Field test and review
As every seasoned hiker knows, having a quality day pack for your outdoor adventures is extremely important. As you begin to research the best day packs to suit your hiking needs, you will find there is a vast array of packs in a seemingly endless sea to choose from. There are more day packs on the market today than any other pack style. So many in fact that you might just find yourself simply giving up and opting for the cheapest one you can find. To be honest, that is not a bad way to start but it won’t be long until you understand why that pack was cheap.
Among the choices, you will find many day packs worthy of your money, others are simply a waste of the material they are made from. So how do you select the best day pack for the traveling YOU?
Well for me, it has all been a case of trial and error. If you have hiked with me before you will know that when it comes to hiking there is one piece of equipment that I love. I really can’t explain what it is that has led me to now own over 25 packs of different shapes and sizes but every time I see a new pack on the market I am keen to get it on my back and see how well it performs. I am somewhat a perfectionist so maybe my fascination is born from an ongoing need to find the ‘perfect pack’ that does everything I need. I have even considered designing my own.
Through this ongoing search I have developed quite a comprehensive pack selection criterion. Does the pack have separate hydration compartments, enough storage compartments, expandable pockets for varying loads, adequate ventilation, internal gear loops, external gear loops, is it comfortable to wear, is the hip belt load-bearing, is it light-weight, durable, does it pack down well for transport and storage? The list could go on, but there is probably no point as I had come to believe that I would never find a day pack that met all my needs. Most did a great job at providing reasonable comfort, one or two gear loops, a hydration sleeve, a couple of pockets but I have never found a day pack that did much more than this.
Recently I was contacted by Summit Global, who is the Australian distributor for Coxa Carry, a Swedish born company with a passion to design and produce the perfect day pack. As you might imagine, I was somewhat excited as I agreed to field-test the COXA M18 Day Pack. First thing I did while I was waiting for it to arrive was jump on the COXA Carry website to find out a bit more about the company and their products. It was apparent that their primary markets were cycling and skiing, so I was interested to see how a pack for these markets would translate into the hiking arena. While they are all outdoors activities, hiking certainly places greater demand on your gear in terms of need for durability and the capacity for loads you are carrying.
Three days later, the pack arrived from Summit Global. It was packaged in a branded box, reinforcing the message that this was a quality product inside. I was excited about what lay before me, it was a great looking pack with a carrying system I had not seen on any other pack. I spent the next 30 minutes exploring the features of the COXA M18.
So many storage compartments, I counted nine in total. Externally, the COXA M18 has five pockets which include a small rear zipped pocket, two mesh side-pockets, large zipped pocket on the lid and lined pocket that runs the full length of the pack which is designed for carrying your iPad, maps or any flat item that you need to stow away from the rest of your gear for ease of access. There is also a zipped access point for direct access into the internal base of the pack, which can be sectioned off from the upper internal section. I really do love a pack that has direct access to the internal base as it means to you access all your gear without pulling everything out. The ability to divide the main compartment is also great for keeping wet gear away from your dry.
Gear can be carried externally thanks to the four gear loops sewn onto the base of the pack. There are also four at the top, two ice-axe loops on the sides and two elastic loops for securing your hiking poles.
Internally, this pack leaves nothing to chance with a zipped mesh pocket under the lid, wide mesh pocket for storing valuables and navigation gear, large main storage compartment, large sleeve behind the main storage and a zipped hydration bladder pocket with two external access points for the hose. I also discovered a mesh sleeve for securing clothing, three Velcro gear loops, two plastic gear hooks and to my astonishment, an elastic loop for securing your thermos or water bottle upright. Perfect for winter hiking.
The separate reservoir compartment allows you to stow your water supply away from your gear, this is great for ease of access as well as protection for the reservoir. Recently I had one rupture on a hike as the pack I was using did not have a separate hydration space.
With all the storage options provided, I was confident there was a place to safely and securely carry all the gear I would ever need for a day hike. Finally, the pack I had dreamed about.
Putting on the COXA M18 for the first time is where things became really interesting. So interesting in fact that I now understood why the pack came with its own instruction manual. After studying the manual for ten minutes and watching a few handy YouTube videos I was confidently able to secure this pack to my back, where it belonged. You can find instructions on fitting and adjustment here.
All COXA packs have a unique carrying system. The straps pass over your shoulder like any other pack but instead of passing under your arms and back to the lower pack, they intersect in the centre of your chest and then secure to the waist strap, directly below. This unique design redistributes weight away from your shoulders and down to your hip, rendering the day pack weightless to your shoulders. As the shoulder straps are no longer passing under your arms, this design eliminates arm-pit chafing but more importantly, leaves your arms a lot freer when hiking. I found this to be a real advantage when rock scrambling and climbing as well as in rough terrain where climbing over obstacles was a regular occurrence. I imagine this pack would be ideal too for trail runners and bike riders for this extra freedom of movement. The shoulder straps have and open mesh inner to maximize breathability and I found the cut of the straps to be especially comfortable, they just felt natural. The shoulder straps also have a huge adjustment range that will easily accommodate most body shapes and sizes.
