With my boys old enough to start backpacking and really getting into it, I've been eyeing a few of the higher end packs out there. I've used crappy rucks for so long that I'm used to getting sore shoulders and abrasions on my collar bone area after day 2. Now that I'm a bit older and can afford a better pack, the options are endless. My quest started online, looking at backpacking blogs, trail blogs, manufacturer sites and REI. There were so many options that I was a bit bewildered.I've been on a lightweight backpacking kick for a while so I looked at many lightweight bags but decided to buy a big multipurpose bag instead. Nothing heavy, but big enough and tough enough to take on a winter trip for a few days.
The next thing I did was to measure up all the gear I would take and get it together to see what size pack I needed. It seemed like 65 liters without food is enough for a good winter trip, so I looked at maybe 80 liters with a nice heavy bag and extra clothes would be optimal. After looking around and checking out the packs I spotted that fit my needs, I decided that a 65 or 70 liter pack would fit just fine. My lead choices were the REI crestrail 70, Arc'teryx ultra 65, North Face Terra 65, Granite Gear Blaze and the Osprey Aether 70.
The Osprey had the largest capacity, the Granite gear was the lightest, the Arc'teryx was the toughest material and the REI was a good blend of all the others. I didn't choose the Arcteryx due to it's hip system being a bit too lightweight for such a big bag. I dropped the Granite Gear because it's just not stable enough for me with an HDPE frame. I chose the Osprey due to it's stellar customer service reputation and the well built suspension system.
With 50+ nights of camping over 2 years and backpacking "in the bag" so to speak, it's been a very good, serviceable bag. The price is very commensurate with the quality. Even after stuffing this thing to the gills for a 3 night trip in weather down to 10 degrees. I've hiked several double digit days with it while hosting scouts and with my family out in rough terrain. Once you get the belts set for you, it's a simple task to get up and go.
The bag is a single cavity system with a lower adjustable divider. The divider is perfect for someone who changes out their sleep system routinely. In the summer I use a fleece liner. It's good down to 50 degrees or so in the hammock. If I pack properly, I can fit my entire summer sleep system minus the pad into the lower cavity of the pack. The pack has a zipper at the lower end for removing your sleeping bag without removing the gear from the top.
The top cover is also a single cavity unit. That can be frustrating at times, but once you ziplock bag things up it gets easier. Everything on the pack is industry standard, side compression straps, cinch top for the main pack, side and back elastic pockets, wire backplate and padded straps. Some different things you will find on the pack are double keepers on the front straps, pole keepers on the front and back, side pockets and a stiff moldable hip belt, a separate pocket for a hydration system, and a built in whistle on the chest strap. The area that is against your back is very comfortable without getting too hot. Air channels pump air along your back with every step. The pack's frame is adjustable to fit many different torso lengths.
The pack has been extremely durable. I've bushwacked through briers, fallen into rocks, had mice in it and stuffed it to it's breaking point. There isn't a single tear, rip, hole or abrasion on the pack. It had a thick base material that keeps it from getting holes when you set it down. My youngest dragged the pack on my concrete driveway for 30 feet before I stopped him. No marks. The zippers works like the day I received it. It's never hitched up or had to be reset.
The good: Comfortable. rugged for it's weight, good zippers and buckles, bottom and side feeding as well as top feeding, adjustable.
The bad: Rather heavy for the size, topper is single cavity, side pockets are a bit small.
The ugly: None.
I'll post up my full kit at another time.