$169.99 • Kathmandu
The Bottom Line: The Voltai 40L pack from Kathmandu is designed for travel and basic hikes. Large enough for the lite packer to complete an overnight trip and for the super prepared day-hiker. Just the right size for a carry-on piece of luggage.
The Kathmandu Voltai 40L pack's simple, thoughtful, and customizable design allows it to compete with the mainstream U.S. brands of day packs.
The Voltai's solid construction is obvious on first impression. The mesh-reinforced internal pocket is ideal for valuables and other smaller items that require quick and easy access. The base is also reinforced, preventing damage while slamming the pack down in the dirt and mud when you can't bare to carry it any farther down the trail. It also stands upright freely (depending on the percentage fill of gear in the main pocket).
Most competitive brands of packs also have a meshed back panel separating the pack and the wearer. The ClimaticZONING Breathable AiR harness on this pack seems to be designed quite well, allowing for air flow over sweaty areas of the back. The main pocket's dual J-shaped zipper allows for easy access, but a base pocket is not available as many other packs have.
The vast zippered hip belt pockets are quite handy! I wish every pack had this feature. It makes so much sense to have access to smaller, frequently used items like snacks, a headlamp, and gloves. This pack's pockets have space for all of those things plus more.
The zippered rear pocket is ideal for a rain shell or other layers requiring quick access. There are also accessory gear loops on the base for attaching additional gear items such as a tent or sleeping bag. However, straps are not included as some other brands.
While the Voltai pack seems to lack common features found on competitive models from other brands, its clean design is quite appealing. A low-profile, contoured construction allows it to be inherently ergonomic. This is important because the back panel and hip belt are not adjustable like many other packs. Although, having worn this pack on a day snowshoe trip and while AT skiing, the basic comfort is not sacrificed by the lack of customizable adjustment. It is actually surprisingly quite comfy.
This pack has an internal hydration sleeve. Compared to competitive hydration packs, which have an external hydration compartment, threading hydration tubes through the two available ports is somewhat cumbersome.
Also, each adjustable shoulder straps and load-lifting straps have a strap holder for the tail segment, just as many other brands do. However, these strap holders are quite tiny, and the strap comes loose often. Re-threading is also cumbersome.
This pack is not necessarily designed for mountaineering, but even the most basic U.S.-branded day packs include at least once ice axe loop. The Voltai doesn't have any. The elastic toggled adjustable accessory loops on the rear daisy chain can be girth-hitched around an axe, although they are primarily designed for trekking poles. The rear daisy chain is also helpful for attaching other accessories or straps.
I'm just going to mention how much I like their super clean, meaningful logo. It seems like they started with an infinity symbol and evolved it into a double mountain—it just communicates so much in a small way. The logo on the back of the pack is bordered by seams on the top, accentuating the mountain look. Some of those zipper pulls even have the logo on them. Love the detail!
Anyone who cares about the overall status of our world and considers themselves a steward of the outdoors should be considerate of the materials used and the social attitudes of big companies like Kathmandu. Taking responsibility for their impact on the environment, Kathmandu has been in a leader in these aspects. They promote healthy lifestyles of their corporate employees, build energy-efficient offices, sponsor medical international mission trips, and provided disaster response aid to the recent Nepalese earthquake of 2015. Supporting a company like this seems like a noble move.
Kathmandu is just beginning to move into the over-saturated U.S. outdoor apparel market, although they are not a young company at 30 years old. I had never heard of them before this, but I'm quite impressed with the overall quality, simple yet thoughtful features, and the fact that they are attempting to take responsibility for their impact on our fragile world. As of the time of this post, the only place to purchase is directly from the Kathmandu Outdoor website. A 365-day return policy is included with every item sold.
While the Voltai lacks many luxury features found in its competitors, its quality and construction still make it quite appealing. Without these extra features, it saves weight. And without the additional items, the quality of the pack itself is still quite sound. The low-profile, tight design allows it to be very comfortable despite the limited customized fit adjustment points. I've made this my go-to day pack for simple hikes and look forward to traveling with it as well.