Published on August 2nd, 2011 | by Greg0
Deuter: German Engineering Brings Us The ‘Future’
One thing that never ceases to amaze: the quantity of items you’ll end up wanting to bring on all but the shortest overnight hikes and treks. Beyond your water and snacks, you’ll want a change of clothes, maybe some sandals, some survival and emergency gear, and all of the accoutrement to sleep and eat- a stove and fuel, pots, pillow, sleeping bag, toothbrush. And then there are the lights and maps and batteries and maybe a GPS and probably a good book and toilet paper and… well, you get the idea. It’s easy enough to get a bag that fits everything- but getting it to be comfortable, accessible, and still look decent is a lot more difficult.
Deuter’s Future Vario 50+10 manages all of the above, and manages to rise above most competitors with some smart features but without being too complicated. It’s a bag meant for a specific set of scenarios- not all use-cases will find it, well, useful. But if you are looking for a 40-60L pack, this could very well be the one.
There’s a lot to like here, provided you’re not in truly alpine conditions, and you aren’t looking for something really small or really big. For most folks, this will be a nice three-day weekend pack for everything you need. Some could definitely cram a week’s worth of stuff inside, but it also isn’t the best bag for airline travel, where wheels matter and fitting into an overhead compartment or under your seat conveniently is key. Nope, seek other bags for those needs- but the Vario is just the ticket for super-comfortable shoulder straps and excellent balance on your other outings.
We liked the hip belt more than any bag we’ve tried, with the exception of custom and molded varieties. We counted something like five compartments- a zippered front, an internal one for valuables, two side “bellows”, and a wet clothing pocket. And another on the waist belt itself! All of them were well placed. The zippers were only OK- the pulls are nice, but can snag on occasion. But every tester, male and female, liked the color and materials Deuter chose, and almost regardless of size and age were able to fit the bag. Kids won’t work, and at least one super-tall person found it a bit constraining, but everyone else made use of the Vario system that allows users to adjust the shoulder straps in a couple of ways to fit appropriately. We were a bit skeptical of the technology, but it won us over- the 3×3 grid system we saw recently seemed neat at first but wasn’t quite as customizable as the one deployed here. The same was true for the VariFlex hip belt “system”- it didn’t seem like much at first, but what looked like basically another strap offered a significant and impressive improvement during uphill and downhill portions, where your natural bend can result in awkward tension on your hips and lower back.
There are some weaknesses here- only two of our four sleeping bags fit into the provided area. But the engineering quality and technical innovation deployed are impressive- the back of the bag looks almost insectoid, and the straps and linings and stitching all felt solid and durable. We didn’t spend too much time in the rain, but a raincover is included. And though no hydration pouch is built-in or included, a nice pocket fits up to three liters. The +10, by the way, refers to the fact that the lid is adjustable and can be “overflowed”- we didn’t need to use it, but it’s an interesting and potentially quite handy feature. All in all, this is probably the best overall weekend retreat bag we’ve reviewed, and a great improvement since the last Deuter came our way, almost exactly a year ago. At nearly $200, it’s pricey if you aren’t going to use it often- but worth it’s 4 pounds and ten ounces to minimize your backaches and vastly simplify your packing.