Designed to provide maximum comfort, the Air Trek series from Deuter focuses on padding, support, and breathability, while also providing impressive organization and durability. This is my review:
The Futura Air Trek series comes in several size variations. The 50+10 that I tested here has a 50 liter capacity in the body, and a height adjustable 10 liter lid for a total of 60 liters. It features two stretch water bottle pockets, zippered pockets on each hip pad, a cinch top on the main compartment, a large “U” shaped front zipper, a stretchy stash pocket on the back, and a separate zippered sleeping bag compartment near the bottom. It is built around the fully adjustable VariSlide air suspension system, which provides quick length adjustments, and the VeriFlex hip pads, which allow the hip straps to slide through the hip pads to adjust the fit around the hips. It weighs 2050 grams (about 4.5 pounds), retails for $250, and includes Deuters unconditional lifetime repair warranty.
What I liked
Starting with what I believe to be the most important part of any backpack, comfort, the Futura as I will call it for simplicity, excels. The Futura is absolutely one of the most comfortable backpacks I’ve tested in years. The reason for this comes largely down to a lack of reduction. By this I mean the backpack hasn’t been built to be minimalistic, putting away everything except what is absolutely vital. Instead, it provides everything that is truly important, while focusing on those that are the most important. The internal metal frame is rigid, tall, and stands well above the shoulders, allowing the load straps to properly pull the weight back, away from the wearer. Shifting the weight off the shoulders this way and transfers it directly to the hips, where it belongs, and away from the nerves and muscles of the shoulders, where it absolutely doesn’t. This reduces neck and back tension while also improving stability overall. The hip pads are thick, generous, and provide ample support for heavy loads without creating pressure points. Anything under 45 pounds of gear is handled quite well here. The padding of the back is contoured, flexible, and opens up a channel that allows for ample air flow, without shifting the center of gravity away from the spine. The end result is a pack that feels rather weightless to wear, despite it actually being on the heavy side for a backpack these days. While using the pack, I am yet to have a single sore spot, ache, or really any complaints at all with the comfort, which is saying a lot in itself. It feels great.
Organization is generous, but not excessive. Having so many pockets, and having them in all the right places, I found the Futura to always have a spot for everything I needed to stash. Phones and snacks in the hip belts so I can access them on the move, items I need occasionally in the lid, a light rain jacket shoved into the stuff pocket outside, and of course all my layers, tent, and sleeping bag tucked away safely inside the main compartment. I never found myself wanting more organization and everything stayed exactly where I put it.
Getting to what I needed was always quick and easy thanks to the full zippered access on the outside. The large “U” shaped zipper allows me to reach into basically any area of the pack, without having to tear everything out from the top. Say I decided I wanted that rope I stashed in the bottom of the pack, just in case, not a problem. I just unzip from the bottom corner and slip it out without fuss. Tent stakes shoved into the side of the pack? I can get to that too. It is even easy to pull a stuffed sleeping bag out of the bottom, although getting it back in could be a little more work. The zippers in general are large, easy to grab, and slide quite easy as long as they’re kept clean.
Durability is great with this pack. It is constructed mostly of burly 210 denier PA with fiber reinforcement, and 600 denier polyester, treated with a thick PU coating (for water resistance and strength). The frame is a round pole that runs the perimeter of the pack. It is created from spring steel that doesn’t noticeably flex or give in under weight, no matter how much I shove inside the pack. Everything from the stitching to the zippers are all built to last but also can be repaired both professionally and in the field if absolutely need be. I’m yet to see any signs of wear or damage to the pack, even in high wear areas. If something does go wrong, Deuter has a lifetime repair warranty that covers any damage, for any reason. They won’t replace your pack, but they will repair the one you have, which is the right way forward in my eyes. This not only reduces waste, but also gives a damaged pack some character while providing stories to tell to others.
Adjustability is also great with this pack. The spine length is very easy to adjust with a clever clamp/lock system that just requires a quick flip of a lever. Even though most people will only need to adjust it once, having it so easy to manipulate is really nice. The hip and shoulder straps are a bit more traditional, although arguably even easier to work with. Webbings slide through a simple buckle and can be adjusted by lifting up on the release tab. The pack as a whole can be compressed down to a minimal size via several cinches placed all around. It’s all fast, convenient, and doesn’t slip once set.
Small details like an included key clip in the lid, an adjustable lid height (great for shoving in a long sleeve on the fly), an SOS guide printed inside, and others really round out the pack and make it feel well thought out, and considerate of the end user.
What I didn’t like
My only minor quibble with the pack is the weight. 4.5 pounds isn’t a light pack, but that is absolutely O.K. for this design. There are many lightweight packs out there, but they all sacrifice one thing, comfort. This pack goes the opposite direction, and that is intentional. It is heavy, but not too heavy, and very much within the acceptable weight for this kind of pack, meant for long, challenging miles on the trail, so I’m not mad about it. I just have to point it out.
The Futura series has quickly become one of my favorite lines of backpacks. Instead of cutting more and more weight, which sacrifices comfort and durability, these packs focus on comfort, ease of use, and organization, which in my decades of experience on the trail, has always won out over counting grams. The 50+10 in particular just feels great to wear, making long treks with heavy loads far more bearable. My shoulders stayed relaxed, I always felt stable and supported, and when I finally got to my destination, I felt more rested than if I had cut two pounds by going with one of my ultralight packs. It is heavy, which isn’t something to discard, but pros greatly outweigh the cons in this situation.
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