The Berghaus Freeflow 20 is a new one on me in that it features their 'freeflow V backsystem'. In very simple terms, this entails the back of the rucksack being held away from your back, allowing for air to get through and reducing the sweat caused by the contact you normally have with a rucksack.
The picture on the right is just like the one sitting beside me on the sofa as I write, although I think the blue is more vibrant in real life (a good thing).
This was a hard one to score, as my feelings about it as a rucksack for London walking versus my feelings about it for country walking are quite different. For London walking, I'd give it a 3, while for country walking it's a definite 4.
My one-line review of this rucksack is that it's a fantastic idea, with lots of great features, but perhaps not quite getting it right in the looks department (particularly for city walks).
The Freeflow 20 has a lot to recommend it looks-wise. In its praise, I'd say the colours are lovely and it's nice that there are a selection of colours to choose from. It also looks very sleek, particularly face on. Basically, it's a better-than-average looking rucksack in most ways.
In fact, if I used this solely as a country-walking rucksack, I don't think I'd have much to complain about in the looks department. The complimentary colours and compact outline of the pack are great and I doubt any walker would be ashamed to carry it.
My main problem comes with carrying it around in the city. It's a 20L rucksack, but because of the freeflow backsystem it's quite narrow and long. It therefore does feel bigger than it actually is when it's on your back. And while the backsystem has some serious practical advantages, it does look a bit odd.
I'm probably betraying the same self consciousness about walking gear that I've written about before, in that essentially my main complaint about carrying this around in the city is that it makes me feel distinctly unfeminine, and more so than my other rucksacks.
I should add here for any male readers that The Boy doesn't have the same concerns about the look of the pack that I do. I may well end up fighting with him for ownership of it, as he thinks the backsystem is the bees knees!
Fit and Feel
The Freeflow 20 is a comfortable pack, no doubt about it. It's light weight, with wide, cushioned shoulder straps, as well as chest and hip straps. Once all are in place and correctly adjusted the rucksack feels very secure and snug to the body.
In fact, my only complaint about the feel of the pack is that it's a bit too stiff at the point where the straps meet the pack at the shoulders. This is undoubtedly due to the stiff backsystem that holds the rucksack away from the body. It's certainly not something that makes the rucksack unwearable, but it does make it ever so slightly less comfortable.
Practicality and performance
There are some great features on the Freeflow 20, including some that are new ones on me, such as the backsystem. I think it's probably worth spending a little time looking specifically as that, given it's novelty to me.
The backsystem definitely does what it says it does - both The Boy and I have noticed a significant reduction in how hot and sweaty our backs get when walking with this rucksack versus other ones we've used. It's a really clever idea to resolve what is certainly an irritating issue (sometimes quite literally). On the downside, as I've mentioned I do think it looks slightly odd - which may be more of an issue for some than others. I've also noticed that it has inevitably made the inside of the rucksack a rather odd shape, which means it's more difficult than expected to fit in certain items easily.
In terms of other practicalities, the pack ticks a lot of boxes for me. Unlike many rucksacks, not only does it have the outside zip pocket - which is larger than many I've seen and includes a separate mesh compartment within it - but it also has a small zip-up pocket inside the main compartment. This may seem like a small detail, but I think it makes a big difference. What a perfect place to put keys and other small valuables!
In addition, the pack also has two external mesh pockets, holders for walking poles and a compartment for a hydration pack. I was also rather chuffed to discover - and this perhaps betrays some geekiness on my part - that it has a rain cover stowed in a pocket at the bottom of the pack, which I've got no doubt will come in handy at some point.
Basically, the Freeflow 20 is great from a practical point of view, with only those couple of niggles about the backsystem scoring it down.
My only gripe with it comes down to personal preference about the look of the pack, particularly when walking around the city as I usually do. I'm still on the look out for something that has those practical features but is a bit more feminine and - dare I say it - fashionable!