Gadling Gear: Deuter Futura 28 Backpack (Warning: Not for Heavy Packers)

In the (very near) future I’m going to write a comprehensive article about why and how to pack light, so make sure you’re RSSed up and ready for that in the next week or two.

Consider this the prequel. The most important part of packing light is the bag, and I’m proud to say that I’ve found the ultimate bag for packing light, the Deuter Futura 28.

I found the Deuter Futura 28 by accident. I was at Whole Earth Provisions in Austin, Texas, getting ready for my 10 month trip around the world. I needed a bag.

I looked at the North Face bags, the Osprey bags, the Arcteryx bags, and all of the other usual suspects. None of them stood out.

As I was about to leave I saw a bag tucked away in the far corner. It was pushed back into the rack so that only someone obsessively evaluating every single bag would find it. That’s me.

I had never heard of Deuter, so I assumed they must be some no name budget brand. After just a few minutes of examination, though, I realized just how wrong I was. This was the ultimate bag for the light packer.

What makes the Deuter so unique?

First, and most striking, the Deuter has an “AirComfort” suspension system. In a nutshell this is a lightweight steel spring frame that pushes the bag off of the back and creates an airspace between the wearer and the bag. Sweaty back? Not anymore.

Besides keeping you cool, the AirComfort system also makes the bag more comfortable to wear by creating a bit of a suspension system. It’s not bulky and heavy like a camping backpack, but it serves much of the same function.

An unadvertised benefit that you only discover through real world use is that you can put the bag straps-down in a puddle or wet surface and it won’t seep into the bag and drench everything.

The Deuter has two openings, one at the top and one at the bottom. That means that your days of digging way deep into the bag trying to find something at the bottom are over. There’s also a divider in the middle that, once zipped, separates the bag into two compartments, one on top of the other.

I leave my bag in this configuration most of the time. It makes it easy to use one compartment as a stuff sack for stuff you won’t use often (rain gear, cot, etc), while leaving the other compartment nice and easy to work with.

A rain cover is built into the bottom of the pack in it’s own little pocket, ready to be used as soon as you need it. Unzip and pull it over the bag. There is a tether so that you can’t lose it.

The mesh pockets on the sides are excellent. This is a good example of the thought that was put into this thing. They stretch way far out so that you can put big things in them (a small sleeping bag in one case), but have good elastics and nylon straps to hold in even a very small water bottle.

There is a sleeve for a hydration pouch in the main compartment. I hate those things, but the sleeve is perfect for keeping a 12″ laptop in. The laptop ends up well protected between the stuff you’ve packed and the AirComfort suspension.

All of these features are enough to make the Deuter the perfect bag, but what really pushes it over the edge is the quality, both in design and build.

The bag is tiny by most standards, smaller than the iconic LL Bean or Jansport school backpack, but is so well laid out and so devoid of useless space wasters that I am able to pack for 10 months in it and still have enough room to hold four apples and some nuts for snacks.

The materials are all very durable. I’ve put my bag through a pretty thorough thrashing and it still looks brand new.

The bottom line is that Deuter 28 is the perfect bag for any serious traveler who wants a solid balance between capacity and mobility.

If you really can’t fit everything in there, they make much larger versions as well.

Deuter is a German brand that seems a lot more popular outside the US. It can be bought at some outdoor stores as well as Amazon. A hint if you find it at a local store – if you ask they will give you weighted bean bags to try the bag out with some weight in it.