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Reviews > Packs > Frameless Backpacks and Day Packs > OR Drycomp Ridge Sack > Test Report by Jamie DeBenedetto
Reviewer's Information Back to contents
Product Information Back to contents
Description of Product Back to contents
I think the best two word description for the OR DryComp Ridge Sack comes from the category under which the product is listed on the manufacturer's website. They call it a "Back Sack" and that is indeed what it is, a very low frills storage bag with shoulder straps, a minimal hipbelt and a single mesh pocket on the outside. Unlike a daypack it does not have any sort of frame or panel separating the users back from the pack material or its contents. Speaking of that, the majority of the sack itself is made from a waterproof 70D nylon fabric which is reinforced on the bottom and around the outside pocket with a more resilient 420D nylon. Finishing off the waterproof features the seams are radio frequency welded and the top opening employees a roll-top closure. The simple black shoulder straps are made of a supposedly breathable material called Spacermesh. The hipbelt and sternum strap are your basic nylon strapping material with pinch release buckles, however, the sternum strap buckle also does double duty as an emergency whistle. The two compression straps on each side of the Ridge Sack are also made of this same nylon strapping. Crisscrossing the mesh pocket on the back of the bag is an elastic shock-cord. The pocket can be drawn in or let out via a buckle at the opening. Below and above and on either side of the pocket are two ice axe loops with two complementary little shock-cord gear fasteners.
Arrival Condition and Informational Material Back to contents
The Ridge Sack arrived June 3rd, 2010 in perfect working order and ready for use as far as I could tell in my initial once over. The only informational material supplied came in the form of what was written on the outside of the box in which it was packaged. Other than your basic product low down for the retail shoppers and the companies contact info, OR included instructions for the proper use of this item. On the bottom of the box are these instructions:
At first I thought this was kind of funny, akin to the directions on the sunflower seed bags, because the Ridge Sack looked to be pretty simple to use right off. Then it occurred to me that someone new to roll-top bags might not know exactly how to use one so it's probably best they included it.
The one bit of info not clearly expressed on the box or on the website is the country of origin. It wasn't until the item arrived that I found this info listed on a little tag. Personally, I like this product detail clearly displayed because I always consider it when making a purchase. If this information is elusive I sometimes move on to a similar product by another seller.
Expectations and First Impressions Back to contents
The OR DryComp Ridge Sack is very internally spacious. Since its essence lies in the storage bag realm it doesn't have all the traditional internal pockets and organizational compartments so common in day packs. Its simplistic, lightweight side is of course appealing but right off I'm thinking the shoulder straps look a little on the slim side considering the fairly large amount of gear that could ultimately be shoved into this bad boy. I'll let ya know how that goes in my next report.
Two features surprised me, one in a positive way and the other negatively. I'll start with the positive one - the emergency whistle / sternum strap buckle. For virtually no weight penalty the little whistle is a brilliant extra. It's nice to have this very important item integrated right into the pack as it's one less thing I need to carry. On the negative side, or at least that's how I feel about it right now, the outside mesh pocket / hydration sleeve appears wholly undersized. As the only option on the pack for water storage I was expecting a more capacious compartment. I don't even know if I own a hydration bladder small enough to work in this space. I was able to fit a regular old 32 oz (1 L) water bottle in the pocket on my initial assessment but reaching it while walking will certainly be problematic unless I take the pack off.
Over the next four months I will be using the Ridge Sack as a day pack for shorter treks, summit hikes and anything I do around water, which should include kayaking and river/stream hikes. I got the impression from OR's website that it's best suited for colder weather but I guarantee I won't be seeing any of that during this test series since summer is in full swing around these parts. Additionally, I do not expect to be able to use the ice axe loops to actually carry axes but I will see if I can use them in some other helpful ways. Lastly, as the bag is frameless I intend to use a rolled section of closed-cell foam (something I generally carry anyway as a sit pad) to give the sack a bit more rigidity and internal frame support.
Please check back in two months for my Field Report.
Field Tests - June through September Back to contents
Outing #1 - June, 2010 - Two mile (3.2 km) in and out Agua Fria River exploratory hike near Black Canyon City, AZ; elevation 2,000 ft (610 m). Weather was clear and sunny; somewhat hot, in the mid 90's (35 C).
This was my first trek with the OR DryComp Ridge Sack. I carried three 32 fl oz (1 L) bottles of water (one in the outside mesh pocket), a small beach towel, some snacks, first-aid kit, small 10 Essentials gear bag, and a camera. I did not use any sort of internal frame pad on this outing but I did try to position two of the water bottles, the heaviest items, closest to my back. The total weight including pack was about 12 lbs (5.4 kg). Here's what I learned:
The Ridge Sack's main compartment is quite spacious and wasn't even remotely challenged by this small amount of gear. While this is totally positive, especially if I had a need to carry more, it did result in all the gear I put inside migrating into an unruly blob at the bottom of the bag. Even with the side compression straps cinched down the gear still ended up all bunched up. Ultimately this made carrying the pack uncomfortable. I felt like everything was pulling backwards, which I'm sure was made even more obvious by the 32 fl oz (1 L) bottle of water stored in the back mesh pocket. (more on that in a minute) I kept readjusting the shoulder and sternum straps in an effort to balance the load a bit more but this proved unproductive. It did bring another issue to the forefront, however, the sliding sternum strap. The plastic sliders that attach the sternum strap to the rungs on the shoulder straps were not gripping enough to thwart slippage. Even when I did find a slightly more comfortable sternum position, it would slide out of place after a few steps.
