Looking at replacing a damaged rucksack for day-hike use, Marie picked up the Berghaus Freeflow 20 with its suspended back panel and compact size. Here is what she thinks of it after 8 months of regular usage.
The Freeflow 20 is a small 20L backpack big enough for the average day outdoor. Its primary feature is its Freeflow system, Berghaus’ own suspended back panel design which minimize the contact between your back and the rucksack.
Berghaus’ Freeflow suspended backpanel
Freeflow consists of a rigid and curved plastic panel and two straps of highly breathable nylon mesh between the shoulder straps and the lower back, similar to some sort of bow. The shoulder straps are made out of breathable foam with holes cut in it, sandwiched in two layers of mesh on the top half.
I found the Berghaus Freeflow system to work reasonably well at keeping my back dry. However only the top half of the shoulder straps breathe well. This is because the bottom part is made of stronger nylon ripstop to support the adjustable chest strap. Suspended back panels add weight of course but the very simple construction here keeps it to a minimum. The pack weights 843g (1.8 lbs) on my scale, slightly heavier than the announced 760g (1.7 lb) on Berghaus‘ website but the difference could be because I have the older version of the model.
The general construction of the pack is good with different types of fabric like nylon, nylon ripstop, and mesh used in different areas. After the 8 months using my Berghaus Freeflow 20 it is still in very good condition with minimum wear at the bottom and hip belt areas. The design is pretty streamline, with no compression straps and other bits to get in the way.
Storage space and pockets
The main pocket is not very roomy and has an awkward space due to the curved plastic frame but thanks to the zipper opening almost half way down the pack you can still fill it pretty well or reach the bottom without having to take everything out. The zipped top lid pocket of the Berghaus Freeflow 20 is great and will accommodate phone, keys, sunglasses and wallet without problems within accessible reach. The main pocket also has a small hoop to hang a hydration bladder, with the H2O hole situated right above it.
The two side mesh pockets are small but can still fit a point and shoot camera in its pouch or a small water bottle.
Finally, the front pocket with its vertical zipper is big enough for a few snacks, maps and other small elements but be careful when opening it because everything that is not in the small mesh pocket inside tend to jumps out. Best used when the rucksack lays flat.
On the front of the Berghaus Freeflow 20 you will find to Velcro hoops to attach trekking poles grips and two other loops at the bottom with a rubberised finish where goes the tips of the poles.
At this point you might have noticed that none of the zippers seem waterproofed but fear not, should the odd shower compliment your hike you will find at the bottom of the Berghaus Freeflow 20 a rain cover, stashed away in a small zipped pocket. This adds a bit to the total weight but fortunately it can be detached from the pack and left home which is pretty nice.
The shoulder straps are quite thin but not uncomfortable and the EVAbreathe® Matrix Foam allow air and moisture to flow well. They are equipped with a small elasticated chest strap that slides on each side on some sort of cable rail. This is actually very convenient to use and let you chose where to have it to the millimetre. Each shoulder strap also has an elasticated hoop to attach the hose of your hydration pack for example.
The 20L capacity is ideal for most day-hike and I can fit easily a waterproof shell, food, fleece jacket, water bottle, maps and compass, first aid kit and camera. The Freeflow 20 is quite narrow, doesn’t get in the way when moving and is reasonably comfortable when walking.
I have also used the Berghaus Freeflow 20 for mountain biking and skiing. However, when the body leans forward, the lower part of the Freeflow system feels awkward on the back and quickly becomes painful. After just two hours cycling by back was very sore and changing the length of the shoulder straps didn’t make it much better.
My experience is that the Freeflow 20 from Berghaus is a good little day-pack that will walk with you for miles without any problems. It is not the lightest nor the most comfortable – specially when cycling – but for the price it is a decent choice. One friend bought the same after seeing mine and is happy with his purchase so far.
For the same capacity and with similar features you could also be looking at the Vaude Ultra Hiker 20 at 540g, the Osprey Sirrus 24, 1.05kg in size S, the Salomon Minim 20, 600g or the AirZone ND 22 from Lowe Alpine, 960g.