Picking a day pack is a very sensitive issue for hikers, almost as much as footwear and big trip backpacks – they are very personal and can be very controversial. I have experimented with more than my share of day packs, trying to find the combination of the features and volume (22-27 litres) I want with the shape and weight that I would like. I wasn’t finding what I was looking for, so I had a look into the world of adventure racing and ultra running gear: very light, very simplistic packs that are designed to carry volume over weight – perfect! The options are not many in this category but it didn’t take long for me to fall in love with the Haglofs Gram Comp 25 – a lightweight pack with a tube shape (no zipper), stretchy mesh external pocket and a normal length for me. It was a very popular backpack when it came out (and still is), so it took me almost a year to get my hands on one at a reasonable price; since then, it has been my go to pack for day hikes (all seasons) and weekend summer trips.
For many it is a bit too flashy, with its semi transparent fabric – especially in the firefly colour (bright greenish yellow) – but I love it. It blends in the outdoors somehow, but I can still easily find it. After a year of use it is still going strong, at times carrying way over the recommended weight as I have been using it for more than just hiking.
The Gram Comp 25 was first introduced in the summer of 2013 as part of Haglofs’ line of adventure racing specific gear (“Intense”) that included footwear and clothing under the “Gram” line (lightweight), with some of the products marked as “Comp” (racing specific). Since then the pack was released several times with slight modifications and it was discontinued in the winter of 2016, making room for the L.I.M 25. You can still find the Gram Comp 25 in many stores, mainly online and throughout western and central Europe.
Haglofs is an old Swedish company that started with manufacturing backpacks but has managed to always stay at the forefront of technology and design, and are well known for their bold colours. The company has also had a very strong ski line for many years with ski-mountaineering gear making up a big part of this category. In the last 10 years Haglofs has also been focusing on adventure racing and mountain marathons along with new lines for lightweight backpacking (LIM) and a growing line of lifestyle products (as is the case for most outdoors companies). Haglofs offers the full range of products including clothing, backpacks, sleeping bags, footwear and various accessories.
The Intense line has been around since 2013, though it has shrunk over the years to offer more specific products. In winter the line tends to be very limited (some footwear, jackets and tights) while in summer a wider range is offered, with a full line of “Intense” items – including the backpacks. Lately Haglofs has been developing their LIM (Less Is More) line for lightweight backpacking and that seems to have shrunk the “Intense” line product offerings, but you will just have to wait for spring 2017 to check.
For fairness I’ll mention a couple of the main competitors for the Gram Comp 25, which I researched as part of my search for the perfect day pack:
- OMM Classic 25 – an excellent pack with similar features to the Gram Comp 25, which has also kept the same design for years and it is a winner, but is also out dated for me – the fabrics are a bit tougher and heavier.
- Inov-8 Racepac 25 – a long discontinued pack that was very popular but I found it to be way too long (back length) for anyone with a back smaller than XL. The new version (All Terrain 25) is better.
- Montane Ultra Tour 22 – an excellent and robust fast mountaineering pack but it was a bit too “structured” for what I was looking for.
Defined as a low weight, minimalist backpack for mountain marathons, the Gram Comp 25 truly fits the bill. The 320 grams / 11.3 ounces (according to Haglofs) weight make this bag really light, mainly thanks to an ultra thin durable ripstop polyester with an excellent DWR finish. The main features are:
- Main compartment with an inner sleeve for an hydration bladder or a sitting pad (for a back frame)
- 2 holes at the bottom of the pack on each side for a hydration tube
- Single buckle hood with a large mesh pocket
- 2 side pockets that fit a 2 litre soda bottle and have a tightening cord at the top that can be tightened or released with one hand
- Hip belt with a mesh pocket on each side – fits a large phone/GPS or a large bag of snacks
- Front bungee cord for compression or holding a jacket
- Thicker bottom with a hold/tie loop
- Lightly padded shoulder straps with wide meshing for weight distribution and neck padding
- Several small loops on the shoulder straps for accessories attachment
- A compression strap on each side to reduce volume
- Chest strap with an emergency whistle
Back length: 48.8 cm / 19.25 inches
Back width: 23 cm / 9 inches
Volume (Haglofs): 25 litres / 1525.6 cubic inches
How I use it
As mentioned, the Gram Comp 25 is my main backpack for anything besides 3+ day trips or winter weekends (in which case I use my Elemental Horizon Kalais). I have only had the Gram Comp 25 for a year but it has clocked quite a few miles, with a good share of weekend trips:
- Weekend on the Pennine Way (UK), practising some fastpacking
- Lightweight winter weekend on the South Downs Way (UK)
- Long two days hiking the Yam le Yam (Israel) in the mid summer with 7+ liters of water per day
- Many day hikes in Epping Forest (London, UK), Yorkshire Dales (North England) and more
The volume is really true to the specs as the “sack” style main compartment allows good stuffing of gear, and the single buckle lid has a mesh zippered pocket that is very useful for rain gear or first aid.
I find that the Gram Comp 25 can easily hold 10 kg (22 lbs) comfortably when packed well, which means that it can suit most 3 season weekend trips in a place with good water livability. Where water is an issue, adding warmer clothing as well as food for 2-3 days might be a challenge. On trips where I needed some extra volume, I used the Ribz with the pack to add another 5-7 litres of space and it was more than enough.
Beyond hiking it is often used when I need volume but not the bulk of a bigger pack, from supermarket runs to going out with the kids and needing spare clothes, some toys, extra food etc. – the Gram Comp allows for easy carrying day to day, though I wouldn’t use it for anything that requires staying flat or is a bit wide like paperwork, computers or books.
- Light, light and light
- Comfortable when packed well, with a good hip belt
- Fits M/L people (1.70-1.90 meters/5 foot 10 – 6 feet)
- Easy to take care of (clean/fix)
- Takes up barely any space when empty
- Many ways to modify or add accessories
- Sits close to the back for less movement
- Thin mesh outside means that it is fragile and my side pockets already have holes in them from carrying walking poles.
- No back system or even foam means that packing must be done very carefully and the slightest shift inside will result in an item poking your back.
- Transparent fabric can be an issue if needing to carry anything discreet
- Can be hard to pack well and compress into to the back
- Fabric can be clingy when wet
- My yellow version gets very dirty quickly and it is not easy to clean
- As with all ultralight items, durability might be an issue in the long run
It might not be the most mainstream backpack for lightweight backpackers or even trail runners, but the Gram Comp 25 pack is brilliant: light, comfortable and easy to use and access without needing to take it off the back.
After a year of using it in a variety of one to three day hikes, with weights from a couple of kilos (5 lbs) up to 10 kgs (22 lbs), it has performed brilliantly, only reminding me at times that I have packed poorly. I personally have never used a hydration bladder with it (not my “thing”) but I can see how that will help with packing comfort; alternatively, use a 3/4 sleeping mat to create a back frame.
I have no doubt the Gram Comp 25 will continue being my regular outdoors companion for the foreseeable future and I should probably get another one so I will have a replacement for when it finally gives up or I push it too far.