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Rucksack Review: Vango Contour vs Sherpa

The Contour and Sherpa rucksacks are long-standing Vango favourites, designed for multi-day backpacking and expeditions. Both rucksacks are recommended by the Scouts and DofE and are well-known in the outdoor market, but what are the key differences between the two and which is the right rucksack for you?

In this review, I talk you through the key differences between the Vango Contour and Vango Sherpa to help you make an informed decision when choosing a rucksack for your next expedition or backpacking adventure.

contour and sherpa rucksacks

1) Back System

The most noticeable difference between the Vango Contour and Vango Sherpa is the back system. The Contour comes with a QuickAdjust (QA) back system and the Sherpa comes with a Self-Adjust back system (SA).

quick adjust back system

Contour – QuickAdjust Back System

As the name suggests, the QuickAdjust back system is quick and easy to adjust. The back system features a ladder lock adjustment with a velcro tab, which allows you to select the correct back length and adjust the back system before putting it on your back. To measure your back length, locate the C7 vertebrae (knobbly bit at the base of your neck) and Iliac crest, then measure the distance between the two. This back system is particularly good for growing bodies, making it a good option for DofE participants and Scouts.

self adjust back system

Sherpa – Self-Adjust Back System

The Self-Adjust back system is built on two contoured alloy bars, which allow the back system to slide up and down to find the correct fit for you. This style of back system enables you to adjust it while you’re wearing the rucksack using the two adjustment tabs. The alloy bars also help to distribute weight more effectively for more comfortable carrying of heavier loads.

2) Main Compartment

While both rucksacks come with a traditional lid entry and a zipped entry point at the base, the Sherpa comes with an internal draw cord divider for separating and organising your gear. The Contour features one large compartment, which can be accessed through the lid or base of the rucksack.

3) Features

The Contour and Sherpa have many features in common, but there are a few differences in this category too. The Sherpa comes with more pockets and storage options compared to the Contour including:

  • Front pocket with water-resistant zip –  store a map or small accessories.
  • Hip belt pocket with water-resistant zip – store your mobile phone, snacks and any other small accessories you need easy access to.
  • Daisy chain accessory attachment points & elastic sleep mat attachment (found inside external lid pocket) – attach equipment & accessories to the outside of the rucksack

4) Sizes

The Contour is available in a 50:60S and 60:70 size, whereas the Sherpa is available in a 60:70, 60:70S and larger 70:80 size. The Sherpa also has a 65 litre option, which comes with fixed side pockets, so the options are a little more varied in the Sherpa range.

Given the sizes available, the Sherpa would be better suited to longer backpacking trips and trekking expeditions where you need to transport more equipment.

What features do they have in common?

As mentioned above, the Contour and Sherpa have several features in common. Both rucksacks are available in a shorter back length, which is designed for women, shorter men and younger users who are likely to have a shorter back length.

While both rucksacks have different back systems, both styles offer a good level of ventilation and padding for carrying comfort and are capable of transporting heavier loads, earning them their ‘trekking rucksack’ status.

vango sherpa in use
Sherpa in use

Both rucksacks are designed to carry kit including a tent, sleeping bag and food. They are also both recommended by DofE and Scouts, so you can rest assured that both rucksacks are of exceptional quality and are well suited to general backpacking, multi-day trekking and expeditions.

Here’s a list of features that the Vango Contour and Sherpa have in common…

  • Durable fabric – Excel 420D honeycomb polyester/600D polyester
  • Adjustable back system with ergonomic hip belt
  • Shoulder fit guide – shows when the rucksack has been correctly adjusted
  • Sternum strap with emergency whistle
  • Expansion side zip pockets x 2 – adds extra 10 litres of packing space
  • Pro-weave side pockets x 2
  • Lid with draw cord gaiter
  • Internal & external lid pockets
  • Side compression straps
  • Hydration compatibility
  • Webbing grab handle
  • Ice axe/walking pole attachment

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