Old Gold: EVOC Explorer 30 Backpack

Oct 20, 2022 at 13:38
by Samuel McMain  

Sometimes, writing these pieces comes naturally. When I’m really on a roll, I can knock one of these out in an hour or two. It’s like spinning up a familiar climb and dropping in on a trail I’ve ridden a hundred times—effortless, enjoyable and flowy. But, this is not one of those times.

This time I’m a week past the deadline, four deleted pages deep and the flow looks more like Lower Whistler Downhill than A-Line. See, the problem is that I keep feeling like I’m writing an obituary, one that’s about a still-living individual. To be clear, I’m writing about a backpack, the EvocE Explorer 30, but that dancing monkey and I have been to so many places and been through so much together that it doesn’t feel right to treat it like just another piece of gear.

I hate when my helmet gets smacked by my backpack. The EVOC Explorer 30, despite being a large pack, has a very wide and flat profile that flies under the radar…dome.

To really explain our long and storied history, I think I first need to talk about trends. Specifically, the minimalism fad that’s been sweeping the industry these last few years. I’ll be one of the first to admit that riding with just a fanny pack is miles more comfortable than with a full backpack. Summer laps in cotton t-shirts are actually enjoyable when gone unmolested by a sweaty monkey. Plus, I think most riders these days frequent places where you really don’t need the storage capacity of a backpack, like trail centers where you’re never too far from the car. Besides, bikes have room for bottles again, they don’t break down as often, and flats are much less common these days—a typical fanny pack will hold all your tools, snacks and spare layer. As a sport, we seem to have found a happy medium between preparedness and comfort.

But my preferred riding doesn’t fit within those bounds. See, I want to go places that require a water filter, a couple thousand calories of snacks and a healthy dose of good luck. When I lived in Montana, I designed my rides by the rules of the Epic. It’s only an Epic if you run out of water at least twice, bonk as many or more times, break at least one bike part and ideally finish 3-4 hours after you intended. In short, a fanny pack isn’t going to cut it, even if you strap an emergency banana to your top tube.

Nearly as tall as a standard floor pump, the Explorer 30 fits me well, but looks a bit comical on others that aren’t 6’4″.

Here’s where the Explorer 30 comes into play. As its name suggests, it has a 30-liter capacity. When I’m spinning my way out of town, waving a map in the air and yelling, “I’m going for an adventure!”, the Explorer 30 has my back. For many of you reading this, you’re probably thinking “woah, 30 liters is like, way more than you should need.” And yeah, it is a lot of space, but that’s kind of the point.

Why do I insist on toting around a backpack just shy of the capacity I use for actual backpacking? There are a couple reasons. First, I never need to worry about space. Rarely do I completely fill the Explorer 30, most of the time I only use about 50% of its capacity. The beauty of that is I still have another 50% when I need to pack extras, stuff a bulky winter layer inside or even pack in a couple days worth of food.

There are three main compartments, which makes for effective organization. Plus, it has a soft pouch to keep your shades shiny.

One of my biggest pet peeves is seeing riders using small backpacks absolutely stuffed to the brim to the point where they becomes sausage rolls. Of course your pack is uncomfortable and flopping around all over the place. The same can be said for hip packs. A fully loaded 3-liter hip pack is way more obnoxious than a 5-liter backpack filled to 60% capacity. Minimalism is great when you’re actually being minimal, but as soon as you try to pack for a big ride, there’s no substitute for actual capacity.

In my Explorer 30, I can carry 2.5 liters of water, food for a whole day of riding, an extra layer, tools, goggles, a first aid kit, and a full-size camera very comfortably. Larger capacity packs usually have better support systems as well, like wider straps and bigger back plate, to accommodate heavier loads. When you don’t actually fill them to capacity, they end up being more comfortable than a smaller pack carrying the same weight. The Explorer 30 is a fairly wide and tall pack, which spreads the load out across my back and keeps the weight close to my body. It also helps that I’m 6’4” and have a positive ape index; the large pack actually looks pretty normal on me.

I call this the FAP, frequently accessed pocket. It has all the goods.

