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December 2014 Issue
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The North Face Banchee 50



Our Rating:

At 50l, The North Face Banchee is a little big for an overnight pack, but it packs all features one expects on an all-round pack.

It’s top-opening, with an adjustable harness and has compression straps, ice axe/hiking pole attachments (but no crampon patch), tent pole/waterbottle pockets and a very useful ‘overflow sleeve’ on the outside. This sleeve can be used for a snow shovel, wet clothes, or clothing shed during the course of a day’s tramp. I’ve used packs with exterior sleeves for many years and find them super useful. The Banchee even has two small external pockets on the outside of the sleeve.

At 1520g, the Banchee fits in the middle of the weight spectrum and I’d describe it as lightweight. Immediately noticeable is the pack’s anatomic harness. The thin aluminium tube frame and abundantly padded harness are very comfortable, with an emphasis on ventilation, and give the pack a figure-hugging curved shape: great for keeping it close to your back and aiding balance, but it does make it more awkward to pack.

Ventilation down the back is maintained by an air space and tightly stretched mesh between the frame tubes. I found this to work very well. The harness length can be fine tuned and the positioning of the padding on the waistbelt, and overall girth, can be adjusted – a great way to tackle the myriad shapes that trampers come in.

A few other details caught my attention: a hydration tube hole and small snack pockets on the waist belt – these are large enough for a compact camera or smartphone.

The Banchee is quite low-volume towards the base, which could (if not carefully packed) give the pack a tendency to be top heavy, and the usual adage applies: pack most of your heavy items close to your back and in the middle third of the pack.

One potential fault is base fabric, which is not double thickness – a feature I consider essential for my packs, especially lightweight packs.