Deuter has been a long-time manufacturer of comfortable backpacks but, in our tests, the Futura Vario doesn't quite live up to their reputation. The pack is well-made with quality materials and technology but in testing, the frame didn't effectively transfer weight to the hips and the hip belt bent and flexed too much to stay comfortably in place and support the load.
Deuter Futura Vario 45+10 Review
Compare prices at 3 resellers Pros: Adjustable torso, multiple access points to main compartment, well ventilated suspension
Cons: Carries weight on shoulders, hip belt sags in rear, pockets not as usable as desired
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Our Analysis and Test Results
After putting the Futura Vario to the test on the trail and under loads of around 35 pounds, we can't recommend this model for backpacking except under the lightest of loads. We expected the suspension to be more comfortable but were disappointed with the lack of load transfer to our hips. It may be a good option for those who need a well-ventilated pack for day hiking with bulky but lightweight gear and travelers who want a backpack style bag may like the Deuter Futura Vario because of its many access points and clean look.
For a Deuter pack that we found to perform better on the trail, check out the Deuter AirContact line.
Comfort and Suspension
Having tested other Deuter packs, we expected the Futura Vario to perform similarly but were let down by the lack of comfort in this model. Under our testing, we were unable to get the frame of the pack to distribute the load to our hips and our testers carried a significant portion of the weight uncomfortably on their shoulders. We adjusted the torso length up and down, tightened and loosened various straps, and reloaded the pack but to no avail. Unfortunately, the waist belt of the Futura Vario sagged towards the rear and pushed up into our testers bellies in the front even under modest loads around 25 pounds.
On a positive note, a trampoline style mesh back panel keeps the pack contact off your back and allows for much-appreciated ventilation on hot, steamy days and the shoulders and hips have an airy mesh padding that feels soft against the body.
Access is a highlight of the Futura Vario; with both a sleeping bag compartment and a wide-opening on the front of the pack, you can pretty much see and get to anything in your pack without unloading a thing. Adventurers using this model for both backpacking and travel will appreciate this feature.
The rear stash pocket is deep but a little tight for stuffing much more than a light layer or small items into, side water bottle pockets are similarly deep but too tight to load easily even with a narrow bottle, and the hip belt pockets appear to be large but when our testers had the pack on, they found the pockets to be curved too much to fit a smartphone into without struggle. We really like the large lid of the Futura and its wide opening.
In addition to all these organizational features, the Futura also has two long zippered side pockets but our testers found them a bit difficult to access. Anything loaded into them takes up interior space in the pack which helps maintain a clean look on the exterior with no bulges but makes them hard to use when the pack is loaded.
Deuter's Futura Vario falls toward the heavier end of models we tested. In lighter weight packs, sometimes comfort has to be sacrificed a bit, but for a pack over four pounds, we expected the frame to have a better load transfer to our hips. Other models in our test offer better comfort for their weight.
The torso length of this one-size pack is easily adjusted on a sliding scale for fine-tuning your fit. The hip belt padding doesn't lengthen but the webbing offers a large size range of 24" - 57".
Side compression straps, various lash points, and a removable lid add versatility to the way you load your pack. We found the lower lash straps shorter than most and were unable to strap larger foam pads there. We love that the lid is extendable, giving us space to load a rope under it even with a heavily loaded bag.
The Futura Vario is similar in price to many of the other models we tested. It's not a bargain so we feel that for the money, you can find a pack that carries a load better. If you are going to spend over $200 on a backpacking pack, you can find a better fit by checking out other models that offer more comfort for their price.
Overall, our tests revealed that while the Deuter Futura Vario offers a durable pack with plenty of organizational and access features and a highly ventilated back panel, the failure of the suspension to effectively transfer weight to the hips and the discomfort of the hip belt make this model a less than ideal option for backpacking. However, the Futura would make a solid bag for travel-style backpacking where all-day carrying isn't necessary and the large front access would add to its ease of use in hostels or hotels.
— Elizabeth Paashaus