Kortel Kolibri Backpack Review (by Greg Hamerton)
As a bivi-flying enthusiast, I bought the Kortel Kolibri harness as soon as it was released. At the time, there was no lightweight backpack available from Kortel, so I got the Sup’Air XA13 bag which was light and large enough for compact bivi kit. Unfortunately the materials of the XA13 have not lasted during regular use – it’s more of a ‘race’ bag. So I was excited about the Kolibri Backpack when we spotted it at the Coupe Icare 2014, and now … it’s here!
The bag alone weighs 804g on my scales, and has a durable feel in the hand. It comes with three extras – raincover (125g), tiny glider stuffbag (71g) and ultralight glider strap (17g).
The small glider bag is designed to make your packing fit the backpack and form a strong and compact part when compressed. However, because it has no gusset, your packing must be small enough to fit the narrow neck, so in some cases you might wish for some packing assistance. Pictured below is my Icepeak 6.23, a competition wing with lots of reinforcing in the nose, which requires precise concertina folding or some bullying to get into the inner bag. Kortel provides a useful folding guide on their website.
^ The Icepeak 6.23 fits snugly into the packing bag
Either way, with a minor amount of tidying, you can easily place your strapped wing in the backpack and use your knees and the compression panels to squash the wing into a tight dense lump that gets flattened against the wire frame and helps to stiffen up the back support and prevent the dreaded ‘chewing gum’ shape of inferior bags.
Any of the lightweight pods (Kolibri, Lightness2, RangeAir, XA13) will fit in easily. I found the design well-considered: I could squeeze my harness into the bag and zip it up part way, then close the lower compression strap before squashing my harness further down into the pack without risking a burst zipper. With my Kolibri harness I had space for my down jacket, instruments and hat in the lower area. As you can see in the third image (below), there’s ample room in the gaping top section for what remains during normal XC flying (helmet, camera, water and food).
The zipper is double-ended, so when you find you have a small empty area near the bottom of the bag you can slip your hand in and place some clothing or small items without unzipping the whole bag.
^ Packing the wing in a tight compressed shape helps to move the centre of gravity closer to your body
The top section has good volume, and the way the zip runs around to the back makes accessing it very easy, but there is no way to strap it down so unless it’s filled by a normal harness or extra gear, heavy items like water bottles and food might shift around. The two top compression straps don’t help to secure the top load much because they pull backwards.
It depends on the dimensions of your kit. With the limited size of the Kolibri harness, I needed to lash the top of the backpack down with a piece of paragliding line (threaded through the four loops intended for the optional 20 litre topper). Bivi pilots will appreciate the volume – when compared to another ’80 litre’ bag, I had extra space available for lots of food and some clothing. I tested it with the same full kit used for a week-long bivi in the Alps. The standard Kolibri backpack is already well suited for travellers, and if you add the topper (available soon) there’s ample space for extreme adventuring.
^ The ’90 litre’ XA13 bag (left) only just contained my full Alps bivi kit. You can get these extra items into the ’80 litre’ Kolibri!
A minor omission is the lack of any handle to pick up the bag, but this is to minimise weight – it is possible to lift it with both shoulder straps held together (to avoid straining one side).
Once settled, it carries very well and the straps were simple to adjust. The waist strap is particularly functional, easy to fine-tune on both sides to transfer the load to your hips. I found all the loops and pockets to be perfectly positioned – clear evidence of trail testing by the Kortel team. I jogged along for a mile or so and once all the straps were jammed down tightly the weight seemed to become a part of me, apart from the top load which flapped about.
I asked Guillaume at Kortel about this. He explained the design. “Normally, you pack in the glider then put the top of the harness in the bottom space, so the seat area of the harness fills the top section of the backpack, which means you keep all the heaviest parts (rescue parachute, bottles, etc) near the shoulders. Pack your clothes in a way that helps to keep the different parts in place. As well the Kolibri harness, this backpack is also designed to carry an ordinary pod harness.”
I tested this claim with a Gin Genie Lite – a full pod harness with very bulky foam protector. It’s at the absolute limit, but it fitted! I could get everything in, except my helmet.
There are added design flairs everywhere on this bag. A waterproof yellow panel inside the back to prevent your sweat reaching the glider. A discrete hook and loop fastener pouch for the raincover. Hang loops for heavy hands.
With intelligent use, I’m confident this bag will last many years of regular XC flying. If I was going on a bivi, I wouldn’t leave home without a Kolibri backpack.
Comfortable, versatile, durable and light – it’s a winner!