Then there’s organization. Before all you ultralight backpackers get triggered, I’ll admit that organization in backpacks generally comes at the cost of weight gain and a lower capacity as you’re adding additional material all over the place. The Explorer 30 has no shortage of organization pockets, but somehow EVOC managed to design them in such a way that the added ounces are entirely worth it.

Perhaps this is the asset the Explorer 30 offers that best describes my relationship with the pack. I’m a full-time graduate student splitting my week between two cities While it might be more convenient for some to keep things like a tube, pump and multitool on the bike, that doesn’t really work for me because I keep a bike at both ends of my weekly travels. I’m forgetful and would end up without the proverbial paddle, so I just keep everything in the Explorer 30.

The outer pocket might not have a clear purpose at first, but it holds a trail saw perfectly.

I pretty much just keep my ride and life essentials mobile with me. Going away for the weekend? Grab the backpack. Going for an afternoon ride? Grab the backpack. Heading to class? Grab the backpack. What goes into the backpack’s main compartment might change hour to hour—I’m not going riding with my laptop or bringing a can of bear spray to school—but by centralizing everything, I only have to remember one thing when I leave the house. Grab the backpack.

The multitude of pockets and organization means I can keep my standard ride accouterment loaded 24/7. If I’m riding, I’ll take everything out of the main compartment I don’t need for riding and end up with a fairly light minimalist pack. It might weigh more than a fanny pack and be more sweaty, but I can deal with that. From there, I can add stuff based on the specific daily needs—maybe a hand saw and rain jacket for winter, bigger water bladder for deep summer, or even a sleep system for a quick overnight trip.

A simple elastic strap holds the rain cover on and lets you access the top of pack without undoing any clips. Some packs clip at the top which makes quick access in the rain a PITA.

Maybe this is just a “me” thing. I certainly don’t see many other riders doing their afternoon laps with the same 30-liter pack they’ll use for bikepacking that weekend. Then again, I’m not telling anyone else that’s what they should do. You do you, as the saying goes, and for me that means toting around my big red thunder jacket of a pack. We’ve been together for the last five years on nearly a daily basis, flown across the Pacific Ocean three times, gone face-to-face with bears and moose on more than one occasion, huddled together under tarps in mountain storms, and even rode around the rim of a volcano once upon a time.

My EDC might be overkill for some, but this suits me for everything from short rides to multi-day trips. I never need to worry about forgetting an essential. I add a water bladder to this for the warmer months.

Alas, those are but the glorious moments. Most of the time the Explorer 30 sits on the floor of a classroom, the backseat of the car or gets to stare down at the ugly back rack of the e-bike. A few times a week, though, it tastes the grit of muddy roost and if we’re both lucky, flexes its muscles with a full load, adding another Epic to the tally.

Its red exterior might be looking a bit grizzled and faded, the zippers probably needed wax a few years ago and I’ll be darned if there aren’t sexier new adventure packs popping up in my DM’s on the daily—in fact, I have a few on test right now. But they couldn’t be a replacement for my loyal companion, at least not this soon. So go ahead and dance, monkey, dance. We have so many adventures still yet to come.


51 Comments

  • 25 0
 Frequently Accessed Pocket? You were interrupted in a private conversation weren't you.
  • 11 0
 Most of my riding has been with an EDC tool and no pack for a couple of years now, but every time I put on my Evoc pack for a longer ride, I think how surprisingly comfortable it is, and why don't I wear it more often. I also like the added back protection for gnarly rides.
  • 3 0
 I have a completely different experience. I am 5'11'' and M/L Evoc Enduro is too long for me when hip belt is locked, it causes a great discomfort when wearing a half shell helmet and it is almost impossible to ride any steeper trail with fulface and goggles. My wife is 5'8'' and she has similar discomfort wearing an S Evoc FT Trail pack. If you have a short torso, EVOC packs with protectors have a very poor fit.
  • 4 0
 @lkubica: thank goodness I’m 6’4”.
  • 3 0
 @lkubica: Interesting take, I'm 5'11" but have a relatively long torso and the pack (Evoc Enduro) fits fine. I do notice a bit of an issue when wearing a full face, but I typically don't use the pack when I'm at the bike park. That said, I've heard a lot of people make your same comment about the pack.
  • 1 0
 @lkubica: Sounds like you should have gotten the smaller size. The M/L Enduro is a great fit for me at 5-11, but I have a long torso.

