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Reviews > Packs > Frameless Backpacks and Day Packs > RIBZ Sportswear RIBZ front pack 2012 > Test Report by Brett Haydin
RIBZWEAR RIBZ Front Pack 2012
Test Series by Brett Haydin
Initial Report - March 10, 2012
Field Report - May 15, 2012
Long Term Report - August 8, 2012
I started backpacking in Wisconsin as a youth, being involved in the Boy Scouts programs. As a young adult, I worked at a summer camp leading backpacking, canoeing and mountain biking trips. I now generally take short weekend or day trips in rough, mountainous terrain, although I have extensive experience in the upper Midwest as well. I take one or two longer trips each year, where I typically carry about 40 lb (18 kg). I prefer to be prepared and comfortable, but I have taken lightweight trips as well.
Product Information & SpecificationsYear of Manufacture: 2012
Manufacturer's Website: www.ribzwear.com
Listed Weight: 11.7 oz (332 g)
Combined Measured Weight: 12.8 oz (363 g)
Color Tested: Stealth Black
Size Tested: Regular (also available in Small)
Warranty: One year from purchase on defects in material or workmanship.
Other Details provided by Manufacturer
The second compartment on each side is approximately 5 in (13 cm) tall, but has a tapered shape. This is also accessed by way of a 6 in (15 cm) YKK zipper. There is a manufacturer's logo embroidered on the front of the smaller compartment on both sides. All zippers to access the compartments are what I call seamless zippers. By this I mean that there is a fabric sheath integrated into the zipper that gives a seamless appearance when the zipper is closed. Each zipper has a rubber pull tab that is easy to grip and secured with a piece of cordage.
The two panels (left and right) are separated by a burly YKK zipper that is 8.5 in (21.6 cm) in length. The pack has three straps; one for the waist and two for the shoulders. All three straps are 1.5 in (3.8 cm)wide pieces of nylon webbing. The shoulder straps cross over my shoulders and join the opposite panel, creating an "x" on my back. There are adjustable shoulder pads to make sure I remain comfortable. These pads have a mesh cover on the underside to promote evaporation, I presume. There is a buckle on both straps for adjustments and that should be very easy thanks to the generous 3/4 in (2 cm) gray nylon loop sewn onto the end of the strap. The waist strap is similarly constructed with a buckle and pull-tabs but only wraps around my back. There is no need for it in the front since the pack is there! One difference in this strap is that there is an elastic strap sewn alongside the strap similar to many sternum straps on traditional backpacks. I think this feature will allow the waist strap to flex as I breath since it rides higher than my waist strap on my backpack.
The RIBZ front pack comes with a nylon storage sack along with a plastic display that wraps around it. Inside the storage sack are some instructions on how to best use the RIBZ front pack.
Initial ImpressionsThe most obvious impression I was met with was just how well constructed this pack is. From the seamless zippers to the expert stitching, this is a nice looking pack. Frankly, I was surprised at how small the pack is when stowed away. When it is packed up, the pack is no larger than a typical 1 L water bottle! My head is already spinning trying to figure out exactly what I am going to put into it. I tend to eat less than I should while hiking in large part because I hate stopping to pull off my pack to dig for trail mix. I also keep layers on longer than necessary for similar reasons; I hate stopping! Will the RIBZ front pack make me a more efficient and happy backpacker? I can't wait to see!
Reading the InstructionsThe website has a lot of useful information on it, but most importantly a lot of really great pictures. I would encourage anyone who is interested in the RIBZ front pack to browse through their photos! The instructions that come with the pack are easy to read and come with great images to illustrate how to best use the pack. The manufacturer claims that the front pack will result in a more comfortable backpacking experience by balancing the load between my front and back. This should result in a better posture. Great! Now to try that out.
Trying it outI had a chance to put the front pack on and experiment with what I could put in the pack for easy access. So far, I have come up with some winter gear (hats, gloves, balaclava), snacks, headlamp map and compass, and sunscreen. That doesn't come close to filling the pack so I have ways to go! I'll most likely add my phone (which I use as a GPS) and maybe my camera. I already have a camera pocket on my primary pack, so it may not be needed.
