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Reviews > Packs > Frameless Backpacks and Day Packs > REI Pinnacle 35 daypack > Owner Review by Bob Dorenfeld

BY Bob Dorenfeld
April 15, 2013


NAME: Bob Dorenfeld
EMAIL: geartestatsageandsprucedotnet
AGE: 55
LOCATION: Salida, Colorado, USA
HEIGHT: 5' 6" (1.68 m)
WEIGHT: 150 lb (68.00 kg)

I'm an active hiker, snowshoer, skier (Nordic & alpine), backpacker. I live at 7000 ft (2134 m) in the Southern Colorado Rockies where I hit the trail between 7000 ft (2134 m) and 14000 ft (4200 m). I'll hike from 4 to 12 miles (6 to 20 km), ranging as much as 5000 ft (1500 m) of elevation change. I carry up to 20 lb (9 kg) on day hikes, about 45 lb (20 kg) on backpacks. Overnights are usually from one to three nights. Often I hike off-trail on challenging talus, snowfields, or willow brakes, with occasional bouldering.

Product Information

Manufacturer: Recreational Equipment, Inc. (REI)
Year of Manufacture: 2012
Manufacturer's Website:
MSRP: US$129.00
Listed Weight: 3 lb 8 oz (1.64 kg)
Measured Weight: 3 lb 8 oz (1.64 kg)
Option: Available in M or L torso size, reviewing L
Gear capacity: 2134 in^3 (35 L)
Material(s): High tenacity nylon/oxford nylon
Pack loading: Top
Pack access: Top/Side
Number of exterior pockets: 4 plus main compartment
Dimensions: 22.5 in x 12 in x 8 in (57 cm x 30.5 cm x 20.3 cm)
REI Pinnacle 35 front
Photos: REI

REI Pinnacle 35 back

Product Description

This pack is made of "high tenacity nylon/oxford nylon", as REI calls it. It has padded hip and shoulder straps, water bladder sleeve and tube port, a wand pocket for small items, and compression straps. The extras not found on many day packs include removable hipbelt and internal frameplate to save weight, molded foam back panel adds comfort for a heavy load, roll-top closure for weather resistance, side zipper for easy access to the main compartment, internal gear loops, and many exterior loops and attachment points (including ski/snowshoe straps). There is also a pair of removable rope (or other gear) straps for the top of the pack. The accompanying pictures illustrate most of these features. This review is for the Medium torso size (but pack is also available in Large).

Review Summary

This day or small overnight pack has met or exceeded all of my expectations. I use it for short and long day trips on all kinds of trail and off-trail conditions, carrying extra gear when needed. The shoulder and waist straps are easily adjusted, there are lots of convenient attachment points and straps, and the ski/snowshoe side-straps worked great. Materials are durable and extra stitching is apparent throughout. The simple internal plate keeps this pack balanced on my hips. I was able to carry snowshoes or Nordic skis on the pack sides using the strips made for that purpose, and they stayed in place when tightly strapped.

Field Use

I've been using this pack constantly for one year (it replaced an old and now-inadequate day pack), which comes to about 70 day trips over that time. I needed a sturdy, roomy pack that could also take on a pair of snowshoes or Nordic skis for the combination hikes I sometimes do. Materials and construction had to be durable, last a long time, and provide comfort on the trail. Most of my hiking time is on established trails in the Colorado Rocky Mountains, with some off-trail hiking over rocks and scree, though brush, or over snow and ice. When some of the trails are rough, causing occasional slips and falls, my day pack needs to stay tight to my back and waist, and not tear or rip easily.

What I like best about this pack:
- big main compartment, with access from both the top and full side zipper
- large front pocket, big enough for maps, notebook, food, odds and ends
- comfortable padded hip belt with easy strap adjustments
- tops of shoulder straps are adjustable to pull pack away or toward the back
- I can quickly strap my hiking pole at one of two or three different places, depending on what else is on the pack
- my snowshoes or skis easily attach to the side straps built for that purpose
- extra gear can be attached on top with the straps provided
- inner pocket that easily fits my 3 L water bladder, plus covered tube exit (left or right)

REI advertises the Pinnacle as a "technical" pack suitable for carrying climbing gear - and although I am not a climber I appreciate all the versatility available in the many straps and attachment points on the top, sides, and bottom.

