One of the best parts about my job is getting to try out new outdoor gear and put it through its paces. Over the years, I’ve tested an array of products from most of the big names in the outdoor industry, including The North Face, Patagonia, Arc’teryx, and numerous others. But every once in awhile I get introduced to a completely new brand that I have tried before and often come away throughly impressed. Sometimes, it is the smaller, more nimble, and innovative companies that are doing great work in the outdoor industry, they just aren’t necessarily on the radar for everyone else. Such is the case with STNGR, a brand that makes sunglasses and backpacks. Recently, I’ve had the chance to test the company’s Vadon 38 pack, which offers an extremely high build quality and a surprising number of features at an unbeatable price.
The first thing you’re likely to notice about the Vadon 38 when you first pick it up is the pack’s weight. Tipping the scales at a whopping 4.6 pounds (2 kg), this pack certainly has some heft to it. That is probably enough to cause any ultralight backpackers reading this review to immediately move on, as it definitely take this bag out of the running for that category of hiker. Those of us who stick around to learn more will discover that weight isn’t everything however, particularly when you take into account everything else that the pack brings to the table.
As it turns out, there is a good reason that the Vadon is a bit on the hefty side. It’s made from incredibly durable materials that make it feel like it is practically bulletproof. In fact, I’d venture to guess that this pack will stand up to just about any form of punishment you throw at it, short of hacking it with a machete. Even the, I’d put even odds on the machete giving out first. STNGR is so confident in their product that the even back it with a lifetime warranty, which should provide some indication of the level of durability we’re talking about here.
Beyond its impressive durability, the Vadon also offers a range of other really great features. As its name implies, it offers 38 liters of cargo space, although considering its numerous pockets and storage compartments, it often feels like more than that. It comes with a detachable waist pack and a rain cover, both of which are extremely handy to have at your disposal. The pack is also hydration ready, comes with two water bottle pockets, and internal compression straps for locking down the contents of your bag. All of this serves to make this a good option not only for short backpacking trips but for longer adventure travel as well.
From a cosmetic standpoint, the Vadon will remind you somewhat of a military style, tactical bag. That isn’t meant to be a bad thing, as it is laid out in a very efficient and thoughtful manner, putting every pocket and compartment in an easy-to-access location. I especially liked the spacious pockets found on the hip belt, which had plenty of room for a smartphone, energy bars, and a few other necessities as well.
STNGR has gone out of its way to make the Vadon very comfortable to wear, even while carrying a full load. Its back panel is well padded, as are its adjustable shoulder straps and hip belt. An array of straps and buckles makes it easy to dial in just the right fit for your needs, and thankfully when everything is locked into place, the pack stays exactly where you want it to. The overall fit and comfort is enhanced thanks to an adjustable harness system that can be moved up and down to fit the wearer’s torso. The entire system moves as much as 3.5 inches (8.9 cm) in order to find the sweet spot in terms of comfort, which is something you don’t see out of a lot of packs in this size and price point.
Speaking of which, I’ve teased the great pice on this pack a few times and it truly is one of its best features. The STNGR Vadon 38 sells for just $119, making it an incredible bargain when you take into account everything that it offers. This pack has more features and a better build quality than some bags I’ve seen at twice that price, which makes it a very easy product to recommend. This is especially so if you’re on a tight budget, as you won’t regret adding this bag to your gear collection in any way.
Not intended for ultralight hikers, the STNGR Vadon 38 will more than meet the needs of just about everyone else. It is a great option for frequent travelers for instance, providing enough space and organizational compartments for days on the road. It’s versatility and durability will shine through in those instances too, leaving us to wonder who a bag this good can be sold for so little. Don’t ask questions, just order one now.
Find out more on the STNGR website.