Deuter Futura 32 Internal Frame Pack
Reviewer Information [return to top]
Name: Chuck Kime
Height: 5' 8" (1.72 m)
Weight: 243 lb (110 kg)
Email address: chuck_kime AT yahoo DOT com
City, State, Country: Upper Darby (Philadelphia suburb), PA, U.S.A.
Additional Information applicable to this review
Shoulders: 56” (142 cm)
Girth at chest: 57” (145 cm)
Chest: 46” (117 cm)
Waist: 42” (107 cm)
Hips: 46” (117 cm)
Torso: 21½” (55 cm)
Backpacking Background [return to top]
My family started car/trailer camping when I was about 5. I now go on monthly Boy Scout camping/hiking weekends, with similar family trips occasionally, and plan to add one or two week-long trips per year. Advancing age, arthritic knees and injuries have led me to rethink my gear choices, switch to hammocking, make some of my own gear, and look closer at my ‘toys’ with an eye for multi-use and light weight. I now have a sub-20 lb (9 kg) 3-season load – before food, fuel and water – and should be able to reduce it further with a little effort.
Additional Background applicable to this review
I spent over 17 years under a U.S. Army ALICE pack, so I tend towards external frame packs for keeping my back cool.
Product Information [return to top]
Model: Futura 32
Year of Manufacture: 2003
Listed weight (2003 model): 3 lb 5 oz (1,506 g)
Listed weight (2007 model): 3 lb 12 oz (1,701 g)
Measured weight (2003 model): 3 lb 4.3 oz (1,486 g), scale accurate to 0.1 oz
Listed volume: 1,950 cu in (32 L)
Fabric (2003 model): Deuter-Super-Polytex
Fabric (2007 model): Ripstop Nylon/Super-Polytex
Color (2003 model): Black/Fire (Red)
Color (2007 model): Fire/Granite (Red/Grey)
MSRP: None listed
Features/claims (from web site) [return to top]
- Top stabilizer straps
- Padded hip belt
- Side compression straps
- Mesh side pockets
- Built-in raincover
- Zippered compartment separator
- Top lid pocket
- Hiking pole and ice axe loops
- Hydration system compatible (not included)
Owner Review - August, 2007
I tested this pack for BackpackGearTest.org (BGT) over a 6 month period in 2003, and have had it on *every* outdoor trip I have taken since then. I have reposted and updated my findings here for new readers to make use of the information.
Description [return to top]
When I received the pack the compression and lid straps were cinched all the way down, while the shoulder straps and hip belt were relaxed and folded neatly into the suspension system. In this state, the pack is approximately 20 in high x 14 in wide (51 cm x 35 cm). Depth of the pack bag itself is dependent on the adjustment of the side compression straps, keeping in mind that the bag presents a ‘D’ shape when viewed from above. I opened the pack up, loosened all straps and buckles, and did a walk-around. The description of the pack is below.
All materials used in the pack are black, unless otherwise noted. All straps (webbing) used in the pack are 1 in (25 mm) wide, unless otherwise noted. Front, back, left, and right are all indicated as though the pack is worn, i.e. the shoulder straps are on the front.
Inside, top to bottom: Attached under the lid is a white panel approximately 8 in wide x 2½ in high (20 cm x 7 cm) with emergency rescue instructions printed in English and German (see photo below). The panel appears to be plastic coated for waterproofing. Below the emergency instructions is a small 1-way zipper that permits access to the inside of the lid itself, for use as a pocket, separate from one on the outside of the lid. Just below the lid is the collar of the pack. At the front of the collar is an opening for the drawcord and cordlock used to close the top of the pack. On the front side of the main compartment is sewn a nylon pocket with an elastic top edge, covering roughly the bottom half of the compartment, presumably for the hydration system.
Starting on the left, and moving top to bottom: There are two horizontal compression straps. The lower strap crosses near the top of a grey mesh pocket that is the full width of the side panel, and approximately 8 in (20 cm) high. The gusseted bottom of the pocket appears to be made from the same fabric as the pack itself, and the top has a strip of elastic.
Right side, top to bottom: The right side is a mirror image of the left, except for the exit port for the hydration system at the top front of the panel (see photo at right). I have inserted a pen to illustrate the hose exit point.
On to the back, top to bottom: The sides of the lid, as well as a strip down each edge of the back panel and across the top of the lower pocket are red, called ‘Fire’ on the web site and hang tag. Near where the lid meets the pack body is a 1-way zipper that permits access to the inside of the lid itself, for use as a pocket. On top of the pack lid, there are four rectangular plastic loops (sometimes called looplocs), approximately 1 in (25 mm) wide, presumably for strapping items onto the top of the pack. The bottom edges of both sides of the lid have elastic in them. On the back face of the lid is embroidery with the Deuter logo and name, along with ‘aircomfort’ and the name of the pack.
