Backpacking with Magnus: Upsides and Downsides of Rolltop Backpacks

Over the past years, rolltop backpacks and several new models have become a popular choice for both day hikers and overnight backpackers. However, there are advantages and disadvantages that you should consider if you are planning to buy a new backpack or if you are changing from the traditional model that has a top lid pocket.

Backpacking with Magnus: Upsides and Downsides of Rolltop Backpacks

Upsides to Rolltop Backpacks

Rolltop packs are modernized backpacks that close like dry bags on top. However, they are rarely waterproof, especially the ones with built-in hydration port. The primary benefits of these packs are ease of use and simplicity. With fewer webbing straps encumbering the outside, Magnus Midtboe backpacking rolltop packs close and open more easily than the traditional ones that have top lid pockets.

Top Compression: By using rolltop packs, you get to reduce unnecessary backpack bulk by rolling up extra fabric when closing the backpack.  Your load is now less bulky and more condensed.

Large Top Openings:  The large top opening of the rolltop pack makes it easier to see what’s inside, easier to pack away your gears and easier to retrieve what is inside.

Wider Range of Use: A rolltop backpack allows you to purchase a bigger capacity pack so you can use it for short as well as long trips because you can easily modify the volume to your desired needs.

Less Straps: The majority of rollpacks have less straps than those with top lids because an extra top pocket is not needed over the main section. Instead of a backpack with numerous outer straps, go for a rollpack to give you that pleasant minimalistic experience.

Less Zippers to Break: A backpack weakest section is the pocket zippers. Zippers usually freeze up with grit and dirt. Most rollpacks are without zippers and are not likely to have zipper failures.

Less Costly to Manufacture: Manufacturers spend less in making rollpack backpacks because they use less fabric when manufacturing them. More benefits here.

Downsides to Rolltop Backpacks

While this type of backpacks can be very beneficial for simple style trips, you shouldn’t make the assumption that they are ideal for every situation. Sometimes, it’s better to choose a backpack with a top lid or straps for your trip. Before you decide on what type of backpack you should buy, think about your preferences and the intended purposes for getting the backpack.

Less pockets or sections for organizing gear: Many rolltop packs have only one compartment for storage, therefore everything inside gets mixed up. This is a major issue and can be challenging if you are engaged in overnight- multi-activity, which include climbing, photography or fishing. A backpack with multiple pockets can help you organize your gears independently allowing you easy access when you need them. Traditional backpacks with many specialty pockets are great for winter trips especially when you need a quick change of hat and gloves, thus minimizing the number of stops you would make.

Less external add-on points: Many rolltop packs have less straps and attachment points for attaching gear to outside of the backpack. Backpacks with many closed sections are more likely to have seams you can use to anchor webbing straps and gear loops, which are important  to consider if you need to attach other items such as crampons, skis, large foam pads, or a bear flask to the outside of your pack.

Wet gear and dry packed together: Simple rolltop packs don’t provide a good way to separate wet clothing or wet and damp gear from dry items. This can be really challenging on multi-day trips when you need to change into dry gear in an emergency or during the night.

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Need a hydration reservoir and hose for water: Simple rolltop backpacks have no side pockets for holding water bottles; instead, you have to use a hydration reservoir and hose to store water inside your pack. There are many drawbacks to using hydration reservoirs for your backpacking trips: your inability to see the amount of water you have remaining, the problem of refilling without emptying and repacking your pack and the possibility of them leaking. Read here for more info: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydration_pack.

Recommendations for Rolltop Backpack

How can you enjoy the upsides of these backpacks and alleviate their downsides? It’s simple.  Find rolltop packs that have large trowel style pockets at the back, mesh water bottle pockets on the sides and hip belts. These packs allow for better organization of multi-purposes and separating dry and wet items.

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