The Vaude North Shore 20 is one tough pack, and the burly 600 denier polyester material, large YKK #10 zippers, thick stitching, attention to detail and general over build, make for a pack that can take a beating and will last for many years. The material uses a polyurethane coating for water resistance and increased durability, and if needed there is a handy zippered compartment located on the bottom that has a rain cover for nastier inclement weather conditions. I am not used to having such large zippers on a mountain bike pack, and it was a welcome change to have fat pull tabs, and sliders that pulled smoothly along the teeth, and not catch on things. In addition, the zippers have webbing with metals snaps, so that the double zippers can be joined together to prevent the compartments and pockets from opening unexpectedly during a ride and dumping out their contents.
The main compartment is gigantic, and it was extremely easy to toss things into it and not have to worry about arranging items so that they would fit. The back of the compartment is where the hydration reservoir sleeve is located, and it was a simple task to toss the reservoir in, hang it from its hook, and route the tube through the top port. The compartment has only one accessible pocket, which resides on the upper front, and the zippered pocket was useful for special items that I needed on infrequent occasions, yet be handy enough when needed, and not buried deep in the bowels of the pack. I do wish the pack had a set of pump sleeves, as it would help with organizing those items, else they get haphazardly stashed into a deep corner. At the top of the pack is nicely sized padded pocket, which was useful for a phone, camera, music device and more fragile items, and it was large enough to stow multiple things. The front pocket was a decent size, and has two useful and wide stretchy slots, which were handy for tools, but the pocket needs a key clip? There are two side mesh pockets that have an elastic cord lock, and I found them handy for snacks, gloves, and sundry items, and they were easy to grab things from because of their location. You can also stuff armor into the mesh pockets, although it took some effort to coerce them into the slots. On the right hip belt is a small pocket that was just big enough for an iPhone, which was quite nice, since the iPhone’s size and shape can make it notoriously tough to jam into spots like that.
For attaching armor and apparel the pack has a set of straps located at the bottom, or you can use the side compression straps, which I found especially handy for elbow and shin guards. I liked the big beefy hooks for the compression straps, as they were simple to drop into or pull out of their front loop slots, although tightening them down did require the proper technique. When the straps were cranked down, it pulled the load towards the center of the pack, which helped with stability and prevented the contents from jostling around.
The oval-shaped helmet holder system consists of 4 hooks connected to a tough and non compliant material with a section of stretchy webbing in the middle, and the hooks attached to their corresponding loops located on the pack outer circumference. It was effortless to install a helmet, and the hooks popped on without any issues onto their respective loops, and it held the helmet nicely in place, and if needed an elastic cord lock would tighten things down further. Unfortunately, when dismantling the helmet holder, the hooks snagged on the loops, and it was a royal pain extracting them, exacerbated by the strong gate on the hook, and made even worse when trying to coordinate the maneuver with gloves on. A simple tweak to the sharpness of the hook’s slot might solve the issue?