Ultralight backpackers are taking over the trails, and the days of heavy canvas backpacks — complete with frames that look like medical contraptions — are behind us. Fortunately, you no longer have to forgo comfort and durability to cut down on weight. Even better, ultralight gear is now designed to last. The new Montane Trailblazer LT is the latest model in a line of ultralight backpacks from Montane, a manufacturer that specializes in fast and light equipment.
This backpack is available as either a 20-liter or 28-liter model and is designed to pack out for either single-day or multi-day lightweight trail running or hiking trips. I’ve been using both sizes for the past couple of months for treks, day hikes, trail runs, and fastpacking trips. If you need to carry more gear than you can fit into your usual running pack, or if you want to take your adventure further, the Trailblazer LT will fit everything you need.
The Montane Trailblazer LT is an ultralight backpack designed for trail runners, hikers, and fastpackers. This pack is available in either 20 liters (for high-speed days out on the trail) or 28 liters for fast and light overnight adventures. The bag features a secure harness system that prevents it from bouncing around as you move, as well as a padded back panel to stop your gear from digging into your back.
Everything about this pack shouts lightweight simplicity. It’s not a backpack overburdened with pockets, yet it somehow manages to keep your gear secure and close-fitting to your back. The pockets that it is fitted with are all positioned to keep all the important gear close at hand so you can keep moving.
When keeping your gear ultralight is essential, you’ve got to start with your backpack. The Montane Trailblazer LT weighs in at under 350 grams — that’s less than a can of soda! The 40-denier nylon is siliconized and coated with a TPU coating to add waterproof protection for your gear too.
The Trailblazer LT uses Montane’s Covalent harness system and a foam back panel to create a close-fitting, body-hugging backpack. This not only prevents the backpack from bouncing around on your back; it also keeps the weight of your gear closer to your body to avoid shifting your center of gravity, which can severely impact your control when you’re moving fast on the trail.
- Comes with either 20 or 28 liters of storage
- Roll-top opening
- TPU waterproof coating
- Fully adjustable waist harness system
- Two chest straps
- Two chest pockets
- Wraparound mesh side pockets with security zips
- External storage bungee
- Hydration bladder compatible
- Pole attachments
The Chest Pockets
I have to admit that I was skeptical about a trail running and fastpacking bag that doesn’t feature front pouches for soft flasks, but I love the front pockets on the Trailblazer LT. I’m not a big drinker anyway and find that on longer trips, I am happy to slow or stop to get bottles out of the side pockets rather than sip on the move. The front pockets are large enough to stash snacks, a map and compass, and even a small action camera so I can record my journey.
The Side Pockets
Okay, this isn’t just going to be me getting over-excited about pockets, but hear me out on this one. The mesh pockets on the side are awesome. They’re huge, they’re easy to use, and you can access them on the go — the zips are even easy enough to undo while you run. On a recent overnight trip, I had my waterproof jacket and pants in the side pockets, as well as soft flasks and even more snacks. I could reach behind me on the go, unzip the pockets, and grab a snack or a drink as needed.
I’m not a fan of overengineered gear. There are backpacks on the market that have pockets and attachment points that I can’t see myself ever using. If those sorts of packs suit you, that’s absolutely fine, but I love a bag that does exactly what you want it to — and nothing more. I like the large single compartment, the roll-top closure, and the lack of unnecessary bells and whistles.
I’m fortunate that one size fits all systems tend to work for me. That said, because this is a one-size system, I did find that I had a lot of excess straps in some areas, and they flapped around as I ran. This isn’t the biggest problem in the world, but after a few hours on the trail, it can be a bit annoying.
Thin Bungee Cord
Weight minimization is obviously at the top of the agenda for the Trailblazer LT, but the bungee feels as though it wouldn’t take a load of weight. I have to admit, it hasn’t broken on me yet, but I also haven’t been brave enough to test it to its full strength. I’m sure if you loaded a jacket on top of the bag, the bungee would be fine, but I wouldn’t want to test it too rigorously.
How durable is the Trailblazer LT?
Confession: I was cautious, especially when I packed out the 28-liter and could see my gear through it! But both bags are holding up well. Of course, I have only had them for a couple of months, but as a test, I took the 20-liter model on several days of wet weather mountain walking that included scrambling up and down rocky outcrops. The bag took a beating as I made my way along the trail, and still looks as good as new — if also in need of a wash. I even used it as a seat at lunch to keep my butt off the wet ground, and it held up just fine.
Is the Trailblazer LT fully waterproof?
In short, no. The TPU coating does stand up well against wet weather, but the Trailblazer LT can’t be used in place of a dry bag. I wouldn’t want to subject it to a proper soaking or submersion. Some items — food, waterproofs, spare layer — might be fine without extra protection, but the important stuff — like your sleeping bag — is worth packing into a lightweight dry bag before loading it into your pack.
Who is the Trailblazer LT for?
The Trailblazer LT is designed for anyone who thrives on minimalism. Packing your overnight gear into a 28-liter bag is no mean feat, and unless you also have ultralight sleeping bags, sleep pads, and everything else, you will struggle to make it all fit. However, the 20-liter model makes for a great day pack for hiking or trail running. It also folds down really small and can fit into the top of an overnight pack — perfect for setting up a basecamp and going out on day hikes.
In short, yes. I really don’t have a bad word to say about this pack, having used it for running, fastpacking, and hiking. Whether you choose to go for the 20-liter or the 28-liter will depend on why you’re buying the pack. Both packs surprised me with how much they could hold and how well-balanced they were. Even when I was fully loaded for three days of running and camping on the trail, the bag didn’t bounce around, and the weight was properly distributed between my waistband and my shoulders.
These bags won’t replace your running vest, but they aren’t supposed to. What they will offer you is a versatile alternative for when you want to take your fast-paced adventure further than you ever have.
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