Other Features: Loops, Pockets, and Rainfly
The Versant’s trekking pole / ice axe loops are sturdy. The upper velcro connector is built into the top compression straps, and unlike many hiking packs, the straps don’t allow heavier objects (like an ice axe) to bounce around.
There are four clip-in points on the back, four on top of the brain, and another four on the bottom that allow you to easily lash other gear onto the outside of the pack.
There is a small pocket on the right side of the hip belt that fits a phone or GPS nicely, and the right side features Thule’s VersaClick system — this is simply a pair of plastic clips that mate with a variety of accessories. The Versant comes stock with a dry bag attachment, but it’s easily swapped out for a water bottle sleeve, or a traditional zippered pocket, making it easy to customize the pack to your particular objective.
The Versant comes with an integrated rainfly that covers most of the pack, but leaves the bottom uncovered for better access. So the bottom portion of the pack is waterproof without the fly, something that Thule says makes the fly more efficient and easier to use. I haven’t needed the fly yet, but I have played with it, and it appears to offer good protection while still being easy to put on and take off.
The one feature that really fell short for me was the compression straps. They don’t reach as far around the pack as those on most packs I’ve used. This means that it’s harder to actually cinch the pack down that far, and it has a tendency to bulge with the shape of whatever is in it more than most packs I’ve used. That’s not a huge deal, but I would like to see the straps wrapping further around the pack to make them more useful. With that update to the compression straps and an elastic sternum strap, the Versant 60L would be a much more compelling choice.
The Thule Versant 60L has a simple pocket layout and several features, including the VersaClick waist belt, that make it a great option for mid-length backpacking trips (provided it works with your back, of course). While I did find the sternum strap and compression straps a little frustrating, I still like how pack carries well enough that I’ll continue to use it on trips that call for this sort of volume.
If you’re looking for a pack to haul a trad rack, food for 5 days, and 60 m of rope across the Tetons, there are more technical packs that are better suited to the task. But if you’re looking for a mid-sized pack for shorter backpacking trips, the Versant is a fine choice provided you can live with the sternum and compression straps.