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Reviews > Packs > Frameless Backpacks and Day Packs > OR Drycomp Ridge Sack > Test Report by Curt Peterson

Outdoor Research DryComp Ridge Sack Backpack

Report Series by Curt Peterson

Initial Report - August 2010
Field Report - October 2010
Long Term Report - January 2011

 

Below you will find:

Initial Report Contents
     Tester Background and Contact Information
     Product Specifications
     Initial Impressions
     Initial Report Summary

Field Report Contents

Long Term Report Contents 

   Ridge Sack Profile
OR DryComp Ridge Sack (photo courtesy of Outdoor Research)

 



Initial Report

Tester Background and Contact Information

Name: Curt Peterson
Age: 39
Gender: Male
Height: 6 ft 3 in (1.91 m)
Weight: 250 lb (122 kg)
Email address: curt<at>backpackgeartest<dot>org
Location: North Bend, Washington, USA

I live in the Cascade foothills, just 20 mi (32 km) from the Pacific Crest Trail via trails leading right from my backyard. My outdoor time in Washington is spent dayhiking, backpacking, climbing, fishing and skiing everywhere from the Olympic coast to rainforests to Cascade volcanoes to dry steppe. I played football in college and often evaluate products from a big guy perspective. My typical pack load ranges from 11 - 20 lbs (5-9 kg) and usually includes plenty of wet weather gear.


OR DryComp Ridge Sack Specifications

  • Back Sack Weight: 17.2 oz (490 gm) measured on my scale | 16.4 oz (465 gm) manufacturer claim
  • Dimensions - Rolled: 24" x 11" x 8" (61cm x 28cm x 20cm) - manufacturer specs
  • Volume: 2075 cu. in (34 L) - manufacturer specs
  • Sizes: One size
  • Color: Alpenglow/Grey
  • Manufacturer Website: www.outdoorresearch.com
  • Warranty: Outdoor Research's Infinite Guarantee - Guaranteed Forever
  • MSRP: $119.00 US


OR DryComp Ridge Sack Initial Impressions

The Outdoor Research (OR) DryComp Ridge Sack arrived to my home safe and sound in the retail packaging. It looks pretty much identical to the depictions on the OR website. OR has two short videos as well as a zoomable picture on the page dedicated to the DryComp Ridge Sack. There is definitely enough information and detail provided that I felt like I'd actually seen the product before it arrived. The product is categorized as a "Back Sack" under OR's Storage Systems product category. Deciding whether this is more of a drybag type product or a waterproof daypack is something I'll explore later in the review. It's definitely not a pack I'll be likely to lose - the orange color is very bright and the material is pretty shiny. Search and Rescue squads should have no trouble spotting me from the air if the occasion arises. The only nitpick on the retail experience is that it seems awfully over packaged. The pack comes in a cardboard box that's as big as the pack. It is 100% recycled cardboard, but it would seem adequate to just hang the pack on a rack like most other small packs or find a way to only use a hang tag of cardboard instead of an entire box. The box is printed in English on one side and French on the other. Besides pictures, specs, and a features list, the packaging notes OR's Infinite Guarantee, brief instructions on how to properly seal the roll-top closure, and warns that the pack is not intended for prolonged submersion or electronics storage.

From Outdoor Research:
"This ultralight and waterproof day sack has all the features needed for a fast and light summit push. Radio frequency welded seams and reinforced fabric on the bottom and pocket area provide maximum strength and waterproofness. A mesh pocket accommodates a hydration bladder and stretch cording and gear loops secure crampons and ice tools. Compression straps cinch your load down and breathable mesh shoulder straps combine to offer a comfortable fit for alpine climbing and peak bagging. 


+ Ultralight, waterproof 70D nylon fabric
+ 420D nylon fabric for durable, reinforcement on bottom and around pocket
+ Radio frequency welded seams for highly durable waterproof seals
+ Roll-top waterproof closure; durable buckle secures roll top
+ Mesh back pocket with elastic stretch cording secures loose items and doubles as hydration sleeve
+ Two compression straps
+ Spacermesh shoulder straps are supportive and breathable
+ Dual ice axe loops with shockcord ice axe keepers
"

The pack's construction is certainly one of the most unique aspects of the pack. It appears as though the sewn points are attached to the grey fabric separately. Those pieces are then welded onto the orange sack. Turning the pack inside out does not reveal a maze of seam tape and covered stitching holes. There are just a few main seams that are welded together into what appears to be an incredibly tight bond. It definitely seems more solid than any sewn and taped seam I've seen in a pack or stuff sack. The only place on the entire pack where thread touches the orange waterproof fabric is at the very top where the roll-top closure is attached to the pack. As that part of the pack gets rolled over on itself several times, I'm not worried at all about water getting into the pack this way. The fabric is much beefier than I expected. At this weight I thought it would be closer to the feel and weight of silnylon. Instead, it's much closer to a traditional stiff drybag material. I can't ball the whole thing up like a stuff sack - it's much too stiff.

