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Outdoor Vitals Skyline 30 Backpack Review

Outdoor Vitals Skyline 30 Backpack Review

While the Outdoor Vitals Skyline 30 Backpack is primarily designed for fastpacking, it makes an awesome daypack for hikers who prefer walking over running. Its vest-style shoulder harness distributes the load across your chest and back for a more comfortable carry. Numerous exterior pockets on the shoulder straps and the pack’s exterior, some quite clever, let you keep moving non-stop, while a spacious interior compartment provides plenty of storage for extra clothing and hiking essentials.

  • Weight: 20.6 oz (size medium)
  • Gender: Unisex
  • Volume: 23L (Size S and M) 26L (Size L) + 3L external open pockets
  • Frame: Foam Back Panel
  • Hydration Compatible: Yes
  • Hip belt: Not quite – there’s a removable webbing strap that wraps around your diaphragm
  • Pockets: Main + 6 on shoulder straps, 5 on pack exterior, 2 interior
  • Max Recommended Load: 20 lbs
  • Materials: 100D Robic Nylon, UltraStretch Pockets
  • Pros: Includes two 500ml HydraPak bottles, Durable external pockets, Sitpad pocket, Top Y Strap
  • Cons: Carries best when full, Bottle Pockets are a bit snug

Fastpacks for Day Hikers

Many more day hikers use vest-style packs than trail runners or fastpackers because they’re comfortable and have lots of external storage, so you don’t have to stop to access gear or food buried inside your pack. With 30L or less of storage and max recommended loads of 20-25 pounds, fastpacks dovetail quite nicely with the needs of day hikers and peak baggers, particularly those who take on more challenging routes and walk all day at a fairly constant clip. While you could use the Outdoor Vitals Skyline 30 as a fastpack for overnight trips, it makes a fantastic three-season day pack, and it is that use case that I’m going to focus on in this review.

The pack’s front, side, and bottom pockets are made with extremely tough UltraStretch Mesh.
The pack’s front, side, and bottom pockets are made with extremely tough UltraStretch Mesh.

Backpack Design

The Skyline 30 is a vest-style pack, meaning the weight is distributed across the top of your chest, shoulders, and upper back. With their wider surface area and light padding, the vest-style shoulder straps help distribute the load across your chest while holding it closer to your torso for a more efficient carry. The back of the pack, which is frameless, is padded by soft die-cut foam that conforms to the curves of your torso. The overall effect is like wearing a vest with a torso-hugging fit that moves with you almost effortlessly. Compared to a conventional daypack, the Skyline will ride a little higher on your back, and the bottom of the pack will be slightly higher than your waist.

In addition, the Skyline comes with a waist strap, which is a removable webbing belt designed to prevent the pack from bouncing when you’re running. But even though Outdoor Vitals calls it a “Waist Belt,” it loops around the top of your diaphragm (think breastbone) and not your waist. I didn’t find it to be necessary for hiking since the pack contents and vest shoulder straps, which have two sternum straps, do a good job at keeping the pack in place.

The Skyline 30 comes with two 500ml HydraPak soft bottles with sipping lids.
The Skyline 30 comes with two 500ml HydraPak soft bottles with sipping lids.

The vest straps are covered with layered pockets of different sizes. The most pronounced are the bottle pockets, which hold two 500ml HydoPak UltraFlask WMX soft bottles included with the pack. There are two pockets on top of them with vertical zippers, which are good for packing bars or gels (but are too small for a Smartphone), and two open stretch pockets at the base of the straps, which you can stuff a head-net, a buff, light gloves, or more food. Since all of these pockets overlap, you may not be able to use them all simultaneously, but it’s nice to have the option to use them how you choose.

The Skyline 30 comes with two HydraPak UltraFlasks. They retail each for $22, but two are included with the pack for free.
The Skyline 30 comes with two HydraPak UltraFlasks. They retail each for $22, but two are included with the pack for “free.”

The soft HydraPak bottles have wide-mouth lids, so you can put ice in them. They have nipple-like spouts that you suck on when you want a drink. The vest pockets holding them are a little snug, but it’s easy to drop a full bottle into them to seat them. The nice thing about their location on the vest is that you can turn your head and reach for a nipple with your neck when you want a drink; there’s no need to remove the bottles from the pocket.

