Ortlieb Atrack 25 Review
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Our Analysis and Test Results
With its burly, waterproof fabric, giant TIZIP zipper running down the middle of the suspension, and unusually external frame, the Ortlieb Atrack 25 can seem a bit odd compared to typical daypacks. Once you get used to its design, however, it really shines. We gave it a Top Pick for wet activities: skiing, boating, hiking 9 months out of the year in the Pacific Northwest, canyoneering, etc. It will keep your gear dry, but it also has the outside attachments and pockets to make organization a breeze. The external frame is burly and is paired with a supportive suspension system to carry even heavy loads. If you want a pack that will be just as effective as a travel duffel, hiking pack, or for keeping gear bone dry while literally swimming with it, this is likely the only pack on the market that will fit the bill.
The Atrack doesn't have any clear competition - it nearly defines its own category of packs. That said, it fits in best with other heavy-hauler packs, as opposed to lighter, running- and biking-friendly packs. We award it a Top Pick, as it shined in all the usual daypack performance metrics while also being completely waterproof, something few other packs can claim.
Unlike most packs that feature an internal frame, the Ortlieb Atrack 25 utilizes a simple, 2-part wireframe onto which independent and adjustable shoulder straps and hip belts are attached. The thick and rounded padding doesn't rub, distributes weight, and hugs your torso once properly adjusted.
The Atrack features fully adjustable torso height, accomplished using two ladder lock buckles and straps that move the shoulder straps up and down the wireframe. Coupled with the load lifters, we found this suspension to be just as easily adjustable and comfortable as more traditional adjustable suspensions. The hip belt is differentially padded to provide lumbar support and wrap snugly around your waist, supporting even heavy loads over 30 pounds.
The nature of the suspension on the Atrack makes ventilation come naturally. Without resorting to suspended mesh (that can catch brush and create dead space), the minimalist suspension of the Atrack places a solid centimeter or two between your back and the pack material. The access zipper rests right behind your back, but it doesn't touch your back. We loved being able to work hard on a hot day, literally jump in a stream with this pack, and come out cooled off, with bone dry gear and a fast-drying suspension that didn't hold onto water.
Compression also comes naturally to this pack. While other packs rely on adjustable compression straps to bring loads closer to your back, the Atrack accomplishes the same by virtue of its air-tight TIZIP zipper. Just load up the pack, distribute your gear as you please, squeeze all the air out, and zip it uptight. Just like a vacuum-sealed bag, the load will stay right where you put it, pressed tight against the frame. In our calisthenics testing, this pack kept loads right against our backs with no bouncing, even when twisting, jumping, or running. This also frees up the compression straps for carrying gear without compromising load distribution.
The Ortlieb Atrack 25 balances frame stiffness and range of motion. The frame can bend slightly, and the shoulder straps can move slightly on the frame. This reduces comfort very slightly on long days but makes reaching over your head or bending over to grab bike handles a bit easier. Packs with softer frames allow for greater range of motion but don't carry heavy loads nearly as well as the Atrack.
The only metric in which the Atrack suffers is weight. It comes in near the bottom of the packs we tested, with a weight-to-volume ratio of 1.71 oz/L. This is similar to other heavy daypacks, and much heavier than most ultralight, very simplistic daypacks that can have weight-to-volume ratios of around 0.5 oz/L.
It would be difficult to build a fully submersible and durable pack like this without making it pretty heavy. The thick, durable nylon, TIZIP duffel zipper, and metal frame all add up to a heavy pack, but you get functionality that no other pack can provide. To cut some weight, you can remove the modular compression straps, but you would sacrifice the excellent external carrying options this pack provides.
During our months of testing, we used the Atrack for hiking, biking, scrambling, bushwhacking, swimming, and pack rafting. The external straps make it easy to carry all sorts of bulky gear without closing up access to the main compartment. Because the access to the main compartment is against your back, and there are 6 straps running across the back of the pack, it's easy to carry gear for almost any activity. Even when carrying skis A-frame style, you can easily unzip the main zipper and get into the pack.
We would certainly hesitate to commute with this pack, but for almost any outdoor endeavor, it works great. The comfortable suspension combined with an easily compressible main compartment feel great whether you're carrying gear for a short day hike or a long, multi-sport adventure.
