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August 2017 Issue
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The North Face Banchee 50

Price:

$399

Our Rating:

The banchee is is a typical backpacking pack, but with two main points of difference. The first is its weight. Despite having eight pockets and oodles of features, it comes in at 1500g. The second is the extremely curvaceous frame, which is designed to offer exceptional lumbar support. I liked the first, but am not convinced by the second.

The Banchee has a single compartment, with no separate sleeping bag pocket. I like this because I use a pack-liner on all my trips and partitions add unnecessary weight. But the curved frame makes it awkward to pack if you have anything big, such as a tent, within the main compartment. Straps on the pack’s base are long enough to hold a tent, though.

Stow options are so bountiful, I regularly lost track of where I’d put items. A stretch mesh pocket with compression straps provides versatile storage, and works well for stowing a snow shovel. Attached to this are two vertical zippered pockets, which can house drink bottles or crampons. I found the side mesh pockets to be a little shallow, and they don’t have compression straps, so are a bit loose when the pack isn’t full.

The lid can stow a helmet, and has an internal mesh pocket.

The hipbelt is a bit stiff at first, but it is well padded. The shoulder straps are comfortable.

The mesh backpanel provides good airflow but was almost redundant for me as the curvature of the frame lifted the pack well off my back. I found the lumbar bump dug into my lower back in an uncomfortable way, and I was in a bit of pain after a couple of days tramping. Researching the pack and seeing what others think of it suggest I’m in the minority with this problem – many other users laud the lumbar support.

The Banchee 50 is designed primarily for two- to three-day hiking trips and is also a decent option for alpine trips.

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