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on April 14, 2014
I've carried many backpacks both in the military (ALICE) and civilian backpacking (internal and external) use and am impressed with the features, build, and quality of this pack. On the con side, the lower sleeping bag compartment is unsuitable for regular sleeping bags and would likely only fit light or ultra light bags. The other two cons are that you cannot remove the 'hold-open' bar without cutting through the material and the 'hydration compatible' means a one liter bag laid on its side. Our Camelback Mule bladder will not fit (100 ounce). We wound-up attaching the Mule to the outside of the back which works out fine for hiking out after establishing our base camp. For $1.99, I bought a pair of 1" wide, 48" long buckled straps (from Academy) and attached my sleeping bag (in a waterproof compression sack) to the frame beneath the pack. I placed my rolled Therm-A-Rest pad under the top cover flap.

My wife and I hammock camp and, as opposed to placing a bag in the lower compartment, we fit the following: ENO double nest hammock, ENO bug guard, ENO Flexfly tarp (one of the largest they make), a Coleman pillow, an ENO Hot Spot sleeve, a pair of sleeping socks, a pair of ENO Atlas straps (we have the One-Link ENO system) and a twin size flat sheet. In the top compartment, I carry a 12 x 4 x 4 gear/toiletries bag, a Jetboil Flash stove, a spare set of clothes in a 9L Sealine dry sack, half height lantern and misc odds and ends. The five exterior pockets allow me to easily access a variety of items including a first aid kit, toilet paper and trowel, Sawyer mini water filter, Cree headlamp, 16 x 52 monocular, bug spray and sun tan lotion, 4 Clif bars, 16 and 25oz S/S bottles, and gloves, mosquito face net, bandanna, and hat. Fully loaded, with water, food, and stove fuel, the total weight is about 35 pounds (my wife, who carries the Alps Bryce backpack comes in at 33 pounds with roughly the same items sans Jetboil).

You may wonder why I gave this 5 stars despite the cons I mentioned. If you read the description, it is accurate: the lower compartment WILL fit a sleeping bag, just not my large bag (39" x 82" synthetic) and it IS hydration compatible, just not for my 100oz reservoir. The 'hold-open' bar is a good feature and is typical of newer external frame packs so disabling it is a personal preference, not a shortcoming of the item.

An old rule of thumb I recall being taught as a teenager when I first began backpacking is to divide the cubic inches by 100 and not exceed that amount in weight, otherwise you're carrying too much (in this case, this pack has a 3900 cubic inch capacity- divide that by 100 and you have a max ideal carry weight of 39 pounds. I carry about 35 pounds in mine and, properly packed, the backpack is balanced well and handles the bulk/weight well. With any pack, if you try to use it as a big old stuff sack and jam as much as you can into it, you're going to stress the pack seams, grommets, etc. over time. Internals work better as 'stuff sacks' due to their lack of frame (my internals only have two flat malleable bars for stiffness).

Being an older camper in my 50s, I 'car camp' more than backpack, but when I want to get into the woods, I go with this external due to all its pockets and the cool air across my back. I don't consider myself an 'ultra-light' packer, but I would suspect this pack could easily handle 5-7 days for an ultra-light packer. My wife and I have spent three nights in the woods with our packs (my Zion, her Bryce) and did fine with one change of clothes, plenty of food, and our 'old-person' creature comforts (extra snacks, pad, etc.).

When considering other packs, such as the Kelty external (also 3900 cu in), I went with this one (and my wife's) due to price and amount of intended use. The Kelty is probably slightly better quality, but not by much (my wife used a Kelty Red Cloud internal, which is still in great shape, and now prefers her Bryce which is a slightly smaller version of this pack- 3600 cu in versus 3900 cu in.). If you want larger (and double the pack weight!), go with the Alps Commander at over 5000 cu in. We've used these packs on about a dozen hikes and have been pleased with their durability. When we first got them, we sprayed a silicone-based water-proofing spray on them (available at Walmart) but haven't used them in anything more than a light rain (we try to avoid outings when it's going to rain!). The packs came with two extra securing pins which we have not had to use. My wife was comfortable with the fit of her pack as received and I moved the shoulder straps one more hole out due to the width of my shoulders. Unlike the Kelty, these packs do not have load lifters on the shoulder straps which I do miss (but keep in mind that this pack is $50 less). The sternum strap is adjustable (slides up or down closer or farther from your neck).

Relative to our body size, I am 6' and my wife is 5'4". Once again, if you look at torso lengths, the Bryce is better suited to my wife's height and this one to mine. Watch the Alps torso measuring video on Youtube before you decide which pack is best for you and meets your carry requirements.

Highly recommend.
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on July 23, 2010
I picked up this pack with the intention of using it for multi-day hiking/camping. What I've found is that the pack is comfortable with about 30 pounds, more than that and it becomes a bit of a struggle to keep the thing from moving around too much as you walk.

I've yet to find a good way to lash a hatchet to it, and as a result I ended up placing my hatchet in the top compartment.

The pocket for the hydration bag will only hold a 1 liter, 2 liter puts it too far over the top.

The bar inside the top compartment which is intended to hold the pack open and provide more stability for loading and unloading is extremely fragile. You can bend it very easily by hand, seems to be aluminum, I suppose they made it from that material for the weight, but if you have the pack loaded down it quickly bends out of shape. I've not really had an issue bending it back, but I don't feel that I should need to.