Now on to the 32 fl oz (1 L) water bottle I had in the back mesh pocket. If I'm being totally honest this was a very frustrating set up. Firstly, this is the only storage option on the exterior of the pack for water and since I was using a standard bottle and not a hydration bladder with a drink tube I had to take off the pack each time I needed a drink. Secondly, I could definitely feel the pull of the water weight against my shoulders, which I'm sure contributed to the difficulty I was having in finding a comfortable fit.
Outing #2 - June, 2010 - Four hour evening paddle at Lake Pleasant in Peoria, AZ; elevation 1,600 ft (488 m). Weather conditions were clear with temps between 98 - 80 F (36 - 26 C).
The Ridge Sack was used mainly as a gear and water storage bag lashed to the deck of my two man sit-on-top kayak for this trip. Inside were two full sets of dry clothing for myself and my eight year-old son, a small beach towel, first-aid and survival items, a few snacks, my cell phone, headlamps for our night hike and two bottles of water (one in the outside mesh).
I was most pleased with the waterproof properties of the Ridge Sack. On two occasions we took on big waves of water that were pushed our way from passing ski boats. These not only splashed up onto the bag but also left it sitting in water for the better part of an hour until we stopped on shore for a break. I was thrilled to discover all our gear completely dry when I checked it at that stop. Additionally, the outside mesh pocket, proved the ideal location for our water bottle. The same reason I was annoyed with the placement of this compartment on my last hike was its saving grace for the paddle. For hiking purposes a side pocket would certainly be better but in this case, with the bag laying down, shoulder straps facing the deck, the back mesh pocket was positioned exactly where it needed to be for easy access. It worked so well, had I been able to keep the pack I'd have used it on all my future kayak trips.
Outing #3 - July, 2010 - Two and a half mile (4 km) hike in New River Wash in Peoria, AZ; elevation 1,200 ft (366 m). Weather was cloudy and breezy with light rain off and on. Temperatures in the low 90's F (33 C).
This trek took my sons and me into a little urban riparian area where the water runs for part of the year. It's usually just a few feet (.5 m) deep with the odd deeper pool here and there. This time I carried pretty much the same 12 lbs (5.4 kg) of gear as my first outing but I added a section of closed-cell foam to the kit with the goal of keeping things stable inside and adding more rigidity to the main compartment. The foam was a big improvement. It worked as I had hoped and certainly added to my overall comfort with regard to shoulder pressure. Having said that, the fit was still not as comfortable as I would have liked and made me question how much weight I would want to tote in the Ridge Sack if I were to wear it for an even longer excursion. Furthermore, I noticed the shoulder straps were not particularly comfortable along the sides. I was wearing a tank top and could feel the fabric rubbing along the outer edge of my armpits.
I also tested the emergency whistle on this outing, well my sons did anyway. They are six and eight years old. They both were able to produce a whistle but it was a little weak. Obviously for rescue sake louder is better so this was a little disappointing especially because I thought the built-in sternum strap whistle was such a clever idea.
Outing #4 - August, 2010 - My final outing with the OR DryComp Ridge Sack was another creek exploration and day hike with my sons along West Clear Creek near the town of Camp Verde, AZ; elevation 3,700 ft (1,130 m). Weather was humid and warm, in the mid 80's F (29 C), with thunderstorms dropping rain off and on throughout the day.
This was by far the most humid of my four trips and the one on which I wore the pack longest. The result of this was a very sweaty back, which is of course no surprise given the simplistic nature of this sack and its lack of a frame. I didn't consider the sweaty back issue a nuisance because I had access to water and ended up almost totally wet from water play anyway. I can see it being of greater consideration on a more traditional day hike, especially one with colder temperatures where getting overly sweaty could be a safety concern.
Pros and Cons Thus Far Back to contents
Aspects I'm pleased with…
Aspects I'm under whelmed with…
Thank you BGT and Outdoor Research for the opportunity to test the DryComp Ridge Sack. Ordinarily this is the place where I'd recommend you check back in two months for the final installment of this test series, however, in late Sept. I sprained my knee while hiking, resulting in a torn ACL. Since I was unable to finish the full test series I've passed the Ridge Sack off to another tester who will continue the product evaluations and post a Long Term Report in my stead. Good reminder to hike safely!
-Jamie J. DeBenedetto - October 2010
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