I did put the front pack under my backpack and it fits comfortably. I took a short hike outside and within a couple of minutes it was easy to forget the front pack was on. The only reminder was the bulk on my chest, but that is a good thing! Putting the front pack on takes a little getting used to because of the crossing pattern with the shoulder straps. Unlike a backpack, I actually have to think about how the straps go on, but this is just because I am unfamiliar with this product.
SummaryThe RIBZ front pack seems like a really neat item to test over the next four months. I will be hiking many mountains during this time, so having a lot of items handy will be a good thing as weather conditions can change quickly.
My other trip was an overnight in the San Isabel National Forest near Mt Shavano in Colorado. I was stymied by the amount of trees downed by winds this past fall. I thought that if I packed in far enough I could snowboard down the mountain. Boy, was I wrong! Dragging a snowboard and along with my camping gear for 2.5 mi (4 km) wore me out and I turned around shortly after starting the following morning. Overnight temperatures barely dipped below 30 F (-1 C) with clear skies and nice views. The trail was full of snow and trees, but I did manage to find a level spot to camp in with a three-season, three-person tent at 10,600 ft (3,230 m). Hey, it was technically spring for these trips!
My other two trips were intended to be backpacking trips, but my partners for these hikes were not so inclined to hike into the woods so I slept at trailheads. Both camping spots were snow free at elevations of between 9,800 and 10,500 ft (2,990 and 3,200 m). The overnight temperatures fell to 30 and 40 F (-1 and 4 C). I slept in the same three-season three-person tent as before. Both of these trips involved backcountry snowboarding, so I was able to use the RIBZ in a unique fashion. One trip (to Mace Peak near Aspen, Colorado) was with a 25 L (1,525 cu in) daypack. The second trip was a summit of Handies Peak, near Lake City, Colorado where I used a multiday pack. Well, I was planning to backpack that trip for sure!
I have also used the RIBZ on three day hikes. On two of the hikes, I used the pack alone, as my only source of carrying gear. The third hike was in conjunction with a 30 L (1,830 cu in) daypack. All were in the Colorado Rocky Mountains in similar conditions to my other hikes.
ObservationsI have to admit, the RIBZ does take a little bit getting used to, but now I absolutely love wearing it! My first trip to La Plata was a bit of a chore, but mostly for my shoes instead of the pack. However, it was a long hike and I was still getting my bearings with how to best use the front pack. My arms would swing into it from time to time which made my irritation grow. As my first successful summit of the year, I do think the RIBZ could be a bit of a good luck charm. Now that I have used the pack a number of times, I do feel as though it is much easier to use.
I mentioned that I used the front pack with backcountry snowboarding a couple of times. I was a little concerned that the RIBZ would make me notice my beacon more, but to my surprise the beacon was just beyond the bulk of the front pack. I definitely appreciated the extra storage capacity with the smaller daypack. The RIBZ kept my camera, food and gloves close by with plenty of room to spare. I also kept a journal, maps and 10 essentials bag in the RIBZ for convenience. I mentioned in my initial report that I am awful at eating while hiking. A lot of this is because I am too focused to stop and eat. Well, thanks to the RIBZ I am consuming more calories while I hike! Well, and thanks to the manufacturers of the food I am eating too!
It is easy enough to put the RIBZ on and take off. It still requires some thought to ensure that the straps are lined up right. One drawback is that if I need to add a layer, I have to take off my backpack and the RIBZ in order to put on a jacket. On my trip to Handies Peak and to La Plata, this seemed more inconvenient because of how quickly weather can change above tree line. One other thing I noticed is that as the manufacturer claims, I feel more balanced with the front pack on. The image to the right shows me hiking up Handies Peak with my snowboard. Normally when I do this I feel as though the weight is pulling me back. Because I can distribute the weight forward, my climbs were more enjoyable!
SummaryThe RIBZ front pack has been a great addition to my hiking arsenal. I am interested to see how it performs in the warmer months yet to come here in Colorado. I have a number of epic backpacking trips planned and we will see if the RIBZ propensity for good luck on summit attempts holds true!
