Notes from the Trail

For Easy Access on the Trail, This Is Your New Backpack


November 9, 2018 Sports and Outdoors : Camping By Photo by Evergoods

You may not be familiar with Evergoods, a young backpack company founded in 2017, but you probably know the two companies that its founders came from. Jack Barely and Kevin Dee are expats from GORUCK and Patagonia, respectively, and they’re using the expertise acquired there to create a collection of sleek, hard-wearing backpacks. Evergoods’ initial launch (via Kickstarter) included a commuter backpack and a daypack for hiking. This year it added two more packs: a 40-liter travel bag and one with an all-new opening mechanism called the Mountain Quick Draw.

The Mountain Quick Draw (MQD24 for short) is the company’s take on an alpine-specific backpack. Traditionally these types of bags focus on simplicity over features — they lack lots of exterior straps and pockets and usually only contain one large interior compartment that can hold lots of gear like ropes and climbing hardware. The MQD24 includes enough extras to make it versatile, but doesn’t lose that simplicity.

The Good: The best thing about the Mountain Quick Draw is access. The most apparent feature contributing to this is the innovative quick draw lid, which uses a cord lock placed on the front of the bag for fast access to the main compartment. It’s similar to the cinch closures that most trekking backpacks use underneath their lids, but it’s made more effective here because the hardware is static — you don’t have to slide it up and down with the cord, just grab the lock and rip it open.

Access doesn’t end there though. There’s an additional zipper on the side that lets you get into the bag’s interior, so you can get to whatever is at the bottom without opening the top and pulling everything out. The Mountain Quick Draw is also very comfortable thanks to Evergoods’ thoughtful curved shoulder straps and back panel.

Who It’s For: The Mountain Quick Draw is designed with hikers and climbers in mind, and that’s who it will provide the most use for. It isn’t overly-techy though, and can certainly be used as an everyday bag, but those in need of lots of organizational features and multiple pockets may want to look elsewhere.

Photo: Chase Pellerin

Watch Out For: The Quick Draw system isn’t like any other backpack closure and does take some getting used to. It requires two hands: one to hold the lock and another to pull the sleeve open. Reaching for the lock first can feel unnatural, but after a couple of tries, you get the hang of it. The only additional feature that I yearned for was an exterior water bottle pocket.

Alternatives: Black Diamond’s Creek 20 ($100) is another simple, climbing-focused backpack with a cinch top and no lid. Access is also a key point here — Black Diamond gave the Creek a top-to-bottom zip that splits the bag’s entire main compartment open. Mountain Hardwear’s Scrambler Outdry 30L ($130) doesn’t have that feature, but it does have a fully-waterproof (but not submersible) exterior and a lid in addition to its cinch top. For more daypack recommendations, check out our buying guide to the Best Daypacks for Hiking.

Review: I still remember my first hiking backpack. It was, essentially, an aluminum rectangle with some light foam padding and a nylon box attached to its front. Straps hung off in various places for lashing a sleeping pad and other items to it, and there was one external zip pocket for small things. I wore it on my first week-long overnight, back when I was 12 years old. At the time it was great, but now it’s a relic worthy of a spot in a museum.

Hiking backpacks have come a long way since then. Multi-day backpacks like my old one now contain pockets for every piece of gear, multiple points of entry and suspension systems that move separately from the loads they support. It all adds up to a level of comfort and efficiency that was previously unimaginable.

Smaller backpacks have kept pace too — even some of the “basic” hiking daypacks available today would probably beat out my old rucksack in support and function, despite a lower volume. But unlike those bigger bags, daypacks have an opportunity toward versatility — they’re small enough to find use in the processes of everyday life, which, for many, lies far from the trailhead. To be genuinely versatile though, a daypack has to make careful consideration of the features included (some will always be too techy for life in the city).

Evergoods has made a mission of adding adaptability into every backpack it makes. Every backpack is a “crossover backpack;” for instance, its commuter bag uses weather-resistant fabrics and includes a hydration port, a suspension system and rear entry that are inspired by outdoor packs. In turn, its mountain packs feature side-carry handles for use around town, hydration sleeves that also accommodate laptops and enough small pockets for everyday essentials.

