For my first product review I'm going to talk about the Burton AK backpack (23 Liters). While there are newer models of this backpack available, and obviously better all-around backpacks out there for traveling, this one has served me well for the past five and a half years regardless of what it is that it was used for. I started using this backpack during my junior year of high school. Initially the only use it saw was on the mountain while snowboarding. There were a couple of reasons for why I chose this backpack, the first one was value. I was able to pick it up for under $50 dollars initially. Not many good backpacks could be had for that little now, especially not any name brand ones like Burton. The brand itself was another reason. I've owned a handful of Burton products and they have always surpassed my expectations.
Structural support: This doubles as a back protector and keeps things inside the backpack form digging into your back in case you fall while snowboarding. This support is form fitted to the natural contour of your back which makes it very comfortable to wear when using the support straps.
Shovel carrier: This feature is meant for carrying breakdown shovels that could be used to make ramps while back-country snowboarding. The carrier is a plastic clip that connects by bungee cords to the backpack so it allows for larger items to be clipped in if needed. I have found this extremely useful for carrying both a small camper's axe and a full sized axe (as shown below in the image). You can also connect various things to them as you find needed that do not fit into the backpack.
Snowboard straps: These are meant for carrying a snowboard on your back for when you're climbing through back-country to get to your destination. I have used it for that purpose and I must admit that it works well, however with a helmet on, the board will occasionally smack your head from bouncing up and down when climbing uphill or through deep snow. These straps could also be used for carrying your sleeping mat as shown in the picture above, however there are straps below the backpack that are meant for just that. I found them to be slightly too small for my mat.
Hydration bladder pocket: Unlike some of the higher end backpacks, this pocket is neither waterproof, nor does it include a drainage hole at the bottom in case your bladder bursts. I personally do not use hydration bladders while snowboarding, but I have however used one while mountain biking. While going over cliffs and rocks, any small fall on your back is sure to make it explode so you better be prepared for everything inside getting wet. Left strap of the backpack also comes with bladder tube holder which is a pretty useful feature as it keeps the tube from bouncing around everywhere.
Compression straps: Extremely useful feature, yet extremely annoying the way it was implemented on this backpack. The straps are way too long for anything that's even remotely usable on the backpack. I understand that if you're using this bag purely for snowboarding and will be using your gloves to tighten things on the bag while it on your back, you'll need the extra length for that. I found that having straps that long could be a safety concern if using this bag on lifts. A handful of times I've noticed the straps getting caught on the chairlifts. Luckily I saw this as a possible issue before I ever even used the backpack so I made sure to clear everything before I had to get off, however some may not think of it and possibly end up getting injured. A simple Velcro system could have been implemented in order to tie straps down, so why this feature was overlooked is beyond me. I personally opted for cutting the straps myself to my own length preference. On the straps that I never use but did not want to shorten because of possible unforeseen use for them in the future I simply taped to the rest of the backpack using some electrical tape.
Material: This backpack is made out of high density nylon 420D and 450D polyester. This material allows for the backpack to be very tough and waterproof. My expectations for build quality have been surpassed many years ago. I had never expected a backpack that I paid that little for to be able to take so much abuse for so long. Five and half years of nearly daily use and when washed it still looks brand new. The only thing that shows signs of wear and tear is inside where on one of the fold the material has slightly discolored.
Waist/sternum strap: These work as you'd expect them to. The only feature that is lacking form this section is a pocket on your hip belt. I always find myself wishing for one when doing anything outside.
Single large pocket: there are no external pockets on this backpack which could have been useful, however I've been able to manage just fine without them. There is a duel sipper for the large pocket that allows you to open up the backpack very wide in order to be able to easily access things that might have been packed at the bottom. Inside the single large pocket there is a small pocket at the top that could be used to store sunglasses or any sort of tools.
D clips: I absolutely love the fact that this backpack came with them and I use this feature all the time. I have a couple of climbing carabiners on my pack at all times (very useful in outdoor situations). One is connected to the D clip on my right strap, and the other is connected to the secondary strap that runs of top of the left strap. You're easily able to connect things like a jug of water if needed to the front strap or to the back strap safely. I've done this many times without the backpack showing any signs of extra wear and tear. You should keep in mind though that this backpack is not meant for this and is very uncomfortable when overloaded like this.
Overall it's by far the best pack I've owned and I got more than my money's worth for it. If you're on a budget and just need an overall backpack that will be really tough, last you for years, and fit almost every need then I'd strongly suggest looking into this bag.
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