This pack will be a bit heavier than the "ultralights" now available, but I like knowing that I can set it down on the ground and not have to worry too much about it getting damaged under normal circumstances. We don't get a lot of rain in my part of Colorado, so I haven't been able to thoroughly test its waterproofness; however, the rolltop closure for the top compartment, covered zippers on the front, and good seams have kept out many snowfalls and some drizzles on the trail. (I do carry a separate raincover for the pack if needed.) I have not had any trouble with zippers, but I treat them gently and lubricate them from time to time to keep them running smoothly.

After approximately 350 trail miles (560 km), over approximately 70 hiking days, and carrying loads up to 20 pounds (9 kg), I have seen no significant signs of wear; all of the critical attachment areas (belt, shoulder straps) look good as new. There is one place near the bottom of the pack where the fabric abraded and needed to be patched, but that was my fault for not watching that spruce branch I ducked under! The hip belt has plenty of padding for me, as do the shoulder straps. The shoulder straps have a nice feature found on full-size backpacks: I can adjust the "lift" of the pack toward or away from my back, depending on the load I'm carrying; I've been keeping it in the middle position, which seems most comfortable for me. If I want to reduce pack weight, both the hip belt (via hook-and-loop) and the internal backplate are removable; I like both very much, so I'll be leaving them in. Even in our dry climate I sweat on a hot climb, but the pack allows some air flow between it and my back. I feel more moisture than with a mesh-suspension style, but for me that feature was not necessary. A detail that I really appreciated was that all of the buckles and straps work well with gloved hands, and shed snow easily so they are accessible at all times. Some of the buckles are the "cam" type that hold my straps tight without loosening while hiking.

Another feature I really like is the side-access zipper for the main compartment, which means I don't have to unroll the top and root around for stuff - I can just see grab it from the side. There are two large gear loops in the inside; I use one for hanging a small bag with things I only occasionally need, which keeps it out of the way of binoculars, gaiters, etc. There is a small zippered outside pocket just below the rolltop closure, which I use for a first-aid kit.

Attaching one or two collapsible hiking poles is very easy on this pack. There are two sets of three strap loops, each along the outer back of the pack sides (two with quick-release buckles, one with hook-and-loop) that allow me to stick the pole tip in the bottom strap and the pole top in either the top strap or hook-and-loop, tighten both, and the pole(s) stay snug while I walk or scramble over rocks and snow. There is enough length in the straps to accommodate both poles on one side if I need to (but I almost always hike with one pole only). I did add a small modification to the bottom strap: a short piece of shock cord that wraps around the pole tip to keep the pole from slipping down in case the straps work loose over time.

While not a primary consideration for me, I am happy with the color - light blue with yellow highlights. The only option on this pack is torso size, medium or large. By REI's method of measurement I was on the fence between them, so I opted for the large and it fits me well. (I am 5 ft 6 in (1.7 m) and of average build and torso)

I have made two customizations to my pack from the stock model. It comes with a small zippered pocket on the right-hand side of the hip belt, for items like a watch, lip balm, etc. Last winter I created an additional zippered pocket from ripstop material and attached it to the left side of the hip belt with hook-and-loop around the existing equipment hanger. The other modification is a pocket that goes inside the front compartment (the one with the vertical yellow zipper). I like to organize my smaller stuff such as pencils, notepad, and maps, keeping them separate from food. After sewing up a sleeve scavenged from an old pack, I used a combination of hook-and-loop and pop-rivets to attach it securely inside but easily accessible from the yellow zipper.

I am hard put to find any real defects or problems with the Pinnacle, but to be complete I'll mention a couple of minor issues. The elastic on the wand pocket seems to have relaxed a bit over the past year, but it still holds the dog's collapsible water bowl and her leash. Occasionally I can feel the carrying handle loop (at the top of the pack) at the back of my neck, but not often enough to be a problem for me. The quick-release buckles attached to the roll-top closure were sewn in opposite directions to each other, that is, the male and female parts are reversed, so if I release them by feel it can take a few extra seconds to do so.

Since I haven't purchased a new day pack for a long time I wasn't used to current prices, but at US$129 MSRP I am very happy with the quality and usefulness of the REI Pinnacle, and expect to be hiking with it for at least a decade, making it an excellent value. If any defects do turn up, the manufacturer (REI) is well-known for standing by their products with exchange, refund, or credit options.

Review By:

Bob Dorenfeld
Southern Colorado Rocky Mountains

This report was created with the Report Writer Version 1. Copyright 2013. All rights reserved.

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