Arc’teryx is a brand that has long been synonymous with rugged outdoors equipment as well as tactical users through the LEAF line and program. Regardless of which line is used, the fossil of the extinct Archaeopteryx bird is easily recognizable and has even spawned on the brand’s nickname of “Deadbird.” The Mantis 26 is a backpack that has taken Arc’teryx’s outdoor DNA and made a sleek pack that is designed to be at home on the trails and on the streets as a jack of all trades.
[table id=17 /]
Quality and Comfort
Out of the box I found the backpack to sit high on my back, just as I love. The padding on the Mantis is very comfortable both on the back and on the shoulders. The bag shows a recurring theme of keeping things streamlined, light, and almost minimal as evidenced by the thin webbing on the shoulder and sternum strap. However, the streamlining does not mean the bag is going to be uncomfortable; with the bag at full capacity and with a dense loadout, the full weight of the items carried did not feel as heavy as it could despite the absence of load-lifters.
When testing, I initially found the sternum strap to be a bit short, but realised that the shorter sternum pulled the shoulder straps more into the chest. While it may seem a bit strange, the bag carried itself best with the shoulder straps more onto the pectorals. The pack also includes a thin waist strap but I found it to be unneeded, so I took it off. The grab handle is a narrow strip of webbing, but does have a larger loop to be grabbed easily. The main compartment has access to the lightweight, yet rigid frame sheet that provided comfort and structure to the pack. The mesh and padding used for the shoulder straps and the back of the pack are not only comfortable, but add a good degree of ventilation which was tested and appreciated while standing in various lines at Disneyland.
As mentioned before the Mantis is a pack that tries to fit in both on trails and in the city, so the organization is a bit odd and might require the user to bring some of their own pouches. The main compartment opens up in a clamshell manner allowing for easy access and organization of what goes inside, which is especially useful for packing a jacket or any other desired outer shell. Inside the main compartment is a full sleeve that Arc’teryx suggests is both for laptops or hydration bladders which works with the included hanger.
The top of the pack features a small admin area that will fit a couple of pens, pocket notepad, keys, and other EDC stuff you may not want in your pockets at all times. The admin panel is a bit basic depending on how much or what you may carry. Further away from the body are two compartments accessible by side zippers that are wide open spaces These compartments are better suited for shorter, flatter items such as MagPul DAKA pouches, TAD OP1s, etc. Additionally, the pack has an elastic and compressible bottle pockets on each side which held my 800ml Klean Kanteen bottle well.
The bottle pockets that the Mantis has are a crucial component to the profile of the pack. Yes, they do hold your water bottles, but the pockets are what makes the pack compress inward onto the wearer. When the bottle pockets are not in use, they pull the main compartment towards the wearer, so if you are travelling light or want to have a slimmer profile, despite the 26L volume, the pack will not always expand fully out from your back. The benefit of this presents itself in having a versatile pack which will please those who travel frequently as they may come back from travel with more than what originally brought; adapting from a sleek, lower profile pack for pretending to be Sam Fisher, to a bit of a hauler.
So not only does the pack compress, but the N420 nylon basket and plain weave used, makes the pack pretty lightweight. In fact the lightweight fabric has some slight rainproofing.
The interior of the pack being of a really light gray, serves as a welcome contrast to the rest of the pack acting as a high visibility interior, great for locating things in low light.
One thing to point out is that, while the material proves to be lightweight, it does fail to give the pack some structure at the rear end on the logo face. This lack of structure is noticeable when the admin pouch has weight in it like keys or a wallet but the secondary slots do not anything in them.
The bladder/laptop compartment is well made for a bladder considering the tall sleeve it has. However the failure point here come from advertising it for laptops. There is no false bottom, nor is there padding of any sort. But the worst part of it comes from a rigid tube that runs horizontally on the back of the pack between the bladder/tech sleeve and the frame sheet. Thankfully this tube can be taken out which I recommend doing, mainly if the pack is going to be more of an office or city EDC pack.
The last hump is the framesheet, literally. The frame sheet has a slight curve which that runs down the middle which may be a disruption to thinner folders or electronics in non-padded sleeves. While Arc’teryx might’ve had a good reason involving support or structure for the pack, it seems to be a bit of a nuisance which I hope Arc’teryx can address in future iterations by having a flatter framesheet.
The Wrap Up
The Arc’teryx Mantis 26 is a comfortable, lightweight, and self compressing pack that does well when bulk and weight need to be kept down but has the ability to haul gear if need be on a day hike or commute. The pack does fall a bit short with its lack of outer structure and weird sternum strap that requires the straps to be more on the chest. It does however lend itself to be versatile to travel, EDC, and day hikes with the clamshell opening, and the opportunity to bring your own organization. I found this versatility to work well when I had to transition from school, to work, to travel/theme pack wandering. By the way, did I mention the pack is lightweight?
This Arc’teryx Mantis 26 was provided free of charge by Arc’teryx through a warranty exchange of a previous generation of the pack. The content of this review was not shared with Arc’teryx before publishing. Our reviews are unbiased and never modified to keep a brand happy. This review is reflective of the current generation and not influenced by the previous generation or the author’s experience with the prior generation.