For our trip to Vietnam and in particular our trip to go trekking in the Sapa mountains and valleys, I had got a new mid-size hiking pack the Helly Hansen Vanir+ 35L Backpack. This excellent 35L pack is perfect for weekends or shorter periods on the trail or as carry on luggage for flights. We had taken bigger 60 litre backpacks for our trip to Vietnam, but for our time in Sapa we decided to downsize and both share this 35 litre bag.
As we are pretty good at packing light, we found that this bag was adequately sized for two people’s gear for a few nights. We managed to get everything we needed inside the pack, although it wouldn’t have been a problem if it didn’t as the Vanir+ has a really useful expandable front pocket. There is also an external daisy-chain which can be used to clip extra pieces of kit to the outside if you are really desperate.
Like all of the Helly Hansen gear that I have owned, the Vanir+ backpack has some really nice touches and clever pieces of design. It has a useful trekking pole attachment for stowing your poles when not in use. I think this is a great feature on any hiking pack as hiking poles are something that you need during parts of a trek but not at others. Having a place to keep them secure is really useful and keeps your hands free when they’re not needed. For a nice aesthetic touch they have printed a reflective HH logo in the backpack – this not only looks cool but I guess could help your bag to be spotted a little better in the dark!
On top of the bag, there is a quite sizeable external pocket in the lid. This held a descent amount of gear and I used it to keep my wallet, sunglasses, sun-cream and a few snacks inside when we were hiking. There is also a key hook inside this pocket which is useful for a little added security and to make it easy to locate your keys as you can fit a lot of other bits and pieces in this pocket.
I was especially impressed with the quick opening mechanism on the collar. This is something I’ve only seen on my large nearly £200 Osprey pack and was a nice feature on a smaller and less pricey bag. It allows you to open the top of the bag easily and with one hand. It sounds like a small feature but it proves very useful especially when trying to get things in and out of the bag when on the go.
When using this as a weekend bag, something I really like is the full front opening to the main compartment. In addition to the quick opening top entry to the bag there is also a full front zip, which means you can get to all the contents very easily, even the gear at the very bottom (and without having to take the entire contents of the pack out). I found this awesome for our trekking trip in Vietnam as we could easily get to all of our clothes and kit. In cities, this feature could prove to be a slight problem regarding security but when we were in Hanoi, all I did was connect the two zip pulls using a key-ring, as this stops any unwanted hands easily getting inside your bag and therefore, makes all the contents nice and secure.
On the each side of the bag, there are compression straps to help balance the pack and keep the weight flat against your back. There is also an adjustable side pocket on each side. These are really good for water bottles and were deep enough that I never had a bottle fall out, which I’ve found annoying on other packs with shallower side pockets. They are also adjustable so that it doesn’t matter how large your bottle or gear is, you can get it secure in these side pockets.
During our time in Vietnam, we experienced temperatures up to the mid thirties (in Celsius). The humidity while in some of the mountain valleys and areas of jungle was really quite intense too. Luckily for me, this pack has a semi-ventilated back panel. I found that this did an excellent job of stopping my back from getting too hot and teamed up with technical tee, stopped me from becoming uncomfortable.
On the subject of hot weather, the Vanir+ also has you covered when it comes to staying hydrated. It has a bladder sleeve at the back of the pack and the hose is guided through a loop on your shoulder strap. This would make it easy to drink on the go as it keeps the hose exactly where you want it. I prefer tradition water bottles to water bladders myself, but I’ve also found use for the sleeve as a tablet, notebook or document holder.
If you are carrying any pack that has much weight for any real amount of time, I’d always recommend having a waist belt. This is really important as, with a decent belt, it will take the majority of the weight off the pack and place it comfortably on your hips. Without a waist belt, all the weight falls solely on your shoulders, which, after a few hours – let a lone a few days – becomes less than comfortable. As well as the padded waist belt, there is also a sternum strap, which I find useful when scrambling over rocks as it keeps the pack stable on your back. As a little added bonus, this strap’s clip has a little built-in whistle, which could prove very handy in an emergency.
The final feature of the Vanir+ backpack which I’d like to talk about is the integrated fitted hi-vis rain cover. I really liked this feature as when you’re trekking for several days, there really is no guaranteeing what the weather could do. With this rain cover, the Helly Hansen pack is going to really help to keep its contents dry and safe.
The rain cover is kept in a small pocket at the bottom of the pack and is easily deployed whenever you need it. I also think rain covers are really handy when travelling through busy urban areas and cities, as if you are at all worried about wandering hands going through your belongings, a rain cover will provide a simple barrier to stop anyone opening your pack’s outer pockets.
After using this pack for weeks in hot and humid bamboo forest, on tropical looking islands, through rice padis and the bustling streets of Hanoi, I am officially in love with it. The Helly Hansen Vanir+ 35L Backpack coped with everything I threw at it and performed incredibly. I loved using it. It has lots of great features which are really useful and make your trekking life even better. I found the bag had a great capacity with excellent options for storing and accessing your gear. It is also very comfortable and I’d thoroughly recommend it for short short multi-day treks and travels.