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Savotta Saddle Sack 339 Backpack | Review

If you want old school retro but still reliable, the Savotta Saddle Sack is well worth considering

Why We Chose It: Retro looks, tried and tested materials, quirkiness!

It was on social media that we first spotted Finland-based Savotta, when a video popped up showing one of their big bearded employees launching a packed tent from a medieval trebuchet. Digging deeper, we also found someone riding on a backpack while being dragged behind a pick-up truck.

Savotta are a quirky brand, that’s for sure, but that’s not to say they shouldn’t be taken seriously, not when they’ve got almost 70 years of outdoor gear making heritage behind them.

This external frame backpack is based on one of their first ever products. In fact, it’s barely any different from the original made in the 1950s. Refusing to bow to convention, it still proudly sports an external frame and paraffin-treated cotton, plus that original Savotta badge. The only noticeable update is that they’ve swapped the leather straps for webbed ones (the smaller 323 design still uses leather though).

“Refusing to bow to convention, it still proudly sports an external frame and paraffin-treated cotton.”

Modern packs are getting more and more high tech, and in turn, some would argue that even the best backpacks for hiking are getting a bit too fussy. This is a pack for those who want to go back to the old ways, using something that almost looks a part of the landscape rather than something straight out of a science lab. OK you might not get a pack that is quite as luxuriously comfortable, or light in weight, but at least you know it’ll last a heck of a lot longer.

The materials are all tried and tested after all. The thick cotton has a very dense weave that’s able to withstand any abrasion and will block out all but the heaviest and prolonged rainfall. You can also apply extra wax onto it yourself if you want added water resistance. Then there’s the steel carrying system which is curved at the bottom so the pack can self-stand. None of that flimsy aluminium stuff here. To keep the Saddle Sack off your back there’s a sheet of webbing and then a tight strap, or ‘saddle’, at the bottom that, well, looks like a tightened seatbelt.

The traditional carry system is a tried and tested approach. Photo: Chris Johnson
The Saddle Sack 339 is baed on Savotta's original products. Photo: Chris Johnson
The Saddle Sack can carry up to 65 litres. Photo: Chris Johnson

It has a whopping 55-65 litre capacity, which at first glance seems surprising, but then once you’ve opened up all of the volume adjustment cords and delved into the main body of the bag it’s understandable. With that main compartment, along with the two flask sized pockets on the sides and Old Testament (c.18th century) sized front pocket, this thing will swallow up all you need for a backpacking trip. For shorter trips, the cords on each side can cinch the pack in to bring it down to a more convenient 40 litres.

Considering the, shall we say, old-fashioned back system and lack of a hipbelt, you probably wouldn’t want to be carrying very heavy loads in this. It’s better suited to light to medium amounts. You can add a basic hipbelt to the base of the steel frame but this will only help to keep the pack close to your back, rather than helping to lessen the burden on the shoulders.

The straps on the shoulder harness are a little tricky. They’re not designed to be adjusted while on the go, so you’re supposed to take the pack off and negotiate them to the right length. After sorting them before setting off on your trip you shouldn’t need to tend to them again though.

To open up the Saddle Sack you need to loosen up the straps connecting the lid to the main body and then loosen the drawcord toggle as well. Again, it’s a little fiddly compared to the buckle systems modern packs use, but you know, if you want a modern pack, get a modern pack!

If you want old school retro but still reliable, this is definitely one for you.

Traditional, for sure. But sometimes it's nice to go back to the old ways. Photo: Chris Johnson
The bag is suspended at the lumbar by a strap. Photo: Chris Johnson
Drawcords on the size give volume adjustment. Photo: Chris Johnson

Tester’s Verdict

Giles Dean, Outdoors Magic staff

“I have been testing this pack on overnight bushcraft adventures in the UK and have found it to be the perfect bit of kit for that kind of stuff. The classic style is something I am a big fan of – the leather badge is a great bit of detail – and it feels very at home in the woods.

“The simplicity and the ease of use is massively refreshing; the main compartment has no internal pockets nor does the lid have any fancy features. Space is king in the main body of the bag and you can get a lot of kit into it, but at the same time there’s loads of volume adjustment which is useful for those trips that don’t require as much gear. When set up like this you there isn’t the feeling that you are carrying a huge bag with nothing in it.

The treated cotton has good wet weather performance and is tough enough to withstand any abrasion that the thickest forest has to throw at it – it’s a bag that’s truly built to last. The back system is unique in this day in age, with a metal frame – steel is real – that provides plenty of support and spreads the load out nicely.”

Trade Secrets

Jenni Valkeinen – Savotta Marketing Staff

“The 339 is already much more than just a backpack: due to its size and carrying features, this saddle zack could be a small rucksack. The spacious, easily packed bag and the carrying comfort of a modern external frame backpack make the 339 a fine choice for longer trips as well. A classic model from the 1950s, only the materials have been updated over the years but the design has remained the same.”

Savotta Sadle Sack 339 Backpack

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