For a while now, I’ve been in desperate need of a good backpack, as all the ones I own are tattered old bags from my high school days long ago. Living in New York City,where traveling to nature requires a trip on public transportation through a painfully dense city, makes my backpack my livelihood. It’s how I carry all my gear and belongings.
Lugging around a large backpack is simply implausible for regular use in the city, which is why when I was given the opportunity to review a backpack from Eureka Tents, I chose the smaller Panther Peak 30L.
At less than two and a half pounds with a capacity of 30L, the backpack was exactly what I expected. It was small and light enough to be used for “light urban travel,” as it was billed, but heavy duty enough to be taken on more hard-core adventures. I was initially afraid it would be too small for anything slightly longer than a day trip, but my fears were quickly assuaged when I started stuffing gear and clothing inside.
The red Panther Peak has a nice exterior design with the exclamation point logo clearly visible. It has a reflective bungee for attaching more gear, two side water bottle pockets and a really deep stash pocket that closes with two buckles at the top. This pocket is pretty convenient, though the fact that it’s as deep as the backpack itself makes digging out smaller things more difficult.
It has a number of straps on it including an adjustable sternum strap and a hip belt. For light urban travel, the hip belt—which also has a zippered compartment and gear loops—is overkill, but it conveniently tucks away into the backpack to hide it when you don’t need it. Unfortunately, the sternum strap with built-in whistle just hangs there when you’re not using it.
One of the aspects of the backpack I love is the convenient rain cover that tucks away into the bottom. This unexpectedly came in handy when I took the backpack, packed with my laptop and notebooks, out one night to visit friends in Central Park. Out of nowhere, the sky opened up, but when I covered the backpack with the rain guard, the interior stayed completely dry—even though I was soaked.
It’s difficult to tell from the image above, but the main compartment is pretty minimal. There’s an inner sleeve in the main section that can hold a hydration bladder or laptop. I haven’t used it with a hydration bladder yet, but my 15-inch Macbook Pro fits perfectly in the slot.
The weakest part of the backpack is the secondary zippered compartment. It has a few organizational slots, but aside from two small mesh pockets that stay closed with Velcro, there’s not much to keep your smaller gear and necessary knickknacks from falling out into the compartment. When the backpack is laid on its back or shaken in physical activity, objects tend to move around or get mixed up. If the backpack is really full, things stay inside the pockets easier.
Maybe I’m simply biased by the fact that I’ve been using lower-quality backpacks, but I found the Panther Peak extremely comfortable. I was initially thrown off by the stiffness of the HDPE back panel, but once everything was actually loaded in, I immediately learned to love it. With an iPad, DSLR camera in a bulky case, binoculars and a sweatshirt packed in, other backpacks would bulge against your back, but this framesheet really held well.
I found one of the most underrated parts of the backpack to be the ventilated back panels that give you some space between your back and the actual pack. This particularly showed its worth while I was walking around in hot and humid temperatures. Regardless of how much stuff was in the pack, the padded straps and back distributed the weight and kept it from feeling overbearing and excessively warm.
If you’re using this solely as a backpack for light urban travel, it’s probably a bit over the top, but if you use it for day hikes and trips that require more gear and support, this backpack is a great option. It’s versatile enough to be your go-to backpack, but durable enough to be used in extreme situations.
Except for some inefficient pockets in the secondary compartment, this comfortable backpack is well-designed and thoroughly created with the user in mind. If you’re interested in picking up a Eureka Panther Peak 30L, it retails for around $60, which is reasonable considering the price of comparable backpacks from companies like North Face. Overall, this is definitely a buy-it product.