Gear Review: EMS Women’s Trail 30-Liter Backpack

Photo by Brandon Scherzberg

Photo by Brandon Scherzberg

I'm always on the lookout for new gear, and, more specifically, gear that can take a beating. I'm not that outdoor athlete who babies her boots and backpacks (more often than not, my packs roast in the back of my car until the musty smell takes over completely. Then I'll wipe them off and unpack. If there's nothing good on Netflix that day.) So when I needed a new overnight backpacking bag, I needed something that could stand up to my abusive habits.

I'll start by saying that the Eastern Mountain Sports Women's Trail 30-Liter Backpack was on sale, so that swayed me—but I was pleasantly surprised all the same. My normal overnight bag was a hefty 50-liter, so I was looking for something a little lighter. I took this bad boy out for a two-week trip to Colorado, the Tetons, and the North Cascades for a true test, and here's what I found.

It can take a beating

I dragged my poor pack through crazy Colorado hailstorms, scraped it against all types of rock, left it in the dust, and doused it in mud more than once. I have yet to clean it, but it looks straight-out-of-the-box new.

It's comfortable

The shoulder straps and padded waist belt are contoured to a woman's shape, so there's no unnecessary digging or rubbing. Side, top, and bottom compression straps can be expanded or tightened until the back feels weightless, making this one of the most comfortable packs I've owned.

It holds (almost) everything I needed

For a simple overnight trip, I could fit everything I needed minus my tent, which is saying a lot for a 30-liter subjected to my over packing habits. This pack expands quite a bit and there are plenty of slim pockets for stashing spare socks and headlamps.

It has many of the features I was looking for

This pack comes with straps for safety whistles, a hydration bladder sleeve, straps for tying on frying pans or extra jackets, gear loops for walking poles or ice axes, and a spacious top interior pocket.

But not all of them

I sorely missed the mesh organizer pockets on the side of the bag for water bottles. The hip pockets felt too small. There is only a large main compartment, so if I needed something, the entire bag had to be opened up—I much prefer bags with front pockets or detachable brains. I would have loved to see a dry bag or rainfly built into this bag to protect it more from the rain.

The verdict

If you're an occasional backpacker like me, who travels in groups that can effectively divvy up supplies, this is a great find. It's lightweight, stands up to dirt and moisture, it's comfortable, and it holds enough for an overnight trip without an excess of stuff sacks and strategic packing. If you're looking for something a little more rugged and multifunctional, look elsewhere.

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