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Lowe Alpine Contour IV 90+15

rated 4.0 of 5 stars

The Contour IV 90+15 has been discontinued. If you're looking for something new, check out the best expedition packs for 2021.

photo: Lowe Alpine Contour IV 90+15 expedition pack (70l+)


Price Reviewers Paid: $15.00-$250.00


11 reviews
5-star:   3
4-star:   5
3-star:   2
2-star:   1
1-star:   0

It is a very large and tough backpack. I've backed it with heavy loads and it tackles it pretty easily.


  • Durable
  • Reliable


  • Large
  • Weird with small loads

This pack is a beast! I have literally drug and threw this pack around and it has not ripped or been damaged.

I bought it in an auction, two years ago, for about $15.  I would pay a lot more for a pack like this. Even though it was used it works great and is very durable.

I love the compression straps that allow you to adjust for different size loads. Because it is so big you should at least be about 5' 10" to comfortably use it. It is 90 liters and can withstand inhuman amounts of weight. Using the hip belt I can easily transfer weight to my hips or shoulders with a few easy adjustments.

This bag is incredible.

Source: bought it used
Price Paid: $15


Welcome to Trailspace, Matthew! It sounds like you got a great deal with this pack. Thanks for sharing a review of it.

4 years ago

Solid VERY large pack. Great for extended use or winter camping/hiking.


  • HUGE
  • Well made. Heavy duty nylon Cordura
  • Side pouches
  • Standalone access to lower compartment
  • Plenty of space in the lid
  • Expandable main pouch to accomodate taller loads
  • Carries heavy loads well


  • A bit on the heavy side
  • HUGE
  • A bit dated as of 2017
  • Can get VERY heavy
  • Awkward-ish with smaller loads

I picked my pack up from a buddy for 25 bucks used about 10 years ago. GREAT deal. I'm a bigger guy and was looking for a large pack for extended trips and winter camping/packing.

This pack is very well made and is constructed of a heavier nylon Cordura. Great in that it is tear-proof and holds up, but it makes it a little heavy by today's standards.

The pack is designed for a larger person. I'm 6'1" 250# and I have no trouble setting the pack up. Adjustments are easy and stay even with heavy loads. I have carried 75-80 pound loads with no issues and I suspect the pack could support a well packed 90+. Easy access to lower compartment from the front. Nice straps and side pouches for tent poles, hatchets, whatever you can fit.

AWeSOME winter bag. Plenty of space for the fluffy stuff!

Source: bought it used
Price Paid: $25


Thanks for the review, Dirk. $25 sounds like a good deal on this pack. I'd love to see a few pictures if you have any to add to your review.

5 years ago

Great deal! Thanks for the review.

5 years ago

Great price, tough pack.


  • Huge size
  • Price
  • Durability


  • Huge size
  • No external pockets (unless you count mesh)
  • Not enough compression straps

I am a big guy and long waisted to boot. I wanted a big pack when I got back into backpacking and this is the one I bought new (I picked up a second at Goodwill for less than $4). My older three-season sleeping bag is a synthetic fill and it is bulky, as is much of my older gear.

The suspension is well designed, the waist belt is wide and comfortable, it rides about as well as any pack this size could. The lumbar pad is awesomely thick and comfy.

But...this is more pack than I need and more pack than almost anyone else needs in the 48 states. Even without the extension sleeve, it is a massive 90 liters in size. (I used to have bulky if not heavy gear.) I bet you could put a hindquarter of elk in a contractor bag and carry it in this pack with nothing more than a hoof showing. That is if you carry elk hindquarters.

As a result of the size, weekend loads do not handle well. This may be a function of the very limited number and type of compression straps. Any load smaller than huge is not readily compressible to a size that is readily carried. Loads of say 25 lbs. clump up in a lump at the bottom of the pack that does not carry well. It seems to be the fault of the lack of compression straps.

In my model the straps compress the load very little. They are short and at the sides of the pack only. The compression straps also, if they are to be used cross over the mesh "pockets" on either side, making the mesh pockets even more useless. If you are carrying water or fuel in these, the use of the compression straps is problematic. In comparison, my Kelty 75 and my Deuter 75 are equipped with straps that can readily compress even a day pack load to a readily carried size.

This winter I plan to equip the monster with a couple of more straps crossing the width of the  pack. It also needs one or more straps on the bottom to tighten the load to my back. Once done, the only other issue is the lack of external pockets and where these days do you find a pack that has them? It does have a couple of short mesh pockets which I have little use for. I could not even keep a 8 oz. water bottle in one. I would not trust it on the trail to retain its contents.

As noted, I own two of the Alpine 90 liter, even the same electric blue. On the newer pack, the thoracic pad  is much improved in design over the older rectangular pad. In the older pack, the thoracic pad had entirely disintegrated do to age or UV exposure. I had to rebuild one using closed cell foam and the friction mesh that held the original. I use the older one now for storage and potential spare parts. It appears that Lowe saw the issue and remediated it. The new thoracic pad is shaped a bit like a horseshoe, a huge improvement.

