Lowe Alpine Vega 65+15
Would give this pack 4 and 1/2 stars if I had the…
Design: top-loading internal
Size: 65L +15L
Number of Pockets: appx. 4 external, 3 small internal zippered pockets
Max. Load Carried: 35 lbs
Height of Owner: 5'4"
Price Paid: $249.99
Would give this pack 4 and 1/2 stars if I had the option! Not too many things to change about it but still room for an improvement or two.
Just got back from 5-day backpacking trip I bought this pack specifically for. The 65L capacity can be expanded by an extra 15L (if you need it) but seemed like it held even more; I had trouble finding enough to put in it!
Being a short person I was looking for an inexpensive, comfortable pack that would hold enough for an extended trip and after buying a Sherpani Tara 75L (seemed a LOT smaller) and a Jansport Juno 73L (had the capacity of a minivan but too big and uncomfortable) to compare with, the Vega was my pick because this pack felt the best out of all of them and had the most features though was a little more expensive. Tried several other brands at REI as well including Gregory, Kelty, and Osprey.
Center of gravity was perfect and hipbelt/shoulder straps have just the right amount of padding to feel firm yet a little forgiving. Could tell huge benefits from this women-specific hipbelt versus the unisex/men's. Profile was also especially good for a small person -- mostly vertical with nothing sticking out the sides. When fitted correctly this pack just felt like an extension of myself. This pack was extremely easy to move around in even with a lot of weight as far as mobility of arms/head/legs. The back got a little warm as you might expect though compared to other packs their ventilation system did the best job. Top of the pack is removable with hidden waist-belt which was perfect for a day trip to the summit from a base camp. Actually looking forward to future trips with this pack -- can't say that about my previous ones (internal unisex Kelty and an '80s external)!
Specific features I found useful:
+ highly adjustable harness
+ little zippered (detatchable) pockets on waistbelt sides!
+ built-in rain fly on the bottom
+ easily accessible external zippered pockets
+ detatchable lid converts to waist pack (convenient for day-hikes)
+ not-too-small specific compartment for your sleeping bag, with a zip-out divider
+ 2 ways to access main compartment: standard top-loading (amply-sized opening) and zippered front access
+ 2 side water bottle pockets (tight fit for Nalgenes), one pocket drops out for "easy" access to a dangling mesh pocket.
+ H20-reservoir hydration system compatible
+ shoulder straps and width appropriately sized for smaller folk, with strap tighteners put in good places to avoid arm-chafing (was an issue with other packs)
+ decent (high) placement of center-chest strap
+ a little recessed area for your head (didn't smack my head against the back of this pack once)
+ good number of compression straps to wrap things up tight
+ main body of pack comprised of ripstop nylon, heavier duty for the bottom.
Things I discovered after a week of wearing this pack:
+ hipbelt was still comfortable
- brunt of weight seemed to hone in on my lower back, which was good for stability but it got a little sore there.
+ there were more internal/external pockets than I found necessary but might come in handy.
- ripstop nylon water bottle pockets on the sides were a little annoying, would have preferred two mesh pockets instead.
- one of side pockets for water bottles had a drop-out mesh pocket to hold a water bottle for easier access. Was ok while hiking but the bottle would fall out when taking off/picking up pack. They did try to counteract this with a bungee cord, but did not work too well.