Deuter Airlite 26L encounters a Norwegian sheep high in the hills above Bergen

Deuter Airlite 26L encounters a Norwegian sheep high in the hills above Bergen

I’ve decided to go in another direction with my review of the Deuter Airlite 26 SL. Rant first about women-specific gear, review last.

I’m suspicious of women-specific gear

So much of the outdoor industry’s spin on women-specific gear feels like a pervasive marketing gimmick to “reach women” and “engage them in the outdoors”. As if we have to be enticed with floral swirls, pastel colors and cute graphics.

News flash, outdoor industry! Us real women are already engaged in the outdoors and have been for a long, long, long time and it isn’t because you’re making us gear with floral swirls, pastel colors and cute graphics.

When it comes to backpacks (and bike saddles), there is some validity. Compared to men, women tend have narrower shoulders, shorter torso lengths, and different hips (for some archaic, barbaric, biological practice called “child bearing”). It makes sense that backpack design is sensitive to that.

But are narrow shoulders, shorter torsos and hip size limited to only a woman’s body type? No. There are lots of scrawny dudes and broad-built women out there.

That being said, I actually like the Deuter Airlite 26 SL

It was the pack I took to Norway. It had the right amount of cargo capacity for day hikes and as an airplane carryon. Its front-loading design made it easy to attach my bike helmet and still get inside the pack to remove items for the TSA line.

A few more likeability notes:

  • Shoulder straps were comfortable and only chafed when I wore a spaghetti strap top. This could be any pack though.
  • Its panel-loading design makes it easier to find stuff that is otherwise drowning in a jambalaya of rain jacket, rain pants, an AMK Ultralight/Waterproof .9 first-aid kit, two packs of Glacier Gel, a can of mackerel, box of Wasa bread, a full 100-liter Camelbak Antidote and some packs of Clif Bar Sweet Potato with Sea Salt and Pizza Margherita (<<I don’t recommend unless you’re literally starving and there is nothing left to eat).
  • Ventilation was decent but then I was in Norway where the top daytime temps were in the mid-60’s.
  • Cargo capacity was plenty for day hikes only. It wouldn’t be large enough for an overnight.
  • Weight is a nice petite 2lbs, 4oz thanks to its minimalist design. Though it does come with one set of compression straps and load-adjuster straps, loops to attach a set of trekking poles, and an integrated pack rain cover.
  • The rain cover is the bomb. It rained ten of the fourteen days I was in the country, and the rain cover kept pack and the contents completely dry.

But what is up with the little yellow flower?

It’s intended to differentiate it as a “women’s-specific” pack. Duh. But unlike a floral swirl, pastel color or a cute graphic it’s removable (which I did immediately). As I schlepped the pack through the airports MSP, AMS and OSL, hiked in the mountains above Bergen and Hafjell and trolled the fish market in Trondheim, all that was marketed to the world was Deuter Airlite 26 SL in the same font and color as all of Deuter’s packs.

Deuter Airlite 26L arrives home in MSP

Deuter Airlite 26L arrives home in MSP

I think it’s classy although I temper this with more skepticism.

Is it cheaper to attach a removable yellow ponytail holder disguised as a little yellow flower to the pack’s zipper than to pay a graphic artist to design a women’s-specific logo and have it embroidered permanently onto a pack?

Does Deuter believe we need this touch of whimsy to distinguish women’s packs from men’s at retail because we’re only semi-literate?

I don’t have the answer.

What I can say is that the little yellow flower pony tail holder actually served a specific purpose on my Norway trip: it secured a plastic trash bag around an empty, oily, leaking mackerel can.

So yes. It’s more than just a daypack with a little yellow flower.

Nicely done, Deuter.