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Do you need a modular backpack? We tested the Baltoro Impetro, and weight the pros and cons

Modular backpacks are trendy, but are they for you?

Baltoro Impetro modular backpack set.
Mark Stock / The Manual

The bills itself as a “complete ecosystem” for mountain sports. The modular backpack, which fits in three pieces, is part of a more significant trend stirring up the outdoors, sports, and travel realms. But do you need one?

Contents

The gear system has many options, from a single bundle (single backpack) to a complete bundle (four sacks). You have a base unit that can be customized depending on what you’re up to. It’s all about adaptability and limiting materials, pros for the multi-sport enthusiast and environmentalist alike.

All packs zip directly onto the base unit. The morphing luggage is intended to appeal to all outdoorsy types, like bikers, hikers, and skiers. Whatever your intention, the bag adjusts accordingly, at least in theory. On a recent road trip, we tested the Baltoro Impetro complete bundle and gave it some proper exercise on the trail. This version has four packs: a 10-liter hiking pack, a 15-liter biking pack, a 22-liter ski pack, and a 33-liter mountain pack. Designed in Austria, the system has garnered some serious buzz from adventurers.

Here are our takeaways.

Magnetic backpack buckle.

Pros

On the surface, a modular system seems like a gimmick. Rest assured, however, as the packs are unique and tailored to specific sports. We quickly grew to appreciate the idea.

Convenience

First off, it’s straightforward to swap out packs. The zippers are sturdy, and the materials are high quality. The base unit is comfortable, offering ample padding and support. One of the best features is the magnetic buckle, which holds fast and can be easily used, even in gloves. The hydration zone is well-placed and compatible with almost any vessel you have.

Let’s begin with the smallest pack, built for hiking. The exterior is water-resistant, and there are two water bottle holders. While there are few pouches, they are helpful. The petite pocket at the top is lined with soft material, making it great for valuables and just big enough for your phone. The volume is adequate for day hikes, with plenty of room for lunch, extra shoes, a rain jacket, and other gear. You understand how well the buckle and straps work on a hike or trail run on the base unit. The stability is impressive, something many backpacks have yet to master.

The biking pack is especially great for mountain bikers. From the sizable top pocket fit for goggles to the tool pocket and exterior helmet sling, it covers all the bases. There’s a side pocket ideal for snacks, and the pack itself wipes down quickly after a muddy ride. There’s a pump pocket and, arguably the most remarkable feature, a rain cover at the base that pulls out like a parachute when needed. Two main pouches make up the core of the pack, the larger of the two with internal velcro dividers, offering more than enough room for your biking supplies.

Handy tech advancements

The best of the bunch is the ski pack. It’s set up with Recco technology if you get stuck in an avalanche, and safety notes are added to the bag’s liner. The helmet holder is plenty big, and there’s a home for everything, including skis or snowboards, poles (with a bungee system), goggles (a soft-lined pocket), probes, and shovels. It’s a sleek overall size with all the volume needed for a sport requiring a bit more gear without weighing you down on the powder.

If there’s a weak link, it might be the mountain pack, but it still has many positives. The molle webbing allows many attachment permutations, while the hood pocket is excellent for handling camping gear or extra winter clothes. There’s an ice axe holder if winter adventuring is your thing, and even when jam-packed, the backpack feels great in tow.

Modular hike backpack.

Cons

Thankfully, there’s not much to like about the system. Here are some things you may (or may not) consider drawbacks.

One size may not fit all

We could see a more petite person struggling with the base unit. The one-size-fits-all approach makes a lot of sense, especially from a materials-saving standpoint, but the padding placement and strap system could be an issue for somebody with a more petite frame.

Compartments & pockets

The packs themselves could use a few more specialized pockets, given the volume at play, but the brand accommodates all of the general gear you’d want while biking, hiking, etc.

This pack is on the smaller side

Lastly, the mountaineering pack is a tad undersized. Most in the category come in at a larger volume. This one is expansive, but things could get tight (or bogged down with clip-on) depending on the length of your adventure. Upon first or second use, it’s easy to accidentally unzip the whole unit when you’re trying to access the pouch pockets, but that’s quickly remedied once you realize all of the pack pouches are highlighted with yellow-looped zippers (which we like, as the loops are prominent and accessible, again, even wearing gloves).

Modular ski backpack.

Summary

This is a great system that has very few flaws, if any. The price is reasonable, and the versatility of the packs is impressive. Lightweight, functional, and designed specifically for the sport at hand, these packs are highly recommended for outdoors people, especially the mountain-lover who loves to bomb down a hill on a bike or carve in the snow. Much thought went into creating the Impetro, and the dream was pulled off thanks to quality craftsmanship and dependable materials. We get the sense this system is built to last. If you’re a weekend warrior with a knack for various sports, we highly recommend the Baltoro Impetro modular backpack system.

Are you in the mood for more reviews? Check out our take on the Dryrobe all-weather parka and the nine best backpacks for men. We’ve also got a great roundup of the best travel backpacks. Ready to ski? Check out some of our favorite ski resorts in the land. Now, get out there and adventure.

Editors' Recommendations

Mark Stock
Mark Stock is a writer from Portland, Oregon. He fell into wine during the Recession and has been fixated on the stuff since…
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