The North Face Catalyst 60
Bought the pack after doing a shakedown day trip to…
Design: Top loading with Sleeping bag and side access
Size: 60 liters
Number of Pockets: Top lid, internal water bladder and one on a side access pocket
Max. Load Carried: about 55 lbs.
Height of Owner: 5'9"
Price Paid: $200
Bought the pack after doing a shakedown day trip to South Peak in Albuquerque with my old Gregory Shasta. Loaded up I found my waist belt system was finally giving out and exacerbating a bit of sciatica in one leg.
As a bit a a background I've been an active backpacker and mountaineer for almost 40 years now and have owned several packs used from hiking about 2,000 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail to climbing Aconcagua and Himalaya trekking.
When I found this pack accidentally I was immediately ready to go with its fit. It seemed to be a great stable platform that worked as good as the old Jan Sport frame packs that had the wrap around system for carrying loads.
Anyway, after loading it up and doing a brutal steep off trail 1000' test climb with my buddy Dave I was sold. It stayed with me going up and over boulders and thru brush and distributed the pack weight so well around the waist that comfort was the only term I could use.
On Whitney I found the access to the mesh pocket that was exposed once you zipped open the side panel to be nice to see what you had inside. The sleeping bag access was very good and I liked it from the side. Water bladder pouch was adequate for a 2 liter bag that I use from MSR and the dedicated hole with flap for your tubing to the outside was a nice touch.
On the adjustment piece for your shoulder strap I noted that someone in another review broke theirs and the company refused to replace. (That's not good for TNF as bad PR.) However I did read the instructions and noted their manual exhibited a concern about you forcing the closure of the plastic piece. I almost made the same mistake. It could be something about the design that TNF can fix in another model by providing some indicator marks in the plastic? I would hate to break this attachment point out in the field but most of us only make one adjustment when we buy it to our backs and leave it there.
I hope that the suspension system for the waist holds up over time and it would be good to address field repairs in the manual if anything can go wrong. I'm assuming that most can be done with a sewing awl (Boy I sure miss that old one that Black Diamond used to make as part of an expedition repair kit...I'd buy another one in a second)
The only negatives were a lack of direct lash points for crampon bag, but the neoprene sheet with holes was a passable alternative with my own straps and the pack weight which I felt could be trimmed with use of some lighter weight pack material in select sections of the pack.
I like the pack so much with the Pivotal that I will buy the 75 liter for going up Mustag Atta next year. If TNF needs a field tester...