This pack is unlike any other we have tested. As a day pack that is purposely augmented to serve as a sleeping bag stuff sack (or stuff sack for other clothing or equipment), it can strike that holy grail of minimalist travelers and serve more than one purpose. For this versatility, it earns our Top Pick award.
Marmot Kompressor 18 Review
Cons: Thin fabric, basically unpadded shoulder straps
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Marmot Kompressor 18 is a minimalist daypack that can also be used to carry, inside your bigger pack or luggage, your sleeping bag or clothing. Or, you could see it as a sleeping bag "compression stuff sack" that also works as a day pack. It is so well balanced that seeing it from either angle is appropriate. That is the measure of successfully "killing two birds with one stone," and it only costs $50.
Like any compromised piece of equipment in a review comparing purpose-built gear, the Kompressor lags behind its competition. In comparing to products that lead the daypack field, the Kompressor will inevitably come up short, as it has attributes that lend it versatility, not specificity.
In assessing the comfort of a daypack, padding, thickness of fabrics, and the structure of the straps and back panel are paramount. The Kompressor has thin versions of everything. To be lightweight and compressible, Marmot has built this pack with minimal materials. The result is a pack that has the lowest comfort scores of any we tested. You don't choose this pack for absolute comfort. As will be a common theme through this review, you choose this pack knowing the compromises it makes. It is not comfortable, but it does a lot of other things very well.
Predictably, every other pack we tested is at least a little more comfortable. Even the similarly minimalist REI Coop Flash 22 has more structure in the back panel and an integrated waist strap, both of which make it quite a bit more comfortable. Also in this same league, regarding comfort, is the Fjallraven Kanken Classic 16. In fact, the Fjallraven is the same sort of comfort. The more structured, larger packs we tested, like the Camelbak Rim Runner 22, Gregory Zulu 30, Top Pick Mountain Hardwear Scrambler 30 and the Osprey Stratos 34 are quite a bit more comfortable.
When piling on the weight, these more substantial packs will lend more exceptional support and comfort. For light loads, though, like you'd have on any fair-weather day hike in reasonable climates, the Kompressor will be decent for all but the most discerning user. We find that the more experience a hiker has, the more accommodating he or she is of a minimalist pack. The experienced hikers in our tests were the least likely to complain of the discomfort under a load in the Kompressor.
This is among the lightest packs we tested. It handily leads this category, and it is the minimalist construction that partially earns it our Top Pick honor. At under 10 ounces, this pack weighs less than the snacks you might carry in it even for a short hike. Whether you are stripping your kit down for long, athletic hikes, stuffing the Kompressor into your luggage for excursions on your Thailand vacation, or trekking into a Wind River Range peak bagging base camp, the Kompressor's ultra light weight will hardly tip the scales. It is in these latter two applications that the minimalism of the Marmot comes into its own. First, it serves as a piece of organizational and protective sub storage in your backpack or luggage. The compression straps are configured to press your sleeping bag smaller inside your backpack. Even if you won't carry anything else inside it, the Kompressor disappears in your kit. For less tangle and easier stuffing, the Marmot Kompressor packs into its lid pocket for storage.
This is in a league of its own, weight-wise. Other lightweight packs we tested, like the Deuter Speed Lite 20 and REI Coop Flash 22 are at least half again as heavy. Some, like the supportive and beefy CamelBak RimRunner 22 are more than twice as heavy. Others are at least significantly weightier. The Editors' Choice Osprey Stratos 34 is over five times the weight of the Marmot Top Pick. The other Top Pick, so chosen for its durable waterproofness, (Mountain Hardwear Scrambler 30)is more than twice the weight of the Marmot.
Alongside weight, it is the Versatility scoring metric that sets the Kompressor apart. It is the only pack we tested that has a legitimate secondary purpose. As noted above, you wouldn't be wrong to consider this a backpack that can be used as a stuff sack or as a stuff sack with shoulder straps. It is literally that versatile and balances these two similar but different-enough demands very well. Few products in any category elegantly pull off this sort of versatility.
Sure, you can put stuff in any daypack and then shove that daypack into your luggage or your bigger backpack. However, the Kompressor is particularly well suited to this secondary usage. With minimalist construction, a top lid that serves as a storage pouch, and side compression straps for shrinking your sleeping bag, the Kompressor does double duty. No other pack does this. The REI Co-Op Flash 22 is minimalist, but not as much as the Marmot. The Osprey Daylite Plus is also surprisingly minimal, but has more rigidity and structure than either of these other two. Neither pack away as well as the Marmot. The rest of the backpacks we reviewed are much bulkier and therefore less versatile. Of course, the others are versatile within the daypack genre, but it is the fact that the Kompressor serves an entirely different purpose that sets it apart.
Ease of Use
With one main, draw-stringed and lidded compartment and a simple lid pouch, the Kompressor is rather easy to operate. You don't have a ton of options for organizing your kit, but you also won't have to search long to find what you seek.
Daypack users come in different categories. Mainly, there are those that prefer one big compartment to hold all their stuff and those that seek organizational sub-compartments. If you are in the latter category, the Marmot will be disappointing. Aside from the small lid zipper pocket, you have no options for separating your stuff. Some like this, however. For them, the Marmot is ideal. If you want more organizational options like a dedicated hydration sleeve, waistbelt pockets, and divided main compartments, look elsewhere. The CamelBack RimRunner 22 is one such choice. Also, the Deuter Speed Lite 20 and The North Face Litus 22offer many more options for separating your equipment.
On all the packs we tested the straps and buckles are easy to use. The smaller versions used on the Marmot, for weight and bulk savings, are a little more fiddly than the full-size counterparts on the full-featured products.
Weight and durability, for the most part, are at odds. A product that is half the weight of its competitors is going to last half as long, no matter how you look at it. You don't choose the Kompressor 18 for durability. However, pack it carefully (soft stuff against the outside fabric, when possible) and avoid rocky scrambling and this pack ought to last you long enough to realize its value.
Every other pack we tested is more durable than this one because each of the others is made of thicker fabric. The Fjallraven Kanken Classic 16, the Osprey Daylite, and the Deuter Speed Lite 20, among others, are more resistant to abrasion and snagging. Also, these stiffer fabrics lend structure to the pack's construction. That structure further promotes durability by snagging and pinching less frequently.
Marmot's Compressor pack has a narrow, but valuable, range of applications. For those that will use it to its potential, the Kompressor 18 is unique. As a dual-purpose product, it has special appeal to the minimalist traveler and the backpacking base camper.
It's not the cheapest, nor is it the most durable. Value is a function of price, longevity, and range of applications. It is versatile but suffers in the other categories of value. Again, if it fits your niche, you will justify the cost. If you are looking for something more general purpose, though, another product will be more suitable.
This is barely a "daypack," as compared to the other products we assessed. It is a pack that holds a day's worth of stuff. Beyond that, however, it largely departs from the function and design of the other packs in our review. As such a unique product, it handily earns our Top Pick award. For stuffing in your luggage, or for carrying to, and using from, a backcountry base camp, the Kompressor is a great daypack.
— Jediah Porter