With great anticipation, I was itching to give the Ortlieb Atrack ST 34L Backpack a thorough testing. I often find myself with a different bag for different purposes: one for climbing, one for air travel, one for road trips, etc. Taking cues from travelers and outdoor enthusiasts alike, the Atrack ST is a phenomenal piece of versatile gear. Burly material combined with adjustability and easy-access made taking this bag on a big international trip an absolute breeze.
Ortlieb Atrack ST 34L Backpack Features:
- Durable nylon fabric, waterproof
- Large single zipper opens the pack like a duffel bag
- 4 inside zipper pockets, 2 outside mesh pockets
- Adjustable back panel
- 4 outer compression straps, 1 inner compression strap, and a top closure strap
- Attachment points for gear add-ons
- Adjustable torso size for a precise fit
- Adjustable sternum strap and shoulder stabilizer straps
- MSRP: $265.00
A España con Ortleib
In the early winter, my partner and I took a big 12-day trip to Spain. We wanted to see the cities, but we also really (really) wanted to climb in Andalucia. As we sat down the night before leaving and decided how and what to pack, I knew that I needed to bring a bag to haul my climbing gear. I didn’t want to bring my usual climbing pack, as it limited the things I could pack inside to just my gear. No extra room, and very little versatility. It was apparent that I would certainly be bringing my Atrack ST to Europe.
Whether I was traveling by air or train or car or bus, the Atrack ST was an easy travel companion. The pack’s shape is sleek. There were no buckles getting stuck on transit armrests and it fit into all overhead bins beautifully. I was actually rather surprised at the effortlessness with which I could toss the Atrack ST into overhead compartments. As a 34 liter bag, it’s not a teeny pack when stuffed full of travel essentials. Nevertheless, one storage area after another, it fit. The intentional lack of “extras” on the body of the pack — extra pockets, extra clips, extra loops — meant that it is more or less a perfectly manageable cylinder when fully loaded. My partner’s bag, with its lumpy pockets and less structured design, was always just a little tougher to put away than my pack.
The Atrack ST is the smaller, short-torso specific model of the award-winning Atrack. Ortlieb took all the amazing features of the Atrack, and offered an option for those of us with a shorter midsection. Ortlieb has thoughtfully crafted a series of packs that are thoughtful and intuitive in size, without simply emulating the outdated adage of “shrink it and pink it” for women’s gear.
I kept mine sized XS, and that was perfect for me. The entire frame could be extended and readjusted for longer-torsoed folks (see image below). In addition to the adjustable frame, the Atrack ST also has adjustable suspension straps and a comfy padded belt. I loved that the strap and hip belt configuration didn’t feel overly bulky nor frail. It was an adequate amount of support and comfort, without compromising either. I loaded the Ortlieb Atrack ST with a 70 meter climbing rope and gear and was unfazed by the load. The weight was distributed beautifully throughout the strap, hip belt, and suspension system, and didn’t leave me feeling worn out — even after a long hike out from the crag.
The Atrack ST is part of a line that Ortlieb refers to as “active backpacks.” While this can insinuate many things, I think it’s most astute to note that it integrates travel essentials into a pack designed for outdoor ventures. The conveniences of travel bags — easy access, defense from theft, and sleek design — are not forgotten in the Atrack ST. In fact, the Atrack ST doesn’t even seem to compromise. All of the adventure-oriented details are there, and all of the travel-oriented details are there.
I found myself really amazed by the innovative compression system the Atrack ST presented. The side compression is fully customizable thanks to the unique toggle technology integrated across the entire exterior. Easy to maneuver, simple to compress, and totally optional — like, the WHOLE strap can come off if you so please! I was giddy with delight that I had options with the Atrack ST.
The options are a wildly innovative aspect of the Atrack ST and Atrack packs. These toggle loops make it possible to integrate the extra details that you need, while leaving out any excess. I used the helmet attachment when using my Atrack ST for rock climbing. There are also options for gear attachments if this is your backcountry ski bag, as well as a hydration bladder attachment. This is a pack that allows you to transform it into your perfect bag, even if that’s changing it on the daily to fit your adventure needs.
The compression system is comprised of two primary compression straps, as well as the additional side compression. The main cinch runs vertically along the front of the pack, and the two-step compression enabled me to pack down the Atrack to a surprisingly small size. I would zip the beefy, waterproof zipper 95% closed, then cinch down the two-step compression to squeeze out all the air. The zipper construction and the process reminded me of a dry suit (for any of you river guides reading this).
The waterproofness of the zipper was really demonstrated by it’s airtightness. If I didn’t leave the zipper just a little bit open while cinching, all that air would simply get stuck in the bag and cause it to balloon (like a dry suit). Funny, yes, and also a pretty astounding glimpse into the impermeability of the the membrane and zipper. The Atrack ST is truly waterproof.
In fact, its waterproofness is rated up to IP67. This, according to their site, indicates “6=dustproof, 7=protected against penetration of water coming during temporary immersion.” That temporary immersion is to a depth of 1 meter for a duration of 30 minutes. Consider me impressed (just make sure that zipper is fully closed!) This eliminates the need for a rain cover, and the risk of soaked contents in the event that you didn’t have a rain cover in a storm.
I loved that I could open up my entire bag. While I initially assumed that this would be irritating and inconvenient, I was mistaken. By opening that big, beefy zipper, I was able to access pretty much anything I needed from my bag. It wasn’t any more inconvenient than a duffel bag. And it was far easier than trying to fish out a phone charger from the bottom of a drop-top backpack (we’ve all been there). The four inside pockets made it easy for me to organize different small items, like toiletries. This also made it really easy for me to “gut” my bag at the crag, which I really like for the ease of access and of packing.
- Fantastic design for both travel and adventure — no compromising in effectiveness, the Ortlieb Atrack ST finds a way to take the best of both types of bags and meld it into a single pack.
- Customizable adjustments and additions.
- Totally waterproof!
- Ample storage with easy interior organization
- Comfortable, adjustable suspension system
- Zipper is a bit sticky
- Pack doesn’t feel as comfortable under lighter loads.
The Bottom Line: Ortlieb Atrack ST 34L
There wasn’t much that I didn’t like about the Ortlieb Atrack ST, to be honest. The zipper was sticky to begin with, and didn’t soften up too significantly during use, which was at worst… annoying? But that same sticky zipper was keeping my stuff totally dry, so it was still a win in my book. All in all, the Atrack ST is a well-developed, intuitive pack. It carefully integrates all the aspects that I love about travel-specific bags, like easy access and a design that inhibits theft (such as the zipper being on the frame-side of the bag). I was blown away by the comfortable suspension, easy-access, and customization options for the Otrlieb Atrack ST. This is a pack that I’ll certainly be reaching for in any adventure context — whether that takes me on an airplane, to the crag, or both.
Buy Now: Available at Ortliebusa.com