Photo: Chase Pellerin

The concept applies to the new Mountain Quick Draw too, but it’s the most outdoor-oriented of Evergoods’ backpacks. The bag uses alpine backpacks as its platform. These bags are often incredibly rugged and technical in build but simple and straightforward in design. Many feature one compartment for hauling climbing gear that opens wide and usually doesn’t include a lid. The Quick Draw follows the concept: it has one main compartment and a cinch top closure.

But Evergoods still managed to pack more utility into a backpack that’s simple by design, a fact made apparent to me during a week of ticking off peaks in New York’s Adirondack Mountains. For those who aren’t familiar with the region, it’s big (over six million acres) and wild (cell service is unreliable at best). It’s also home to the 46ers — 46 mountains with an elevation over 4,000 feet. That elevation won’t impress when compared to western peaks, but the Adirondacks aren’t to be taken lightly. A summit bid can be a 20-mile endeavor and weather is susceptible to change without notice.

Our trip’s highlight was Mt. Marcy, the tallest peak in the state of New York at 5,344 feet and more than 14 miles of walking. I packed everything I’d need for the day into the Mountain Quick Draw (a mid layer, a puffy jacket, a rain jacket, a hat, a GPS, two liters of water, a large sack of GORP, two cameras and the case they were in). It was a lot for a 24-liter bag, but it all fit comfortably with the extra room provided by the cinch top.

Photo: Chase Pellerin

Unlike many hiking backpacks, the Mountain Quick Draw’s back panel doesn’t use mesh to promote airflow and breathability. I was skeptical of how comfortable the bag would be during a full day (and how sweaty my back would get) but was pleasantly surprised at the performance of its Zote foam back panel. I’ll give a special mention to the fit too — the back panel is curved, and the shoulder straps are contoured, together producing a comfy fit that lasted the entire day (again, even with my full load). For Evergoods, “ergonomic” isn’t just a buzzword.

We took breaks to shed or add layers, drink water, munch on snacks and snap photos every hour or so during our ascent of Mt. Marcy. It’s during these moments that a backpack’s features are most noticeable. At first, I fumbled releasing the Quick Draw Cord Lock, which requires you to use one hand to grab the backpack’s front handle and the other pull the top loose. I kept wanting to rip open the cinched top as I’ve been accustomed to doing with backpacks that use a similar construction. Once I got the move down though, it was a quick and efficient way to get inside the main compartment, although it did continue to feel a bit unnatural.

That turned out to be okay though because once we hit our stride, and our layers were shed, I ended up using the Quick Draw’s side-access zipper to get to all the things that were at the bottom of the bag. From here I was able to get to snacks stored inside a mesh zipped pocket as well as my water. I also found that this additional point of entry, when paired with a camera case (I used Peak Design’s small Camera Cube) made the Quick Draw an awesome photography backpack. I could swing it across the front of my body, access the side zipper and pull out a camera for a photo without having to take the bag off or dig around at all.

Photo: Chase Pellerin

Our journey lasted a little over eight hours. When we got back to town, I unpacked to let things dry off and headed to a local coffee shop to get some work done, carrying my laptop in another bag. I don’t know that I’d use the Quick Draw for work — although I recognize that I could — but I’d gladly reach for it in preparation for any day on the mountain.

Verdict: The Mountain Quick Draw knows where it succeeds: access and simplicity. It isn’t fully-featured with all the bells and whistles that some heavier bags have, but it takes the architecture of a traditional top-loading alpine pack and gives it the additional practicality — mainly through the inclusion of a sizeable side-access zipper — needed to appeal to more casual hikers and everyday users too.

Key Specs

Volume: 24 liters
Weight: 2 pounds
Shell fabric: 420-denier nylon with PU coating
Features: Quick Draw lid, side-access zipper, top external access pocket with key leash, internal sleeve for hydration or laptop, removable, adjustable sternum strap and waist belt
Lifetime warranty: yes

Evergoods provided this product for review.

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