Jack Wolfskin Kingston 30 Pack Recco Review: Great for Day Trips and Far-Flung Adventures

Jack Wolfskin Kingston Recco Backpack
A center ventilated back pad helps keep you cool even when the pack is fully loaded. Scott Tharler

I like a good outdoor adventure as much as the next person, unless the next person likes to go so far off the grid that they could be perilously distant from any sort of Wi-Fi or cell signal. For those rugged, fearless types who sneer at the thought of literally "getting lost," Jack Wolfskin makes the Kingston 30 Pack Recco. It's a sporty, well-outfitted bag that has some great, potentially life-saving features. Partly drawn to its lava red color (more like dark orange in real life) and partly to the lure of adventure, I had Jack Wolfskin send me one to try out. And now that I have, it's my new go-to bag for day trips, as relatively timid and on-the-grid as they may be.

Jack Wolfskin Kingston Recco Backpack
The waist straps can be stowed away behind the back pad when you don't need them. Scott Tharler

Plenty of Pockets and Straps

Of course, the whole reason you're bringing a backpack is to tote stuff. So it's nice to have purposeful places for it all. I like this bag's three elasticized outer mesh pockets because they're great for stashing (and still seeing) water bottles and other items you want to keep at the ready. But it's cool how the ones on the sides also feature adjustable straps to cinch those items in place when you're on the move.

The small zippered compartment at the top of the bag is good for masks, sunglasses, keys, wallets and other small items. The lower zippered compartment could potentially house a spare set of shoes. And inside the main compartment, there's a fitted pocket in the back to hold the bladder of a hydration system—for which it's also fitted with a tube duct and fastener. Other storage-minded fasteners include lashing straps for trekking poles and side compression straps. Everything serves a function, without approaching pocket overkill.

Jack Wolfskin Kingston Recco Backpack
A zipper in the lower compartment lets you access stuff at the bottom of the pack without having to dig from the top. Scott Tharler

The Comfort Factor

Better than the fact that you can conveniently store up to 30 liters of gear in this day bag, what makes it great is that it's actually comfortable, no matter how full it is or how long you plan on hiking. Much of that is owed to how it sits on your body, thanks to a stiff yet flexible back piece on the inside and the center ventilated foam padding on the outside. In addition, a nice touch I hadn't seen before is that the main shoulder straps can be adjusted not only at the bottom but also at the top. With both sets of straps tightened to my liking, I was able to make the bag conform better to my body. For heavier loads, it was also nice to have the sternum and waist straps to help relieve some of the pressure from my back.

Jack Wolfskin Kingston Recco Backpack
The handy integrated rain guard comes out from a hidden compartment underneath the pack. Scott Tharler

Safety Features

One of the coolest features of this bag is that it integrates a Recco chip. Although this helpful technology has been out in the wild for decades, I hadn't heard of it. But it's essentially a small, passive reflector that can be inserted into ski boots, jackets, bags, etc. The reflector itself doesn't contain any batteries, just a diode and antenna. Its only job is to get pinged by the companion handheld detector device (used by professional search-and-rescue parties) that sends out a directional radar signal. Over the years, this ingenious two-part system has proven invaluable in finding otherwise undetectable needles (intrepid adventurers) in very large haystacks (the outdoors).

Jack Wolfskin Kingston Recco Backpack
Recco technology makes it much easier for search and rescue parties to find the backpack(er). Scott Tharler

What's Hidden

Another nice touch that falls into the safety category is the whistle built into the sternum strap buckle. Conveniently, a zipper in the lower compartment lets you access stuff at the bottom of the pack so that you don't have to dig all the way through your stuff from the top. In case you encounter inclement weather during your adventure, you can deploy the integrated protective yellow rain guard that's built into a hidden zippered compartment underneath the bag. And one last feature you might otherwise miss is toward the top, just outside the big shoulder straps: This bag sports two small straps with hooks that hide in small pockets when not being used but are made to attach this day bag to your front when wearing Jack Wolfskin's larger Kalari bag on your back.

Jack Wolfskin Kingston Recco Backpack
Generous elastic mesh pockets on the front and sides are great for water bottles and other small gear. Scott Tharler

Should You Buy the Jack Wolfskin Kingston 30 Pack Recco?

If you really think you'll never go so far off the grid as to need the Recco feature, you could pick up the regular Kingston 30 Pack, which only comes in black. There's also a 22-liter version, which might be fine for shorter day trips. But I'm a big fan of the versatility of the Kingston 30 Pack Recco, given that it's just as adept at far-flung adventures as an everyday bag to throw over my shoulders.

Buy at Jack Wolfskin or Amazon for $109.95.

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