The back is padded with die cut foam that conforms to your body. It’s covered with fine mesh so there’s some ventilation.
The back is padded with die-cut foam that conforms to your body. It’s covered with fine mesh, so there’s some ventilation.

The rest of the pack is a standard ultralight roll-top backpack with a front mesh pocket and two side pockets. All three pockets are made with UltraStretch mesh, which is extremely tough to rip. The front mesh pocket isn’t huge, but it’s large enough to store a water filter, an empty soft bottle, and all the food you’d want for the day. The side pockets are also large enough to store SmartWater bottles or other longer objects like Tenkara fishing rods. The side pockets have two tiers of compression cords, one level with the top of the stretch mesh and the other higher so you can secure longer objects.

There are two compression cords for securing items in the pockets,
There are two compression cords for securing items in the pockets,

There are two additional pockets at the base of the pack. One is more of a sleeve than a pocket, which you can use to hold a sit pad or stuff a coat into. There’s a second hidden zippered pocket made with mesh that runs the width of the pack below it, which is also great for storing spare gloves, hats, or maps. Yeah, some of us still carry paper maps!

While the bottom UltraStretch panel can be used as a sitpad sleeve, it also serves to protect the zippered mesh pocket underneath it.
While the bottom UltraStretch panel can be used as a sitpad sleeve, it also serves to protect the zippered mesh pocket underneath it.

While the Skyline 30 is a roll-top, there are two more pockets inside the pack! A removable reservoir pocket can hold a hydration bladder and is attached with clips to keep it from falling to the bottom of the pack. If used, the hose comes out of the pack bag through a hydration port between the vest straps. A second small pocket is sewn into a seam on the other side that is sized for securely holding a wallet and keys. Again, it’s near the top of the main compartment, so it doesn’t fall to the bottom of the pack.

External Attachment Points

The outside of the pack has two loops at its base to hold trekking poles and an elastic shaft holder for carrying an ice axe. There’s also a Y-strap that runs over the top of the pack bag and can be used to secure items draped over the pack, like a coat or a foam pad.

Packing the Skyline 30

The Skyline 30 carries best when it’s packed full. The Robic Nylon fabric that the pack is made from has no body and sags unless it has contents to give it a shape. That’s why I say it’s best for all-day day-hikes or peakbagging adventures when you’re hiking bigger miles and need to carry enough food, clothing, and extras that you could weather an unexpected overnight or care for an injured companion until help can arrive. More conventional backpacks skirt this issue because they have a frame or a more rigid framesheet that gives the pack bag a shape regardless of how much you’ve packed.

The side straps don’t provide much compression because they don’t have stable anchors. Instead they function to secure gear in the side pockets.
The side straps don’t provide much compression because they don’t have stable anchors. Instead they function to secure gear in the side pockets.

When packed less than full, the Skyline pack bag buckles in on itself when the side compression straps are tightened because they aren’t anchored to a stable foundation, like a frame. In other words, the side compression straps don’t provide very effective compression: they mainly prevent the contents in the side pockets from falling out.

Comparable vest-style backpacks for fastpacking and day hiking

Make and ModelVolume (L)
Gossamer Gear Fast Kumo36
Six Moon Designs Flight Ultra Running Pack30
Nashville Packs Cutaway30
Osprey Talon Velocity30
Black Diamond Distance22
Black Diamond Beta Lite30
Ultimate Direction Fastpack 30
Ultimate Direction All Mountain 30
MountainSmith Zerk40
Pa'lante Pack Joey24

Recommendation

The Outdoor Vitals Skyline 30 is an impressive vest-style backpack that can be used for fastpacking or extended day hiking and peakbagging. Its vest-style shoulder straps help distribute loads across your chest, shoulders, and back while providing all-day comfort. Numerous external pockets let you keep all the water, food, and gear you need during the day close at hand while the roll-top stores the extra clothing, food, or emergency supplies that need to be accessed less frequently. Because it’s frameless, the Skyline 30  works best when packed full of gear, making it more suitable for ultralight overnight trips or all-day hikes rather than more casual day hiking. Highly recommended!

Shop at Outdoor Vitals

Disclosure: Outdoor Vitals donated a pack for review.

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