Owner review: K-Way Advance 85 hiking backpack
Biographical information: Jaco-Chris Koorts
Name: Jaco-Chris Koorts
Height: 1.75m (5' 9")
Weight: 78kg (171.96 Pounds)
E-mail address: jacockoorts@...
City: Cape Town
State: Western Cape
Country: South Africa
Date: 5 April 2013
Backpacking background: Adventure-junky, I have been back-packing from around the age of 9 or 10. I frequently hike over weekends and I try to go on 5-day hikes at least three times per year. I aim for an efficiently packed backpack, but I don't sacrifice gear for a lighter backpack. I normally hike in mountainous terrain, and I have hiked in circumstances varying from knee-deep snow to semi-arid desert. On top of hiking, I am also an avid mountain-biker and trail-runner.
Manufacturer: Cape Union Mart (K-Way)
Year of manufacture: 2012
URL to website of manufacturer: http://www.capeunionmart.co.za
Product: K-Way Advance 85
Listed weight: 3kg (6.61 pounds)
Weight as delivered: 3.1kg (6.83 pounds)
Colour: Blue and grey
Capacity: 85 litres (5 187.02 cu in)
Classification of backpack: K-Way Expedition Series
Handy features of the backpack:
· Hiking pole loops
· A large zipper that provides instant access to the backpack's main compartment
· A huge splash cover that's big enough to cover the whole pack, even if it is filled to the brim
· K-Way's Air-vantage back system, which promotes a flow of air and prevents your back from sweating profusely where the backpack and your back meet
· Water-proof design (material and all of the external zippers).
The backpack is available for delivery via internet purchase from Cape Union Mart (or any other outdoor supplier's) website, in this case it would be delivered in a big cardboard with stuffing inside the backpack. Alternatively you could go directly to your nearest outdoor store and purchase the backpack from there, and, if you're anything like me, the bag would leave the shop on your back already (so no need for packaging there)! It does not have any removable parts so no assembly required.
This sleek 85 litre backpack is the ideal tool if you're going to be out in the mountains for at least a week, or if you're planning to go on that epic backpacking tour you've been planning all your life. In the words of Cape Union Mart: "the Advance 85 is the perfect companion for that extra-ordinary expedition".
The backpack is a top-/panel-loading pack, with a heavy-duty, waterproofed zipper running down the face of the main compartment. The pack does not appear to have any external side-pockets. However, these are neatly tucked away to form part of the body of the pack, which are useful because in narrow spaces there's nothing sticking out from the sides of the pack, but if the pack is fully loaded, these "side pockets" become difficult to access. The pack is made of durable, water-proof material. I have had the bag for a while, so I do not have the technical composition of the materials used to manufacture the bag anymore (and it doesn't seem to be on the internet as well), but it has never let me down.
The pack has extra pockets at its top and the bottom. The top pocket is adjustable and accessed by means of a waterproof zipper and underneath the lid is a mesh pocket that is handy for storing items that you want to access quickly, even in the dark (top tip: this is a good place to keep an emergency roll of toilet paper). The bottom pocket is big enough to hold a sleeping bag and an inflatable mattress.
The main compartment of the pack contains no organisational pockets, which is a bit of a problem, since the immense size of the pack means can easily cause you to lose something small, like a pair of socks. Its enormity, however, also means that you can practically always fit something in there which of course means no more excuses to not buy all of your friends souvenirs from your backpacking adventures.
I have used the pack on a few occasions, so writing about all of them will take a while. I will write about a specific expedition here and refer to some of the others in my long-term report.
Field location and conditions
I used the pack on South Africa's most popular hiking route, the Otter Trail. This 5-day route is situated in the Garden Route, a beautiful piece of coastline known for its majestic beaches, big waves and lush indigenous forests.
The Otter Trail brings you into contact with all of these (and some sea otters, if you're lucky) and is a tricky route because of the dramatic changes in scenery and sudden gains and losses in altitude. We went in early spring, so the weather was fine, yet cool in the evenings, with rain falling intermittently on two of the days.
I set out with my pack weighing in at around 25kg, and even with such a heavy load the pack remained comfortable even on steep uphill and downhill walking. I am not the most organised hiker so the lack of small compartments inside the main bag did not bother me all that much, but this could be a potential problem to someone who enjoys have his/her toothbrush, toothpaste and floss in three separate little pockets.
The most exciting (and most tricky) part of the route is on the fourth day, when you have to cross the mouth of the Bloukrans (Afrikaans: Blue Cliff) river. This is a dangerous crossing, which can only be attempted at low tide. It entails waterproofing your pack (most commonly by means of a waterproof survival bag) and swimming to a little sandy shore on the other side of the mouth, which is surrounded by sheer rock face, fighting a current that's trying to pull you into the sea, all the while praying that the sharks for which the mouth is renowned for are either sleeping or have just had lunch. Doesn't seem safe to you? Believe me it isn't
but TIA (this is Africa)!
Thinking that my already waterproof pack wouldn't give me problems, I made it float on its splash cover and swam it over like a raft in front of me. This was fairly effective, except for a bit of human error which caused the bottom compartment to get wet. Luckily no train smash and I were able to continue hiking without delay.
All in all I was very impressed with the performance of the pack. One day was done with frequent rain and the waterproofing worked very effectively. The large capacity of the bag and its sturdy build makes it ideal for a hike like this.
Long term report
I have used the bag extensively for the past two years, doing most of South Africa and Namibia's iconic trips, including the Drakensberg mountains, the Amatola mountain range, the Cederberg and the Fish River Canyon (and, of course, Table Mountain numerous times).
I have also used it to backpack through Zanzibar, Tanzania and Malawi and even Darkest Africa couldn't place a dent into this bag's stride.
Never once had the bag halted my progress or my mobility. It is still in very good condition, although you can see that it has been used quite a bit now.
I would recommend the K-Way Advance 85 to the serious hikers who find their current bag always just that little bit too small to fit in everything that they want to take with them on a hike or a backpacking holiday. Even though the bag is listed as unisex on Cape Union Mart's website, in my experience the bag is a little too bulky and cumbersome for most females.
Things I like:
1. The hip belt is very comfortable and built to take a heavy load
2. The bag, overall, performs very well under heavy loads
3. Its enormity you can take the kitchen sink with you on your next trip if you have one of these
4. Its durability, although one should be careful when putting it onto your back, as putting too much strain on the area where the shoulder straps connect to the pack have caused little tears in mine.
Things I don't:
1. The side pockets are difficult to access when the pack is fully loaded
2. There are no pockets on the hip belt to put small things in, like a notebook or energy bars
3. There is a sleeve for a hydration pack but no hole in the pack for the bladder's pipe to go through (note: apparently this has been fixed in the new version of the pack)
4. There are no internal organisational pockets in the main pack, which could cause you to lose your toothbrush if it gets mixed up with the rest of your gear (or even yourself, if you're not careful).