- Buyer's Guide
Many thanks to our guest contributor Piotr Ma who hit the hills and hauled over rocks to give the Kletterwerks Flip a solid testing...
Dana Gleason (founder and CEO of Mystery Ranch) is one of the names which immediately spring to mind when you think of today’s best backpack designers. But Dana’s been around for quite a bit longer than Mystery Ranch packs. It all sprouted in 1975, after Dana started Kletterwerks – a company which was the foundation of his packs’ success. I’ve been hiking and mountaineering with my father since I was 10, and at that time Kletterwerks was celebrating a 10th anniversary too…what a coincidence! And I can still remember daypacks of that period…so when the Kletterwerks line was introduced this year I knew I needed that exact pack: The Flip. I climbed rocks with my dad back in the 80’s and still feel the nostalgia for that period in my life. So it was really a pleasure for me to use (and abuse) this pack in a thorough review.
- Name: Flip
- Brand: Kletterwerks
- Format: Daypack
- Measurement: 20 x 11 x 7.5 inches (51 x 28 x 19cm)
- Capacity: 1400 cu-in (23L)
- Weight: 1.71 lbs (0.78 kg)
- Zippers: YKK
- Material: 1000D Cordura nylon / 1680D Ballistic nylon
- PriceUS$ 199
Who It Suits
I’d easily recommend it to anyone looking for a high-quality daypack with classic lines, simple organization and an old-school twist. A volume of 20-25 liters is the sweet spot for a summer and fall adventure daypack and the Flip fits just in there.
Who It Doesn't
Climbers looking for an ultralight technical pack, and hikers looking for military-inspired bags with a lot of MOLLE on the outside. Those who appreciate a lot of organization will also find better options out there.
The timeless, classic design is a key differentiating factor of the Kletterwerks line today. The Flip is in essence an old-school day-mountaineering sack with a modern twist. That kind of combination can go either very well or very wrong. In this case, it looks simply superb. Classic straight lines with handsome proportions (actually very close to so-called ‘golden proportions’) rarely look bad.
"The Flip is in essence an old-school day-mountaineering sack with a modern twist."
The overall fit and finish is perfect. And I mean absolutely perfect, without the slightest issue. All stitches, corners, metal parts, leather accents, labels inside and outside. It’s made in the US in the Mystery Ranch facility, and the quality is evident. The downside is that top quality usually comes at a price. Kletterwerks is not a budget brand and never was, just like the rest of the Mystery Ranch products. However, with the offered quality, the MSRP of $199 is a justified one in my book (albeit not cheap).
"The overall fit and finish is perfect. And I mean absolutely perfect, without the slightest issue."
The back of the pack could be a definition of old-school simplicity – it’s a layer of Cordura with thin padding and no frame support. With a pack this size and weight, a lack of internal frame and heavy padding is not really a biggie. The simple Cordura back means durability, easy cleaning, fast drying, and it doesn’t catch dirt (mesh panels are master dirt catchers). But even more importantly, it’s easy to roll and stuff into my big base camp hauling backpack (60-80 liters) to be used as a hiking daypack later during a trip or as a summit pack.
"The simple Cordura back means durability, easy cleaning, fast drying, and it doesn’t catch dirt (mesh panels are master dirt catchers)."
The pack has bold metal zippers with genuine leather pulls and with webbing tabs on each side to assist with opening and closing. Everything gloves-friendly of course. Nice.
The shoulder straps are straight and simple in shape, comfortably padded with soft mesh underneath. MOLLE-compliant webbing running along the straps allows you to mount accessories like a small sunglasses pouch, knife, compass, or to leash a hydration tube. It can be used to put a sternum strap on as well, which I did (borrowed from my Mystery Ranch ASAP pack, that’s why it’s foliage green and not coyote).
"...it’s easy to roll and stuff into my big base camp hauling backpack (60-80 liters) to be used as a hiking daypack later during a trip or as a summit pack."
