Review: The Decathlon Forclaz Is the Best Budget Backpack I’ve Ever Used

The perfect bag for anyone on a budget

July 26, 2023 9:45 am
Decathlon Forclaz Budget Backpack
Decathlon Forclaz MT500 Air
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During my decades of gallivanting through the woods and mountains, I’ve slung a wide range of backpacks atop my shoulders. But during the last several months, I’ve been testing a pack that may be the best I’ve ever tried. The Decathlon’s Forclaz MT500 Air offers backpackers between 50-60 liters of space for all their gear. Last fall, I spent four days exploring Channel Islands National Park with this pack. I have since done multiple shorter jaunts and even a few day hikes. The Forclaz has proven to be sturdy, dependable and the most comfortable backpacking bag I’ve ever hiked with.

Decathlon is a discount sporting goods store — think of it as Europe’s version of REI. It’s made massive inroads within the U.S. market in the last few years. Coming in at $139 with free shipping from Decathlon’s website, it’s significantly cheaper than comparable-sized packs by Gregory and Osprey. The Forclaz MT500 Air may be considered the budget option, but you know it’s worth it once you get a sense of the build quality. Decathlon even stands behind the pack with a 10-year warranty from defects.

What Works:

The MT500 Air’s blue color reminded me of the TARDIS from Doctor Who, which was fitting because this pack seems bigger on the inside. On my Channel Islands trip, I filled the 50-liter pack with, among other things, Sea To Summit’s amazing sleep system, a cook stove, four days’ worth of food, a few extra clothes, toiletries and a camera. It swallowed it all. I even strapped my trusty REI Passage 2 tent to the back with straps.

The Forclaz MT500 Air’s three large pockets (two on the side and one on the bottom) helped keep things organized, at least when I could remember where I stashed everything. The center panel zips down, allowing me to reach almost anything stowed in the pack’s roomy main compartment. Also in that main compartment, you’ll find a sleeve for a hydration bladder (not included), as well as a water bottle holder on the belt. This is perfect for folks like me who enjoy sipping coffee on a hike.

The + 10 refers to the removable top flap with pockets on both sides. I had easy access to both my waterproof shell and hat, as well as my first-aid kit and Garmin inReach. The two waist pockets were big enough for a few small items, like a Snickers bar or iPhone. While I’ve managed to avoid downpours every time I’ve used this pack, it does come with a rain cover.

The shoulder straps and waist belt were extra padded and super adjustable; it took just a few minutes to dial in the perfect fit. Even when the pack was fully loaded, I never felt impossibly weighed down or that any of the straps were pinching or digging into my skin. The mesh trampoline back panel added needed ventilation and kept my back mostly free from sweat.

What Kind of Works:

The Forclaz MT500 Air tips the scales at 3.7 pounds, which is about average for a pack of this type and great for folks who aren’t obsessed with ultralight travel. Decathlon suggests a maximum of 33 pounds of gear in the pack, so if you’re a “kitchen-sink” type backpacker, you may want to look at some other options from a different brand.

What Needs Work:

Most of my quibbles are fairly minor. I didn’t have any problems attaching my tent to the back of the pack, but I still wish the straps were a bit more robust. I’d also love to see a few more gear loops on the exterior of the pack. If one of the belt pockets was large enough to somehow fit a mirrorless camera and lens, I’d consider this pack to be damn-near perfect.

Final Verdict

If you’re looking for an affordable, tough and most importantly, comfortable backpack for an upcoming long-weekend trip, you can’t do much better than the Decathlon Forclaz MT500 Air budget backpack.

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