EXPED Summit Hike 25 Backpack Review: Fully


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Feb 22, 2024

EXPED Summit Hike 25 Backpack Review: Fully

EXPED launched the Summit Hike series in spring 2023 — they're versatile daypacks that are as trusty a companion on a 14er as they are on a daily commute. For years, I’ve been attempting to exchange

EXPED launched the Summit Hike series in spring 2023 — they're versatile daypacks that are as trusty a companion on a 14er as they are on a daily commute.

For years, I’ve been attempting to exchange stuff for skills and tighten my kit to a smaller, lighter pack. But, I admittedly have a backpack obsession made worse by the sheer number of excellent hiking backpacks on the market. And, over the years I’ve tried a lot of them — but EXPED’s new Summit Hike 25 is a standout.

I trusted this hiking daypack over a long weekend trek up Engineer Mountain just south of Silverton, Colo., a 13,000-foot peak with a 2,378-foot elevation gain. Nothing epic by Colorado standards. But, it’s not a hike you’d want to be caught on without proper gear. Nor is it one you’d want to haul unnecessary pounds up.

The Summit Hike 25 hiking daypack was everything I needed it to be for that adventure and for more that followed. The more time I spent with this pack, the more features I discovered, and the more I grew to like it. For under $100, this is a hard backpack to beat.

In short: The Summit Hike 25 ($100) allowed me to carry crampons, an ice axe, extra layers, my 10 essentials, 2 L of water, and plenty of snacks comfortably. I’m an overpacker, and the Summit’s 25L size made me fully consider what I was taking. The payoff was a faster pace while knowing that my small pack had everything I truly needed. It’s durable enough to handle not-so-casual conditions. It comes equipped with a rainfly for wet weather, and it even has a sit pad built into it. After just a few mountain missions and urban errands, I can tell this is a hiking daypack I will continue to reach for when I head out on fast adventures.

EXPED is a brand that many U.S.-based hikers may not have heard of or considered. But it’s a proven brand that’s been making its own products since 1997. It’s best known for its sleeping pads and bags, which were the original products the brand brought to market.

In 2001, EXPED introduced the R-value rating system for measuring sleeping pad insulation efficiency that’s now used industry-wide. Then, in 2009, it patented the “FlatValve” for inflating and deflating sleeping pads. That is also now seen in many outdoor products, from sleeping pads to pillows and more.

EXPED prides itself on solid Swiss design and incremental improvements to its proven products. This is why so many of its designs have made such profound impacts on the outdoor industry as a whole.

And now, EXPED also makes packs. This spring, it launched a new line of day hiking backpacks called the Summit Hike series that come in 15L and 25L sizes, for $85 and $100, respectively.

First, the basics: The Summit Hike 25’s claimed weight is 22.6 ounces (though my unscientific kitchen scale measured 25 ounces). That’s light considering it has an advertised load limit of 22 pounds. I comfortably pushed that to 30 pounds thanks to the pack’s relatively wide shoulder straps, adjustable sternum strap with 7 inches of travel, and removable ¾-inch waist strap.

When fully loaded, the Summit Hike 25 takes on a boxy shape that maximizes its volume. I measured it at about 18 x 8 x 8 inches. A semi-rigid back prevents a loaded pack from collapsing into the wearer’s back, retaining its structure and making for a more comfortable carry.

Additionally, the built-in, rolled-up rain cover acts as a de facto lumbar cushion. It buffers any bounce and helps my posture which, in turn, improves my hiking form, conserving energy. (More on this feature shortly.)

The shoulder straps are slightly S-curved, making this a fairly unisex pack with a thumbs-up from my wife. And above the shoulder straps, a hand strap allows plenty of room for grabbing or hanging the loaded pack.

One of the most unique features of this hiking daypack, though, is its rigid foam back support. It can be removed from its pocket and used as a thin sit pad for on-the-trail breaks. It’s a built-in seat and a feature that really makes this pack stand out from other similar daypacks.

My favorite surprise feature? Zipper pulls glow in the dark, great for those 4 a.m. alpine starts.