Overall, it's a decent pack. I wouldn't use it for more than a 2 or 3 day trip, but for that purpose it works well.
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on September 24, 2011
Shipment was very fast, even if packaging was a bit overkill.

Very happy with product, it is very adjustable. The material seems rather strong and stitching is strong. There was no instructions on correct fit but that's just minor trial and error to work out.

Straps were hard to tighten, but I am assuming they will wear in and i dont consider it a bad thing.

Only complaint is that it would fit a narrow shouldered person better. The curvature of the frame pushes into my shoulders slightly. im 5'10 and slightly above average build. Average and below builds should be fine with this pack

*update*

Ive taken this bag out a few times now with a pack weight averaging 40lbs and have had no problems yet. The weight transfers to the hips well and the shoulders pads dont cause any chafing or soreness. One complain in this regard is the hipbelt pads have a sewn line in the center and as a result it gets uncomfortable on longer hikes.

In regards to packing the bag, the zippers have a tendency to get stuck on the zip covers if youre not careful. I found that the sleeping bag compartment is very large and easily accessible for things like towels and socks which is handy. Inside the main compartment there is a divider pocket, so heavy items can go against the back but I find the material too taut to efficiently place many items. Its got a cinching strap on the divider to the inside of the bag, but its made useless as it doesnt pull out very far anyway.

Frame is solid and light, but scratches easily. Also since the bottom of the frame is rounded, its hard to sit upright on flat surfaces as it slips around.

If the hipbelts were more comfortable I would rate this bag higher.
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on April 15, 2016
It fits comfortably on my shoulders and waist, but I can't stand the top bar. It hit's my head if I tilt me head back. It should be either moved up further or have more bend to get it back father. This is definitely an improvement over the Bryce (blue) model, though, as the top bar is located in a slightly better position. The bar has two positions (photos).

The clips on mine arrived damaged (photos), but it held together regardless. The other parts seem to be well assembled and it looks like it will hold up (assuming I replace the damaged clips).

I wouldn't mind a little more space in the bag, and a few additional pockets on the front.
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on January 3, 2016
An excellent pack and weighs about as much as advertised. My only knock is that the side pocket drink holder faces away from the hiker when the pack is worn. A strange design decision. I find the pack comfortable when loaded to about 30 pounds and it the fit can easily be customized for different torso lengths. I'd love a one page instruction sheet showing the designer's suggested use of the pockets and loading preferences.

I've now taken this pack out for some overnighters and its holding up well. I replaced some of the less essential carter pins with double-up zip ties to cut down on clinking and now the pack rides silently. It's been very comfortable and is stable when I bend over or lean back. The frame does "force" you to walk upright, so leaning into a steep hill or just getting lazy and slouching can be a bit uncomfortable.
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on November 2, 2015
I was using my old ILBE which weighed in right around a ton but was bomb proof. This is a real nice pack with plenty of space for a 2 night or so trip. with someone with more lightweight gear or less of a desire for some amount of comfort could probably make this more along the lines of a week pack but im not much good at that. the construction is acceptable to me but im not difficult to please. I have taken it out for a few trips and have experienced no squeaking which used to be a problem with externals. the pack sits nice for me at 6 ft and around 200 lbs and it is adjustable so it should fit quite a few different people. id say this is a great external pack at an affordable price. it is nice to find a good pack in this style when the majority are going to internal frames.
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on September 3, 2014
Great pack. The Hydro sleeve will fit a 2 liter camelback on it side perfectly or a 3 liter one a little askew. I've tested it up to 30lbs and a technical 5 miler so far with no comfort issues. I'm 5'9" 38 waist with a longer torso and it fit right out of the box. I would like to see a fitted light rain cover though.
One item. After several AT trips(6-8 miles a day,40lbs). I noticed that the keyrings that lock the cotter pins can snag your shirt when putting the pack on. I bought some better keyrings that hold their shape and don't have a sharp edge. This helped
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on March 4, 2014
This is a decent pack but I don't quite get what Alps was aiming for with this. For those of us who believe you get more flexibility and functionality out of an external frame backpack you are better off getting the Alps Bryce 3600 model which gives you much more frame to work with. This is almost like a hybrid pack in that it does have some exposed frame but not enough to get any real use of. I am a big fan of Alps for their good quality and competitive (low) prices but, IMHO, this is just an awkward design.
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on February 21, 2016
Great pack! I am partial to external frame packs due to possibility of using the frame to benefit of space utilization. Comfortable and sits well on the shoulders and mainly hips. Lumbar support is nice and adds to the comfort level.
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on July 29, 2012
Just got the pack and will be using it this weekend for scout camping, no hiking. It is very light weight but still is sturdy. I am comparing this to a Dana Design full suspension pack of much higher quality though older. For the price I think it was a good value. Zippers work easily. I like the 5 external pockets and map pocket. The bladder pocket holds a 1 liter water bottle. The padding is not as much as I would like but fine and the material is lighter nylon. I figured this before I bought it. I am 5'10' and the pack fit right out of the box. The sleeping bag compartment will hold a mummy bag made for hiking (lighter weight, less bulk). Don't plan on it holding a larger bag. It also have two bungee insulated pockets for plastic water bottles too. There is adjustment to move the shoulder straps to fit wider frames too. It came with extra pins.

I did not like the fact that it did not have straps to hold a sleeping pad or sleeping bag on the bottom. Extra $$$ to resolve this.
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