The load bearing hip belt is wide and sits comfortably, even on my hips (or lack thereof), taking any load off your shoulders and placing it firmly on your hips where it belongs. I forgot to mention above that there is also a mesh pocket located on the left and right hip belt, perfect for your snacks. That is seven external pockets, eleven pockets in total.
The COXA M18 is comfortable, stable and flexible and once secured to my hips it never really moved, even over tough and challenging terrain. If you enjoy rock climbing and scrambling on your hikes, your will appreciate that the buckle has Quick Release feature for quickly dumping the pack. It is easy to put on and off, if you are caught somewhere you can remove the backpack in seconds with the use of one hand.
Fully loaded and secured to my back I could hardly feel that I was wearing this pack. The back panel features a mesh fabric over the entire pack length for improved ventilation and that seemed to perform as expected. One thing I don’t particularly like about many of my packs is the way the back panel is addressed. Some have awesome ventilation/air flow features while others have none and leave you with a horribly wet back even after a few hours on the trail. I have taken this pack on half a zone hikes, three of which were in tropical Queensland and I am happy to say it appears to breath well.
A lot of day packs are large and bulky and will require you to remove your pack to access external pockets, simply because they are beyond reach. One thing I love about this pack is the narrower body depth. What this meant was I was able to easily reach behind me and into the mesh side pockets. They both have a central opening that is conveniently placed so that you can simply reach back to access your food, extra water or gear. The rear zipped pocket is also easily accessible and with one hand I could reach back, unzip the pocket to access food, my hat or any other item I had stowed there. Very clever thinking.
As this pack has been designed to cater to cycling enthusiasts and skiers it is also equipped with a red LED light on the back of the pack. With a single press of the switch you can toggle between always-on, flashing and off. As a hiker this could be a useful addition in emergency situations, when hiking in winter or at night to help keep track of fellow hikers. I always lay my pack down on its back when we stop for breaks and was often informed that I was ‘flashing’ again as the light had turned itself on when impacting the ground. I started to get used to that and always checked before putting my pack back on. Unfortunately, on a recent day-hike we were required to spend considerable time rock scrambling and free climbing and I hit the back of my pack against the side of a narrow chimney. The LED broke into at least 4 pieces and fell between the crevices below. Despite my efforts to retrieve it, the LED just wasn’t meant to be.
I have carried this day pack on every hike for the past two months and the only area where I can truly offer suggestions for improvement would be to relocate the gear loops, that sit under the pack, there are four of them in total. I found that the pack does have a long body length, meaning it sits quite low and after climbing/scrambling/sliding down rocky terrain for hours on end on recent hikes I did note considerable damage to these loops as the base of the pack was being dragged along the rocks constantly. To the credit of COXA Carry, the actual pack did not sustain any damage, or signs of wear despite the treatment I have given it.
Another thing I should mention is that a rain cover is included with the pack even though the COXA Carry website lists it as an item by itself. Although the construction material is somewhat water repellent it is great that the rain cover is provided as standard, not as an optional extra as I have found with a lot of packs.
As I mentioned earlier, I am a bit of a perfectionist at heart and one day hoped to find the perfect pack that addresses my needs for every day hike. I know that is a big ask as every hike and every hiker is different. So far, I am really impressed with the COXA M18 Day Pack. It is good looking, functional, comfortable, provides me with freedom of movement and once I read the manual and practiced a few times (quite a few times) I find it super easy to adjust, fit and wear.
As briefly mentioned earlier, this is not an inexpensive day pack so clearly is not for everyone. If you can afford the price tag and are looking for a new or replacement pack, I highly recommend checking these out.
For more information about Coxa Carry please contact [email protected].
COXA M18 Day Pack
- Number of fluid systems: 2 (not included)
- Hydration capacity: 1-3 litres
- High visibility: 3M™ reflective material
- LED light: Yes
- Users: Unisex
- Material back side: Breathable 3D Mesh (nylon)
- External pockets: 7
- Internal pockets: 4
- Pack volume: 18 litres
- Packable weight: 10kg
- Detachable mesh pocket: Purchased separately
- Rain cover: Purchased separately
- Front pocket: Purchased separately
- Dimensions: 300x530mm
- Weight: 1150 grams
Field Tested by
Darren Edwards > www.trailhiking.com.au