opinions about REI's larger backpacks

10:05 p.m. on August 5, 2016 (EDT)
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son going on a week long hike.  weird fit issues - narrow (31 inch) waist, over 6 feet tall, long legs/short torso.  ordered an REI traverse 70, size small, because it offers a hip belt that covers 30-40 inch plus short torso length.  he'll try it on when we return from a vacation.

my experience with REI brand backpacks is pretty limited.  i used one of their lightweight backpacks, the flash 50, for a year or so, ended up selling it used.  nothing wrong with it, but it felt flimsy in terms of weight-bearing capacity and durability for my needs.  

has anyone used the Traverse backpacks REI offers, and any commentary on how they have carried and endured? 

thx.

9:14 a.m. on August 6, 2016 (EDT)
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An external frame may be the simple answer. Just make sure it is a large frame and it will fit just fine.

Last week I was out with a very experienced group of serious backpackers in my age group, 60s.  I thought it was interesting that 2/3 of them carried external frame packs.

10:53 a.m. on August 6, 2016 (EDT)
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I have just started using a Traverse 28, the smallest in that series, and I am happy with it, posting a positive review on the REI website.  I did have reservations about the exterior straps, wondering if they would hang up in heavy brush or climbing situations, but for normal trail use, the pack works very well.  REI has been making quality packs for some time.

A notable trend recently is the use of lighter fabric and thinner webbing, probably a result of the desire to produce a lighter pack.  Use of heavier materials is no guarantee of ability to endure.  I was preparing a Maxpedition Vulture 2 for an upcoming field project where I will probably be using the pack pretty hard.  To my great surprise, I noticed that a major seam was breaking.  It all comes down to the quality of the thread and the stitching.

Your son should be able to drop into an REI store and get some good guidance on fitting the pack, probably making whatever adjustments or trades might be necessary.

1:43 p.m. on August 12, 2016 (EDT)
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the backpack (REI Traverse 70, size small) arrived.  perverse that a 6 foot 1 kid wears a unisex size small, but it fits him well.  

a few observations about the backpack, unloaded:

-the torso has about 2 inches of adjustment - the shoulder yoke is secured to the pack with a wide swath of hook/loop, which you can loosen and move up or down.

-the way the hip belt is constructed, it can handle an unusually wide variation in hip sizes.  the belts pull from the outside in, btw.

-give REI credit for a good design.  i tried it on - hip and shoulder padding is good and easy to adjust.  top loading pack with a large 'j zip' which allows access to the inside from the front.  easy to use hydration reservoirs or bottles, a number of good-sized pockets.  the fabric and stitching appear to be durable.  about 4 1/2 pounds - solid but not viciously heavy.  

-has just a little separation between the lower back and pack body - not quite a trampoline, but close - that should be a bit cooler and less sweaty in hot weather.   

i'm pretty impressed.  this is comparable to the gregory baltoro i use for similar trips - but lighter weight and 1/3 less expensive at full retail (excluding the 25% off REI-branded gear that took the price down further).  nice job REI.  

February 20, 2020
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