I admit it. I’m a total backpacking gear geek. So it’s entirely normal for me to quote tent statistics, argue the benefits of down versus synthetic insulation, and gush about pack suspension systems. But when I was still waxing poetic about my Columbia Vixen 22L Daypack almost ten months after I bought it, I knew I was completely smitten.
I purchased this pack from REI in the beginning of April. I was looking for a comfortable fitting pack that was large enough to carry the essentials for a day hike, without being overkill. Since then I have used it in a variety of conditions including: snow hiking in the spring, my trip to Valentines Flats, snowshoeing this winter, and even lending it to my sister to use. The pack has proved to have exactly the features I need, without any superfluous ones that I don’t.
Let’s break down what I love about this pack, and the few things that could use some improvement.
The Columbia Vixen 22L is a women’s specific daypack with a 22 liter capacity. It has one main panel loading compartment, a small zipper pouch at the top, a stretchy stuff pocket on the front, and two water bottle pockets on the sides. There is also a water bladder sleeve in the main compartment and two zipper pouches on the hipbelt.
I read some complaints that the pack wasn’t divided into smaller sections for organization, but personally I found the compartments it did have worked well. I tend to use the small zipper pouch for important items like car keys, cell phone, money, ID, and a headlamp. The main compartment I organize by using a small dry sack for first aid & survival gear, and a medium dry sack for extra clothes. The outer stretchy pouch is perfect for frequently used items or wet and dirty clothes that you don’t want inside your pack.
The 22 liter capacity is not huge (especially when hauling extra winter gear), but it is sufficient. I like that the pack is hydration system compatible, but make sure you insert your water bladder before your other gear, otherwise it can be a pain to slide it into the sleeve.
The back of the pack is a “trampoline back” which means that your back is held away from the back of the pack by a piece of aerated material.
I love this feature because the resulting gap between the pack and yourself almost completely solves the uncomfortable “sweaty back” problem!
The shoulder straps and waist belt are also designed to keep you cool with Columbia’s innovative combination of comfortable Techlite™ foam and mesh.
A built-in whistle on the sternum strap buckle and a system to store your trekking poles when not needed were nice touches. I’m still a little dubious, however, of the Silverback™ reflective lining that, supposedly, “allows you to easily see inside your pack”.
I would probably say that the comfort I feel while wearing this pack is its number one selling feature for me!
This was the first pack I ever bought that had a women’s specific design, and when Columbia says “women specific” they don’t just mean “shrink it and pink it”. The way this pack wraps around my curves and hugs my back without flopping, bouncing, or shifting makes me happy just to think about it! The weight is placed squarely on your hips so the shoulder straps don’t even touch the tops of your shoulder! It practically feels like it’s levitating when I wear it.
I do have a warning though, for my petite backpacking sisters… I have to wear this pack with the waist belt tightened almost as far as it will go; my sister Addison wears it tightened all the way. So if you are very slender you might want to pass on this pack…you won’t be able to tighten the waist belt enough and all of the pack weight will be placed improperly on your shoulders.
While this pack has held up fine for me, I would be a little hesitant to recommend it to anyone who is rough on their gear or who will be packing in areas with sharp brush or rocks. The fabric of the pack is strong for holding gear, but quite thin, and I’m afraid it could be easily punctured. The stretchy front and side pockets make me suspect they could be snagged on bushes. Case in point, don’t drag this pack over scree or run through a briar patch with it (not that I would recommend doing this with any pack!) Let’s just say I am infinitely glad I chose not to take this pack on my caving expedition in May!
The manufacturer’s suggested retail price for this pack is $129. Comparing it to similar models (like the Osprey Tempest 20) I would say this pack is comparably price for its market. Catching this pack while on clearance and combining it with a coupon, however, helped me to snag the Vixen for a cool $44.73, which for the comfort level and functionality was a steal in my opinion!
The Columbia Vixen is an extremely comfortable pack designed with women in mind. The pack has the perfect amount of space for an all-day summer hike, or a lightly packed winter snowshoe trip. The ventilation system is top notch, and the easily accessible stuff pouch, hip belt pockets, and trekking pole loops put this pack at the top of the line. However, petite individuals or gear abusers might want to steer clear.
Where to purchase
Most unfortunately, I bought this pack on clearance because Columbia was discontinuing it. Why they would scrap such an excellent pack is beyond me and I will be on the lookout to see if they start offering a new design with comparable size and features. In the meantime, if you see this pack on eBay or a gear swap I recommend grabbing it!
-Michaela “The Farming Daughter”
Note: This pack was purchased for my own personal use. I was not paid or compensated in any way to purchase, use, or review this pack. The views and opinions expressed are solely my own.