Gonex Updated 35L Review
Cons: Back not well-ventilated, not overly durable, smaller capacity than claimed
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Gonex Updated 35L is made of water resistant, tear resistant nylon and polyester. It comes with a host of pockets and features as well as padding across the board.
The Gonex has padding in all the places you'd want, including two strips down the back on either side of your spine, thicker padded shoulder straps, and a thinly padded hip belt. The hip belt padding was a bit too thin for a really long day of hiking with a heavy pack. If you like an overly padded hip belt, you might consider the CamelBak Sequoia instead. At first, we weren't too sure about the back padding, as it was too rigid in the center and dug into our backs uncomfortably. But that rigid piece - with a metal rod down the middle - is removable from inside the main compartment of the bag, and we much preferred this pack without it.
The hip belt doesn't have a ton of room to fit larger folks, despite this pack being advertised as a "unisex" fit. The sternum strap is also so short as to be almost useless on all but the most narrow wearers. Our 5'4" size 4 tester could just barely stand to use it for long periods of time. If you plan to load your pack down with a lot of heavy gear and go for a long hike, we'd recommend a more supportive bag like the Osprey Sirrus or Gregory Jade. But for shorter jaunts and lighter loads, the Gonex does a decent job.
The versatility of any pack is fairly tied into what kinds of features it has to offer and how well those translate across activities. The Gonex is rather feature-happy, much like the REI Trail 25. With two large compartments, side water bottle pockets, and outer pocket, two hip belt pockets, a laptop sleeve, and several internal pockets including a key clip, we almost run out of breath to list it all. This number of interior and exterior pockets is unmatched by any other pack we reviewed, though the Sequoia comes close. That being said, the hip belt pockets are too small to fit a smartphone (we tried both the Samsung Galaxy S9+ and the iPhone 8+), which is one of the main things we like to keep there.
One of our favorite features for any pack to come with is a rain cover. The Gonex not only keeps this stowed helpfully in a pocket on the bottom of the pack but also lets it helpfully attach to your bag with a handy strap so you'll never lose it, even if you need to dig under the hood in the rain for a bit. This bag also has double trekking pole and ice axe holders, as well as side straps to cinch down your load and a bungee cord to stash your wet rain jacket after the clouds move on.
Tipping the scales at 41 ounces, the Gonex is one of the heaviest packs we reviewed. This weight drops significantly with the removal of that rigid back plate with a thick metal rod in it that we disliked, but whether you use that or not is up to you.
Some of this additional weight also comes from the untechnical materials used to manufacture this bag - but then, so does the lower price tag. If you really can't stand the thought of a 2.6 pound pack on your back, you might consider the Osprey Tempest 20, our Top Pick for Around Town, that weighs a pound less.
Ease of Use
While we enjoy the organizational ease of a pack with so many pockets, we do think the main compartments are a bit tall and long, making it a little too easy to lose items in the bottom. The zippers are also covered by fabric, and catch a little too easily for our liking. We also are surprised by how small this supposed 35 liter bag is - we measured it as being closer to 26-28 liters of actual internal capacity.
The Gonex is also only available in one unadjustable size that's advertised as "unisex", and so is a bit on the long side. Our 5'4" tester with an 18" torso found it nearly too long, but ultimately usable. If you're much shorter than that, you may want to try something a little shorter instead, like the Lowe Alpine Aeon or Gregory Maya. The Gonex does include load-lifter straps, which are mildly useful if you do stuff this pack completely full.
Made of water-resistant, tear-resistant nylon and polyester, this is one category where we are solidly unimpressed by the Gonex 35L. It does have extra layers and a thin layer of padding on the bottom - a high-traffic area for any pack - but the feel of the material is not particularly comforting. We didn't personally experience any failures of this bag during testing, but by scouring the internet for other users' feedback, we learned that many others had issues with the longevity of the fabric.
However, this lower quality fabric and zippers also help to keep the price of this pack low, and you can easily purchase 3 or 4 of these bags for the cost of one of most the other bags in this review. If you'd rather just get one durable bag that lasts for years, you might consider the 210D/420D Gregory Jade, Maya, or Osprey Sirrus. Still not enough? The Deuter Futura 22 is made of 600D polyester, the thickest we reviewed.
This is a great bag for the untechnical adventurer or the infrequent expeditioner. With a reasonable level of comfort and usability, this super cheap pack is great for light jaunts or even sending your kid to school in. If you want something that you can really load down for your outings, the Gregory Jade 28 is an excellent and comfortable option. Or if you need your hydration reservoir with you, consider the CamelBak Sequoia.
Though the Gonex doesn't jump out from the crowd in any one category, it brings a lot of pretty decent features and perks to the table for a surprisingly low price. For this price, it's hard to not try out one of these bags, even if it does only last a single season. If our Best Buy award winner isn't wowing you, the REI Trail 25 showed a bit more durability and still has a lot of cool features for just $80.
This pack is a pretty good bag filled with useful features and helpful organization. If you're looking for something much more technical and durable, we'd recommend the Osprey Sirrus instead. The Gonex is fairly comfortable, has a ton of useful features, and is pretty easy to use for the medium to taller-torsoed women, and with such a low price, it's our Best Buy award winner.
Other Versions and Accessories
Gonex also offers many other sizes of backpacks, as well as an earlier version of the 35L than the one we tested.
— Maggie Brandenburg
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