AtomPacks is a relatively new British company: 5 years old at the time of writing this review. Tom and his team hand-make the packs to order, so they can be made in a standard configuration or customised and made to measure for your back length. The Prospector model is very lightweight, starting from 650g depending on the size and extras added.
About 4 years ago I had a 60-litre bespoke AtomPacks Prospector rucksack made with waterproof fabric, side pockets, roll-top entry, front mesh pocket, top and side compression straps. sternum strap, ice axe loop, shoulder strap pockets, bottom pocket, load lifters and removable hip belt pockets.
I have tested the pack on the multi-day TGO Challenge across Scotland, the start of my Dover to Cape Wrath walk and the Weavers Way. I have also used it as a day pack on numerous day walks, both here in the UK and in the Austrian Alps.
My Prospector weighs 1050g, which is very light weight for its size. The standard 60L pack would be lighter but mine has all the extras: 2 hip belt pockets, 2 shoulder strap pockets and a base pocket. Tom also fitted some custom extras for me: 2 elastic straps on the shoulder straps to hold gloves and 4 loops on the pack base to put bungee cord through to hold a roll mat.
Weight: 60L = 1050g with all the extras.
Main body fabric: VX21.
Heavy-duty bullet mesh front pocket.
Side pocket fabric: VX21.
Base fabric: VX21.
Body back panel: soft and quiet 500D cordura.
Other material options have now become available.
Frame: 1mm HDPE sheet with removable and 2 mouldable aluminium rods.
Foam: 10mm closed cell foam.
There is no top pocket on these packs, they have all roll tops to close and seal the top. This works well simplifying the pack, saving weight and making it easy to adjust the volume inside.
The back frame has a plastic frame sheet and two alloy rods. It’s well padded and successfully transfers weight to the hip belt. It’s also easily removable if needed but it’s not going to save much weight, so I don’t see that’s necessary.
I particularly like the mesh pocket on the front of the pack. It’s large enough to hold a complete one-person lightweight tent, or even a two-person flysheet. This is ideal for stowing wet tents, stopping the rest of the gear inside the pack getting soaked. It also means that I can set up and break camp without opening my pack. This is particularly useful when it’s raining.
Storing the tent on the outside of the pack also makes it quick and easy to access for drying it during a lunch break. The pocket could also be used to store a lot of odds and ends, or spare clothes that may be needed during the day.
The optional hip belt pockets are accessed with a zip that runs across the top. They are roomy enough to hold snacks, gloves, etc.
The shoulder strap pockets are the perfect size to store a mobile phone or 350ml drink bottles. But unfortunately not my new Ulefone Armor 3W rugged smart phone. Note the custom extra elastic loops under these pockets> I use these to hold gloves.
A useful bottom pocket can be accessed whilst wearing the pack. I find it perfect for tucking in maps and gloves.
The side pockets are made of a fairly tough non stretchy material. This is good because I find this area gets a lot of abuse while pushing through over grown paths. They will easily fit a 1-litre water bottle in with room to spare. My MSR Guardian water purifier pump just fits in one side. I often balance that weight by carrying a tent in the other side, using the bungee cords to hold it in place.
I use the bungee cords on the side of the pack to store my waterproofs and sit mat. This gives me easy access to them without having to open the main pack.
The Prospector is very well constructed with a tough, waterproof fabric which looks great. The seams are not taped so the pack is not fully waterproof; however, there are very few seams to let water in. I would always use dry bags inside my pack anyway, so the untaped seams aren’t a problem for me.
Because the pack is so light weight, I have used it as a day pack on occasion. It works really well.
I used my Prospector for a month-long trip on the TGO Challenge coast-to-coast across Scotland, and a number of other hikes including the Austrian Alps. It easily carried a week’s food and all my camping gear, and I found the pack comfortable up to about 15kgs. Above this weight, I got slight shoulder pain after long periods carrying the pack.
I feel that the AtomPacks Prospector is a very good rucksack, especially as you can have it made exactly how you want it. It is made with quality materials and should last well.
I think the rucksack is good value for money. But as they are made to order, delivery could be a while depending on AtomPacks’ workload. Mine took nearly 2 months to arrive, but it was well worth the wait.
Rucksacks need wearing in
Do not set off on a long distance hike with a band new pack. It needs to be softened up and your body has to get used to the new packs pressure points. Otherwise you are likely to get sore shoulders and hips. I’m saying this because I’ve made that mistake and the pain nearly ended my Dover to Cape Wrath walk.
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