The shoulder straps are surprisingly long. One of the main gripes I have with almost all backpacks is that the shoulder straps are too short for me. The most uncomfortable aspect of this is that the buckles that attach the shoulder strap to the webbing that then attaches to the pack ends up on the front of my shoulder or in my armpit. With even light loads this can get uncomfortable.  The DryComp Ridge Sack certainly wasn't made specifically for someone my size, but the shoulder straps are much more comfortable than most regular packs in my experience and way better than most small day packs which tend to be even shorter than mid-size packs.

The DryComp Ridge Sack has a big mesh pouch on the back for wet stuff. There's a bungee on top of that for even more external attachment options. There are side compression straps to cinch down the load. The hardware is pretty beefy. I imagine the pack could easily be lightened up even further with smaller/lighter buckles and toggles. Durability appears to be a strength at this point. As someone used to silnylon and featherweight fabrics in packs, this seems like it can take some abuse. I'm pretty gentle with my gear so I don't plan on throwing it down a ravine or anything like that, but it definitely doesn't appear to need to be babied. One curious addition to the feature set is the inclusion of dual ice axe loops with retention cords. Maybe waterfall climbers could make use of these and this would actually make a decent pack for that, but it's odd to see mountaineering features like this on a pack of this type. Maybe OR envisions it getting use as a summit pack?

Overall this is a pretty nice piece of gear looking for an application. I'll be using it primarily as my rainy weather daypack and my lakeside and streamside fishing pack. I may add it to my multi-day trip pack (perhaps as a double-duty stuff sack with my sleeping bag inside?) if I'm planning on basecamping and doing day trips. A small daypack would be very useful in that scenario. I'm sure extreme ultralight backpackers could push this into service as their main pack, but my loads aren't that small or light, so I don't see myself using it that way. During the Field Testing over the next couple months I'll be mainly focusing on answering two questions I have at the outset of this test: 1) Is this a drybag with shoulder straps or a waterproof backpack? and 2) How comfortable is it to use? These questions are probably closely related, and getting out there on the trail and finding out how useful it is, how sweaty the slick waterproof fabric gets, and how functional it is will hopefully begin to answer these questions.

Ridge Sack Front
Ridge Sack Front (photo courtesy of Outdoor Research)


Initial Report Summary

The Outdoor Research DryComp Ridge Sack appears to be a very tough drybag/daypack hybrid. With most of the features of a well-equipped daypack but the ruggedness and waterproofing of a drybag, it seems to be bridging two different product categories. Whether it's the best of both worlds or a compromise of both only testing will tell.

My thanks to BackpackGearTest.org and Outdoor Research for the opportunity to test this unique pack/sack combination!


Field Report

The Outdoor Research DryComp Ridge Sack has seen plenty of use in the first two months. In addition to at least a dozen wet dayhikes, I've used it around town to haul jackets, snacks, and other items around soccer fields, wildlife parks, pumpkin patches and many other places. I have not taken the Ridge Sack on a backpacking trip because it's just too small to carry a load on its own and I wasn't doing any trips that found me basecamping where a daypack would be useful.

To date, the Ridge Sack appears pretty much the same as it did when it arrived. It is proving to be extremely durable. The fabric has not softened appreciably and the rolltop seal inspires confidence. Almost every outing I've had it on has involved rain and not a single drop has found its way into the dry contents of the pack. I've rolled it both ways and it doesn't really matter how I do it - a tight seal is easy to get.  The other components of the pack - loops, buckles, straps, webbing, etc. all have held up just as well. 

I have found that comfort wearing the Ridge Sack is completely dependent on my packing. There is no frame. There is no foam back pad. This means there is no structure at all inherent to the pack - it all depends on how well the contents mix together and the load is compressed. If I pack a hard water bottle wrong I'll definitely feel it. If I put all the weighty stuff on one side and fluffy jackets on the other I'll feel it. For quick trips I just throw stuff in it and don't worry about it, but I've taken a couple 10 mi (16 km) hikes where I needed to take a little more care in my packing to keep the load comfortable. The webbing belt is useful for sway prevention only - it offer no real support or load transfer and probably is not intended to do so. The shoulder straps are very breathable. In contrast, the back (which is just the sack material) is most definitely not. I do find it a little curious that the shoulder straps are so soft, airy, and breathable when the back is not. The back is very sweaty - even in mild temps. On one trip on flat ground where I was not working particularly hard my back was definitely sweaty in low 60s F (15 C). It was like having a thick, big, garbage bag on my back. 

The Ridge Sack has been my go-to pack for rainy conditions. That pretty much means it's my everyday pack this fall as we've been dumped on quite a bit - even for the Pacific Northwest. I'm finding it perfect for cool weather dayhikes where I want to keep down jackets, food, and a camera dry without even thinking about it. I don't worry about wet brush, pack rain covers, liner sacks, or even waterproof stuff sacks for the stuff inside. I just throw everything in there with complete confidence that it will stay dry. I can throw it down on wet ground and wet grass without thinking about it. The orange color must be eye-catching - I've had two people stop me to ask about it and where they could get one.

