A well-ventilated, versatile pack with an impressive…
Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $57
A well-ventilated, versatile pack with an impressive set of features designed to fit a wide range of body types. Substantial enough design to handle 30 pounds of gear, but lightweight enough to use as a daypack.
Considering its comfort, extensive feature list, and the excellent customer service, I can highly recommend this 4-season pack (if you can find one) or a currently available version
- Back panel design, adjustability, and suspension
- Robust feature set adjusts to almost any situation
- Thoughfully designed on-the-trail ergonomics
- no accessory pocket on waistbelt
- no internal strap to secure a hydration reservoir in the sleeve
- no external strap for a sleeping pad or bag
INITIAL REVIEW after 6 months, 10 trips, both outdoor (6) and urban:
With its Torso Fit Centro Back Adjustment system (using a centrally adjustable buckle for non-slip size adjustment) this men's pack adjusts fits 16-23" torsos, and for my 20.5" frame, fits very well but still allows my son to use it (14.5" torso) with minor, temporary modifications (closed cell foam additions). it will be a perfect pack for his growing frame.
Load lifters and highly adjustable sternum strap rails facilitate a "just right" fit to start, and all of the straps are in the traditional locations allowing for "on the trail" adjustments depending on conditions. An HDPE framesheet with 2 aluminum stays makes for a solid frame, even when overloaded.
The pack is adjustable at all points, allowing it to fit my 190 pound, 6'2" frame AND my son's 5'1" 89 pound frame (at least I think it does because he doesn't complain as he has with other packs). The AdaptiveFit waistbelt offers easy adjustment for a snug fit, and seems to pivot with the body for a natural gate. This creates a comfortable, stable ride when tackling technical sections.
Thin, well ventilated foam on the pre-curved shoulder straps is surprisingly comfortable as long as pack weight is under 30 pounds. The only time I've had it packed with more weight (40 pounds) was on a winter trip, and had I not been wearing winter layers, the padding would not have been enough to stay comfortable. But generally more weight means more days out in the backcountry, and at that point one should have a larger pack.
The ventilation channels in the backpanel work very well, which reduces the amount of times I have to loosen the shoulder straps and sternum strap to let my back cool and dry off. My weekend pack requires me to do this much more often. Kudos to Lowe Alpine on that feature.
This will swallow a lot of gear for its size — more than advertised 35+5 liters. With is zip-up side pockets and attachments (not part of the overall published capacity specs - pockets add about 3.5 liters of storage plus 2 in the lid section), you can stretch this overnight pack to a weekender in the Spring and Summer. With its extension collar, I can stuff about 6.5 liters of extra gear over the published 35 liter capacity.
A standard top-panel access is augmented by an excellent, inverted U-shaped zipper on the mid-to lower front-panel. It is welded and has easy to grab, 4 season zipper pulls. Accessing items in the lower section of the pack is much easier than my other packs of similar size that lack this feature. The mesh gear pouch swallows my helmet and snowclaw shovel, and the items stay put no matter the activity (there is also a drainage hole at the bottom of the pocket).
Items dry quickly in that pouch because of the generous amounts of mesh. The accompanying map pocket also features a welded zipper with a hood to keep water out at the zipper's top edge. Dual compression straps and drawcord collars allow me to shrink this down to a small day pack.
Organization & Accessibility:
Minor quibbles out of the way first before I start gushing:
There is no external strap for a sleeping pad or bag, nor are there any attachment loops on the bottom for rigging one. But if I used this for an overnighter in a mild season, my lightweight bag and pad would fit inside anyway. there are no pockets on the waistbelts, which is the only feature I truly miss.
I have adapted by using a small accessory pocket on the waistbelt's webbing that came with my Lowe Alpine expedition pack. I also use the hypalon on the shoulder straps to attach additional accessory pockets when needed.
The internal sleeve for a hydration bladder is wide, but my Camelbak Antidote and Unbottle reservoirs are too skinny to be held firmly at center. Wide-shaped dromedary bags would work better, but I don't have any. Both of mine are 3 liter and still fit despite their height.
The side mesh pockets hold 1 liter Nalgenes (I prefer Brunton Alloy 1 liter bottles) and more, while the compression straps can really hold them in place if you're hitting technical sections of a trail or crag.
Features: are listed below:
- Front access to main compartment via a welded watertight zipper
- Hydration system compatible
- Mesh gear pouch on front with compression straps
- Lid with interior and exterior body facing zip pocket and key holder
- Two zip side pockets
- Welded front accessory pocket
- Side mesh water bottle holsters
- Secure ice axe AND trekking pole attachment system -
- Rain cover with separate compartment hidden on the bottom of the pack - fits perfectly as expected
- Attachment Loops on the detachable lid
- Drawcord cinches at collar opening AND main compartment top
- Dual Side compression straps can double as ski/snowshoe/crampon straps or carriers
- Sternum strap with safety whistle
- Hypalon attachment loops on shoulder straps and Hydration tube routing loops
- SOS panel inside lid with list of distress signals
- Weight: 3 lb. 8 oz. (verified - mftr listed at 3-10)
The ice axe/trekking pole holder is simply genius. Yes, there is only 1 of each, so keep that in mind if you carry 2 ice axes. You can still make it work if you need to, but it takes some adjusting: the web loop at the bottom is adjustable in height and size, so you can stack 2 axes and secure them with the large, adjustable top-strap.
It also will hold 2 trekking poles. The bottom webbing itself has slits in it for securing the tips of your poles, or anything else similar for that matter. I've used this feature for holding a multi-piece fishing rod and reel. It is very simple, well designed, and reliable. This feature is found on many of Lowe's pack products.
Ease of Use:
Most every feature, buckle, and strap has held up and operated exactly as expected, with one strap failure due to user-error (see below). The only difficulty in adjustment is on the pouch-mounted and top lid compression straps, whose buckles have no thumb tab to easily grab and lift to lengthen the straps. It takes a millisecond longer to adjust than my other packs that have the tabs on the buckles (not all of them do).
Construction & Durability:
I have not had any manufacturer-based problems with this pack, or my other, more aged and used Lowe Alpine Expedition-sized pack for that matter. Made of 420 Denier proprietary Nylon, the CrossVent pack can be thrown around without worry (I don't, but my kids have). Despite not having ripstop, I have not experienced any issues...
Overall this pack is highly satisfying, as is its company's service. I pulled off the sternum strap when I overly muscled it to tighten the pack on my son, and when I tried to put it back on the rail, I broke it (the plastic rail connector is exactly the same on the 6 other packs I own, so I know it was not a defective part). Had I learned earlier to feed it onto the rail starting at the hidden but accessible rain edge at the bottom, it would not have broken.
I emailed the company, asking if they had a rail piece they could send or I could buy, and they sent me an entire strap as a replacement without charge. This entire customer service experience happened without any drama or delays during the U.S. transition from Asolo ownership to RAB - Awesome.
Sierra Trading Post has a few of these as of today, at heavy discounts because they are discontinued. The design is not outdated at all. The blue shown in the picture is vibrant and attractive, for those who care.
Available current Lowe Alpine Packs with similar features, almost to the letter, are the Lowe Alpine Airzone Centro 35, 35+5, and 35+10. Backcountry.com has them as of today. Can also be found at eBags, eBay, Sunnysports, and Moosejaw. There are women's versions as well which include "ND" in their model names...