100% agree with @bishopsmike on this on everything except the EDC. Love 1UP's creative engineering, but their multi-tool is useless for bigger jobs like removing a non-QR rear wheel, a pedal, etc. - it's just too small and too hard to get enough leverage. Switched to the Wolf Tooth 8-bit and it's bigger but it is an awesome, complete and functional multi-tool.
  • 1 0
 @Chippps: Used my wife's small and it was not much better but the belt was barely long enough making too little overlap for my liking. Also zips failed in both pack after few years of very ocassional use. For me those packs are not worth the money. But this is only my personal experience, they seem quite popular.
  • 1 0
 @lkubica: 175cm tall guy here, had M/L FR Trail pack (as per charts) but it was definitely too long for me. Bought S size after that and its a night and day difference. Dunno if they changed sizing charts in the meantime as this was couple of years ago.
  • 1 0
 @lkubica: I'm 5'11" was wearing the FR LITE RACE 10Leveryday in the alps this year for a few weeks riding all the steepest stuff with my Bell full 9 no problems at all
  • 1 0
 @holdandhope: because it's torso length thing, I have a 34'' inseam, so proportionally shorter torso. But the point is, those packs are really long, so long that they don't work for mutants like me.
  • 8 0
 I have a 20l Evoc Freeride for those bigger rides. And it is awesome.
Also: I really love when things last. My evoc backpack has served me for 8 years and is still going very strong
  • 2 0
 Mine too - I did smash the buckle by closing the car door on it - Evoc sent me a free replacement.
  • 1 0
 Same - absolutely love mine.
  • 1 0
 I got the "FR Tour Team" (30l) since 2013 and everything still works absolutely perfect! I also use it every day for work/uni/whatever and for every trip that's shorter than a week.
And i still think it looks freakin cool.
  • 7 0
 I still have my 2007 deuter trans alpine. Holds full face helmet , everything works.just wash it when gets dirty. I hope it will last another 15 yrs
  • 1 0
 i have worn out 2 and am on my 3rd I found the Evoc bothered my back with its back brace support and it was taller than the Deuter
  • 4 0
 Camelbak Skyline LR10 is the best MTB backpack on the market right now IMO. I hope more manufacturers make packs that sit low on your hips instead of putting weight on your back. It makes carrying 3L of water and a ton of stuff feel effortless all day long.
  • 3 0
 Their trailbuilder packs are honestly one of the most amazing packs i've ever owned. it's built like an absolute tank, the thing feels like it could survive an atomic blast, and is big enough to carry damn near every trail tool you can think of and still is comfortable to wear on a long day. it looks and feels like it should be as miserable to wear as a heavy canvas duffelbag, but wears like a skinny little daypack.
  • 1 0
 I used to stick 2 chainsaws in my Trailbuilder pack! MS362 in the main spot and an MS170 flipped upside down on top of it. That pack is the best.
  • 2 0
 I’ve tried to make a hip pack work, but I just carry too much stuff to keep it light enough to be comfortable. I also had a bad crash early last season wearing a hip pack and my exposed back took a beating, which would have had more protection with a back pack. Crashes don’t happen very often but I’d be better off when it does, same reason I attach the helmet chin for 99% of the downs.
  • 2 1
 Hip packs are for Hipsters, they just called it fanny hoping the Brits wouldn't notice.
  • 2 0
 Got the following, for years:

Lite: city riding and hot shorter rides where I need more than a water bottle.
Enduro: big west coast rides
Tour: my daily beater, mostly worn not even on a bike
Patrol Snow Performance: Tool carrier for job site travels, nothing to do with biking or boarding. Been abused to shit and refuses to break in any way.

