Vaude first introduced the Trail Spacer to us at ISPO, the annual winter outdoor expo in Munich, and it appealed straight away thanks to 3-D knitted yarns and a seriously fresh design. To the average hiker the vest setup looks alien, with a sea of stretchy, shock absorbing material and no hipbelt as such. But despite everything you think you know about backpacks, it works fantastically well for fast day hikes and mountain bike rides.
The highlight of the Trail Spacer has to be those innovative 3-D knitted strands on the back panel and shoulder straps, which are sandwiched between two layers of soft, cushy material to give you a beautifully shock absorbing ride. The bouncy shoulder straps run down into figure hugging curved panels made of super comfy and mega breathable stretch mesh fabric equipped with two massive zipped stretch mesh dump pockets. These are genuinely accessible with the pack on and can swallow a crazy amount of gear, think lightweight down jacket and you're along the right lines. Storing quick access kit like snacks, gels, phones and GPS devices is fully taken care of by stretch pockets on the fronts of the shoulder straps, just like you'd find on a trail running vest.
A slightly more robust triangle of material overlays the mesh down towards the belt area, this massively adds to the stability of the pack for the regular pounding of hiking, cycling and running and is adjustable to your body shape. The pack is secured to your torso using two straps, we've found the most comfortable place for them is mid chest and mid torso, this seems to work well with the overall shape and design of the Trail Spacer, allowing it to hug your upper body.
The shape, wide zip opening, and bright yellow colour of the bag means that all gear inside is easy to see and get to. Keeping yourself hydrated is also easy thanks to hydration bladder tube routing through to either shoulder strap and elasticated retention loops. In front of the hydration bladder sleeve is a zipped pocket that's great for keys, cash and cards and if you decide not to use the sleeve for a bladder you can even squeeze a small laptop or tablet in there. There's a front kangaroo pocket with stretch mesh inserts as well, this is a bit on the small side but still just big enough for a lightweight waterproof jacket.
Despite being soft and stretchy the Trail Spacer is impeccably put together and feels very durable, it isn't the sort of pack that you feel shy to chuck around. We used the pack on a rainy bike ride and the outer fended off water reasonable well, there's an optional rain cover available if you're not keen on using dry bags though.
Integrating seamless 3-D knit gives this pack a tick on the sustainable eco list box as you get a lot less wastage than with traditional panel cutting and it's worth noting Vaude's pioneering commitment to environmental issues if this is a consideration for you when buying from a brand.
Having originally launched the Trail Spacer as an 8 litre version Vaude were limiting the usefulness of this pack, but the 18 litre version is an absolute gem that's incredibly comfortable to wear and has class leading storage.