User Review: Dana Design Astralplane
Design: internal frame
Number of Pockets: 2 plus lid
Max. Load Carried: 90 lbs
Height of Owner: 6'1"
Price Paid: $475
If you are going on an extended expedition or need a pack for some winter camping, this is without a doubt, one of the best packs available. Period.
I used it on a five-week NOLS mountaineering course while crossing the Campo de Hielo Norte in Patagonia. We hauled 80-90 Lb. loads every day and pulled sleds continuously. The pack handled the loads with ease. The suspension is the the key when talking about this type of weight, and Dana has that nailed. I traded packs with a buddy on the trek who was of my height, stature, etc. I made some adjustments and started walking. After 30 minutes of his pack, I was ready to trade back. His pack did not carry the load with you so much as strap it to you. The load was very cumbersome and flopped all around. There was no stability. You did not strap the Dana on so much as wear it. It fit and held the load with you as you moved. I never had sore hip points from wearing it alone (we used climbing harnesses that interfered with the hip belt) and my shoulders never really ached.
Also, I disagree with the comments about the wand pockets and side zippers. I found the pockets held the wands in a plentiful number and securely and the side zippers made it easy to access items that had been stuffed down into the pack which otherwise would require unpacking to access, especially in a pack of this size. It is cavernous. The zippers here are as burly as they come and I never saw them so much as look stressed.
Since I put my crampons on the pack lid, I liked the reinforcement there, whereas others did not. Ice axes and snow shovels strapped on easily. The exterior pockets kept light and frequently used items close at hand.
Finally, one of the best indicators for the rating of such pack was the inventory of packs used by the instructors on the course. Of the eight instructors on two different sections, six had Astralplanes of various ages. The remaining two had packs they borrowed from the NOLS school, one of which broke and had to be repaired in the field.
I spent the money knowing the quality of Dana packs as I have one of their day packs. Having used the Astralplane for that which it was designed, I can say it performed wonderfully.