EVOC = THE BEST
  • 1 0
 It's nice to see a pack that doesn't have a helmet pocket. For me, helmet pockets just make packs more floppy and less useful. I know it's a nitpick, but straps across zippers drive me nuts too. I understand their function to save the zipper from high loads and to cinch down an ubderstudfed pack, but there's gotta be another way to do that without crossing a zipper.
  • 1 0
 I love EVOC packs, so many good choices, back protectors integrated, fair price, on my third EVOC pack, started with an Enduro, then got the black stealth model, and just picked up a Pro 16. The nice thig about EVOC is they make tall packs, so instead of having a sack hanging across your back, they sit up nice and trail to keep the straps from pulling on your shoulders. Their quality is also top notch.
  • 1 0
 Hmmm, I still have the original Camelback, no pockets, no place to stash anything, only purpose was to carry the bladder. $35 back in the day.

On every ride I have one of those overstuffed sausages which I took the bladder out of because my bike has a water bottle. It has saved my back from so many crashes that I feel vulnerable not wearing it.
  • 1 0
 More companies need to build packs with a wide and flat profile. I own an EVOC and it disappears while riding. 100% the best pack I've ever used. I bought a second one as a backup and hope more come into the market.
  • 2 0
 USWE must have a patent on their style. I cant see why all other companies wouldn't design their packs as they do. Soo much better.
  • 1 0
 USWE sucks IMHO- they solved a problem no-one has- bouncing backpacks, and created a new one- back pain due to compressed chest. I tried one for a few month before it went in the trash.
  • 1 0
 Love seeing the SAM splint. Cheap, effective brace that you will never need as long as your bring it... Much easier then trying to splint a fracture with a tree branch and spare tube.
  • 4 1
 Nowadays NoFap is a thing Smile
  • 1 0
 I'm digging these articles. As someone who is relatively new to the sport (I guess 7 years in isn't that new, but whatever) I enjoy seeing the changes in tech.
  • 2 0
 Does it hold a 12" DeWalt battery power chainsaw? Completely concealed? Asking for a friend
  • 2 0
 And a roll of carpet and some quicklime?
  • 1 0
 My backpack smells like boiled roadkill. If I brought that thing into a classroom, or any really any indoor space, I'm sure I'd be escorted off the premises.
  • 1 0
 Been using one of these for offroad riding and commuting. Awesome bag, lots of space, but I don't think I'd ever use it for doing bicycle things!
  • 1 0
 just rode an evoc 18L in the dolomites. it was worth every penny, there was hardly any water/food/spares available on longer rides.
  • 1 0
 Same. For me, it's my CamelBAK KUDU w/ spine protection and a 3L bladder. Pack my stuff and peace of mind for the gnar.
  • 1 0
 Love this kind of article! It's refreshing to see gear that lasts more than a year or two and has a wide range of uses.
  • 2 0
 Backpacks are cool but don’t underestimate what I can fit in my fanny.
  • 2 0
 A fanny pack is like carrying a wallet, works great when your don't need much, but at a certain point an overload fanny pack needs to make way for a back pack. Most folks have both, it's tool, just pick the one you need.
  • 1 0
 What she said?
  • 2 0
 Um...isn't this a re-purposed BETA article from like 8 months ago?
  • 3 0
 Ha. You're right.
  • 1 0
 Yep they've been slowly reposting in the pinkbike feed, see the knee pad article a little while ago. Good to see them being shared again as I really enjoy this kind of writing, but a bit of a slap in the face that some of us paid to read it originally.
  • 1 0
 Loving the look of the faded exterior, reminds me of a good pair of worn-in jeans.
  • 1 0
 so I guess since I can't see the price in the article cause it's so nice it will do at any price?
  • 1 0
 I have no desire for one of these but I loved the writing. You convinced me of the usefulness of larger packs.
  • 1 2
 First glance of that thumbnail I thought I was looking at a fuzzy photo of the internal female reproductive system in my old anatomy book. Backpacks are cool too though.
  • 1 0
 My explorer pro 30l is one of my best purchases
  • 1 4
 Why is the lighting so poor for some of these press releases?
Usually its a black bike with black background, white bike with white background, and now a red bag with red lighting.
  • 1 2
 Yup, and now the backpacks come back into style.





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