Jack Wolfskin Momentum II

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I ordered this medium-size pack with the intent to…

Rating: rated 4 of 5 stars
Design: internal frame
Size: 5,000 to 5,500 cubic inches fully extended (78 to 86 L)
Number of Pockets: 5 + lid
Max. Load Carried: 53 pounds
Height of Owner: 5' 8" (17" torso length and 140 pounds)
Price Paid: $289 USD (Sep. 2000)

I ordered this medium-size pack with the intent to use it for three-to-five-day excursions. Its 75-liter (4800 cubic inch) non-extended capacity is perfect for such use. Fully extended the pack's volume falls in the 5,000 to 5,500 cubic inch range and retails for $289 in US dollars (September 2000). The pack I received was an older (not a current year 2000) model.

I tried the pack with 53 pounds (combined weight of the pack with its contents). The load easily was controlled by the frame, which consists of 2, 7001-T6 aluminum stays, an HDPE frame sheet, and plastic hoop. The frame sheet is positioned ("sandwiched") between the aluminum stays and the hoop. The hoop also is enveloped within a nylon sleeve that attaches to the frame sheet. Of the three frame components, the 7000 series aluminum stays by far comprise the most substantial component without which the pack would not be able to adequately support fifty-plus-pound loads.  As with many packs using a dual-stay design, these stays converge at the pack's bottom and diverge at the pack's top (V shape).

The design seemed overly complicated, and I wondered whether the hoop could be removed without adversely affecting the frame's support. After writing Jack Wolfskin with that query, I was informed that the entire Victory Pro frame system with hoop routes more load to the hip belt and hips than the same frame system without the hoop.

It was not possible to remove the frame stays to more finely adjust the fit myself. However, that was not necessary for me since the pack fit me well with no gaps visible between my back and the pack. Nevertheless, I was concerned that someone wanting to adjust the stays would not be able to do so with this particular model.

I appreciated the two, separate attachment points for the load-lifter straps. With smaller loads, the lower attachment points can be used while the lid is firmly compressed without fear of the lid covering or otherwise interfering with the attachment-point buckles and load-lifter straps. With taller loads, the upper attachment points (about 2 inches higher on the frame stays) can be employed for better leverage when flexing the frame stays. This simple yet clever design noticeably improves load control with taller loads.

The harness system is vertically adjustable by several inches to fit more than one torso size. The contact area of the shoulder pads and back pad is comprised of a strong mesh to readily disperse perspiration. This system felt comfortable with a long-sleeve shirt. However when wearing short sleeves, I felt a fair amount of irritation on the inner sides of my upper arms where the seams of the shoulder pad fabric (where the mesh fabric of the pad meets the non-mesh fabric of the pad) rubbed against me.

The hip belt fits well, consists of at least two densities of foam, and is removable and replaceable. The removable lid is designed to attach to the hip belt with two snaps and the belt's two stabilizer straps. This is a potentially clever idea but needs more work. When attached to the belt in this fashion, the lid easily flopped around, and although it never fell off, one of the snaps occasionally disconnected when I had a few pounds in the lid and exerted myself.

As for the lid when used as a lid (rather than as a belt pack), it is smartly designed. It has three compartments one of which is designed for a water bladder and contains two exit holes (one on each side) for the tube. The lid's exterior fabric consists of 600 denier nylon, 420 Spectra rip-stop fabric, and Kevlar fabric; it is extremely durable and well stitched.

Regarding the fabric, the entire bag exterior is comprised of a combination of the aforementioned fabrics and 1000 denier nylon material. This fabric combination is one of the most durable I've seen (short of the pure Spectra bags still used in several Kelty models) and reminds me of the strong materials used by Vortex and McHale. However unlike the other two companies' packs, I found seams and fabric ends -- in concealed parts of the bag -- that either were not taped or not melted and thus vulnerable to fraying. Admittedly, those bag locations do not possess major seams or fabric ends, but the work is an indication of inconsistent construction and easily could have been avoided.

An indication of high-quality construction is the use of copious amounts of polyurethane throughout the pack's interior. So much polyurethane is used that it initially appeared to be an additional, thin layer of a vinyl-like fabric -- similar to the Shelter-Rite material Gregory uses.

Although I did not test this pack in wet conditions, I speculate the thick waterproof coating makes this one of the most water-resistant packs available.

The pack is constructed very similarly to the Jack Wolfskin Trailhead but uses more durable fabric throughout and has a little more volume. In addition to a floating lid and zipper-access sleeping-bag compartment, the Momentum II's main compartment is divided into two sections by a zippered shelf just above the sleeping-bag compartment. The sleeping-bag compartment itself uses an internal compression sack similar to what is used in some Osprey packs so you can shove your sleeping bag directly into the pack. The pack also has two side pockets and a large, panel-opening pocket on the back with twin daisy chains and ice-tool retention straps. Inside the panel pocket, unzipping a mesh panel provides access to the main bag.

A high note in the pack's construction is the internal compression strap. Normally, I hate these things because they usually extend diagonally from the top of one side of the bag to the bottom of the opposite side and get in the way of loading and unloading. However, the internal compression strap in the Momentum II extends horizontally across the top of the pack from front to back. This is a great idea since the strap not only is out of the way but also creates a head space when taut.

Another plus concerns the fact that I wrote the company several times and was responded to the next business day on each occasion. Gerold Ringsdorf was very patient and answered my questions in detail. I also spoke to the California office and found the personnel there to be equally friendly and forthcoming.

A low note in construction is the use of compression-lashing straps that extend all the way around the sleeping-bag compartment. This design is used by many other manufacturers and is not well thought out. It is at the very least cumbersome and in some cases nearly impossible to simultaneously lash a sleeping pad with those straps and secure ice tools with the ice-tool loops. The use of external compression straps to compress the entire sleeping-bag compartment often is unnecessary; this is especially true if you first place your sleeping bag into a compression stuff sack before placing it into your backpack.

Lashing gear to the pack's lower exterior can be made more compatible with securing ice tools by placing attachment points solely on the pack's bottom so that any straps used to secure gear to the bottom of the bag will not interfere with ice tools placed into the ice-tool loops. This is a simple solution, but few manufacturers avail themselves of it.

Another low note is the manner in which the side-compression straps are connected to the pack: they pass over the zippered side pockets and zippered panel pocket. This means that in order to access either the zippered side pockets or panel pocket you first have to unbuckle one or more compression straps. I queried Jack Wolfskin about this and was informed that this was intentionally done to insure that the contents in the side pockets would remain inside and not fall out. This seems like overkill to me and certainly restricts access to the side pockets. Furthermore, that explanation does not account for why the panel-pocket zipper also is covered by the compression straps. In fact, the compression straps on the Trailhead model do not cross over the panel-pocket zipper so why do they on the Momentum model? The compression straps aside, I found the external zippers on the panel opening and sleeping-bag compartment difficult to operate when the pack was full.

Finally, the pack has two additional side pockets situated below each zippered side pocket. Because of their high placement and small size, you can't realistically use them to carry wands or water bottles, but you can stuff small or narrow items into them like energy bars or identification.

Despite my few objections, I consider the Pro Victory series of backpacks from Jack Wolfskin to be one of the highest quality available in this volume category. It perhaps represents what is currently the best value in mid-size backpacks. With more comfortable shoulder pads and more functional features (like the lid-and-hip-belt combination), this pack would be nearly perfect.

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