If ever there was an iconic Kiwi backpack, the Cascade would be it. Over the years Macpac has stuck with a simple but proven design, yet have in its latest form managed to prune a whopping 400g from its weight so it now sits around 2800g.
To achieve this, a number of components have changed. Without compromising strength and durability, all straps and buckles are smaller, and weatherproof, kill-me-if-you-can EcoAztec polyester cotton fabric is used extensively, along with 840D ballistic nylon on the base. EcoAztec is a traceable fair trade cotton.
The harness has also been streamlined. Unlike some earlier versions, shoulder pad comfort and contour are great across collarbones, and the back-length adjustment is quick and easy. By releasing the tension lock buckle, it’s simply a matter of sliding each shoulder strap to the desired position then re-cinching the strap through the buckle.
Because of its tapered design, the hip belt sits snugly above your glutes, securely supporting the entire weight of the pack – without migrating south when heavily laden. Hip belt adjustments pull forward, and the side FreeLoad transfer system firms up the entire load for on-demand stability. Releasing the system on more technical routes allows the belt to pivot freely for a balanced pack regardless of load or terrain.
The side entry front pocket sports excellent storm flap protection. Even when full, it’s surprisingly easy to find all your important-to-reach items.
However, all is not perfect. Zip toggles can rattle when the pack is partially filled, it needs more gear attachment options, and there’s no hydration sleeve. The reservoir’s outlet port is through the storm throat, but there’s no way of controlling the hose once it’s outside the pack. When top and bottom compartments are full, the storm throat and bottom zip can become exposed; the bottom compartment’s unusual shape is an inefficient space, and the zips aren’t always easy to open.
Despite some niggles, this bulletproof behemoth will continue to be a popular favourite.