The side straps I used a lot when testing the Flip. There is a pair on each side of the pack and each strap consists of a short 1.5″ fixed section (great for a climbing carabiner, MOLLE clip, Grimloc, etc.) and a compression section, which can be used to attach a lot of extras to the pack: hiking poles, jacket, fleece, first-aid kit (Mystery Ranch IFAK fits great), fixed blade knife, umbrella and more. The metal buckles are durable and do their job well. I never had a problem with them getting loose or cutting/tearing through webbing. There’s a classic loop and strap central attachment for a winter mountain tool like an ice-hatchet (the top strap is removable/reversible). I’ll use the loop and strap a lot in the mountains during my winter hikes (for an ice-hatchet) and will update my review with ‘a winter section’.* However there is still one thing I’d change – the straps are really hard (almost impossible) to remove from the buckles. So it’s not possible to put them through something – MOLLE slots on a pouch or fixed knife sheath comes immediately to mind. Of course there is usually a way to work around it (like I did with a Tek-Lok attachment on my Spyderco Aqua Salt sheath) but I’d prefer to be able to open the straps completely – that’s just what I’m used to. I guess it’s been made exactly in line with the design from 30-40 years ago, but personally I’d change that.
"MOLLE-compliant webbing running along the straps allows you to mount accessories like a small sunglasses pouch, knife, compass, or to leash a hydration tube."
*Winter update: As promised – a small update about winter use with climbing tools. I tried my Flip as a mountaineering pack in winter conditions in January and it worked great! The Kletterwerks Flip could be easily used for winter mountaineering as a daypack for one person. There is enough room for a thermos, hardshell, backup insulation (my choice would be the packable Arc’teryx Atom jacket), extra gloves, some energy bars or other food, a map and compass. The external straps are big enough to keep full-size G12 Grivel crampons on one side so the second side is free for walking poles. Plus there is a dedicated loop and strap for an ice axe and four extra lashing points for shock cord or a carabiner.
Space and Access
The Flip is a top-loader with a flat lid pocket, which closes the main compartment with a bi-directional zipper. The pack is 20 inches tall and 11.5 inches wide (measured) but at first it looks a bit smaller than the total volume suggests (1400 cu-in, equivalent to 23 liters). However when you open it and start loading your stuff, you quickly realize the Flip can swallow way more than you thought it would.
I’ve been using the Flip as a daily carry for two months now, both for 7-8 hour walks in the countryside and also for mountain treks lasting from dawn to dusk. I’ve used it in full sun and in summer rain. The volume of 1400 cu-in is just about perfect for day-long summer hikes. It’s not too big, but as you can see below I was able to carry everything I needed (including a spare lens for my camera, folding reflector, food, water, rain jacket, fleece shirt, isobutane stove, map etc.). Some of my gear was attached to the outside of my pack, just to keep it at hand (gloves, knife, Laplander saw, rolled shirt sometimes) and there was still a bit of room left. Actually I could have easily strapped a pair of walking sticks to my pack or put a bit more food and water into it. So size-wise I find it just right for day hiking. I also did a direct comparison with the Mystery Ranch ASAP (my reference pack in the ‘about 20 liters’ class) and indeed the 5 liters difference in volume is noticeable. Also the regular, non-tapered shape of the Flip helps in stuffing it well with outdoor gear or to fit bigger and bulkier items.
"...size-wise I find it just right for day hiking."
"...the regular, non-tapered shape of the Flip helps in stuffing it well with outdoor gear or to fit bigger and bulkier items."
I carried it extensively when day-hiking in the Tatra mountains in Central Europe, with peaks up to about 8000+ ft. I use military-grade Source hydration with a thermally insulated tube. For the Flip I’d recommend either a 2L flat ILPS bladder (longer hikes) or the awesome 1L Kangaroo bladder bundled with an additional soft bottle as a refill (which was actually my setup). The latter option shows perfectly when I’m at half of my water supply. Plus a separate backup bottle allows me to refill it with water from a stream and filter it before pouring into the bladder. The insulated tube was held by a single web dominator, which was not supplied with the pack but it’s dirt cheap and easily available everywhere. Just keep in mind – some popular long bladders (like the Source 3L WXP, which is great for bigger packs) are usually too tall to use in the Flip. By the way, there’s no dedicated hydration port but the main zipper is bi-directional, so it can be used to create a port for a hydration tube on the left or right side.
