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Reviews > Packs > Frameless Backpacks and Day Packs > RIBZ Sportswear RIBZ front pack 2012 > Test Report by David Wilkes

Test series by David Wilkes

RIBZ Front Pack 2012

Initial Report - Mar 11 2012
Field Report - May 15 2012
Long Term Report - July 26 2012

Tester Information

Name: David Wilkes
E-Mail: amatbrewer@yahoo.net
Age: 46
Location: Yakima Washington USA
Gender: M
Height: 5'11" (1.80 m)
Weight: 197 lb (89.40 kg)

Biography:

I started backpacking in 1995 when I moved to Washington State. Since then, I have backpacked in all seasons and conditions.  I prefer trips on rugged trails with plenty of elevation gain. While I continuously strive to lighten my load, comfort and safety are most important to me. I have finally managed to get my basic cold weather pack weight, not including consumables, to under 30 lbs (14 kg).

Product Information

Manufacturer:

RIBZWEAR

Year of Manufacture:

2012

Manufacturer’s Website:

www.ribzwear.com

MSRP:

US$59.95

Advertised Specifications: 

Regular – Capacity: 700+Cu In (11.5 L) Waist: 32-44 in (81-112 cm) Weight: 11.1 oz (314.7 g)

Small - Capacity: 500+Cu In (8.2 L) Waist: 26-36 in (66-91 cm) Weight: 11.1 oz (314.7 g)

Measured Weight:

11.45 oz (324.6 g)

Product image
Image courtesy of RIBZWEAR

Product Description:

RIBZ are advertised as a front pack to be used alone or in conjunction with a traditional backpack. The intent is to provide easy access to commonly used items and help better distribute the wearers load, providing “increased comfort, better balance and function.”

Initial Report

Mar 11 2012

Front viewI received one RIBZ front pack in the Alpine Green color and size “Regular”. As of the writing of this the packs are available in 3 colors [Alpine Green, Stealth Black, and CAMO]. The black and green are available in two sizes and the CAMO is available in one (the Regular).

RIBZ is a good name for this product. While it is described by the manufacturer as a “front pack”, from looking at it and trying it on I find “rib” pack to be a better description. The pack consists of two main sections that are basically mirror images of each other (here after referred to as pouches). They connect in the front with a zipper, in the back with an adjustable strap that has an elastic section in the middle, and at the top with suspender like shoulder straps. The straps look to be the basic 1” (2.5cm) nylon straps that are common for many packs and outdoor gear. The pouches are made from "210d water resistant ripstop nylon" material similar to what I have seen in lightweight packs and tents.

The shoulder straps are suspender like straps. Each attaches to the front of one pouch and the back of the other pouch. On the front end of the shoulder strap is an adjustable buckle, and the end of the strap is finished with a finger loop to make pulling the strap to tighten it easier. Each shoulder strap has a shoulder pad that can be positioned along the strap as needed. The two straps cross in the back and are held together with a loop of webbing.Back  view

The rear strap connects to both pouches with an adjustable buckle at both ends. In the middle of the strap is an elastic band sewn into the strap such that when not stretched it shortens the strap. This is a nice way to maintain the strength of a solid web strap while also allowing the strap to stretch as needed.

When worn the two pouches are attached in front with a zipper. At the top of the zipper there is a hook-n-loop closure that is intended to prevent the weight of the pack when filled from causing the zipper to come open. When trying on the pack without using the hook-n-loop closure I did notice the zipper had a tendency to unzip slightly as the manufacturer mentioned.

