When we think of Thule we think of car racks, not backpacks. So, what do they know about backpacking. We noticed a while back when attending the Outdoor Retailer show in Salt Lake City, Utah that Thule was expanding their offerings and product lines. They have one of the more impressive booths at the show. Showing off all of their ski and snowboard racks as well as hitch and roof mount racks. Honestly, we never paid much attention to their luggage and backpacks, so when we were approached to test out one of the newer backpacks we were happy to see how the features and use stack up against some of the more notorious brands in the industry we have used.
We were sent the Thule Stir 35L pack to put through our everyday use. Which includes bike commuting, day hikes, hiking with kids, a Disneyland trip, days at the beach, days at the pool, and afternoons at the gym.
A 35 liter pack seems to be the perfect all around size for someone looking for a multi use pack. We found we were not always filling it up, but we never had a time when we ran out of room for our activities.
The Stir comes in a men’s and women’s version. We sampled the men’s version of the pack, but with the adjustable torso it can really fit a lot of women too depending on the torso length and girth. As a side note the Stir 20L and 15L do not come in gender specific shapes. We noticed that we rairly were loading it up over 20 pounds so throwing it on a shoulder wasn’t a big deal. However on longer day hikes we took the time to get the pack more dialed in to size with the torso adjustability being pretty easy.
We really like the look of the Stir, and the material it’s made of, and the black/grey and electric yellow. It cleans very well, and after having it on airport, busses, floors it’s nice to give it a good wipe down and see it come clean. It’s made of Elastin (stretchy) coated 210D Robic 70D Nylon. The specs from Thule say it’s 2135 cubic inch of space, that stands 24 inches tall, 11 inches wide, and 11.4 inches off the back. The pack alone weighs in at 2.2 pounds. It’s a good average weight for a pack of it’s size, not aiming to cater to the ultra light packers.
Wide Opening Top
Wide open top lid with additional flap and clip closure
Pack bottom waterproof protected with StormGuard, and the top is protected with a deployable rain cover, for top to bottom rain and snow protection. Designed to be a weatherproof bag
The StormGuard is designed to be more durable than traditional rain fly
Completely adjustment able torso with up to 10 cm/4 in up or down
Removable hipbelt and sternum strap for times when not carrying heavy loads or when the extra straps just get in the way
Side zipper for easy access to gear without digging from the top down
Stretch pocket on shoulder expands to hold items much larger that the strap, but don’t expect to hold really large phones
Loop attachments on the back, with durable material for attaching items to the outside
Quick button pocket on the front of the pack for shoving an extra layer in, or quick access items
Hiking Pole or Ax Attachment
Attachment loops for hiking poles or ice axes
Taking a closer look at the Stir there were some things to love and don’t love about the pack. The wide opening top, with quick open and closing synch cords make it easy to load it up and fish around inside. Also, a side access zipper for digging around inside quickly. One downside to the sipper is that it doesn’t go all the way to the bottom of the pack, requiring still a bit of fishing around to search from things.
The synch cord once pulled tight also has an additional flap to close off the top of the pack and keep prying hands and weather out. There is a hook and loop that attaches the flap just behind the head. The hook and loop offers a quick way to open and close the top. The synch cord got a little annoying pulling it tight and trying to stuff a little cord back in the bags now small hole. The other option is to leave it hanging, but it always seemed to be in the way.
There are two handles that come together much like a grocery bag that make the bag very convenient for picking up and hauling around. We havent seen handle placement like this before and really like it. Usually with a pack you end up picking it up from the shoulder strap, and the weight of the pack swings around. With the top handles the pack is much more stable and balanced when not wearing on shoulders for moving around.
There is a thin wire internal frame that keeps the bag standing up even when not full. It didn’t do a lot for stability when having the pack loaded down, but we love that the pack stands on it’s own when on the floor rummiging through it.
Along the back panel of the Stir is where it really shines and stands out from other day packs. It offers an adjustable and removable harness system that can fit a four inch variance in torso height. It’s super easy to adjust with some Velcro, and holds very securely. Another nice option that we used more than expected was the ability to remove the sternum and waist straps. We found this convenient when using the bag at the beach and theme parks where the bag was stored and stuffed in small areas.
And then there is the rain fly, our least favorite of the pack. It was tricky and timely to attach. We are still not sure why more DWR or other waterproofing are not applied to backpacks. And why so many of them rely on rainflys. The underpart of the pack is waterproof, however the requires the rain fly to be attached. It’s done by four rings, and a weird tab that hooks in at the bottom.
The Stir is really a day pack, with alternate uses optional. Shopping for a day pack can be daunting task, there are literally 100’s of pack to choose from, it should come down to what pack you are really going to choose, for the activity you plan to do. We are lucky enough to have multiple packs to choose from. We use packs from 15L to 80L from all different manufactures, so why would we reach of the Thule Stir over something else? There were a few stand out features that the Stir offered that we really loved.
The Stir is a great looking pack the color, shape and function to start off with. We found ourself reaching for it for trips to the beach, or pool. The stuff style top opening makes it perfect for a quick grab and go pack. The outer stuff pocket also makes it very nice for those last minute items that you forgot, and need to throw in. Just a caution, there is a small drain hole at the bottom of the that very small items could fall out. Also, if the pack is full, the stuff pocket is pretty hard to push a jacket or towel down into. Another call out are the waist and shoulder stretch pouch. These make great stuff pockets for last minute items. While Thule advertises the stretch shoulder pouch as a place to stash a phone. If you have a larger phone like a Galaxy Note it will not fit. I’m guessing the large iPhone would also have the same issue. For throwing keys, wallet, and other smaller items it’s great.
Another option that shines on the Stir is the removable waste strap. It’s nice to easily tear of the waist straps from the velcro and toss them in the pack, or leave them at home when they just end up getting in the way. The sternum strap also is removable, but we found it getting in the way a lot less often.
The pack includes daisy chain down the back of the strap. Also included and integrated into the side compression straps are small velcro loops for securing ice ax, trekking poles, walking stick, or other smaller items, typically with a diameter smaller than a few inches.
If it’s really possible to fall in love with something on a backpack, it would have to be the two side pockets. They were designed like all side pockets should be. Seems this is always a struggling issue we face with packs. They are either too small, too large, don’t compress well, shaped oddly, or angled awkwardly. The Stir has large easily expandable deep still easy to retrieve items. We just thought they were great.
For everyday around town, from a quick bike ride to the market or a 10 mile day hike we found the light frame, and options the pack offered to be one of our more favorite go to packs. The fit feels very similar to other packs in the same category.
Our final thoughts on the pack are that it’s a good pack for the money. It’s priced adequately and in the range of other packs of it’s size and features. With that said, it comes done to some personal preference. Some things to consider that set the Stir aside from other is the adjustable torso length, oversized stuff pocket, and rain fly. Also, the removable waist belt is a nice feature as well.
It’s defiantly sits close to our door at home. We grab the backpack more often than others around the house. It’s also worth pointing out that Thule offers a warranty called “BringIt” that means they guarantee the pack will be covered for the lifetime of the pack under normal use, and to the original purchaser. As with most warranties, there is a lot of mumbo jumbo about subject to the limitation and exclusions which is mostly around using the product in the way it was intended, not covering normal wear and tear, etc.
If you have any questions about the pack please let us know or post a comment.