Reviewers Paid: $145.00
Hands down the best value on the market in a high end pack. This is the bigger, beefier, stronger version of the Trailhead that received rave reviews from Backpacker Magazine. If the Trailhead is comparable to a Dana Glacier this is comparable to a Terraplane. The suspension incorporates two aluminum stays, a PE framesheet and a hooped delrin rod that attaches directly to the hip snugger straps. It carries as well as the top of the line Dana but without the lower back pain that I suffered with my Terraplane.
Great features! There are two sets of side pockets. The upper ones are baffled and fold flat against the pack body when empty. They also have a small covered exit hole at the top for a hydration bladder tube to pass through and are large enough to accomodate even the largest bladder. I have used the other pocket to store enough food for two people for 4 days! The lower pockets are much smaller and have a compression strap running across the top. I use them for small items, to store a small fuel bottle or as wand pockets for tent poles or hiking staffs. The top lid comes off and can be use with the hip belt to make a great lumbar pack. The trick here is to use the compression straps on the top lid to attach it to the waist belt. This set up is more stable than the little snaps that come with it. The lid has 3 compartments one of which has exit holes for a hydration bladder. The sleeping bag compartment opens like an oven door and has an integrated stuff sack built right in. I must confess I could live without the stuff sack, but for such a great pack at a great price I will make do.
My favorite feature is the front panel access. It has a zippered mesh divider that separates items stored in the pocket from those in the main pack body. You can look through the mesh and see what is in the pack. Once you locate what you want you just unzip the mesh and take it out. The compression system is great with the exception that the four compression straps interfere with the front access panel zipper because they pass over the it to snap into buckles attached to the front pocket. It would have been better to have them attached on the sides of the front panel instead of directly to it. The solution. Move the buckles. I just cut the straps that attach the buckles to the front pocket and moved them to just outside of the pocket. Now I can cinch the pack down tight and still get into the front pocket without unbuckling the compression straps. The shoulder straps adjust via a single buckle located behind the hipbelt and can be fine tuned to fit a variety of torso lengths. The hipbelt fits very well and has a plastic stiffner on the outside soft cushy foam where hip contact is made and denser foam sandwiched between. The aluminum stays are not removable, but can be fine tuned with patience and determination. Mine fit pretty well right out of the box and took only a little tinkering with.
All in all I consider this to be the deal of a lifetime of buying packs and other gear. Seeing that it is made from Spectra, Kevlar and 1000 denier Hexstop Cordura I fully expect to have this pack for the rest of my life. I highly recommend Jack Wolfskin products and plan to get one of their tents this spring (Spectre II). I hope that they catch on here in the states. They are an affordable option to an overpriced, saturated outdoor products market.
Oops, I forgot to mention the weight. Mine weighs 8 lbs empty. Yeah, a little heavy but I would rather carry an extra 2 lbs with a really comfortable pack than save weight and compromise carry comfort.
Design: Top and Panel Load
Number of Pockets: 7
Max. Load Carried: 45 lbs
Height of Owner: 5' 11"
Price Paid: $145 (retail $290)