New in for review, Lowe Alpine’s new Quest 37 is a redesigned version of the proven AirZone ventilated pack system and first impressions are that it’s cracker with sleeker, more refined design than some of its slightly frumpy predecessors.
Ventilated packs with a trampoline-style back system which creates an air-gap between pack and back have been around for years now, but they’ve gradually been refined to iron out the disadvantages.
The Quest is arguably Lowe’s best yet example. For starters, the mesh section of the back is heavily cut away to maximise air contact while still giving comfortable support. The mesh itself is reinforced with solid strips and all the body contact areas use a wicking fabric for fast-drying summer comfort.
The pack also uses the brand’s excellent AdaptiveFit shoulder straps and hip-belt, which adapt well to different body shapes and a cleverly-shaped, two-part lumbar pad. The result is instant comfort based on initial try-outs. The pack sits nicely with none of the ‘pull-away’ sensation of some earlier packs and gives a really nice carry, kind of supple and cushioned without being sloppy.
Looks And Function
Of course there's lots more to a pack than whether it feels comfortable, though that's a great start in our book. The good news is that Lowe Alpine has really worked hard on both details and construction. The pack looks great, but more importantly, the main body has avoided the overly thin, curved banana shape that makes for awkward packing.
That main compartment's also accessible from a short side zip low down on one side - great for, say, extracting a buried waterproof in the hour of need and is backed up by a kangaroo family-worth of additional stowage pockets, notably outside and inside lid, two side stretch bottle pockets, one stash pocket on the front of pack plus an additional lower zip-pocket that looks spot on for map stowage for example.
And if that's not enough for you, there's also a neat stretchy zip-pocket on the righthand side of the hip-belt. Great for cameras, snacks and anything else you need quick access to on the move. There's also a single ice-axe loop and Lowe's moulded trekking TipGripper pole stowage gubbins. The top anchor point is an easy-clip shock-corded one, easy to use with gloves and cold fingers. Hydration system compatibility and rain cover are also ticks.
Oh, we forgot one of the pockets, there's one on the shoulder-strap too, phone sized. Less visible is the basic enduring quality of Lowe Alpine's construction. The fabric feels light and tough, seams are double stitched, then bound and stitched again and crucial stress points are reinforced. Our experience of the brand is that the packs are seriously durable, reliable beasts.
Day Walk Or Overnighting
What with all those features, you might expect the 37-litre pack to be seriously heavy, but while at 1370g measured it's not in the ultra lightweight bracket, it's hardly a behemoth either, particularly given that with the right choice of lightweight bivi kit it would arguably do double service as a daypack come weekend-packing sac or as a winter-walking one.
If you don't need the full 37-litre capacity, there's also a Quest 27 and, for women, the Quest ND30 with women's-specific fit and features. And just to confuse you further, there's a whole other family of AirZone system packs with capacities right up to 55 litres if you're looking for a hot-weather trekking/backpacking load-hauler.
Initial impressions are uniformly positive. The AirZone Quest 37 seems to have ironed out the weaknesses of past ventilated packs, adds in reliable build-quality and a great carry, plus garnishes it all with as much additional stowage as most people will ever need with no fewer than eight separate pockets to choose from.
How well do vented packs function? It varies, but generally we reckon they're a good call in hot conditions, particularly when it's breezy. But here's the thing, if you didn't know the Quest was ventilated, you'd never know from the way it carries.
The AirZone Quest 37 retails for a suggested £89.99.
Good build quality, excellent carry, numerous storage options, vented back, modern looks, additional zip access to main compartment.
Heavier than more weight-focussed packs.
[score overall='4.5' performance='4.5' reliability='4.5' value='4.5']
- Price: £89.99
- Year: 2014
- Weight: 1370
- AirZone breathable back
- Front stash pocket
- Hipbelt pocket
- Hydration compatible
- Internal key clip
- Lash points
- Zipped lid pocket
- Phone pocket
- Rain cover
- Side entry to main compartment
- Stretch side stash pockets
- Walking Pole Tip Grippers