Bangor Trail proper. A weather beaten sign at the start of the trail warned that the bridge across the Tarsaghaunmore River was out, and that we’d have to cross the river, warning that it might be dangerous in bad weather.
The group had a quick confab about what to do, the sign said that the bridge was due to be replaced by 2016, and here we were in summer 2017. Surely it’d have been fixed by now? We all agreed that even if it wasn’t, we’d just have to cross the river, and we’d plan what to do when we got there.
So off we went winging it, up the reasonable trail out of Bangor, boggy in places but easily negotiated. We contoured round Knocklettercuss and up, gaining height pretty easily, soon leaving the village behind, the breathtaking views laid out in front of us were truly a delight, and everything was progressing nicely. After a decent walk, which got progressively more boggy in places as we went (although thankfully some the worst areas of quagmire had handy board walkways skimming over them) we crested a small hill and began to descend. There in front of us was laid out the glittering, serpentine form of The Tarsaghaunmore River, looping and winding it’s way down from the bog to empty into Blacksod Bay. It was a wonderful view, apart from one thing. There was no bridge!
The weather had got progressively warmer as the day had gone on, and at times when the wind dropped, it was stifling. When we reached the river, it was confirmed that if we wanted to continue on the trail, then we were going to have to wade across.
The pillars of what used to be a bridge in years gone by rose out of the water where the path met the river, as if the landscape was sticking two fingers up at us, telling us we were going to get wet!
Around and between these remnants of a once safe crossing, the dark peaty waters raced and cascaded on their way to The Atlantic, as the tumbledown remains of an old cottage sat silently watching.
Everyone negotiated their way across without major incident, although me being me, took a stumble and ended up soaked to the crotch! Even though the water was relatively low, you could feel it tugging strongly at your legs as you crossed. I can imagine it’d be best avoided after a couple of days heavy rain.
After we all crossed, we took a break for a spot of lunch, dried ourselves off as best we could, and set off again. The path took us upwards from the river on a steady enough ascent, with the odd steeper section thrown in to test legs heavy from the trek through the bog. The track itself was easily navigated in the bright, clear conditions, but the conditions underfoot at times were anything but easy. At times it was a rocky trail, littered with white Quartz, gleaming like rugged pearls against the drab colours of turf and bog. More often though, it was solid bog, requiring a scramble off the trail to try and get along relatively unscathed. The inconsistency of the trail conditions made it tough going, as it was hard to get into any sort of a rhythm while walking, which added to the difficulty, but we were moving forwards and onwards to the goal of our overnight camp near Lough Avoher. We passed by the remains of old dwellings, and a small hut clad in well worn corrugated iron.
There was sign on the door, long since faded to a white board by the elements, the message it once conveyed now gone.
In places along the trail, improvements had been made by laying boards and stone steps across the worst of the mire. I’m unsure how long some of these had been in place, but the bog was already starting to grow over them in places, green fingers clutching at the edges of the timber and stone, as if to pull them in and overpower them.
My boots had begun to dry a little, but didn’t stay that way for long, a hidden hole swallowing my right leg almost to the knee, leaving my lower leg coated in foul smelling black ooze. Thank the stars for gaiters! We contoured around Nephin Beg mountain, coming across a gnarled little oak tree, hunkered down in the shelter of a hidden ravine. A beautiful little untouched spot, we paused to enjoy it, before the sheltered location led the midge to emerge in their droves, and we pressed on to evade them.
Dusk was beginning to fall as we finally reached the Adirondack shelter at Lough Avoher, our camp for the night.
This shelter was erected by the volunteers of Mountain Meitheal Ireland, and much credit to them for it, we were certainly very glad of it. A pale moon was rising above the darkening hills, as nine soggy, sunburned and tired hikers sat and enjoyed some well earned food and rest. We sat and exchanged stories of our various encounters with the boggy terrain, and the stunning beauty of this Mayo wilderness. Apart from our own party we hadn’t encountered another person the whole way along the trail. It wasn’t long before we all bedded down for the night, a few had pitched tents, while the others bivvied down in the shelter.