This was potentially a fantastic pack which was discontinued, perhaps because of its size. Very few of us need a pack this huge and with the move toward UL, there is probably even less demand. I wonder if there is a place for this pack in a smaller size, say 75 or 65 liter? If so, it would be a great buy, a sack with plenty of access points, good suspension and affordable.

P.S. I have noted that one other user had issues of the waterproofing coming off. The older of my pack is shedding the waterproofing badly, although the pack does not show much evidence of use. As noted I had to rebuild the thoracic pad as well.

I just downgraded my review by half a star, but I cannot tell if these issues were remediated in later models. The thoracic pad in my later model was of different shape and design.

Afterword: the compression strap/s in the picture look like they are more effective than the rudimentary ones in my packs.

Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $65 for a discontinued version


Welcome to Trailspace, David. It sounds like you found some good deals on this pack. If it remains too big for you, do you think you'd buy a smaller version from Lowe Alpine?

5 years ago
David Williams

"Welcome to Trailspace, David. It sounds like you found some good deals on this pack. If it remains too big for you, do you think you'd buy a smaller version from Lowe Alpine?"

It would depend on the price. Quality is good, but clearly not in the league of Deuter and Kelty. Those are truly bomb-proof packs.

The Lowe suspension is decent it is a simplified version of the more expensive packs; having said that, I have never carried a smaller Lowe. They do have a dedicated following (The Complete Walker last edition gives brief praise) and do not get me wrong. It is a quality item and a great buy in the $85 to $150 range. Is it worth $300? No. But there is clearly a place for this and similar packs.

Note well, I have never even held a $500 Gregory, so my views are perhaps canted. After I add one or two other compression straps, this may be my go-to pack if I find time to do 100 miles of the LT.

PS I could not figure out a way to respond to your question with your note quoted.

5 years ago

Thanks for taking the time to answer that, David. It sounds like you've got a good system at a great price. Enjoy the pack this winter! I hope you'll keep us posted on how it works out for you. (FYI, you can't quote in a comment, so you didn't miss anything.)

5 years ago
David Williams

A further note:I was partly wrong. I looked again and my Kelty is actually the simpler design. The Lowe and Deuter have a system that keeps the pack off your back. Two pads support the pack just inside my scapulas, and is intended to do the same for you. The Kelty tries to do the same thing with a single full width pad that goes across the carrier's entire back. It is entirely cover with friction mesh. Note, although I often walk without a shirt and have carried all three of these packs, I have never done so without a shirt. All are very comfortable. I do not know if the Kelty will be bareback friendly. Note: I own one new and one used Lowe Alpine, both of them 90 liters. The used model has a lumbar pad that disintegrated. I have had to fashion a new pad with closed cell foam. I do not know if the newer pack will eventually have the same problem. The older pack also shed its waterproofing internally. Yes, I have redone the waterproofing, but I suppose these two points are worth mentioning. Still the Alpine is now discontinued so perhaps this is just so much speculation.

5 years ago

Thanks, David!

5 years ago

Outstanding pack at a great value. Would absolutely buy another, if mine ever fails that is.


  • Everything


  • Nothing

I purchased this pack in the year 2000 from Campmor. It has literally traveled the world with me, from New Zealand to Scandinavia, Southeast Asia, and ultimately to Alaska.

I have done everything from 12-day backpack trips to epic moose and caribou hunts. I have packed out two moose and two caribou with this pack. The internal frame sustained a load of nearly 175 pounds over several miles (possibly more).

I'm 6'3" 195 pounds and have used and abused this pack and pushed it to its limit in every way shape and form. 16 years later it is still as reliable as ever.

The only problem is that the zipper separating the bottom compartment broke and the closure strings have frayed a bit, all to be expected with normal wear and tear. Fortunately for me I never kept the compartment separate anyway so it doesn't matter.

Despite what others have experienced, I find that the wider lower base of the pack is great for keeping center of gravity slightly lower and better distributing the weight of the pack across my longer body. Just have to pack it right.

I hand wash it occasionally in the bathtub with a little laundry detergent and hang dry and it stays clean and smelling fresh (even after being covered in blood).

Seriously, a great pack at a great value. Would absolutely buy another, if mine ever fails that is. 

Source: bought it new
Price Paid: Don't remember exactly. Around $150


Welcome to Trailspace, Travis! Thanks for sharing your review of your excellent pack. Do you have any pictures of your pack you could show off in your review?

5 years ago
Version reviewed: 1997

Great pack, absolutely huge. I attached some external pockets and can load it down. I have to carry medical gear on campouts with the Boy Scouts and even fully loaded this is not that "heavy" a pack.

