- Endless versatility
- Comfortable with any load
- Expensive for a 20L
I bought my Sparrow from Military1st.co.uk in March 2016 for £60 after seeing it in use on the AlfieAesthetics outdoor youtube channel. I have used the Sparrow as a hybrid pack over the past year, loading up the outer straps with everything I need for a microadventure or weekend trip, then once I have made camp, using it as a day pack on short hikes. Its impeccable build quality, versatile design and comfort have afforded me an enjoyable, more efficient hiking and camping experience with minimal drawbacks. The standard Wisport 5 year warranty is the cherry the top.
The Sparrow is made in Poland by Wisport, a Polish military and outdoor equipment company who supply the polish army among others. This should tell you straight away that their gear, like most military equipment is going to be bomb proof, but that durability comes with a hefty weight cost. The Sparrow is made from 500D Cordura, a splash resistant and generally tough fabric which will withstand everything but direct assault with a sharp knife. This Cordura is held rigidly in place by faultless stitching which has remained rock steady through a year of frequent and quite harsh use.
The straps, MOLLE webbing and mesh are all secured firmly; clearly intended to endure the tougher aspects of military life which means they are over engineered for civilian use. The clips and buckles made by ITW Nexus and Duraflex haven’t lost their spring, and although I have been carrying heavy loads almost every time I have used the pack, show no signs of wear or fatigue. The expansion connection points look quite flimsy at first but I have slung my 1.4kg sleeping bag from them numerous times with no problem at all. The only quality issue I have had over 12 months is a frayed strap end, this was solved by resealing the end with a lighter.
It is difficult to fault the design of the Sparrow. This pack is one which comes with all of the bells and whistles; hydration bladder support, clips for every occasion, straps to fasten all manner of sundries, attachment points for extra straps and standardised MOLLE webbing to attach any other military pockets or sheaths to the outside. The Sparrow offers all of this while remaining comfortable even with all of these expansion options fully laden, and the option to attach a hip belt if it becomes to unwieldy. It is a pack so versatile and so accommodating that you might end up packing too much for a microadventure even though it has only a ‘20 litre’ capacity.
The body of the Sparrow features two main pockets, one 5 litre front pocket contains a zipped mesh pocket for keys as well as clips for torches and carabiners. I normally keep my Trangia, fuel and a bit of food in this pocket. The 15 litre compartment features a flap to hold a hydration bladder and another zipped mesh pocket; after some gear Tetris there’s room enough for two litres of water, two days food and some well folded clothes. The one issue when the pack is fully laden is waterproofing, while the Cordura does it’s best in the rain, anything more than a light shower will find its way into your precious sleeping socks straight away. If you attach bulky items to the outside like me, you’ll want to pack a rain cover for a much larger backpack just in case, I chose a 65L which works well.
The Sparrow is tough to compare to other 20 litre backpacks, and other backpacks in general. Generally day packs range from 15-25 litres and weigh 150-500 grams, but I can’t fit everything I can get into (or rather, onto) my Sparrow into a 35 litre Vango, let alone anything smaller. If you want a more convenient day pack while still being able to go on weekend adventures for the same price as the Sparrow, you could get a, 68g Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil and a 45-65 litre Regatta. This very reasonably priced duo will perform the same functions as the Sparrow while saving you about 90% of the weight during the day.
The Snugpak Xocet is the most similar I have seen; most of the same straps and attachment points with the addition of some handy net pockets on the side for water bottles. At £20 less than the Sparrow, only 30g more and with generally positive reviews, it’s a real contender.
Wisport are currently introducing their Sparrow II range which sees some changes in the design to make it slightly less utilitarian, and brings the weight down by about 200g to 850g. This makes it a much more appealing day pack option while retaining the majority of its straps and expandability options. If mine breaks in 4 years after the warranty runs out (which I still see as being unlikely) the Sparrow II, or by then maybe III, will be my first choice.
I wouldn’t describe the Sparrow as luxurious, so maybe the it isn’t the Rolls Royce of 20 litre backpacks, but is a Range Rover; expensive, durable, heavy and lots storage options. The designers thought of everything: attachment points, pockets and hydration bag options; expandability to the point that you will throw out all of your other backpacks below 55 litre capacity in disgust.
For me, the Sparrow is a brilliant challenge - I can fit my basic shelter on the outside, then I can just about fit my food, water and clothes on the inside. It has inspired me to cut down unnecessary bulk from my setup and affords me a smug feeling when I see others with larger backpacks who have clearly overpacked for a short trip. It is a bit of a bulky monster when used as a daypack, but when used in place of a 40-55L and separate 20L pack on a weekend adventure, suddenly all of it’s heavy attachments and over-engineered stitching make sense.
If you need a rugged bushcraft, airsoft or hybrid weekend trip backpack, I would heartily recommend the Wisport Sparrow series.