We arose the next morning feeling reasonably refreshed, and made our way onwards down the Bangor Trail. After a few miles on pretty decent tracks, we passed by the Bothy where we’d stayed on our first night, and apart from a couple of short off road sections, the walk was mostly on quiet back roads, a marked difference in terrain from the previous day.
There was a difference in the terrain we were walking through as well, small farms and houses dotted through the landscape as we made our way to Newport. All the while we had fabulous views over Lough Feeagh and Furnace Lough as they glittered in the bright July sunshine. We could see anglers floating on small boats, flicking and retrieving flies with precision in search of trout. Soon we reached the outskirts of Newport, and the finish of The Bangor Trail, and then it was off to the pub for some well earned grub, and some pints to celebrate the end of our trek.
When Ed asked me to review a bit of kit for the blog I was delighted to find out it was an Osprey Xenith 75 rucksack and when announced that the blog was going on an extended hike to Mayo I knew that this would be the ideal time to put this pack through its paces.
Taking the Xenith on the Bangor Trail
The Xenith 75 is an absolute beast when it comes to the sheer amount of gear that this pack can carry.
I know that the ultralighters in the community would cringe at the weight on this pack but if you are used to carrying big loads then this pack will help you do exactly that.
Packed contents for the Bangor trail – with room to spare!
It has four points of access to the main compartment which is great for grabbing items from the pack without removing the top lid and having to go in through the top access point.
The hip belt has two zippered pockets with over size toggles which can be used easily while walking along. The pockets are large enough for snacks/phone/small camera or sun cream.
Ample sized hip pockets
The pack has a removable lid which can be turned into a lumbar pack, great for taking your food and beverages down to the fireside so you don’t have lots of toing and froing from tent to fire and missing out on valuable time with your camp mates.
The bottom compartment is great for storing your sleep system. The zips are easy to operate, even when the pack is stuffed and there is a baffle around the zip.
Bottom compartment including outer stow straps
There are two mesh pockets one on each side of the pack and a stretchy mesh pocket on the front of the pack these are great for storing wet gear and extra water bottles.
The hydration sleeve is separated from the main compartment so the bladder can removed and refilled without opening the main compartment, a nice touch in my opinion.
The hip belt of the Xenith is remarkably comfortable and really hugs the hips, helping to transfer the load off the shoulders. During a full days hiking I experienced no rubbing or cutting in and I had the pack fully loaded.
The Xenith has a decently “tall and narrow” profile, although you can bulk out the back and side mesh pockets with easy to reach gear if so inclined. I kept my water-to-go bottle near to hand in the side pocket for quick access when we found a stream.
Plenty of options for easy access storage
The bioform material construction means that the belt can be moulded in a special oven available at some outdoor retailers so it can be truly moulded to your own specification. I didn’t avail of this, as the hip belt will mould to your own hip shape with use, it just takes slightly longer.
The zips and buckles are a good size and easy to operate even with gloves on.
The shoulder straps and back panel have an airscape system which allows a certain amount of airflow around the user although after walking for a full day my back and the pack actually got quite wet but it was never uncomfortable and caused no problems after a quick dry off with a towel.
After many miles of slogging this pack through blanket bog I suffered but the pack did not. It took everything I was throwing at it and wanted more.
The pack sits very nicely on the back and after a few adjustments it felt like the pack was part of me and there was very little shifting of load.
Excellent size for extended trips
Grip of the hip belt
Comfortable shoulder straps
Oversize zip toggles
Pockets on hip belt
External hydration sleeve
Four access points to main compartment
On the go stow for walking poles
No rain cover included
The 5lb 6oz weight when empty
The Xenith 75 is a powerhouse of a pack loaded with usable features that any explorer would be grateful for.
The comfort of this pack really stands out and when packed at 20kg I found that it handles very well over many miles of descent and ascent.
Osprey have put a lot of thought into this pack and have done an outstanding job in delivering a rucksack that has usability and aesthetics all in one mighty go to storage solution.
I would be glad to recommend this pack to anyone tackling extended trails and multi day wild camps when you need to pack everything an ultimate camper needs.
The Xenith 75 is available direct from Osprey Europe here