The left shoulder strap has a stretchable open pocket that measures 5.5 by 2.5 inches unexpanded — enough to secure most phones and smaller accessories. On the right shoulder strap is a 7 by 2.5-inch vertical zippered stretch pocket that I could easily fit two tennis balls inside (not that I hike with tennis balls).

Both pockets lay flat and out of the way when not in use. Both straps also have an elastic horizontal band for clipping carabiners into. That band could also be used to secure walkie-talkies. Rounded edging makes it easy to glide the straps over clothing when putting the pack on, especially with heavier loads.

Each side of the Summit has a stretch pocket large enough to accommodate a Nalgene bottle.

On the lid, a top external pocket allows for smaller items such as snacks, glasses, and balm. The lid opens to the main compartment via an asymmetrical zipper that travels around the top and about 9 inches down the pack’s right side, allowing for easy access to jackets and gear toward the bottom of the pack. On the underside of the hatch is a tight mesh pocket with a key clip.

Inside the main compartment is a pouch for holding a water bladder. It could also accommodate a tablet if your adventures are more urban. A hook-and-loop attachment keeps the water bladder upright, and a centered opening allows the hose to drape left or right.

Two loop tabs at the top of the inside offer even more attachment points for items.

The back of the EXPED Summit Hike has a padded mesh that offers some air circulation for the wearer’s back. And at the bottom of the back is perhaps the coolest feature of the Summit Hike 25: a stowable neon-yellow rainfly.

That rainfly can be quickly deployed from a zippered pocket to all but ensure protection from the weather should things turn torrential. Though, the pack’s polyurethane-coated 600-denier polyester fabric does a pretty good job keeping moisture out on its own.

Two gear loops suitable for ice axes tuck out of the way into an opening at the bottom of the pockets when not in use. Two 1cm-wide daisy chains flank the pack’s outer exterior, allowing for attachment points while reinforcing the pack’s structure with hardly any weight penalty.

I get that features can add weight and at a certain point, too many of them can make a pack overcomplicated. That said, the shoulder straps on the EXPED Summit Hike don’t have load lifters.

I know that would begin to defeat this pack’s weight and size advantages. It’s also a reminder that I’m probably trying to overload it even though it does punch above its weight. Larger volume EXPED packs such as the Lightning 45 offer more adjustments for heavier loads if needed.

Nevertheless, that was something I found myself wishing for as I trudged up Engineer Mountain with my Summit Hike.

I also wish the Summit Hike 25 had a removable waist belt that was a little more substantial than what’s offered. I’m partial to assist bands that have zippered pockets for small incidentals. But again, this would be pushing this pack beyond what it’s designed for, and EXPED does have other packs that include this feature.

The Summit Hike 25 daypack is for anyone who needs a tough, all-weather pack and knows how to pack tight and light. It’s not a kitchen sink or take-it-just-in-case pack. But, it is a pack that will get you where you’re going fast, and it’s a dependable companion built for abuse. It’s so well-made and simple, this pack checks the boxes for almost anyone who just needs a streamlined and reliable daypack, whether for biking, commuting, or summiting 14ers.

The Summit Hike 25 is becoming crucial in my efforts to take only what I need, know what I have, and consider multiple uses for one piece of gear. It’s liberating to have such a small, well-designed pack that I can still strap an ice axe to.

It’s comforting to know I can set out in sketchy conditions and have what I need — and nothing more. I can move faster and more confidently over varied terrain, and I know that if this backpack takes a tumble down a scree field, it’s not going to get shredded.

All that, plus the fact that I can throw it under an airplane seat or commute home on my bike in the rain makes this a pack that’s going to get a lot of use and trail time.

We tested the best daypacks of 2023 with options for every budget. Top picks include Osprey, Cotopaxi, and more. Read more…

For years, I’ve been attempting to exchange stuff for skills and tighten my kit to a smaller, lighter pack.In short:10 essentialsVolumeSizesAvg. weightDimensions 19.7” x 11” x 7.5”Body materialsLining materialsSummit Hike 25other similar daypacksNalgene bottlethe pack’sLightning 45this packSummit Hike 25 a small, well-designed packthis backpack