REI has introduced a new ultralight day pack called the Stoke 29. It’s perfectly sized for long day hikes, with a large main compartment and three exterior mesh pockets (2 side, 1 front.) I adore mesh packets like this because I can me stow all of the gear or food I need during a hike so it’s easily accessible without having to fumble around in the main compartment. That’s were I keep a lot of the 10 essentials I bring along on day hikes, but hope I never have to use.
The other nice thing about the Stoke 29 is that it’s very lightweight at just 1 pound 8 ounces. That’s a lot lighter than many other day packs that weigh 2 or even 3 pounds and makes a real difference if you’re taking long day hikes that are 4 to 10 hours in length.
Although considered frameless, the Stoke 29 has a foam back panel that helps retain its shape and facilitate the transfer of pack weight to the hip belt. The foam pad is removable and can be replaced with a harder pad or piece of DIY neoprene if you want a bit more rigidity. This is not really necessary because the pack carries wonderfully with excellent load transfer to the hip belt.
One interesting feature on this pack, that I don’t ever recall seeing elsewhere, is the use of “stabilizer wings” that connect the bottom of the shoulder straps to the back bottom of the pack. These help pull the base of the pack onto the back of your hips and lumbar shelf so that pack your hips carry more of the pack weight. It’s quite a clever design and works great on the Stoke 29 and I’m frankly curious to see if it would work as well on a heavier and higher capacity pack (like a REI Stoke 40 or Stoke 45.)
Weightwise, REI recommends that the Stoke 29 be used for loads up to 10 pounds in weight which I think is a bit low for this pack, and I’d add another 5 pounds to that number. Truth is, I have to work hard to fill this pack to full capacity (seems larger than it is) and it’s been able to easily handle every day hiking load I’ve tried with it.
There are a few things on this pack that don’t work all that well: the side compression straps tend to pull the top of the pack away from your back if the main compartment isn’t full and the top lid pocket flops over the main compartment in an awkward manner. Neither of these diminish the functionality of the Stoke 29, but they detract from the aesthetics of the pack for me.
Overall, I think the Stoke 29 is a very functional and comfortable day pack that that’s ideal for hikers who want to scale up to longer distance, day long trips. This backpack has plenty of capacity to carry the 10 essentials, extra water and food, and is nicely organized with internal and external storage options that make it very easy to use.
- External mesh pockets
- Great load to hip belt weight transfer; very comfortable
- Excellent size/volume
- Top pocket is a bit awkward; flops backwards over main compartment
- Hip belt pockets are too small for much of anything
- Very limited torso sizing; only 18-20″
- Best Use: Day Hiking
- Frame Type: Frameless
- Ultralight: Yes
- Gear Capacity: (M) – 29L/1769 cubic inches, (L) – 31L/1892 cubic inches
- Recommended Max Load – 10 pounds, from manufacturer (I think this is at least 5 pounds low)
- Backpack Weight: (M) – 1 pound 8 ounces, (L) – 1 pound 8 ounces
- Torso Size: (M) 17-19 inches; (L) 18-20 inches
- Fits Waist/Hips: (M) 28-44 inches; (L) 30-46 inches
- Material: Ripstop Nylon
- Type: Top Loader
- Pockets: three exterior mesh, two hip belt pockets, top lid, interior hydration pocket + main compartment
- Air channels in back panel reduce perspiration; soft foam structure allows pack to conform to your back for a stable fit
- Load lifters and side compression straps
- Breathable mesh shoulder straps enhance air circulation
- Stabilizer wings connect the shoulder straps to the bottom of the pack to reduce unwanted bouncing
- Hipbelt cinches with a forward pulling motion for quick, precise adjustment
- Top-loading main compartment ; top lid features a small pocket for often-used gear
- Hydration sleeve in the main compartment holds a reservoir (sold separately) for hands-free drinking on the trail; hydration tube can be routed through either shoulder strap
- Front mesh pocket adjusts to help stabilize and compress the pack’s load
- Twin hipbelt zip pockets
- Quick Clip tool loops that hold an ice axe or trekking poles
Disclosure: SectionHiker.com (Philip Werner) owns this backpack and purchased it using his own funds.
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