Gear Review: Thule Stir 35L Women's Hiking Pack

Traversing the ridge on top of Mt. Mansfield.
In any industry, it can be challenging not to want to be everything to everyone. But for companies like Thule, the expertise their teams have makes it possible for them to expand into new product lines successfully.

My first exposure to Thule came during a search for car roof racks. So, imagine my surprise when an email landed in my inbox titled, "Technical Packs from Thule." Wait, Thule makes technical hiking packs? Yep.

Thule entered the backpacking market in 2014, leveraging teams with expertise in softgoods and hardgoods. From a softgoods (textile) perspective, Thule's team has 30 years of experience building cut and sew products. With respect to hardgoods, Thule's engineering team focuses on things like injection molded plastics and fabricated metals. Combining these two areas gives the Thule team a unique advantage.

This spring, Thule announced the launch of the Versant and Stir series. The former is a line designed for backpacking while the latter is meant to "appeal to those who embrace a 'less is more' philosophy." I had put the women's-specific 35L Stir through its paces on recent day hikes to see if it measured up, and I came away impressed.

Overall Fit and Feel

A closer look at the back pad, shoulder straps, and hip belt.
The Stir 35L didn't quite fit my torso when I put it on the first time, but luckily, the Thule team came up with a way to work torso adjustability into the design without adding much weight.

The large mesh back pad slides up and down for four total inches of torso length adjustment, making it easy to fit the pack more effectively. The hipbelt is light and flexible, which also helps keep the pack light, but it's removable if you're not interested in having it attached.

The sternum strap is also removable; the two pieces clip in and out of fabric loops attached to the shoulder straps.With a that's meant for carrying a good bit of stuff, I don't see myself removing them often. Adjusting the strap with the fabric loops wasn't ideal; I'd rather have the straps slide up and down, especially given I often like to change the position of the sternum straps while I'm hiking.

Once I got the torso length (I'm normally a small torso size) and adjusted the hip belt and sternum strap, the pack fit me well and felt comfortable.

Bells and Whistles

Despite the clean lines and design simplicity, which I love, there are a number of other bells and whistles designed into the Stir 35L that I was excited about during testing. The pack's opening is large enough to provide easy access, and handles positioned on the front and back of the pack make loading, unloading, and carrying it a cinch. The side zipper, which I can't imagine having a pack without, gives you easy access to your gear without having to dump everything out. It's not a feature I'm used to seeing on daypacks, just on larger backpacking backpacks, and it's fantastic.

The partial rain cover in action!
One of the coolest bells and whistles? Thule's StormGuard system combines a partial rain cover, which fits in a small pocket near the base of the pack, with a waterproof bottom liner. This makes the pack 100% waterproof, and the partial rain cover feels more durable than a standard pack cover.

The Stir 35L doesn't have a traditional lid, but does have a storm flap to keep moisture and other unwanted things out. The Stir 35L also has standard features like hydration bladder compatibility, hip belt pockets, side pockets for water bottle storage, an internal mesh pocked, attachment loops for hiking poles or ice axes, and and stretch pocked on the shoulder for smaller items.

The side pockets are accessible with the partial rain cover on, which is great, just make sure you don't put anything that can't get wet in them! Take a peek at this video to see all of the bells and whistles in action.

Overall Impressions

In general, the Thule Stir 35L Women's hiking pack is a beautifully designed daypack, and it's affordably priced. It's clear the Thule team combines engineering expertise across a variety of systems with a keen eye for materials selection. The pack is relatively lightweight (2.2 pounds), has a number of features I've never seen on a daypack before, like the StormGuard system and easily adjustable torso length, and it's a darn good looking piece of gear. 

Who should use it, and for what types of adventures? The Stir 35L is available in a men's-specific design as well as the women's specific design I tested. It's ideal for long day hikes, or day hikes that require you to take a bunch of clothing and gear. For hikes in the winter, for example, when I'm carrying at least three extra layers and a down jacket, it's ideal.

Making some waist belt adjustments near the top of Mt. Mansfield in Vermont. (PC: D. Herscovitch.)
I don't see myself using it on overnight backpacking trips unless I'm carrying less than 30 pounds. To carry more weight, I'm more comfortable with rigid hip belts and a rigid design, but I might take it out backpacking later this summer to see how it feels when it's fully loaded over the course of a few days.

Disclosure: As always, these opinions are my own, are the result of careful and thorough testing, and are no way influenced by the fact that the product was complimentary.

Overall, Thule knocked it out of the park on this one, minus the very tiny issues I had adjusting the sternum straps. Did you know Thule makes technical packs like this? Have you tried any of them? What do you think of the Stir based on this piece? We'd love to hear from you! 

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