Review: Kathmandu XT Incline gridTECH 40 litre backpack

Pros
Durable.
Waterproof roll-top main compartment.
Comfortable.
Large enough for overnight hikes with light camping gear.

Cons
Roll top can make regular access time consuming.

Price (at time of writing)
$299.98 ($179.99 for Kathmandu Members, which costs $10 to sign up)

Overview

Strictly speaking, the Incline 40 litre from Kathmandu was designed and built for back country skiing and snowboarding. It has means of carrying skis or a snowboard and even a pouch on the front for an avalanche shovel. But that doesn’t mean that’s all this bag can be used for. We picked one up for using on over night hikes and it’s crossed over extremely well thanks to it’s waterproof roll top closure, large compartments and comfort.

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Comfort

The Incline 40 doesn’t use a frame like some large, over night backpacks. Although that means it isn’t as adjustable as some competitors, which allow you to adjust the frame to the length of your back, it’s lighter as there’s no need for additional structure and mechanisms.

Despite the lack of adjustment for length, it’s made up for with extremely well padded shoulder straps, and hip belt. The quality of the foam used feels high. Firm but comfortable and shouldn’t lose it’s effectiveness for a long, long time.

Once the bag is on, it’s quick and simple to tighten the straps down and get the pack nice and snug against your back. On long, summer hikes it did get a bit hot and sticky, but we haven’t used a backpack yet that’s solved the ‘sweaty back’ issue.

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Functionality

Designed for real adventure, the Incline has everything you need and nothing you don’t. It’s simple and functional. It has a very large main compartment that can take the usual overnight equipment, plus 24 hours of water, plus food. That compartment is secured with a messenger style roll top that clips shut on either side of the pack, with easy to find red straps.

A smaller compartment at the front is perfect for the things you might need regularly and the avalanche spade pocket on the front is great for storing maps flat and easy to access.

You’ll find the usual drinks bottle holders on either side and on one side a sleeve, perfect for hiking poles or stashing tent poles safely on the outside to maximise space on the inside. Straps across each side allow you to compress the bag if you’re travelling light, making it less bulky overall.

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On the trail

The roll top is a nice feature for keeping the rain and dirt out, as well as compressing the bag down once everything is in, but it does become a pain if you need to keep going in and out of the bag once you’re on the trail. We found ourselves having to think about the order we pack our gear to avoid being caught in a shower with a raincoat stashed right at the bottom.

The gridTECH in the name refers to the material used on the outside of the pack in high abrasion areas. For the walking we do this comes in handy when not ducking low enough under fallen trees, or rubbing against rock walls as we squeeze through gaps. Although there are some scuff marks, there’s no sign of the pack being compromised.

That avalanche shovel pocket on the front, which at first looked as though it might be a bit redundant, has come in very handy for keeping long maps flat and is a great place to stash dirty or wet clothes, well away from dry and clean things inside.

One great feature we always look for is a pocket or two on the hip belt, perfect for holding a phone, Clif Bar, compass and trail notes. The essentials you find yourself needing regularly on the trail.

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Conclusion

It’s not a purpose built hiking backpack. You’d have to get inventive if you wanted to strap a roll mat to the outside and the lack of an adjustable frame might put some people off. But there’s also comfort in knowing the extreme conditions this pack has been designed for. It’s come with us on a number of over nighters now and has performed great on all of them, including one hike in a torrential thunderstorm. Crucially all the kit inside stayed dry. The roll top might cause some inconvenience, but not as inconvenient as a damp tent and wet spare clothes.

If you want a good looking, burly, mid sized back for camping light, the Kathmandu XT gridTECH Incline 40 litre is well worth a look.

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