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Reviews > Packs > Frameless Backpacks and Day Packs > OR Drycomp Ridge Sack > Test Report by Derek Hansen
Inset photo courtesy outdoorresearch.com
Outdoor Research - DryComp Ridge Sack
Test Series by Derek Hansen
6 Oct 2010
One way I’d like to describe the Outdoor Research DryComp Ridge Sack is a stuff sack with benefits. The Ridge Sack is part of Outdoor Research’s line of “Back Sacks” that are simple, waterproof, roll-top sacks with minimal features “for a fast and light summit push.” The company describes the pack as “durable, rugged day sack,” comfortable for alpine climbing and peak bagging.
The Ridge Sack has no frame or internal structure and is essentially a stuff sack with shoulder straps, a simple waist strap, side compression straps, a roll-up top closure, and a single mesh outer pocket.
The main bright-orange fabric is a durable, waterproof 70D nylon. The texture and appearance remind me of plastic fruit leather. The bottom of the sack has a more durable 420D nylon, which is also used for all the other attach points. The website mentions “radio frequency welded seams”, which reminded me of laser welded seams, but the process is much different. Radio frequency welded seams, as I’ve read, joins two fabric edges with a binding strip between. A high-frequency radio wave is applied that fuses the fabrics together.
When I inspected the fabric, it looked like it had been taped together, but I think what I’m seeing is the binding strip. The only sewn edges are the “accessory” straps that have been sewn to the 420D nylon. The 420D nylon is then sealed to the 70D fabric so there are no needle holes in the stuff sack itself.
Between the shoulder straps is a small nylon loop that could be used to hang the bag, but it seems a little light weight. The shoulder straps are made from a type of 3D mesh fabric. There is a single nylon loop on each shoulder strap, presumably to secure a drinking tube. A simple sternum strap connects the shoulder straps with a whistle buckle. The sternum strap can adjust up and down on the shoulder straps.
The waist strap is minimalistic at best — just a simple nylon strap with a durable plastic fastener.
The roll-top closure has a buckle snap and a D-ring. The extensible collar is not very long, so there isn’t much room to “overstuff” the sack — there is just enough collar to ensure there are enough rolls of fabric to get a proper waterproof seal.
There are two accessory loops on the back panel, with matching elastic cord loops on the top to attach an ice axe or even hiking poles. The middle mesh pocket has a nylon strap and buckle clip near the top to fasten gear inside. There is also an elastic cord crisscrossed on the outside of the mesh pocket that can be adjusted with a cord lock.
There isn’t a lot of information about how well the Ridge Sack performs underwater, but it is described as waterproof.
The Ridge Sack has a lot of room. With close to 34L (2075 cu in) of space, I naturally thought I could use this pack for my typical S24O trips — a trip lasting less than 24-hours. For these trips, I pack light and go fast to get in some amazing scenery and miles on the trail while still getting home in time to do Saturday chores.
For a typical S24O trip, I pack a dinner, breakfast, and lunch, with at least 2.5L of water and overnight gear. I was happy to find I could fit everything in the Ridge Sack with a pack weight just shy of 15 lb (6.8 kg).
My main concern is where to pack my water. Outdoor Research describes the outer mesh pocket as a “hydration sleeve.” There is really no other place to store water on the pack, unless I stuff a water bottle inside the sack, which is not a great place for easy access. My 2.5L Platypus bottle fits nicely in the mesh pocket, and the standard drinking hose had plenty of length for me to get a drink. The problem is that by putting that much water on the extreme outside of the pack made the load a bit unwieldy. Without the waist strap secured, the pack easily wobbled back-and-forth. Also, with the weight on the outside, I can really feel a pull on my shoulders. I would prefer having side pockets, or a way to store the hydration inside the pack, but that does defeat the waterproof design of the pack.
One thing I’m looking forward with the Ridge Sack is doubling it as a bear bag: it’s light weight and waterproof enclosure makes it a perfect candidate to pull double duty.
INITIAL SUMMARYI have high-expectations for this pack. I think it will be perfect for day trips, but also some of the quick S24O overnighters I'm planning. I'm not a huge fan of the external hydration sleeve, but it will have to do. Having the weight so far from my back makes the pack unbalanced.
PRO—Waterproof sack and pack. Compressible. Simple and efficient. Integrated whistle in sternum strap.
CON—No side pockets. Must carry water on the extreme outer pocket.
LONG TERM REPORT
4 Jan 2011
FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
I have used the pack 11 times over the past few months, which comprised of a several day hikes and 5 overnight backpacking trips.
Oct 8-9 ~ Sycamore Canyon, near Flagstaff, Arizona. I led a Boy Scout adult training session at Camp Raymond. Elevation was 6500 ft (1981 m) with temperatures around 40 F (4 C) at night.
Oct 15-17 ~ Snow Canyon State Park, St. George, Utah. We had an opportunity to visit family and took a few trips into Snow Canyon and went on a few day hikes, including Pioneer Names Trail, Johnson's Arch, and Whiterocks Trail to name a few. Elevation was around 3200 ft (975 m) and daytime temperatures around 75 F (24 C). We experienced some light rain this weekend.
Oct 22-23 ~ West Clear Creek, Arizona. My son and I went on a backpacking trip into a canyon we have yet to fully explore. Elevation was around 6500 ft (1980 m) and daytime temperatures around 50 F (10 C). We experienced a lot of rain on this trip.