Continuing down the back: The lid is held closed by two side-release buckles, each with the Deuter logo. The straps that attach the buckles to the pack body are stitched across to create three daisy chain loops on each strap as they continue down the face of the pack. Through one of the loops on the left strap is passed another strap, which incorporates a hook-and-loop section to create an adjustable loop approximately 3 in (7 cm) when flat. Since the hiking pole loops fall directly below this loop, it works to strap hiking/trekking poles to the pack.
The red strip, about ¾ down the back of the pack and incorporating elastic inside the fabric, covers a 2-way zipper for accessing the lower compartment of the main bag. This zipper has black ribbon with red stitching through the zipper tabs. Upon opening this zipper, there is another 2-way zipper inside that connects the back and sides of the compartment separator (sewn at the front) that separates the two main compartments. This zipper has yellow ribbon through the zipper tabs. Opening this zipper makes the bag one large compartment from top to bottom.
At the base of this lower compartment, on the outside, is a small fabric tag with the words ‘RAIN COVER’ embroidered on it. Below the compartment are three webbing loops: two hiking pole loops on the left, each 3/8 in (10 mm) wide and approximately 2 in (5 cm) long, and one ice axe loop approximately 5 in (12 cm) long on the right. Where the bottom of the pack meets the front of the pack is a flap covering a 1-way zipper. This zipper has blue ribbon through the zipper tab. Opening this zipper accesses a small pocket containing a blue nylon rain cover, which is attached inside the pocket with a small strap and buckle (see photo below). The raincover, which has elastic all around the edge and ‘deuter’ printed on the back, is large enough to cover the pack and its pockets, though it does not fit well with something lashed on top of the pack.
On the front, top to bottom: A large carry loop (plenty large enough for my meaty hands) of unpadded webbing is located at the top. On either side of the carry loop are the stabilizer strap connections, and below that the shoulder strap attachment points. The shoulder straps, along with the pads between the straps, are lined with a grey fabric Deuter calls MeshTex. This is a soft, ventilated fabric that feels to me like a nice brushed cotton. Below the strap attachment point is the Deuter Aircomfort suspension system. The most visible component of the system is the grey plastic-like mesh panel that is kept taut and away from the pack bag by spring steel stays attached to the pack bag. See the Deuter web site for drawings and other details of this system.
Continuing down the shoulder strap, from the stabilizer strap attachment to the bottom of the padded section of the strap, is sewn a length of webbing. This webbing is anchored (sewn laterally) in four places, creating three loops along the length of the shoulder strap. Attached to the outer edge of the middle loop (right strap only) is a small elastic loop through which to pass hydration tubes. Attached to the bottom loop is a slider connecting the sternum strap to the shoulder strap and allowing vertical adjustment over the length of the loop. The sternum strap has a section of elastic sewn to it to create an expansion section approximately 2-2½ in (5-6 cm) long.
The padded portions of the hip belt are lined with MeshTex fabric and are long enough to just go over my hip bones. The belt itself, 1½ in (4 cm) wide, is sewn to the pads toward the forward ends and closes with a side release buckle. The left portion (female buckle) is adjusted using a triglide, while the right portion (male buckle) adjusts using the ladder-lock portion of the buckle, with the loose end of the strap held neatly by a small plastic clip.
First Impressions [return to top]
I noticed no loose threads, all seams appeared straight and even, all zippers and buckles worked smoothly. All in all, it looks like a well-made pack. The pack appears a little narrower than the average cheap daypack (school book bag), but taller. I loosened up all of the straps, and tried it on.
My first step was to get the hip belt properly adjusted. I found the adjustment available (for someone of my girth) would always leave the buckle somewhat left of center. This is just a minor issue, indicating that I am (somewhat) near the outer limits for the belt size. It does, however, mean that I am less likely to accidentally unclip the buckle on my hiking shorts when releasing the pack.
I then tightened the shoulder straps and connected the sternum strap. As I have a long-ish torso, the sternum strap crossed my chest just slightly below my collarbone. I was able to adjust the location of the sternum strap using the sliders with which they are attached, but not significantly lower than it already was. Again, this is not necessarily a problem, as it did not contact my neck or throat.
