Decathlon Forclaz MT500 Air 50+10 Review
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Decathlon Forclaz MT500 Air 50+10
|Price||$169 List||$129.95 at Amazon|
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Check Price at REI
$119.73 at REI
$79.99 at Amazon
|Pros||Inexpensive, durable, highly adjustable, comfortable||Handles heavy loads well, adjustable, two large side zipper pockets, affordable||Light-weight, comfortable, easily personalized, inexpensive||Durable, simple, zipper access to main compartment, inexpensive, water resistant, lightweight||Very affordable, durable fabric|
|Cons||Small water bottle pockets||Lid pocket is hard to access, side pockets can interfere with tall bottles, heavier than most||lacks durabillity, not made for heavy loads||No lid, only available in one non-adjustable size||Uncomfortable, bulky straps and buckles, difficult to use pockets|
|Bottom Line||This pack is just as comfortable and has all the features of backpacking packs that cost twice as much||Our favorite budget pack that features unique pockets and a high carry capacity, all at a great price||It may not be a heavy load hauler, but for moderate loads, this pack is comfortable and has an amazing set of features, all at a great price||A great option for the hiker that wants a simple, lightweight pack capable of carrying moderate loads||This is an inexpensive pack that can get the job done if you look past its shortcomings|
|Rating Categories||Decathlon Forclaz M...||Kelty Coyote 65||REI Co-op Flash 55||Mountainsmith Screa...||Teton Sports Scout...|
|Suspension and Comfort (45%)|
|Features and Ease of Use (20%)|
|Specs||Decathlon Forclaz M...||Kelty Coyote 65||REI Co-op Flash 55||Mountainsmith Screa...||Teton Sports Scout...|
|Measured Weight||3.7 lbs||4.3 lbs||2.6 lbs||3.0 lbs||4.3 lbs|
|Volume||50 L + 10 L||65 L||55 L||55 L||55 L|
|Access||Top, side, bottom||Top||Top||Top and zipper||Top|
|Materials||100% Polyamide||Poly 420D Small Back Stafford||Main Body: 100D ripstop nylon
Bottom: 420D nylon
|210D Robic HT nylon with Alkex, 210D nylon embossed liner||600D Diamond Ripstop / 600D PU|
|Sleeping Bag Compartment||Yes||Yes||No||No||Yes|
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Decathlon Forclaz MT500 Air 50+10 is a very well-designed backpack. We've seen packs that cost more than twice what this costs that aren't as well thought out. It has top, center, and bottom access points to the main compartment, and has nine pockets, not counting the main compartment. This backpack has more pockets than most other packs we tested, and, at 3.7 pounds, it's not nearly as heavy as we'd expect given all those zippers.
Suspension and Comfort
The MT500 Air is one of the most comfortable backpacks in our budget backpacking packs review. It has a full-framed suspension system that can handle moderate loads. This isn't the pack to carry 50+ pound loads with, but for loads less than 35 pounds, we found it to be one of the most comfortable.
Its suspension system has a mesh trampoline-style back panel. This keeps the main pack body from resting directly on your back and increases airflow to your back. Since some air can get between you and the pack, suspended mesh back panels like this one help reduce back sweat. And, a sweaty back can lead to chafing and other discomforts.
The MT500 Air has an aluminum frame that wraps around the perimeter of the pack's main body, under the mesh trampoline back panel. This frame wraps around the top and bottom of the back panel, effectively connecting the shoulder straps and hip belt.
By loosening the shoulder straps and load lifters, we were able to load all the weight of the pack onto the hip belt. This shows that the frame is working very well. Performing the opposite test by unclipping the waist belt and tightening the load lifters, we felt the load on our shoulders increase significantly.
The shoulder straps on this pack are very plush and the thickest where it rests on your shoulders. The mesh material on the underside of the straps is comfortable pressed on our shoulders, too. These shoulder straps are much thicker than many of the packs we tested. Also, the sternum strap has a small section of elastic. This is a minor detail that you don't often see in budget backpacks. But, this detail makes the sternum strap much more comfortable.
