We sent Explorer Matt Pearce out with the Black Wolf Traverse 40 backpack for some real-world testing. Just how useful were all of those features, zips and straps? And is 40 litres the sweet spot for a cheeky microadventure?
If you’re looking for a technical backpack to fill the gap between your medium sized day-pack, and the 50+ litre, multi day packs, this could hit the sweet spot. The number of features and amount of thought that’s gone into this 40 litre offering is impressive. The more I used it, the more I discovered.
Even sitting down to write this review and checking Black Wolf’s website for some additional information I discovered that there’s an emergency whistle built in to the design!
Black Wolf is an Aussie brand that started in 1996 and has expanded to offer over 150 outdoor products. From commuter backpacks to family sized tents, to camping furniture and lots in between. They pride themselves on quality and innovation and the Traverse 40 is a prime example of this ethos.
Fit & Comfort
Comfort has to be the number one priority in any backpack and this one ticks the box. The shoulder straps have sections cut out of the foam padding to allow for extra air movement and heat transfer. The sternum strap has a large range of up and down adjustment to find the perfect spot.
Unlike some other packs I’ve used, the waist belt is adjustable on both sides, meaning you can get it nice and snug on the hip bones, reducing pressure on the shoulders. Finally, for fine tuning, are the straps at the very top of the pack. These allow you to pull the it tight against your back, to centralise the weight as much as possible, limiting bag wobble when jumping over logs and down steep tracks.
All that adjustment is designed to get the weight of the pack nice and close to your body, but in some other packs that usually means having to put up with a sweat drenched back for the duration of your hike. Although not totally unavoidable, Black Wolf have thought about this and utilised what they call ‘Air Tech Flex’ to create some channels for air to move around.
Ultimately, you still get a sweaty back, but maybe it’s not as bad as it could have been.
For the Instagram generation, it might not be the most attractive bag on the market. All of the compartments and adjustability result in a lot of loose, hanging straps. It would be great to have a way to roll them up or tidy them out of the way when they’re not needed.
This particular model does come in three colour options; blue, green and black. It might be seen as function over fashion by some, but that’s not a bad thing if your main criteria is a bag that performs.
Onto the features, and the Traverse 40 has heaps! Loops top and bottom allow you to easily lash a roll mat and a sleeping bag externally, bumping up the internal 40 litre capacity for overnight hikes. The waist belt has zipped pockets on both sides, which I always find really handy for the thing you’re always reaching for, like snacks, without having to constantly stop.
The reflective daisy chain running down the centre came in handy for tying bags of rubbish and even soaked shoes when hiking out of a camp. There are numerous compartments of varying sizes, meaning you can easily separate your gear depending on how often you’ll need access to it, or keep dirty away from clean.
Inside the pack is where things get really techy. Within the main compartment is an RFID protected pocket to keep any sensitive documents safe from scammers, especially on overseas trips. There’s a bright orange rain cover that packs away in the bottom and a sleeve in the very back that can house a bladder, with holes in the top will guide a hose out to a clip near the sternum strap. And it’s in the sternum strap, in the actual clip, the emergency whistle is hiding. Genius!
Out On The Trail
A sign of a good bag is one that doesn’t get in your way or slow you down. It should make life easier and your time on the trail more enjoyable. The Traverse 40 definitely does that. All the essentials can be stowed within easy reach and when you get to your destination, the main compartment unzips from top to bottom, meaning you don’t have to pull everything out to get hold of your raincoat that you packed right at the bottom. This is a big advantage over the roll top packs that seem to be gaining popularity recently.
Black Wolf have certainly delivered on their brand promise with the Traverse 40. Probably the most technical bag I’ve used and crucially the most comfortable. It’s big enough to handle an overnight hike with basic camping equipment, but equally doesn’t feel like overkill on a one day mission. Although I didn’t get the opportunity to test on anything long haul, the RFID protection suggests Black Wolf also considered people using the Traverse as hand luggage for flights.
Overall it’s a very versatile bag, packed with features and it’ll be my first choice for upcoming adventures.
Embrace Your Inner Turtle