John Traynor enjoys outdoor adventures with Highlander
Despite its generous capacity, the sleek design of the BEN NEVIS 52L from HIGHLANDER Nevis range gives it a neat, compact appearance. Made from waterproof, lightweight PU-coated 200D Nylon and packed with practical features, it’s proved to be a versatile, durable companion on trips through the Scottish Borders and the Lake District.
On overnight adventures during what proved to be a wet summer, autumn hostelling/bothy nights, hopping on and off public transport and as a winter daypack for two, it’s been comfortable, reliable and easy to adjust when swapping between wearers.
The simple sprung metal frame and taut mesh panel combo is stable, comfortable and the back length fast to adjust via the straightforward Velcro system for changing the shoulder strap height. It sits lightly on shoulders, back and hips, easily adjusted as the day progresses or terrain changes.
Whilst the fabric is waterproof, the built-in rain cover stored in the base will ensure the contents stay dry even in heavy, wind-driven rain. That said, I often use dry bags for spare clothing and sleeping gear, having once toppled backwards when crossing a stream, leaving everything both worn and carried soaking wet.
Versatility is built-in to the rucksack. Whether backpacking – on foot or by air on an adventure travel trip – the rucksack weight of under 1.5kg makes it easy on the shoulders and the check-in scales. Plus, the accessory strap options and deep side pockets make it a cracking bushcraft bag perfect for loading out and stashing an axe, folding saw, fire anchor, grill, etc in the side pockets.
The twin hip belt pockets are set well to the side, actually on hips rather than at the waist front which makes free movement really easy. They’re large enough to easily carry phone, large power bank, hat, gloves, Buff, snacks, knife and compass. Rather than one wide hip belt, the twin strap design proved flexible, comfortable plus fast and easy to adjust.
It’s packed with features plus extra practical detail that only becomes apparent in use. For instance, the deep elasticated pocket on the main compartment was ideal for stashing waterproofs with the stretchy fabric securing my map when not needed.
Personal preferences mean that not all design features are used. For instance, I preferred to store my walking pole at the side rather than in the attachment points provided. Initially, I thought the strap retainers would be useful but found the loop of strap they created was irritating. Simple solution – didn’t use them. The key point is that it’s always good to have options.
The range has been around for decades and the design is still evolving as the design, style and fit was updated this year. That evolution is key to the success of the range as company director Ramin Golzari told me, “In 1995, ten years after we founded the company, we wanted to really challenge ourselves and launch a range of backpacks that embodied our brand’s mission, which was to enable people to experience the best of the outdoors by offering that ‘perfect’ balance of good quality at great value.
“So, we named this range the Ben Nevis as it is the highest peak in the UK and our aspiration was to always reach the top of our abilities with this range. Almost 20 years on, and several generations later, that is still true to this day, and our latest generation of Ben Nevis backpacks is using the latest materials, buckles and design to truly embrace the outdoors in two sizes, two colours and two fits (men and women).”
Even with all the bells and whistles, it looks shipshape and was much admired by St Oswald’s Way backpackers during a coffee stop at the Community Store in Morebattle.
We don’t do star-rated assessments but it is worth noting that the brand’s website makes the point that the UK’s Trail magazine has ranked it joint first in its ‘Test of the Best’ and first for ‘Best Value’.
- good airflow through sprung back design
- adjustable back length system
- easy access lower zip to main compartment
- side compression straps for volume adjustment
- zipped pocket on lid
- easy access drawcord system to main compartment
- attachment points for ice axe/walking poles
- lid attachment points
- dual webbing strap load stabilisation on shoulder straps and hip belt
- adjustable shoulder straps and hip belt
- grab handle
- two zipped pockets on hip belt
- adjustable chest strap with whistle buckle
- large stretch elastic front and side pockets
- Duraflex buckles
- emergency info and packing guide
- hydration compatible
- Velcro tidies on webbing straps
- integrated rain cover
Volume: 52 litres stated but that seems a modest claim
Dimensions: 66cm x 35cm x 28cm
Back System: Airflow height adjustable back system
Material: 200D Nylon PU Coating; Duraflex buckles
Pockets: Front, side, hip and lid