Pockets and Organizing
There’s a padded sleeve for safe and easy laptop/tablet storage, which can also be used for a hydration bladder. My personal 14" Dell fits easily there together with an iPad Air. The sleeve’s Velcro closing can also be used as a hydration bladder hanger.
"...there’s no dedicated hydration port but the main zipper is bi-directional, so it can be used to create a port for a hydration tube on the left or right side."
The top lid pocket is generous in volume, more than enough for small items usually kept there (pocket knife, compass, headlamp, energy bars, etc.). What’s cool, the small Magpul DAKA pouch fits easily inside, which is a great way to protect ID, car keys, a phone, etc. from the elements in a serious downpour.
Generally the shoulder straps are comfy and well-padded for the pack’s size. However (for me) the padded part of the straps could have been a bit longer; an additional 2 inches would be very welcome. I’m not a small guy but also not a giant (6'2) but I found the strap adjustment buckles to be positioned a little bit too high for me and I could feel the sharp corners in my biceps a couple of times, especially when climbing rocks in the mountains. Thankfully I found a quick solution – I just put a sternum strap on my Flip and now the buckles stay closer to my chest and away from my arms. So I’d certainly recommend a sternum strap with this pack – especially for people who are 6′ or taller. By the way, for my wife (5'5) this wasn’t an issue at all, as the padded parts were long enough for her.
"Generally the shoulder straps are comfy and well-padded for the pack’s size. However (for me) the padded part of the straps could have been a bit longer; an additional 2 inches would be very welcome."
Another important aspect is overall long-time carry comfort with a moderate load (10-12 lbs). The Flip can be carried easily and without any issue for the whole day. Of course it’d be nonsense to expect excellent back ventilation in such a construction. But after 30 years of experience I can tell you there is no such thing as a no-sweat pack. You’ll sweat anyway when hiking a whole day, even without a pack. Personally I still prefer a pack which is lighter, packable and closer to my body, which doesn’t shift my center of gravity and makes climbing in tight spaces much easier. Just remember to wear a proper base layer, which provides thermal comfort and a wicking effect.
Kletterwerks used high-quality YKK-made zippers but they’re not waterproof units. Still my pack easily survived 30 minutes of light summer rain (thanks to the Cordura zipper covers) and after that half an hour the 1000D Cordura still had water-repellent capabilities and kept the interior dry. Of course I’m not sure the zippers would stay watertight in a long-lasting serious downpour…most probably not. A simple aftermarket raincover would work great as a quick solution but honestly I don’t like raincovers and don’t use them in summer at all. Instead in really bad weather I put a heavy-duty plastic dirt bag into the backpack first and stuff my gear into it – it works exceptionally well with a regular-shaped pack like the Flip.
"...my pack easily survived 30 minutes of light summer rain (thanks to the Cordura zipper covers) and after that half an hour the 1000D Cordura still had water-repellent capabilities and kept the interior dry. Of course I’m not sure the zippers would stay watertight in a long-lasting serious downpour…most probably not."
Alternatives to Consider
Topo Designs Klettersack 22 – A very close concept, the biggest difference is the use of plastic buckles instead of metal and no hydration compatibility (it’s designed for bottle carry with the side bottle pockets).
Trakke Assynt 17 – A nice-looking pack but a lack of side straps, tool strap and no hydration compatibility makes it more a lifestyle product than mountain equipment.
Tom Bihn Guide’s Pack – It’s bigger and heavier, but still a great daypack with old-school design and full of features. It’s considerably more expensive when configured with optional straps and loops.
- Construction is top-notch.
- Plenty of usable space for day-to-day needs, with a non-tapered shape for bulkier items.
- Quality materials that will withstand demanding use.
Not So Good
- Would have preferred a longer padded section in the shoulder straps.
- Lacking in organization.
- Side straps are hard to remove from buckles - limits the ability to attach exterior items.
Kletterwerks blends cool old-school looks with new materials in an awesome way. Sure, the result is not a perfect technical pack, but the Flip was never meant to be a technical pack. Kletterwerks offers a proven design instead with a bit of nostalgia for good measure. I think it’s also partly a lifestyle product, but works in a range of environments such as the mountains, highlands, woodland, countryside and on the city streets. It’s a pack with soul.
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Space & Access
Look & Feel
Build, Materials & Hardware
Warranty & Support