Design: Internal
Size: 5500+900
Max. Load Carried: 75lbs
Height of Owner: 5'8"
Price Paid: $150

Version reviewed: 1997

Long the flagship of Lowe Alpine, I picked up this Contour IV '97 model through REI online cheap -- and I've noticed Campmor has some left even as 1999 approaches. I have a long torso, so the pack's adjustability has been great for me. For the most part, I don't wind up very sore after a trip with this one. The sleeping bag compartment takes a little getting used to. The expandable top and the top lid are nice features -- you can really load this pack down. Hard to beat it for the price -- a REALLY solid pack, especially for under $200. The '98 is the same model, but with built in hydration system (I don't like 'em, so the '97 was a steal for me).

Design: Internal frame
Size: 90 + 15 L
Number of Pockets: 2 side, 1 top
Max. Load Carried: 45
Height of Owner: 6 foot
Price Paid: $159

I have taken this on one fairly strenuous 10 mile trip into the Ventana Wilderness. A lot of 17 to 23 degree steepness.

The pack when fitted properly provides you with a nice ride. However after a few miles I noticed that the fit begins to shift and you need to keep tightening up the hip belt. You can do this and cut off your circulation. I never had a backpack do this before. And it's frustrating.

Although I have a small and lightweight sleeping bag, I noticed that the lower compartment is shaped too large at the base. I think this is a design flaw, and instead the lower compartment could be higher and narrower. This makes you look like a fat bottomed woman.

I know what a fine pack should feel like, and this is not one of them. And I think for the price you can find something that offers better value. The quality is fair.

Overall I would put this in the mid range of rankings for a middle of the mountaineering. That way you won't be dissappointed.

Design: Internal
Size: 90 + 15
Number of Pockets: 1 main, 1 top
Max. Load Carried: 45 lb
Height of Owner: 5' 9"
Price Paid: $250

I got this through Campmor for real cheap. It held up real well. I think it's a great pack for the money.

Design: Internal
Size: 5500
Number of Pockets: 1 (top)
Max. Load Carried: 50lbs.
Height of Owner: 5'10
Price Paid: $135

I tried on North Face Renegade before i bought this bag. It fit me really well because of the ajustable abs system. The price was what i really liked, i got it through campmor and paid $200 which is a really good deal. It is usually about $250 at REI. I have seen it as cheap as $189 in some catalogs. so shop around. But if you have the money, go buy a Dana Design! Other than that, it is a really good pack for the money.

Design: Internal
Size: 4500cu+900cu
Number of Pockets: 1 on top
Max. Load Carried: 70 lbs
Height of Owner: 5'11"
Price Paid: $200

Contrary to what other reviewers here seem to think, I don't like this backpack! If I could afford it, I would sell it ASAP and purchase a better pack. It is however relatively inexpensive compared to other packs of the same size - possibly it's biggest advantage.

Problems I have include -

1. The silly adjustable shoulder strap suspension system jumping off the webbing "rail" under heavy loads - I most recently had this happen carrying a load up into the Bugaboos this summer. It took 2 of us to fix it. In a more serious situation i.e. a steep technical alpine route - you could be hosed!

2. The base of the pack is just too wide. I find gets in the way, especially climbing or when using ski poles.

3. The coating on the interior of the pack cloth (notably in the pockets on the lid) is delaminating.

4. Under heavy loads (i.e. 100+ lbs), which is what I bought the pack to carry, I find the suspension unstable if the load is at all top heavy (i.e you make use of the extension sleeve) (and yes - I know how to pack a backpack!). The pack shifts around on the shoulder straps, unless the top is cranked into your shoulders, then it's uncomfortable.

I may not be the typical user of this pack (often using it to haul large amounts of climbing gear (i.e. 100+ lbs) typically rather than long backpacking trips), but I know I'm not alone in my opinions of this pack. A friend of mine bought the same pack (against my advice) and ended up selling it after a single trip. Just my $0.02.

Design: internal frame
Size: 90 litres
Number of Pockets: 1
Max. Load Carried: about 120 lbs
Height of Owner: 6'
Price Paid: $350 Canadian

David Williams

I own two of these packs and the deficits noted here are true of the older pack at least. The waterproofing on the older pack was coming off, as I noted, although the older pack is mostly owned for spare parts and storage.. The suspension is also not as sophisticated. The real issue for me is that the pack does not compress well and is really too big. I do sometimes hike with a smaller female who cannot carry her share of the mutual load, so on those occasions I am stuck with needing a bigger pack than my preferred Deuter or Kelty. This is what I go to despite the deficits. Of course this is what I own, right?

3 years ago

I love this pack. I was helping out with a climbing school at Devil's lake state park this past summer. I had all the climbing gear needed (or wanted for that matter) for 6 people. Thinking our climb was going to be 'reserved' before we could get to it we broke into running. I never have had a comfortable pack with so much weight that I could run in and not totally kill my self. Also I kind of impressed myself. If you're looking for a pack for a reasonable price. here is where it's at.

Design: Internal
Size: 86000
Number of Pockets: 3
Max. Load Carried: 70 lbs.
Height of Owner: 6'4"
Price Paid: $235

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