After running a bike shuttle for a pack rafting trip with this pack, we found that the slightly flexible suspension makes it passable for biking. We prefer a fully flexible frame and smaller hip belt for a dedicated biking pack, but this one was at least moderately comfortable.
Ease of Use
The duffel-style main zipper, which runs between the shoulder panels, makes this pack a cinch to load and unload. We loved being able to open it up and sort through our gear easily.
The Atrack 25 has 4 zippered compartments within the main compartment, as well as a buckled strap to keep things organized within the compartment. We liked being able to store layers and food freely in the main compartment while arranging our clothing accessories, small gear, and electronics in the zippered compartments. While the main duffel-style zipper is a stiff and sometimes hard-to-pull TIZIP zipper, we found that we got used it it quickly and after a few days, we were able to zip and unzip it about as fast as most other zippers.
The stretchy mesh pockets on the hip belt and sides of the pack were great for snacks, waterproof electronics, jackets, and water bottles. We found the side mesh pockets to be easy to access while wearing the pack. The hip belt pockets held 2 large bars, or 1 large smartphone easily. However, because they are so stretchy, stuffing them full may lead to durability problems.
Between the 6 outer compression straps, 2 hipbelt pockets, 2 side pockets, and 4 zippered organizational pockets in the main compartment, this pack was easy to organize. And, if you don't need organization in the main compartment, the zippered pockets run flush along the sides of the pack, making them easy to push out of the way.
The Atrack 25 also is hydration reservoir compatible. A tightly plugged hole in the pack just above the right shoulder strap can be filled with a plug that has a hole for a hydration hose. While it's difficult to reconfigure the pack and install the hose the first time, it maintains a lot of the pack's waterproofing while still allowing you to use a hydration reservoir. That said, we much prefer external reservoir compartments that place the reservoir between your back and the main compartment.
We take claims of submersibility as a challenge, and this pack did not disappoint. We once zipped this pack up full of gear, then held it underwater (not easy, as it floats), placed a knee on it, and ground its zipper into the gravel bed of a river. After about a minute of this, we took it out to find not only no leaks, but also no damage to the zipper. Our lead tester also swam parts of the Hoh River with this pack, where it kept sensitive research equipment bone dry the whole time.
The burly fabric, external frame, and single-walled design make this pack relatively simple, durable, and likely easy to repair. While our bushwhacking and scrambling hardly scratched the tough material, its stiffness likely makes it vulnerable to punctures and abrasion in tough environments like narrow, sandstone slot canyons. If you depend on this pack's waterproofing, it wouldn't be a bad idea to carry a roll of repair tape.
The stretchy mesh on this pack is not the burliest, but held up fine during our testing. Other than those, the TIZIP zipper is the only potential weak point on this pack. It's unlikely to be damaged by abrasion or impacts, but if you get it excessively dirty, it can fail to seal. Be sure to read the owner's manual and regularly grease the zipper to maintain its function. That said, we went a whole summer of hard use on this pack without greasing the zipper and experienced no negative results.
Our normal rain test was a bit of a joke for this pack, especially after we had submersed it in a river. However, even with the hydration hose coming out of the pack (this compromises its submersibility), it mostly keeps gear dry in the rain. Even after we sprayed the hydration port directly (the only place water could get in, and only if you have a hose installed), the inside of the pack had only two or three small drops of water. For rainy environments, this is a pack you really won't have to worry about.
The Ortlieb Atrack 25 is a high-end, top-performing pack with features that few other packs can offer. That demands an unusually high price for a daypack. While we would hesitate to spend this much on a single pack, we see this as a specialized piece of gear that not only enables us to seek out new and creative adventures (e.g., combining whitewater swimming, biking, and hiking), it also makes everyday adventures so much easier. If you can stomach the high purchase price, this pack will likely last you a very long time.
The Ortlieb Atrack 25 takes our Top Pick for wet environments, but it also provides the versatility to accompany you on a range of adventures. If you want true waterproofing, easy access to gear, and a really comfortable pack, this is the one for you. However, if the price is too high, or you don't absolutely need your gear to be bone dry all the time, there are other similarly high-performing daypacks that come in a fair bit cheaper.
— Dan Scott