The hip belt on this pack has a stiff material sandwiched between the foam padding and the outside face material. This makes the hip belt slightly rigid and therefore more supportive. The foam and mesh padding that rests on your hips is cushioned enough, too.
After hiking for a few hours without taking this pack off, we didn't have any hot spots or chafing. Overall, the suspension on this pack feels better than most of the packs we tested for this review.
The MT500 Air weighs 3 pounds, 11 ounces. This is not the lightest, but not particularly heavy either. When you consider all the features this pack has, this is a very respectable weight. Zippers weigh a lot, and this pack has eight of them.
If weight is your top priority, this probably isn't the pack for you. For the price, this is a fairly lightweight pack considering the number of features it has.
You can shave some weight off this pack by removing the bottom sleeping pad straps. And, the included rainfly is also removable. However, we think these are both useful features, especially the rainfly.
Features and Ease of Use
The MT500 Air has some of the most features on a pack we've seen. A minimalist hiker who prefers a simple pack with only a few pockets would be overwhelmed with the number of places to stash gear on this pack. If you're looking for organizational options, this pack is a great choice.
This backpack has a total of 10 pockets if you count water bottle pockets. There are two pockets on the pack lid, two side pockets, and two hip belt pockets. All of these pockets zip shut, too. There is also a large pocket on the backside of this pack for stashing a jacket or other items you want to be able to grab quickly.
The pack's main compartment is accessible from the top, the bottom, and the front. The top uses a cinch closure that is covered by the brain. The front opening unzips to access stuff in the middle of the pack. When you unzip this front panel, it exposes three pieces of webbing with buckles and cinch closures. You can use these to laterally compress your gear in the pack.
The bottom of the pack has a zipper-accessible sleeping bag compartment. If you want a dedicated place to store your sleeping bag, you can use this compartment. If you prefer to stuff everything into one compartment, there is another zipper to open this bottom compartment into the main body of the pack.
The only downside of this pack's feature set is that there is only one external water storage option. The single external water bottle pocket is well-designed and found on the right side of the pack. It's easy to reach and shaped like a cup holder. This pocket has rigid material and elastic sewn around the top to make it easy to slide a water bottle inside while wearing the pack. It has an elastic cinch cord loop to secure the bottle in place, too. We wish there was another one of these pockets on the left side of the pack.
On the left side of the pack, there is a second pocket that we did use to store a water bottle. However, this pocket is just a piece of stretch mesh. A 20-ounce water bottle fits in there, but this pocket isn't as nice as the one on the right side of the pack. There is also a water bladder sleeve inside the pack.
The MT500 Air only comes in one size. However, this one size has 6 inches of adjustability in torso length. By our measurements, this pack will fit anywhere from a 14-inch to 20-inch torso. There is also 22 inches of adjustability in the waist belt (11 per side).
While this pack can fit a wide range of torso sizes, it would be improved if it came in two sizes. This way, it could fit people with larger than 20-inch torsos and less than 14-inch torsos. However, we think 14-20 inches is going to fit the majority of male bodies.
Should You Buy the Decathlon Forclaz MT500 Air 50+10?
The Decathlon Forclaz MT500 Air 50+10 is an excellent deal for an affordable and high-quality backpacking pack. This pack is inexpensive enough to fit within most budgets and performs better than many more expensive packs. While we haven't thru-hiked 1000s of miles in this pack, it's held up to the abuse we've given it so far, and we expect that to continue to be the case. We wouldn't hesitate to buy this pack if it suits your needs. And as long you aren't carrying 35+ pounds or are an experienced ultralight backpacker, we think this pack will work for you.
What Other Budget Backpacking Packs Should You Consider?
If you're prioritizing fast and light, check out the REI Flash 55 or the Mountainsmith Scream 55. Neither of these packs has a trampoline mesh back panel like the MT 500 Air, but they're both lighter and are still pretty comfortable. If you're looking to carry a heavier load than the MT500 Air can carry, we recommend the Kelty Coyote 65 — that pack is a serious gear-hauling machine.
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