Finally, with the bag stuffed with a sleeping bag for shape and some weight, I snugged up the stabilizer straps. I had never had load lifter straps on a pack before, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. The straps, which are grey, attach to the shoulder straps at a point behind the top center of my shoulders and go downward to the pack at about a 10-15 degree angle. These positions would differ on a person with a different torso length. The straps did seem to stabilize the load somewhat, but I couldn’t tell how significantly at first, but I have maxed the pack out at about 35 lb (16 kg) once or twice. I found the bag to be noticeably heavier (surprise!), but stable. The Aircomfort suspension did a pretty good job of transferring the load to the hip belt. I don’t expect to have nearly that much weight in it too often, but there is always that possibility – especially on the first day of a multi-day hike.
I am used to pack straps having the majority of their features either very high in front of my shoulders or on top of them. This was somewhat the case with this pack, but the straps are longer than other packs I have used, leaving some loops available for use. I have attaching my cell phone (for emergencies only) to one of the straps, making use of the daisy chain loops, and a 14-channel walkie-talkie to the thumb loops (at least for day hikes). I was also pleased to find that there was still padding on the portions of the straps that contacted my ribs.
I inserted a 1-liter (recycled soda) bottle into each side pocket and found them to be a good fit, with some room to spare. The lower compression straps align with the tops of the pockets, providing additional security for the contents. I found the bottles difficult to reach with the pack on, but easy to slip in and out with the pack off. I have used both 2-liter (early days) and 3-liter (more recently) hydration bladders with this pack, so I primarily use the pockets for fuel bottles and hygiene items (trowel, sanitizer, etc.) to keep any contamination from my food and clothes.
Almost every time I picked up this pack for the first 6 months I found something I hadn’t seen before. Tons of fun just to look at and think what Deuter may have hidden in there for me to find. There are three different colors of ribbon/webbing just on the zipper pulls to distinguish their uses, for crying out loud. The only thing I really missed at first was having more outside pockets, for wet things, etc., though as my load has reduced over the past 4 years, this has become – for me – a non-issue.
Field Testing [return to top]
I found even the heaviest load I have carried to be relatively well balanced. I did, however, determine that there is a comfort limit to the Futura. With the maximum load – I estimate around 35 lb (16 kg) – I became aware of the bottom suspension attachment, where the stays are joined to a curved steel bar approximately 1 in high x 8 in wide (2.5 cm x 20 cm). The ends of the bar made their presence known at the top of my gluteus maximus, which – admittedly – are a tad more maximus than most. I experienced no pain from this contact, and minimal discomfort – thanks to the Futura’s padding – but I believe a longer hike with that much pressure would have left me more uncomfortable than I would be willing to put up with. Considering that the majority of the weight carried in this situation was group food of a type I am not likely to hike with for any extended period of time, I don’t expect to come up against this problem in a 3-season setting.
The rain cover would not fit over the largest load, due to items lashed on the outside, but would fit if only small items were attached. This fit, or lack thereof, became an issue early on when I had the opportunity for a short (1 hour or so) hike in a soaking rain – somewhat less than biblical proportions, but significant nonetheless. I managed to locate a plastic bag large enough to protect my Therm-a-Rest and sleeping bag (in its stuff sack, which should be waterproof anyway), but decided that everything else would be undamaged by water and this would be a perfect test of the pack’s waterproofness. Upon completion of this little jaunt, I unpacked the Futura and found the following water related issues:
Other than these small points, I found the Futura to perform exceptionally, given the conditions under which I managed to place it. Since I normally pack anything that must stay dry in some sort of water resistant covering, and the pack comes with a rain cover, I feel no concerns that my gear would ever get too wet in the Futura.
- The outer pocket on the lid allowed some dampness through at the zipper. This is likely partially due to the weight of the Therm-a-Rest and sleeping bag hanging from the loops on the lid and pulling away the flap that would normally cover the zipper.
- The leather gloves that were in the lower compartment, and right against the outside zipper, were damp over about half of a finger.
- The cinch collar at the top of the main bag was damp.
- There were a few drops of water on the top side of the compartment separator. These would seem to have come through one of the outside vertical seams.
I tend to generate a lot of heat when moving, due both to large muscle mass and plenty of – ahem – ‘natural insulation’, so I am especially impressed by the capability of the Deuter Aircomfort system to keep my back cool and dry, especially as it compares to the day pack I was using previously.
The “Deuter-Super-Polytex” fabric used in the Futura 32 is listed as a PU coated 600-denier polyester weave, which is supposed to be rip and abrasion proof. While I have not abused the pack to fully test these claims – nor will I – I did not baby it, either. After 4 years now, there has been no noticeable wear – only some dirt which has more or less brushed off.