The outside storage is great for gear that gets wet. My rain jacket can get pretty soggy and I will pull it off as soon the rain stops. I don't want it inside the pack with the dry stuff, so cramming it into the outside pocket works really well.

I'm still trying to figure out the range of applications for this pack. It's definitely an easy choice for day trips where I know I'll be getting continuously rained on. I have no worries about soaked gear or dealing with a soggy pack or rain covers. It is too small to use on overnighters for me, however. It's also too hot and sweaty for nice weather dayhikes. I really like it, but it's kind of a niche product for me at this point. I can see it as an alpine summit pack. In a scenario where the temperatures are cold enough that the sweaty back wouldn't be a huge problem but dry gear is critical it might be perfect. Having a few layers between the user and the pack to mitigate some of the clinginess makes it much more attractive to use as well. The durability and attachment options would be very handy and would seem to make it very appropriate for this task..

So far, I have little hesitation recommending the Ridge Sack for the wet weather or winter dayhiker or a day-summit climber. I hike my local peaks and trails rain or shine every week. Most are 2-4 hour trips and it's perfect for this. It's a little tougher choice for the overnight backpacker, but sub-ultralighters might be able to pull it off.


Long Term Report

The Outdoor Research Ridge Sack has turned out to be one the most-used items I tested in all of 2010. This was a year with many more day trips than overnighters, which meant I was always looking for something quick and light to head out the door with. Despite fewer overnight trips than usual, I definitely spent more time outside. Over 1100 trail miles (1770 km) in total - a good chunk of that this fall with the Ridge Sack on my back. Since the Field Report, the weather has been decidedly wetter and colder. We've had much more snow than normal for this time of year and when it's not snowing it's raining. Temperatures are seemingly always within just a few degrees of freezing. I'm confident the Ridge Sack got a thorough workout during the test period. Here are my final thoughts:

Best Aspects:

The best part of the OR Ridge Sack - by far in my opinion - is the complete waterproof protection it offers. Actually, it's not so much the waterproofness as it is the peace of mind that it brings. No pack liners. No pack covers. No water sneaking down between my neck and pack. The pack is essentially impervious to water. The only way water will get in is by the user opening the pack to the sky and letting it in. This made gear selection easy for me. Shove a couple things in there and go. I didn't worry about whether it was down or synthetic, whether it was paper or electronic. I had utter confidence that it would stay dry no matter what. I'm convinced I got out the door quicker on hikes because of this worry-free aspect. It has become my grab-and-go pack.

Second only to the waterproofness is the durability. It really is a pretty thick fabric and it has taken everything I've thrown at it and still looks brand new. I haven't done any thorny bushwhacking, but I have tossed it down on rocks at least a dozen times and it's no worse for wear. Even the lightweight mesh outer pocket is in good shape, although admittedly I didn't beat on it very hard.


Worst Aspects:

There are two things that did bother me during testing. One is tough to fix, one would be quite easy.

The first is something I've mentioned previously - the lack of breathability on the back. I've tested the Ridge Sack down into the mid-teens Fahrenheit (about -8 C) and still the lack of breathability or wicking of some sort causes the most back sweat I've encountered on a pack. Even on hikes where I was downright cold and didn't think I was sweating at all I'd find a harsh chill as soon as I removed the pack. Because the back is made of the waterproof sack itself, I'm not sure how this could be solved. Any kind of wicking material or padding would help, but it would undoubtedly add to the weight of the pack which isn't something I'd like to see either. At some point I just decided to deal with it. No matter what temperature or clothing setup I tried, the sweaty back was an issue.

The other concern didn't show up until this last phase of testing. Through most of the first part of testing I was in a t-shirt or very thin fleece or thin wool shirt. I'd don the pack, clip the sternum strap shut, and be on my way. Once the temperatures dropped during the last part of this test I began to wear my windshirt regularly, and then often a rain jacket or an active jacket such as the Marmot DriClime. What all of these jacket or tops have in common is a slippery outer material. The sternum strap is based on a system that involves a stiff rod in each shoulder strap and a slider mechanism that moves up and down that rod (see picture below). With a slippery shell, the friction isn't there to hold it in place and the strap would always slide to the topmost position. This is exactly the opposite of where I wanted it. Because I have a large chest, the high position ends up near my neck and is definitely uncomfortable. I'd fight with it, but ultimately couldn't keep it down and would just go without it. This made it feel like the pack was sagging or pulling backwards. A traditional fixed slider or a stiffer grip on the rod would solve the issue, but as-is it is essentially unusable for me.

Ridge Sack Sternum Strap

Outdoor Research Ridge Sack Sternum Strap

 

Overall the Outdoor Research Ridge Sack has been a great piece of gear to test. It is a great foul-weather grab-and-go pack, which is how I ended up using it the most. While it has a couple small issues that I found annoying, overall the great aspects of the pack far outweigh the concerns. For hikers that are determined to get outside no matter what the weather, this is a great option in my opinion.

My thanks to Outdoor Research and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test the DryComp Ridge Sack!



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