The Goblin Plus on first appearance didn’t spark a great deal of excitement, resembling a school bag rather that a mountain pack in terms of style. We can certainly be blamed for doubting Mountain Equipment’s vision, as once we started to use the Goblin Plus in its desired environment our mind-set dramatically changed.

A noticeable feature of the Goblin Plus are the two large zippers located at the lid of the pack. Rather than the usual buckles and drawcords ME instead opted for zip-top closures which they claim is “for fast access and weather resistance.” First appearances again where proved wrong with the big clunky zippers providing easy access even with gloved hands. The YKK® Racquet Coil zippers are also extremely hardwearing and being the same used on their bulkier kit bags they are great for use in rocky terrain or areas with a risk of high abrasion. The M-Series M840 and M210 double rip-stop fabrics are equally tough with the inclusion of a SWR face-coating for water-repellence. The inner of the fabric is also PU coated so it’s safe to say this is one tough pack that could be considered an ‘all-season’ option. It certainly worked like this for us as we used the Goblin Plus mostly throughout late summer through to the end of winter.

The openings are all quite unique with the main compartment being entered through the zipper closest to your back. Compared to packs of a similar size the main compartment would be considered slim and low in volume, but this is down to the design of the pack which shares its space across a few areas rather the main compartment taking the vast majority. What could be described as the lid is a large pocket that can easily hold spare maps, gloves, hat etc. and the usual bits you would want to keep in this location. The real surprise is the vertical entrance at the rear. The zippered entry gives access to another large space which covers the entire length of the pack. With no side pockets this became a great space for a water bottle, waterproofs, crampons, first aid kit or anything which requires quick access to bulkier items. Over time we became used to this break-up of space and without the usual drawcords, buckles etc. kit can be organized simply and efficiently.

The M-series fabric held up well to bad weather and can be considered near fully waterproof. The basic rule when packing for bad weather is to store gear with two protective layers. We always use dry bags as they rarely fail and provide better organisation of kit. We would consider the M-series fabric a decent enough second layer. The flip side to this is what you do with gear that’s wet, for example, a tent or waterproofs after a heavy shower. The usual method would be to place these on the outside of the pack in the standard mesh pocket. The Goblin Plus has neither a mesh pocket nor side pockets, and the compression straps didn’t give us the confidence in securing vital equipment. The only alternative is to take a dedicated dry bag to place wet items in with a bit of consideration needed on route to remember to dry out gear if on an extended trip.

You would think with the use of robust fabrics and large zippers the Goblin Plus would be a pack on the heavier side of the scales, but this isn’t the case. Coming in at just 865 grams this is a respectably light pack. Its streamlined design means that the only other areas to add weight outside of the main pack itself are small removable straps and a couple of gear loops. These can also be fully removed to further shed weight as can the EVA foam composite back panel. We didn’t find much use for the gear loops and instead preferred to store an axe, poles, or camera tripod directly on the side compression straps. We find this simple design to be the easiest for items such as these and it allows you easier access to an ice axe instead of having to remove a pack and fiddle around removing tension cords etc. The streamlined design also helps reduce snagging on objects and we found the Goblin Plus to make life easier not just on the rock and ice but also woodland environments with little worry of loose strapping being caught or external gear falling off.

For all the praise we have given the Goblin Plus it does, unfortunately, lack in a couple of key areas. The back panel offers little airflow, but we can forgive ME for this as with quite a lot of lightweight packs this is often an area in which comfort is sacrificed to save on weight. Equally, to save on weight ME have also stripped down the hipbelt and shoulder straps. This is most noticeable with the removable 38mm webbing hipbelt, and although ME described this decision as “On Demand Minimalism,” a hipbelt for us is an important part to any pack and helps balance and manage a load efficiently. The ability to remove it just doesn’t make sense to us and neither did the EVA moulded hip-fins which are a pain as they easily move out of place. The shoulder straps are unfortunately the same and although might not wear particularly uncomfortably, just feel unfinished when compared to the attention to detail spent in other areas of the Goblin Plus. We would have preferred a dedicated hipbelt with a couple of small pockets both sides and a redesign of the shoulder straps to a more secure hold. The stylings are also one of the down points. The Blue Graphite lends itself unfortunately to that school bag look and given the choice we would have opted for one of the other colours available such as the Tasman/Legion Blue which better identifies it as a proper mountain pack.

Our Verdict

We dug deeper than our first impressions and discovered a wee gem of a pack. The M-Series fabric is what sets this pack apart from its rivals with a very robust and near waterproof body that won’t have you worried when pressed against hard rock or forest branches. A nice touch was the ability to remove all the attachment points and compression straps to make it more streamlined and virtually snag free. The large zippered compartments surprised us with how well thought-out and useable this design was, with plenty of space to store items efficiently. To include these robust qualities whilst keeping to a very respectable 865 grams, Mountain Equipment have obviously cut back on some elements. The hipbelt and shoulder straps for us could be better designed but overall a very dependable pack for all year use in a range of different activities.

Trek Scotland is a small family business based in the picturesque village of Tomintoul in the North East region of the Cairngorms National Park. They provide bespoke Mountain Guiding for Single Day Walks and Lightweight Multiday Trekking experiences, including wild camping, in the stunning Cairngorms wilderness and surrounding areas. Whether in the high mountains or lower valleys, their Multiday Treks are equipped with high quality, lightweight camping and trekking gear. They only work with small groups and, whatever your ability, pride themselves on designing your outdoor experience completely to your needs and with professional guidance and expertise. Adventure is waiting...

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