Alex FoxfieldAlex is a qualified Mountain Leader, President of the London Mountaineering Club, an adventure writer and content creator with an insatiable passion for the mountains. A Cumbrian born and bred, the Lake District has a special place in his heart, and through his hiking, mountaineering, climbing and trail running adventures, Alex aims to inspire others to get outdoors.
A thoughtfully designed pack that’s both lightweight and waterproof, perfect for speed hiking. With versatile storage options and a barely there feel on the trails, it’s a neat little product at a decent price.
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When it comes to fast and light mountain adventures, the less weight I have to carry, the better. A hydration vest offers that barely there feel that’s so sought after, but these kinds of runners’ packs don’t give me the capacity I need for longer, more remote adventures, nor the waterproof protection I’d probably need at some stage in the fells and mountains.
So, what I’m looking for is a pack that allows me to comfortably carry my provisions, whether running, hiking or scrambling, all while still giving me the barely there feel of a running vest. Ideally, it should give me plenty of on-the-go storage, food and hydration options, so I don’t have to stop and take it off every time I need to refuel.
I’m particularly interested to see this pack’s waterproof qualities in action, to see how it holds up against those warm, windy and wet westerly weather fronts that roll in off the Atlantic.
Straight away, it’s obvious that the Trailblazer is no ordinary day pack. It puts me in mind of how Tesla went back to square one when designing their first electric car, so that they wouldn’t fall into the trap of applying traditional technologies and techniques. Instead, they found more elegant, modern solutions that weren’t influenced by assumptions of how things should be done.
It’s the same with the Trailblazer. It’s a bit of a daypack 2.0. No needlessly heavy components, no flappy lid, no main zippered compartment, no meaty compression straps with bulky buckles. Instead, minimal components abound, shaving every conceivable gram in the process.
minimal components abound, shaving every conceivable gram
I put the Montane Trailblazer to use during a unique approach to the National Three Peaks Challenge, taking on Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon), Scafell Pike and Ben Nevis in 24 hours, though not by the standard routes generally used. Instead, my goal was to complete the challenge via scrambling routes: Crib Goch on Yr Wyddfa, the Corridor Route on Scafell Pike and the Càrn Mòr Dearg Arête on Ben Nevis.
The need for speed meant that the lightweight Trailblazer was a great choice, while its decent capacity gave me space for all the safety essentials, food and water I’d need for each leg. The fact it’s waterproof negated the need for using internal dry bags, which was a good thing too as I had the occasional shower to contend with.
The mixture of running, scrambling and hiking – the latter of which was unsurprisingly more prevalent by the time I reached Ben Nevis – allowed me to judge how the Trailblazer felt and performed across a range of dynamic activities.
WHO IS THIS ITEM FOR?
The Trailblazer walks a bit of tightrope (or should that be razor sharp arête?) between runners’ packs and hikers’ daypacks. While it’s lighter than many hydration vests, it boasts the capacity of a small daypack and is waterproof too.
This adds up to a pack that’s ideal for fast and light mountain adventures in summer conditions. It’s easy to run with, yet it can carry enough provisions for a successful, long and safe day in the fells. It’s too large for race-day and isn’t suitable for winter, but warm season speed hikers will love this pack.
WHAT STANDS OUT?
At 300g, it’s wonderfully light, more so than many runners’ hydration vests
40D siliconised nylon face fabric with TPU coating is fully waterproof
Kept many belongings dry in conjunction with face fabric and fully taped seams
WRAP AROUND MESH POCKETS
Handy, easily accessible on-the-go storage for hydration and snacks
VALUE FOR MONEY
BASE BOTTOM LINE
A good pack is one you mostly forget your wearing. After three substantial mountains’ worth of running, scrambling and hiking, I was still enjoying wearing the Trailblazer and my interior kit was still dry as my humour had become 23 hours into the challenge. The body-hugging harness had served its purpose beautifully, meaning the pack felt like a part of me throughout and one that, occasionally, I’d forget I was wearing at all. The mesh back panel kept things ventilated and, although I was often working up a sweat, it seemed to wick moisture away effectively. It was also telling how quickly the pack dried after each outing.
The main body of the pack is basically a compressible dry bag and I like how uncomplicated it is. There are no additional compartments or valuables pockets within the main sack. Instead, items like keys and phones can be secured in the zippered chest pockets on either strap. Once the pack is loaded up, adjusting and tightening the compression and harness straps is usually a doddle, though the small size of the components makes this tricky when wearing gloves. The elasticated webbing on the front of the pack can be tightened or loosened (depending on how much stuff is in the main compartment) using a cord lock, which makes the Trailblazer look a little odd when only half full. However, this design does help to keep everything compact, which is what the peak-bagging doctor ordered.
I like the elasticated mesh pockets on the exterior, which give loads of additional, accessible storage. This was where I decided to stash my soft flasks, energy gels and Trek bars and, while it was a little fiddly to retrieve items myself, I always had my hiking buddies to grab them when necessary.
There are a few little details I’d change. I feel that the zippered chest pockets on the straps could have been designed with hydration in mind. When it comes to a hydration pack, I like to be able to sup from soft flasks while moving. However, this may be a personal preference thing. After all, the Trailblazer works well with a hydration bladder, with a dedicated compartment between the main body and the mesh back panel. Secondly, when all is tightened up, particularly when the pack isn’t full, there are quite a few dangly bits that have to be tucked in somewhere.
However, minor gripes aside, the Trailblazer is a superb pack for fast and light hikers, scramblers and runners who value plenty of storage. Montane has done a great job at rethinking the daypack, stripping things back to basics before sprinkling on a little bit of magic.