The Duthie AM 15 is a high capacity hydration pack that packs a full 3 liter hydration bladder, highly breathable FloatAir back panel, and enough pockets to stash multiple days worth of gear. This is my review.
The Duthie is designed as a mountain bike specific pack. It holds 12 liters of gear, between the large primary compartment, smaller back panel pocket, hip pockets, an expandable stash pocket, and microfiber lined eyeglass compartment. Inside the main compartment are several smaller pockets for micro-organization. There is a large 3 liter hydration bladder with removable hose, lock out nozzle, and a nice magnetic clip that locks the mouthpiece to the chest strap of the pack. The pack weighs 1 lb. 13 oz., includes a rain cover, helmet strap, reflective panels, and is built from 160 and 210 denier water-resistant nylon. It retails for $149.95 and comes in various colors.
What I liked
The most important aspect of any backpack is comfort. Thankfully then, the Duthie AM 15 feels great even after multiple hours of riding with a heavy load over rough terrain. It achieves this in large by utilizing a wire frame that wraps the perimeter of the back panel and terminates into the hips of the pack. This displaces all of the weight away from the shoulders and places it onto the hip bones instead, right where it should be. This is combined with rather wide hip and chest straps and basically eliminates pressure points. The back panel itself is built from of a tight mesh that is stretched over the frame, which just happens to arch away from the spine, forming a bit of a trampoline that sits against the spine. It feels great as no equipment can actually push against the spine itself, and it allows for great ventilation, without sacrificing weight balance.
Speaking of weight balance, the Duthie does a great job here. Many packs have this type of air frame these days, but also many of them curve away too far from the back. When you do this it moves the gear too far from the body, moving the center of balance back and creating wobbliness and instability. This isn’t the case here. The Duthie keeps the gear close to the spine and low, allowing even fully loaded packs to move with the body. The straps placed all around the pack allow it to be cinched down tight into a small, predictable size, without things flopping around inside. It feels stable, stays in place, and rarely moves at all while riding.
Organization on this backpack is fantastic. Coming from an older, small pack, I really found a love for the huge amount of storage and the large number of internal pockets. I had room for my pumps, extra tubes, tools, extra hanger, food, water, layers, and all of my everyday essentials. The best part is everything had a particular spot that worked, with my pump sliding in vertically into a pocket, with my heavier items like tools and tubes going into the bottom. There is even room in the hip pockets for small snacks like trail mix. I especially liked the external stash pocket, a great place to shove a wind jacket or gloves when shedding layers on cool days.
Durability has so far been great. It utilizes thicker, highly durable rip-stop nylon, 160D and 210D depending on the region, with 210 being used anywhere the pack will support weigh to be subjected to abrasion. The stitching all around has been fantastic with no signs of separation or fraying, and the adjustable straps are all of excellent quality. The zippers are even great, with the zippers sliding easily along with not a single hangup yet.
The hydration system has been great. The mouthpiece is fairly easy to bite down on, and has yet to leak on me thanks to the lockout valve placed just above it. The material Platypus uses is fantastic in the way that it doesn’t infuse the water with the taste of plastic, and it also cleans up and dries nicely. The bladder easily attaches to the inside of the pack and is secured in place by small clips, and the hose pops off with a simple squeeze of a button, yet still manages to not leak inside, even when putting lots of pressure on it. The hose attaches to the chest via a small magnetic clip, and it does a pretty decent job of staying in place until it is needed.
What I didn’t like
I have however had the magnetic clip pop lose on me while riding a few times. It seems to be more of a matter of pressure against the tube from inside my pack causing it, and adjusting the hose placement seems to remedy it usually. I say this because it has never actually come loose while jumping or hitting rocks, instead it usually popped off when I was bending over the bars pedaling hard, which shifts the weight in the bladder around a bit. Thankfully, even when it pops loose it doesn’t cause any trouble. It just dangles a bit.
The only time I really noticed the pack at all was on long, straight gravel roads where I was in the drop bar position of my gravel bike (leaning very forward on a road bike style handlebar). Occasionally, I would find the right side of the pack pushing against my back/hip just a bit. perhaps I have a slight warp in my particular frame that is causing it to push out on one side, I’m not exactly sure. It isn’t uncomfortable, but it is something I noticed a few times.
Some really hard bumps would shift the pack up and off my hips just a bit when carrying a heavier load, kind of like a turtle shell popping up. It was rare and slide back down into place, but I certainly felt the pack shift in these situations. Lighter loads didn’t have the same occurrence, so it is likely more just how I had the pack loaded, but worth keeping an eye out for.
I wonder what will happen to the wire frame if you fall on your back?
The Duthie A.M. 15 is an excellent backpack for those who spend long days on the trail. It packs enough storage for ample food, water, layers and extra parts and tools, all without bulging out against the spine or feeling weighty, thanks to the fairly robust frame. The padded hips and shoulders do a good job of keeping the pack in place in rough situations, and the frame and suspension keep things well ventilated and comfortable for days on end. I’m especially loving the ability to chug huge amounts of water on hot days, without the plasticy taste that many systems create. It has some quirks, but nothing that I can’t happily overlook in the shadow of the features it does provide. In the end, the pack is built well, holds up great, and has yet to let me down in any of the situations I’ve put it through.
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