I’m a big fan of what Mark J from Trek UK used to call “big days out.” There’s a certain romance (no- not like that) about gathering a group of friends and heading out to the back of beyond- and home again. The kind of ride where packing a spare derailleur isn’t a bad idea- because without one it would be a long walk out.
That said, Deuter’s Trans Alpine 25 pack plain intimidates me. Just about the biggest cycling pack in my closet (Chrome’s absurdly large Sultan takes that title), the Deuter can swallow everything that could reasonably be needed for even the biggest days on the trail- or at the office. Hit ‘more‘ to find out how it comes together.
Appropriately for a such big bag, the Trans Alpine 25 packs a lot of features. Starting at the rider, a pair of foam-filled mesh “Airstripes” keep at least a third of the pack’s surface away from the rider, backed by formable aluminum stays. The shoulder straps are nicely padded, provide for left or right shoulder hydration tube routing, and have dedicated load lifter straps. The waist belt is anchored to a pair of padded wings, with see-through zipped mesh pockets at their centers. A pair of mesh side pockets are sit in the usual location (though unfortunately covered by load stabilizing compression straps). The massive main compartment, with a hydration pack sleeve at its back, is split by a removable divider and accessible via rainbow zippers across the top of the bag and at the back of the pack.
A nicely organized valuables pocket sits at the top of the bag and an oddly vulnerable small item pocket at the bottom. In true German fashion, a neon rain cover lives in its own pocket until summoned by the inevitable downpour. In the unlikely event that the Trans Alpine is full, stretchy Neoprene wings can be deployed to strap helmets, body armor, or small children the the back of the pack. There is a moderate amount of reflective piping sprinkled here and there and a flat pocket between the rider’s back and the main compartment to keep maps flat and dry. Whew.
Looking at the list of features (that I’ve found- there may be more), I’d have thought that the Deuter’s $99 retail price would have been stretched awfully thin or corners would have been cut here and there. That’s not the case at all- the fabrics all seem to be appropriately sturdy and of high quality, as does the hardware. Even though it’s supplied without a bladder, the Trans Alpine 25 is still a lot of bag for the money.
In the eight months since its arrival, the Trans Alpine 25 has been used for big mountain bike rides, on- and off-road commuting, and the occasional flight and weekend trip. And it’s been awesome. The large number of well thought-out compartments suits my packing style, and I tend to leave most tools, spares, and dirty bike stuff in the bottom compartment. That leaves the side pockets free for snacks and mini tools and the massive main compartment free for bulky clothing and a multi-course packed lunch. In commuting/flight mode, the full-width bladder pocket is big enough for a 14in laptop or iPad. With the central divider unzipped, the Trans Alpine can even accommodate those Eagle Creek packing cubes, which will please anyone who needs to look reasonably presentable at work.
The wide bladder pocket really works best with a structured bladder- like Osprey’s HydraForm model, which hangs nicely from the Velcro hanging loop at the top of the pack, and I would imagine that more ambitious riders than I could fit two bladders in the bag, side by side. The Deuter really is that wide. In fact, I was suspicious at first about the Trans Alpine’s nearly footprint, worried that the configuration would feel weird and be overly hot. In practice, though, the Airstripes’ relatively wide spacing meant for a surprisingly stable bag. Nothing’s going to keep perfectly still when loaded to the extent that the Deuter can be, but I never found the pack to be moving to a distracting degree and a quick shrug or flick of the hip is enough to re-center the bag. On really steep or technical terrain, it pays to let the shoulder straps out and keep the waist belt snug as no one wants that much stuff hitting them in the back of the head.
I liked the easy accessibility of the side mesh pockets, though having compression straps over the pockets makes them harder than they should be to get in to. The waistbelt pockets are just right- they’ll comfortably hold an energy gel and or block pack and I never noticed the pointy multi-tool that lived in mine while riding. Though I find it a bit big for summer commuting, the Trans Alpine is ideal for winter commutes, where bulky morning layers are shed for the afternoon ride home. The Deuter is also just too big for everyday mountain bike rides, though- the compression straps can only take up so much slack.
Make no mistake: the Trans Alpine 25 is bigger than even its volume would suggest. Still, anyone looking for a pack for the daily commute or epic big days out should put the Trans Alpine 25 (or the ladies’ Trans Alpine 26 SL, or the monstrous Trans Alpine 30) right at the top of their list. The design is well considered and effective, ours still looks nearly new, and the price is unbeatable.