The Main Warden day pack is a robust, feature rich pack designed with the help of Maine game wardens to suit the diverse needs of hikers, rescuers, enforcers, fishermen, and more. It provides a breathable support system, waterproof compartments, and other features to set it apart. This is my review:
The Maine Warden pack is constructed primarily of rugged water-resistant ripstop Polyester. The bottom of the backpack built from extra durable, completely waterproof 400D double rip-stop nylon, while the inner lining is a softer 210D nylon. The pack includes a water bottle pocket on one side, a unique pass-through pocket on the other (for long items like axes, fishing poles, etc) and trekking pole straps on the back. The back panel is made from compressible, breathable, raised air-mesh, and a similar padding lines the shoulders straps, but not the webbing based hip belt. It includes a padded interior fleece pocket for easily scratched items, a waterproof front pocket for maps and electronics, an expandable stash pocket, and a spacious primary compartment. the pack comes in two sizes, weighs 2 lb 8 oz (for the medium/large tested here), holds 27 liters(M/L), and retails for $99.
What I liked
The Maine Warden was obviously designed by someone with experience in the outdoors. The features included are useful and carefully chosen to provide maximum usability in a huge variety of situations. Daisy chains flow down the back of the pack and allow for attaching a wide variety of equipment, and the pass through water bottle pocket allows for axes and fishing poles to be carried as well. Straps along the bottom accommodate sleeping pads and bags, a water proof pouch protects electronics, and smaller pockets and loops allow for so much more. All the basics have been covered, and nearly every feature that I look for in a day pack is here. There’s even a felt lined pocket for phones and glasses, a particularly modern addition. This makes for a very flexible pack that can it all, all without being bulky or forcing in gimmicky features that aren’t actually useful.
With so many features, it’s important that the pack allows the user to not only be well prepared, but also organized. What good is an emergency blanket if you can’t find it? The Maine Warden performs here as well. Including the external stash compartment, there are 7 pockets lining the backpack, as well as the daisy chain, bottom straps and the trekking pole loops, plus some internal compartmentalization. It’s easy to have a place for everything, making getting to supplies quick and effortless. It helps that the zippers slide easily, not once hanging up or becoming entangled in fabric during my testing. The carry capacity allows for a large amount of gear to be stored internally, (25 L for the small/medium) and those needing extra room can strap several liters of equipment on the outside as well. It’s easily large enough for day hikes, winter treks, emergency preparedness, extended fishing trips, or even the ultra-light overnight trip.
Build quality is fantastic. The 400D double-rip-stop nylon is capable of taking a real beating, including being dragged down rock faces, pulled through fields of briers, scraped across trees, and even light rain showers. The shoulders straps and all major seams are reinforced, the webbing straps are thick and burly, and even the clips are constructed from some of the best plastics I’ve seen on a pack. It’s instantly obvious that it’s been engineered to put durability at the forefront, and so far I’m yet to see a single scuff or scrape on the pack. It cleans up nicely too, with char from blacked trees, mud and sap easily washing out without ruining the built in water resistance.
The Maine Warden is one nice looking pack. The materials are non-reflective and show off the high quality weaves and stitch while looking serious and capable. The combination of dark matte olive greens, lighter greens with a subtle sheen, and the intrinsically checkered double rip stop all play together to produce a varied, yet synergistic appearance that can’t be understated. It certainly has a park ranger vibe, which is the point, and it works well for it. My favorite part is the embroidered Maine Department of Inland Fish and Wildlife Logo, which really adds a subtle flare to the top of the pack. It’s an excellent looking pack that turns a lot of heads and garners many compliments.
When it comes to comfort, the MW does a good job. It provides a solid amount of padding, both in the shoulders and especially along the back. The soft sponge like mesh back panels provide surprisingly excellent cooling, allowing air to flow through at all times, while still absorbing the weight of the pack and its internals. The stepping stone like shapes they’re formed into also absorb any points and hard edges of gear that might otherwise push out into the spine. This makes packing shapely metal and hard plastic items like camp stoves and headlamps inside a non-issue. The hip belts provide a bit of lateral stability, although they don’t offer any real padding themselves, but do keep the pack in place and provide additional stability when used. I’ve found that the pack can happily carry about 15 to 20 pounds before putting strain on my neck or shoulders, and it feels great to wear for short or long day hikes assuming the weights are kept to moderate levels.
The pack’s built in water resistance is a lovely feature and worthy of mention. The bottom of the pack is completely water proof, so dropping it into the snow or in the mud isn’t going to saturate the internals, and the body of the pack is water resistant enough to survive short showers of water reliably. Hours of use may start to allow some water inside, but the occasional bout of water isn’t a problem.
Smaller features like an included chest strap whistle, hydration compatible routing, and an internal key clip are quite helpful as well.
The pack is much more durable, better padded and more featured than most packs in it’s price and weight range. There is a lot of value here at just under 100 bucks.
What I didn’t like
While I like the pass through pocket for fishing, carrying larger items and the like, I usually found myself just wishing it was another more traditional water bottle pocket. Many times I caught myself needing just one more pocket for a thermos, or other container that I wanted to get to quickly. Sure, there is plenty of internal space for these items, and the one external pocket is plenty for most, but seeing as I rarely fish or carry larger external items, I’d rather have seen an external attachment point that didn’t cannibalize my bottle pocket that I’m just so used to having. Perhaps the best option would be to allow the pass through pocket to be zipped closed. It’s also pretty easy to forget that the pocket doesn’t have a bottom, as it looks just like a standard pocket, resulting in a dumped bottle down the trail as it wiggles through.
Under heavier weights, above 20 lbs. or so, the relatively soft back panel will start to give in to the weight and starts putting weight onto the shoulders. Without an internal frame or hip belt, it limits the upper carrying capacity unless the user doesn’t mind a bit of shoulder and neck strain. Still, 20 lbs should be more than adequate for most users, and having the ability to carry more in a pinch is pretty nice, just don’t expect it to be overly comfortable for long periods of time or as an ultra light overnight pack, especially without a padded hip belt to distribute the weight.
I was a little surprised that the pack doesn’t come with an included rain cover. It’s obviously designed for soggy conditions (Maine), and not topping that off with a truly waterproof cover seems like a missed opportunity, especially considering the conditions that many Wardens will subject the pack to. It’s easy enough to add one, but I’d like to see one included.
The Maine Warden Day pack is an excellent day pack. It’s impressively durable, packs a ton of features, and provides enough organization and a high enough carrying capacity for just about any adventurer. Having the ability to carry relatively large pieces of gear externally makes it a great option for those who fish, do photography, bike or even just prefer to keep lots of emergency supplies on hand. It’s comfortable, affordable, and looks great on the trail, but I did miss not have a second water bottle pocket, and an included rain cover would have been ideal. Still, If you’re interested in a do it all day pack that’s not going to cave when the conditions get tough, this is an option I cannot hesitate to recommend, and it’s one that I personally will be keeping on my back for a long time to come. It’s beautiful, reliable, comfortable, and it comes in at an exceptional value.
For more information on L.L.Bean and and their wide range of gear, check out their website, http://www.llbean.com/
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I want to extend a huge thanks L.L.Bean for providing this product for review. We couldn’t do it without their help. Our full disclosure can be found here.
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