Over the final two months of this series, I have been on three additional backpacking trips; two overnights and one 2-night trip. This brings my total to 6 nights backpacking as well as 7 other day hikes throughout the testing period. I have also used the RIBZ while mountain biking and, oddly enough, on some work projects at home.
My first backpacking trip was a 2 night trip into the Sangre de Cristo Mountains to Lake Como in Colorado, which serves as a base camp area for several 14,000+ ft (4,270 m) peaks. The hike in was 4 mi (6.4 km) with an additional 6 mi (9.7 km) of hiking in the basin to Blanca Peak and Ellingwood Point. We camped along the shore of Lake Como at 11,740 ft (3,578 m) in a grassy area. The terrain ran from crushed gravel to subalpine forests to tundra and a lot of talus slopes. We did encounter a bit of class III scrambling (intentionally) as well. We had relatively great weather, but the second night was cut short by graupel (snow pellets) and subfreezing temperatures. Rather than risk a dicey summit hike on day three, we considered ourselves fortunate and left early.
My second trip was a solo hike to Blue Lakes near Ouray, CO. This 9 mi (14.5 km) out-and-back hike to high alpine lakes at 11,720 ft (3,570 m) sports excellent views of Mt Sneffels. The terrain was over a good trail through subalpine forests with temperatures between 40 and 75 F (4 and 24 C). The weather was overcast at times, but the rain missed me.
My final overnight backpacking trip was to the Gunnison National Forest near Crested Butte, Colorado for an overnight with my family. Because of our young son, the hike was short at 1 mi (1.6 km) with little elevation gain. We camped at approximately 9,000 ft (2,700 m) along a creek in typical mountain terrain; rocky and in the shade of pine trees!
My day hikes included a trip to the Maroon Bells Wilderness near Aspen, Colorado for a car-camping-overnight-and-summit of North Maroon Peak at 14,014 ft (4,271 m) and several family hikes with my kids in the San Isabel National Forest. During several family hikes, I wore the RIBZ underneath a child carrier that does not have any storage. The distance of these hikes ranged from 1 - 9.5 mi (1.6 - 15 km). The hikes were in generally mild weather with no significant precipitation and temperatures comparable to my backpacking trips, although at times a bit warmer up to 90 F (32 C).
While hiking with my son, I generally bring along a child carrier for him to stand on when he gets tired. He can hike a great distance for a two year old (now three), but there is a limit! The RIBZ is a remarkably useful addition for this type of hiking! As the picture above shows, I have a cup stashed, but what it doesn't show are the spare clothes, snacks, diapers and other items necessary for a good hike!
My chief concern is how hot the front pack makes me. This is somewhat offset by the ventilation provided on my back (since there is nothing there...) so it is a tradeoff. On one hand, I don't have to take my pack off to get at things, but on the other my chest is noticeably hot. I really like the front pack in cooler weather best. This is when sniffly noses, hot/cold hands and snacks for warmth are best when easily accessible.
I have found it pretty convenient to carry a water bottle with this configuration. With a backpack, I use a hydration reservoir, but with this pack I see no way to string the tube. I'm not too concerned, however!
I found no problems with the durability of the pack either. Despite loading it to capacity on several occasions, the seams are intact and I see no signs of wear. The zippers still move freely and the straps are comfortable. The padding is movable, but generally speaking it stayed in place for me.
I did mention I have used the RIBZ Front Pack with some other sports. I thought I would try this out on a mountain bike ride near my house. While it did work, and in fact was useful, i did find my knees bumping into the pack from time to time. I also think the pack is great when doing work around the house. Tools are easy to grab and I have a great place to put little nuts and bolts.
SummaryI really enjoyed using the RIBZWEAR RIBZ Front Pack these past four months. It is a really neat item that has great uses for my day hikes as well as in winter. I plan to keep this in the gear closet for the foreseeable future!
Pros: The storage on the front is awesome; distributes weight forward; easy to stay organized; lightweight; well-constructed.
Cons: Wearing the RIBZ can make me too warm; only gets in the way when scrambling on rocks.
I would like to take the opportunity to thank RIBZWEAR for their generosity as well as BackpackGearTest.org for allowing me to be a part of this test series. This concludes my test series.
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