The defining characteristic of the Future, to me, is the Aircomfort suspension. This suspension system uses a panel of plastic mesh that is kept taut by the internal spring steel stays and rides against the wearer’s back, keeping the pack away from the body and permitting airflow and evaporative cooling. It has been my experience that the Aircomfort system works as advertised.
The Futura was with me in late July, 2003, on my first “long-distance” hike in some time: an attempt to hike the 13-mile (20.8 km) Barr Trail up Pikes Peak – elevation 14,110’ (4,301 m) – and back in one day. While my son and I didn’t manage to hike to the summit, we did have a nice lunch at 10,200’ (3,109 m) before the hike back down. Side note: if you are unaccustomed to altitude, believe the guides when they say to plan for two days on Pikes Peak – we only managed 1 mph (1.6 kph) on the way up. Here is my gear list from that hike (photo below):
Note on the Gore-Tex listed above: I obtained a large roll of 5 ft (1.5 m) wide Gore-Tex for free. While it may not be the lightest choice for many things I use it for, my lightweight wallet appreciates using it.
- Pack (duh!)
- Gore-Tex rain suit (homemade, in mesh side pocket)
- 2 - 5’ x 8’ (1.5 m x 2.5 m) Gore-Tex tarps (one each for my son and me)
- 6 plastic tarp clips (for the tarps)
- 8 stakes (steel)
- Lots of nylon cord (be prepared!)
- Mama’s Kitchen Cook set (partial) by AntiGravityGear (previously reviewed at BGT), containing
- Pepsi-can stove
- Pot lifter
- 3-cup pot & lid
- Cozy for 3-cup pot
- Aluminum windscreen
- Other cooking gear
- Pot stand (cut-off fruit can)
- Plastic spoon
- Plastic knife
- Hand sanitizer
- Match case with strike-anywhere matches
- Water measuring bottle (full) – shrunken (boiling water) 20 oz (591 ml) soft drink bottle, reduced to 16 oz (473 ml) capacity (in mesh side pocket)
- Fuel bottle (full) – shrunken (boiling water) half-liter (16.9 oz) soft drink bottle, reduced to 12 oz (355 ml) capacity (in mesh side pocket)
- Insulated mug (attached to daisy chain)
- 2 pair socks
- Polypropylene top, XL (U.S. military issue)
- 1 pair wind pants, XL (U.S. military issue)
- 1 quilted jacket liner, M (U.S. military issue)
- 1 knit watch cap (U.S. military issue)
- 1 pair fleece gloves
- 1 old nylon wind jacket
- Food, consisting of:
- 3 packages of Ramen noodles, transferred to zipper bags
- 3 helpings of Ritz crackers (for the soup), in zipper bags
- 6 Nutri-Grain bars
- 6 Pop-Tarts
- Tektite Trek Lithium Survival Light (previously reviewed at BGT)
- Ballpoint pen
- Victorinox Climber (previously reviewed at BGT)
- Cell phone (to call home from the peak)
- Hygiene kit
- Compass (U.S. military issue)
- 25 feet (7.6 meters) of parachute cord
- Walkie talkie, clipped on left thumb loop
- Miscellaneous plastic zipper-bags
- Trowel (in mesh side pocket)
- Digital camera, in pouch clipped on sternum strap
- 3 – 24 oz (710 ml) soft drink bottles, with water
- 1 – 1-liter (33.9 oz) soft drink bottle, with water
- 1 – 2-liter (67.8 oz) hydration bladder, with water
Note on the military issue items listed above: Like the Gore-Tex, it’s not the lightest stuff around, but I’ve already got it.
While this list may seem like overkill on a few items, we tried to be prepared for staying on the mountain overnight if necessary, and carried no water treatment on this trip. I found this load, as large as it was, to be comfortable and well-balanced, even with a few of the items packed on the outside: I carried my rain suit and the trowel in one side pocket; my fuel and water-measuring bottles in the other; my compass clipped on an upper compression strap; my gloves and insulated mug clipped on the daisy chains; and the tarp, stakes and lines strapped on top. Everything else, including all community gear except the first aid and sunscreen (which my son carried), fit neatly, if snugly, inside the pack.