Nov 10 ~ Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah. On a recent family trip we stopped for some day hikes in the Grand Staircase to the Paria Rimrocks and Toadstool Trail. Elevation was around 4400 ft (1340 m) and daytime temperatures around 50 F (10 C).
Nov 20 ~ Old Caves Crater, Flagstaff, Arizona. I took two of my kids on a day hike, approximately 2 miles (3.2 km), to explore some of the many trails around a cinder cone near our home. Elevation was 7100 ft (2164 m) and daytime temperatures around 40 F (4 C). A winter storm was approaching and we encountered some high winds, 30-40 mph (48-64 kph) with gusts up to 50 mph (80 kph).
Nov 26-27 ~ Snow Canyon State Park, St. George, Utah. Hiking the Red Mountain Trail has long been on my to-do list (because of the amazing views above the canyon) and I finally got a chance to do it, although it was a lot colder than I expected. The overnight low was in the teens (-9 C) with scattered snow drifts and a prevailing nighttime wind gusting from the south west. Elevation was 5000 ft (1524 m). We backpacked about 6 miles (10 km) total.
Dec 17-18 ~ Two Guns, Arizona. I joined the Boy Scouts on an overnight camping trip to see the Canyon Diablo and Two Guns ghost towns, along with the Apache Death Cave. Our camp site was about as dull and nondescript as I've ever seen, but we enjoyed swapping stories around the campfire and doing day hikes and geocaching around the ruins. Overnight low was around 32 F (0 C) at an elevation of 5500 ft (1676 m).
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
During the Boy Scout training, I used the DryComp as a bear bag overnight, and then during the day I used it to train the leaders how to bear bag, so the DryComp was hoisted up and down the tree multiple times. I used the small hang loop as the attach point and it survived the all-day abuse, much to my relief.
Snow Canyon overlook via the Red Mountain Trail.
Not long after I had the pack I did some hiking and afterwards noticed some wet spots on the outside of the pack. It looked like water or sweat had wet through the pack, but I could feel no dampness on the inside. Later, during my hike into West Clear Creek with my son, I got a chance to hike through some rain and noticed the same wet spots on the outside of the fabric. I had all my gear double packed in dry bags, so I wasn’t worried about my gear getting wet, but I wondered about the permeability of the backpack and its waterproof claim.
I had a definitive test on the waterproof fabric after a weekend trip. I wasn’t extremely happy with putting a water bladder on the outside of the pack because it really shifted the weight so far away from my back that it strained my neck and shoulders. I found I could fit a 2 L Platypus water bladder inside the pack and fed the drinking hose out of the rolled top, which worked great. My drinking hose has never leaked (yet), but I decided to use a waterproof sack inside to protect my sleeping bag and other gear just in case.
Days later, when I grabbed the pack for a new trip, I noticed I left my hydration bladder inside the pack and the hose was situated in such a way that a lot of water had siphoned out. There was about an inch of water (2.5 cm) in the bottom of the pack, but nothing had leaked out of the pack. This accidental test was enough proof to me that the pack was indeed waterproof, and that the wet spots on the outer fabric was something related to the outer fabric and inner coating relationship.
As the temperatures have cooled, I have still attempted to use this pack for overnight trips, but capacity has been an issue. I found that I could still get all my gear by strapping an extra stuff sack to the exterior of the pack, and/or using a small hip pack for extra gear. In fact, I’ve been using the extra hip pack anytime I use the Ridge Sack now because it allows me easy access to gear, such as my compass, since there are no hip pockets on the pack itself.
Day hike at Grand Staircase.
For day hikes, the pack has been great, and the compression straps on the side have really helped reduce the pack volume when I didn’t need to carry so much gear.
One area that I wish were different on the pack is the length of the roll top. I think the length is too short, even when I have little gear in the sack. With a little more fabric, I would be able to get a better roll and seal on the top, especially when I have the pack completely full. With a full pack, getting a good turn on the fabric is difficult.
Using the DryComp at Two Guns, Arizona. I packed the tent in an outside stuff sack.
The side compression straps work great for their primary function, but I wish the straps were just a bit longer so I could easily put some extra gear under the straps (like a rolled-up sleeping pad). I was able to fit some torso-sized pads rolled up under these straps, but the strap was barely long enough to accommodate.
The only “modification” I’ve done to the pack is to insert a small closed-cell foam pad on the inside to help give the pack some rigid form. Without this pad, the pack easily barrels out and the round shape rolls around my back--especially when the pack is fully loaded. The waist strap helps control the rolling, but only on the bottom; around my shoulders, I still experience this issue. Having a stiff pad on the inside has helped shape the pack, making packing and wearing the backpack much easier.
The DryComp Ridge Sack is a capable backpack and has worked well for short overnight backpacking using lightweight, minimal gear (no more than 20 lbs/9 kg). Adding extra gear to the outside of the pack is possible, but not the most convenient as the pack doesn’t have any extra daisy chain straps or gear loops.
While the outer fabric wets out, I’ve found the pack to be completely waterproof, in spite of my misgivings about the roll-top opening not being long enough for my preference. The side compression straps are useful to reduce the pack size for my lower volume packing needs.
When fully loaded, the pack “rounds out” easily, and I found that the pack rolls from side-to-side on my back. Adding a small foam pad on the inside of the pack helped me eliminate this issue.
PRO—Waterproof, durable, and rugged.
CON—No side pockets for water bottles; short roll-top collar; no loops for lashing extra gear.
I would like to thank Outdoor Research and BackpackGearTest.org for providing me with the opportunity to test this product.
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