Even if you're heading out for a short hike on your favorite trail, you'll need a good hiking backpack. But "good" is relative as every hiker looks for something different. Some prefer a small, compact, breathable daypack, while others like one with a more rigid frame and support.
I tend to fall somewhere in the middle. Unless I'm heading out on an all-day hike, I prefer a multi-purpose backpack—one that can carry the basics while still being comfortable and lightweight. Moreover, I like one backpack that can double as reliable for traveling, too.
Able Carry is known for making modern, multi-use, everyday backpacks. Their packs are billed as sleek, functional, and comfortable. The brand has many different models, but I gave the Max 30L backpack a try.
The Max went with me on three separate trips: snowshoeing; a three-hour hike; and a two-day, four-state road trip. Overall, I was impressed with the bags ability to be a great travel backpack and a pretty good hiking backpack, along with its multitude of pockets and how seamlessly it transitioned uses.
Able Carry Max Backpack Specs
When hiking, I like to carry the basics. I pack a water bottle, snacks, sunscreen, a first aid kit, and a phone. Since I often have the kids in tow, I'm usually not out for more than a few hours—but I often carrying their snacks and water bottles, too.
Able Carry's Max Backpack is billed as the ultimate everyday backpack. It's the perfect accessory for work, travel, and play and comes in black, blue, and green. The interior boasts 30 liters of storage for devices, water bottles, notebooks, and more.
Even better than a large storage area are the pockets: There are pockets for everything in this backpack, and you could almost get lost in the sheer number of these zippered storage compartments. There's also a dedicated work compartment for a laptop up to 17 inches.
Unlike many backpacks, the water bottle holder here is not a mesh afterthought on the side; instead, it's built into the side of the backpack, closing up with its very own zipper.
The material is water-resistant and durable. The zippers are lockable and can plop onto a luggage handle for easy transport. Plus, there is a hanger hook on the top for easy grabbing.
How It Performed
I took the Max 30L backpack on a two-day road trip from California to Texas, packing both my personal and work laptops, plus their charging cords. Surprisingly, this all fit perfectly alongside a couple of notebooks, a Kindle, and cords for other devices. The large, open pouch in the front held the rest of my gear comfortably as well, even being big enough to fit a couple of outfits.
The weight went up dramatically, thanks to the two laptops, but picking it up by the hanger hook was still comfortable with not a lot of pull on the handle.
My shoulders tend to get sore easily when carrying a heavy backpack; but even with two laptops, the thick shoulder straps stayed very comfortable.
The luggage pass-through made it easy to plop onto my luggage and roll to the hotel. If I wanted to, I could have used the very front pouch for my wallet and completely eliminated the need for a purse.
Off the bat, I was impressed with its performance as a travel backpack. The stiffness of the technology compartment took some getting used to, but it gave me peace of mind knowing that my laptops were secure on my road trip. Overall, it was easy to use and did the job.
My very-particular husband wasn't too impressed with the Max out of the box—it looked like a basic backpack, after all. But his opinion changed after he wore it on a snowshoeing trip to Tahoe National Forest. The pack was initially filled with snacks and water bottles for four people, but as the day warmed up, it was soon stuffed with everyone's shedded snow gear.
We were pleased to see the large outer compartment could accommodate all the gloves, hats, and scarves without squishing the snacks. It also still left plenty of room to access the water bottles. My husband reported that the straps were comfortable and his back didn't get too hot. Everything inside stayed dry, even with errant snowballs flying through the air and the bag being set down in the snow once or twice.
On a separate trip, I donned the backpack for our three-hour hike to Hidden Falls and back. It was full of snack and water for the family again. The pockets made it easy to organize my two kids' snacks into separate, easy-to-access areas.
Thanks to old sports injuries to my shoulders, I'm not a big fan of wearing a backpack in general and I almost always opt to have my husband carry the pack if possible. But here, I appreciated Max's padded straps and air channel. I found the weight was distributed evenly across my back, and the magnetic chest closure kept it secure.
While a key barrier to backpack comfort is often back sweat, Able Carry designed this pack to have ventilated pads to create an air channel up the back for maximum comfort.
What We Didn't Like About the Backpack
The only thing I didn't care for was that the dark interior made it hard to find things when there wasn't a lot of light. Having a contrasting color in the interior would make that task a lot easier.
Is It the Right Bag for You?
If you want a backpack solely for hiking, there are plenty of other options on the market that are better designed for adventures than the Max. And considering the Max has a steep price point coming in at $278, it's not the top choice for hikers.
But if you're like me who has multiple hobbies, travels, and loves having one bag that can do almost everything, you may want to take a closer look at the Max.
In testing this backpack, I found it carried everything I needed and more. Plus, it is water-resistant, which is great peace of mind.
One thing I love is that Able Carry offers a two-week test run; if you don't like it, you can send it back. They also have a lifetime guarantee against workmanship defects for life. In addition to the functionality and comfort of this bag, a company that stands behind its craftsmanship is worth the extra money to me.