At right, you can see the load laid out on the (king-size) bed, the night before the hike. My son's items are visible on the left of the photo. Moving down the center of the bed is the community gear: cook set with water and fuel bottles; matches; hand sanitizer; plastic knife; compass; zipper bag of nylon cords; stake bag; hygiene kit; first aid, sunscreen and Q-tips (my son carried these last three). My gear, top-to-bottom, left-to-right: wind pants; fleece top; quilted liner; four soft drink bottles; fleece gloves; knit watch cap; rain suit; Swiss Army knife; 2-AA Maglite; Nite-Eyz band for Maglite; 2 pair socks; wind jacket; 3 packs Ramen noodles and crackers; 6 Nutri-Grain bars; 6 Pop-Tarts; Tektite Trek Lithium; pen; cell phone; tarp clips; tarp. I wore: briefs; socks; nylon shorts; vented hat; wicking tee; $14.99 boots with $21.00 arch support insoles.
A few notes on sizing: I have a fairly long torso, at 20½-21 in (52-53 cm). With the hip belt properly placed and adjusted, the stabilizer straps drop from the tops of my shoulders to the pack at about a 15°-30° angle. A photo of this may be found above. Straps like these generally, in my experience, are intended to go up from the shoulders to the pack at upwards of a 45° angle, and are usually referred to as load-lifter straps. I found the straps able to stabilize the load well, even at the angle they made with the pack. Also, with a longer torso, the padded portion of the shoulder straps did not come as far down my chest as it might on a shorter wearer, and the sternum strap needed to be at its lowest position to be most effective. I found no problem with either of these issues, and was pleased to realize that the lower portions of the straps were sufficiently long enough to still provide a very comfortable fit, as well as a stable ride.
At left, you can see the sternum strap in its normal location (on me), as far down as it will adjust. The padded portions of the straps end just at the top of the word "ARMY". I never found this to be a problem. At right, the fully loaded pack. Note that the top of the lid comes up to about the base of my neck, and the tarps only slightly higher than that. Also note that the shoulder straps attach to the pack a good distance below the tops of my shoulders. I never found this to be a problem.
The list above indicates a water capacity of approximately 5.9 quarts (5.6 liters), which works out to around 12.3 lb (5.6 kg). Even with this much water (plus an additional 2 water bottles taken from my son after the first few miles), mostly carried in the main part of the pack on top of everything else, I never felt any discomfort from the pack. As a matter of fact, I rarely even thought about the pack, except when retrieving items from it.
I used the Futura as my carry-on bag for my flights to and from Philmont Scout Ranch, elevation 6,500’ - 12,441' (1,981 m - 3,792 m), and was pleased to find how well it fit into the overhead compartment. The pack was used as my daily book (and water) carrier while at Philmont, as well as a number of trips since, and I estimate it has over 200 mi (320 km) on it now. It has become second nature for me to just grab the Deuter for any traveling I may do.
I will continue using the Deuter in the future, as long as my total load stays below about 30-35 lb (13.6-15.9 kg). When I found myself with a potential need for a larger volume pack, I chose to purchase one of the larger Futura models (with the Aircomfort suspension), forsaking my tried-and-true ALICE pack (previously reviewed at BGT). Given the fact that I will not loan out the Futura, even to my son – hey, we go on 95% of our trips together – he has gotten a Futura 32 for himself.
Things I like [return to top]
Things I don't like [return to top]
- Color. Hey, I like bright red.
- Plenty of attachment points.
- Carries comfortably, even when exceeding suggested maximum load.
- Keeps me cool.
- The pack has lasted 4 years and many miles, with many more to go.
- Lack of large, outside pocket(s) – for tent/tarp, etc. Of course, now that I got my shelter smaller, I can use one of the mesh pockets on the sides in a pinch.
- Just a nit: The zippers for the compartment separator and the lower access panel both need to make a ‘bend’ when they transition from the sides to the back of the pack. Running either zipper past this point takes a little wiggle and some realignment of the two sides to get by smoothly, making it a two-handed operation. Now that I am aware of this, I simply need to keep it in mind as I use either zipper.
- I can’t easily reach water bottles or other items in the side pockets while wearing the pack. This seems to just be me not being as flexible as I would like.
- It’s just a bit heavy for the volume, due to the steel frame. I know of packs with twice the volume that are only about a third of the weight, though I can’t speak for how comfortably they carry, nor how long they last.
Summary [return to top]
In the 4+ years I have had this pack, Deuter has made some minor changes – side bellows pockets, a front zippered pocket, a small hip belt pocket, and updates to the color scheme. These changes have added a few ounces, but this shouldn’t make a significant difference unless the suspension has been radically altered, which I do not believe it has. I love my Futura 32 – and its big brother, the Futura Vario 50+10 – enough that my ALICE pack is now just a souvenir from my days in the Army that I can loan out to people who need a pack for a trip. I expect to be using this pack for many years to come.
Thank you for your time.
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