The Vaude Brenta 30 is a great hiking backpack with easy access to the main compartment and many handy pockets. It can be adjusted to different heights, and the ergonomic spring steel frame is not only airy but helps to support the weight. The water-resistant fabric even has a built-in rain cover for extra protection. It really has everything you need.
Great access to compartments
Slightly heavier than similarly sized bags
Initially tricky to adjust the height
Narrow packing space
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There's nothing worse than trying to find an item in a jammed backpack with a single top-access zipper. You have to pull everything out and then repack, which isn't ideal, especially on longer walks.
Fortunately, this isn't a problem you'll have with the Vaude Brenta 30, thanks to the large side zipper, which gives access from the front and top. This alone makes it a contender for one of the best hiking backpacks.
But it stands out because the adjustable height options, effective ventilation, and considered network of pockets make it a great all-rounder; comfortable to wear all day but flexible enough for long, wet hikes.
I tested it on hilly day hikes and found there was plenty of spare room after loading it with two of my favorite water bottles for hiking, a packed lunch, snacks, trekking poles, an extra jacket, and a battery.
Vaude Brenta 30 review: price and warranty
At $150/£140, the bag is good value for money and is about the same price as the similarly sized Helly Hansen Transistor. The company offers a repair service and has online guides to help you fix broken buckles and replace straps.
Unlike some with some outdoor brands, there isn't an extended warranty, so you're covered for two years against material defects or production errors, but anything else is subject to a repair charge.
Vaude Brenta 30 review: design
With its soft shell, this 30-liter bag has plenty of capacity, although it is long and narrow rather than wide. Its most significant selling point is that you can access the main compartment from the top and side.
And there's a water and stain-resistant finish on the outside, so water just pearls on the surface and runs off. This will do for light rain, but there's also a rain cover and drawstring for heavier downpours.
Despite being made from a soft material, the pack seemed tough and durable while walking. Vaude also makes a big deal of its environmental credentials, like using recycled plastic for 50% of the polyester outer body.
Vaude Brenta 30 review: storage and organization
I love having multiple pockets and compartments for easy organization, so this is where the Vaude Brenta 30 worked well for me. Aside from the main compartment, you can access a top pocket from the outside.
In this pocket, there's a key hook, cell phone sleeve, and inner zipped pocket, which I found helpful for smaller loose items. On either side of the bag, there's a bottle mesh, which easily carries a liter bottle.
These are the primary storage areas, but several smaller ones are dotted around the bag, too, like the small zipped pocket on the right side of the padded hip strap or the front stretch pocket.
I used this for retractable poles, but you could use it for any item you need quick access to, like a jacket. Rounding things off, there are several loops and clips for trekking poles, sunglasses, and hydration systems.
Vaude Brenta 30 review: fit and comfort
After wearing the bag for several walks, I found it scores very highly for fit and comfort. It's clear that a lot of thought has gone into creating an ergonomic design that's comfortable even over longer periods.
You can shift the back height up or down to distribute the load and customize the bag for your body. This is a great system, but it's unclear how to use it initially.
Confusingly, the loop that says 'pull' is not actually what you pull. However, once I worked out the correct part of the strap, it was relatively easy to maneuver into the right spot for my torso.
I was impressed with the shoulder straps, which are easily the most comfortable I've ever tested. These straps are wider than on most bags, so they rest directly on your shoulder and are narrower under your arms.
This means they're comfortable for women around the chest as they don't dig in or make you feel constricted. Plus, you can adjust the chest strap, making it adaptable to different upper body shapes.
Like the other straps, the hip straps provide additional support and have a mesh lining to increase airflow. This was useful, but the most significant impact on the bag's ventilation came from the steel frame, which helps distribute the load.
But it also creates a gap between your body and the bag's fabric so that sweat won't get stuck to the rear side of the pack. So, the Vaude Brenta 30 is an ideal choice if you'll be out walking in hot conditions, but that does mean it's slightly heavier than other similarly sized bags.
Vaude Brenta 30 review: verdict
The Vaude Brenta 30 is a versatile bag great for hikers looking for something that will adjust to their shape, size, and height. While the inside storage space is narrow, many additional compartments exist for multiple items.
I was impressed with the excellent ventilation, which also makes this a good backpack for hotter climates. The shoulder straps are some of the most comfortable I've ever tried, and I couldn't fault the adjustable design.
It's such an impressive all-rounder that it's hard to find any downsides. It is a little narrow and initially tricky to adjust the height, but these are minor niggles on an otherwise flawless hiking backpack.
Helly Hansen Transistor
If you want something with more expansive internal space that can pack enough gear for a couple of days, the Helly Hansen Transistor is a good alternative. The only downside is the lack of waterproofing or rain cover.
Fjällräven Ulvö 30
If you're looking for a stylish commuter pack with endless pockets, the Fjällräven Ulvö 30 has masses of space and won't let you down if there's a sudden downpour, thanks to its near-impenetrable waterproofing.
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Lily Canter is a freelance money, health and lifestyle journalist with more than 20 years' experience. She writes about fitness for Runner's World and Trail Running magazines and focuses on personal finance for Yahoo! Finance UK, Metro, The Guardian, and the Mail on Sunday. In her spare time she is an ultra-runner, canicrosser and running coach. She also co-hosts the award-winning podcast Freelancing for Journalists.
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