Thule Versant 70 Review
Cons: Shoulder straps below average for comfort
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Versant 70 is a reliable and versatile model that doesn't cut any corners when it comes to its durability or features. Its zippered access panel gives the Thule Versant 70 a duffel-like feel with the comfort of a true backpacking pack. It also comes with a removable rain cover and wholly submersible and removable waterproof waist belt pocket. Though it doesn't win an award, it remains an awesome pack even if you want to use it exclusively on the trail for multi-day backpacking trips.
Though it is towards the bottom of the pack, this model is about solid suspension and adjustability.
Suspension and Comfort
Our testing squad found that the Versant 70 provided above average overall comfort on extended multi-day trips while backpacking or mountaineering in the summer. The pack's stiff waist belt is supportive, and its shape helped it to wrap nicely around bony hips without much discomfort.
This model's shoulder straps are on the narrower and thinner side as well, but our testers found they were more comfortable than expected and very nicely articulated. A handful of our smaller testers noted that they preferred them when compared to some models with wider, softer, and less articulated straps. Overall, this pack performs well, though its competitors bested it. This outcome was primarily because its shoulder straps weren't quite as comfortable as others when it came to carrying heavier loads of 45+ pounds.
A small but noticeable element of comfort in this pack is the extensive vertical adjustment range of the sternum strap, allowing the wearer to move it into the most comfortable position.
This pack has an incredibly stout suspension considering its weight. After several days of carrying heavy loads with this pack, its suspension helped support loads up to around 45-50 pounds well but performed just so-so above that.
At 4 pounds 3 ounces, the Versant 70 is pretty average in terms of weight. It has also been outfitted with several more pockets, provides a higher level of durability, and offers better access.
Features and Ease of Use
The lid of the Versant 70 has a straightforward design. Instead of a zippered opening on the side of the lid like many models, this pack's zipper wraps around on three sides in a flat "U" shape, allowing its user to see everything inside, making it much simpler to find smaller items.
The sides of the lid do an excellent job of containing items; however, if the lid were super packed, objects would occasionally fall out. Generally, this wasn't a big problem, especially if we didn't pack to the brim. There is also a second, smaller zippered pocket on the top section of the lid for our most essential items that we want to keep safe.
This pack's water bottle pockets point forward and make it easy to grab a bottle on-the-fly while hiking down the trail - all without having to take off the pack. Putting the bottle back in wasn't difficult, just something that takes practice.
The Versant 70 features two zippered waist belt pockets. One is pretty typical of most other backpacking packs and is suitable for snacks. The additional pocket is unique; it is a removable and wholly waterproof pocket that closes with a roll-top design. While this pocket took a little more effort to get into than a traditional pocket, all of our testers preferred it, as it was a safe, dry place to keep a smartphone or point-and-shoot camera.
This pack also comes with a built-in rain cover — and a pretty nice one to boot. It is waterproof and was effective at keeping our pack dry on several occasions. It is also held tightly in place by toggle pass through loop attachment points. Overall, it stayed on our pack in higher winds better than a majority of aftermarket models. The rain cover is also removable. While becoming the standard among backpacking packs, this model's reverse pull buckles are exceptional and make tightening the waist belt a "cinch."
We liked many of the features on this pack; a few exceptions were its top lid which can convert into a shoulder sling pack. While a decent idea, we found it was a little over-engineered, and we rarely noticed ourselves using it. Maybe you might see yourself getting some use out of it. You could say the same about this model's ice axe loops/trekking pole holders. They are too far apart for most ice axes that are 60cm and shorter and are overly complicated for the rare times we wanted to carry our trekking poles on our packs. In real-world use, we naturally found it more convenient to run both poles underneath the side compression straps instead of attaching one individually, via a more time consuming and complex system.
Adjustability and Fit
The Versant 70 offers around four inches of vertical adjustment range in its back panel and roughly two inches of adjustment on each side (four inches total) in its waist belt girth.
Its narrow shoulder straps are a plus for narrower shouldered folks.
With a retail price of $280, this pack brings some value to the table. Many other packs are better overall, but if you want a travel pack specialist, this one could be worth a look.
The Thule Versant 70 is a durable pack full of features that still manages to maintain a pretty reasonable weight. We love its large zippered access panel that makes finding deeply buried items a cinch. While its shoulder straps are a little thinner and lower profile than most, this pack's suspension makes up for it; as long as your load isn't too heavy. Our entire review team loves the feel of the extremely ergonomic shoulder straps. We found it was ideal for travel applications where we would use this pack more or less as a duffel bag — and a comfortable one to carry to boot!
— Ian Nicholson