Packaging & Stuff SackAs mentioned above the pouches are basically mirror images of each other. Each pouch consists of two zippered compartments. The outer/smaller compartment has a simple zipper on the top. The larger compartment has a zipper that starts in the front just below the top and extends over the top of the pouch about of the way to the back. Inside of the larger compartment there are two mesh pockets. Attached to the inside (body side) of the compartment with the rear of these open across the top, and the front one opening at an angle. There is also an elastic loop inside the large compartment, stitched to the outer (away from the wearer’s body) side of the compartment. I am not entirely sure what intent of this strap is, but I can see how it could be useful. All of the zippers except for the one in front that attach the two pouches together have cord pull tabs, while the front zipper has a standard metal zipper pull.One pouch

The pack arrived inside a small stuff sack made of the same material as the pack. In the stuff sack along with the pack was a simple (6 step) illustrated instruction sheet.

I examined the product. All of the stitching looks tight, the straps and zippers look like they are firmly attached and I could find no indications of defects or problems.

The website shows a basic warranty: “RIBZ guarantee all products we manufacture to be free from any defects in material or craftsmanship for a period of one year from the date of purchase. Our warranty is limited to the original purchaser of the product and is not transferable.” The web site also recommends hand washing and air drying, but says that while not recommended, the pack can be washed in a washer using the gentle cycle.
Outer pocket

Inner front mesh pocketInner elastic loop
Upon initially trying the pack on I placed a few items in the pockets of the RIBZ pack, adjusted the straps such that the bottom of the pouches and the back strap were about belt level. But when I put on one of my day packs I realized this was incorrect as in this configuration the RIBZ pack would interfere with the hip belt of the back pack. I adjusted the shoulder straps so the bottom of the front pack was above the backpack’s hip belt and the two packs seemed to not interfere with each other. I performed a similar test with my primary mluti-day backpack and found the RIBZ did not seem to interfere with its use. When I looked in a mirror I noticed that the shoulder pads were not in place, one was way forward on the strap so that it was on my chest while the other was almost on my back. I found them easy to adjust to their proper location, but I will need to remember to check their positioning when I put the pack on.

The instructions suggest filling the pack before putting it on and adjusting the fit. After trying it on a few times, this seems advisable as the adjustments were different depending on how full the pouches were, but it seems like it might be easier to fill and organize the contents of the pouches while wearing it. I intend to try it both ways during my testing and see what works best for me.

Of note is the stuff sack that the pack came in. Not only does this give me a convenient way to store the pack when not in use, it provides another way to help organize items in the pack.

My initial impressions are of a sturdy but lightweight pack, which could really come in handy to help give me access to frequently needed items without having to remove my backpack, as well as provide additional pack volume to my existing packs.

Field Report

May 15 2012
Usage
  • Nordic skiing with the Ski Patrol in the central Cascades Washington State  – Two days
  • 3 day (two nights) backpacking trip Umtanum Creek Central Washington State- Short spring shake down trip with long day hike exploring the ridge and side gullies
  • Day hike Umtanum ridge

@ White PassI used the pack for two days of skiing while training with the Nordic ski patrol. On the first day I wore it under my jacket. The only problem with this configuration was that it made me look fat. [Yes, vanity raises its ugly head] The second day I wore it over my jacket and this was just as comfortable as the previous day and allowed me freer access to the pack. In the pack I kept only a few basic items such as snacks, a trail map, spare gloves and hat, camera, and a few other small items. I was wearing my hydration pack as Nordic skiing can be thirsty business, and so really did not need the carrying capacity of both packs. However I did like that I had immediate access to the items in the RIBZ pack. For example I don’t take as many photos as I would like as often my camera is in my backpack, but with it in the RIBZ pack I could quickly access it any time I wanted, even while still on the move.

On my backpacking trip along Umtanum creek, we ended up having awesome weather. It was warm and calm all weekend with day temperatures topping out just over 70F 21C (first time this year!). This trip was kind of a spring shakedown, a short relaxing trip to get my gear out and see what needs to be repaired/replaced. I spent the day Saturday climbing up the sides of the canyon collecting some petrified wood and trying to see if I can locate some new sources (no luck). I was dressed for cooler weather and worked up a bit of a sweat, especially under my backpack and under the RIBZ packs. When I got back to my camp I removed the packs and the backside of the RIBZ packs were damp but it did not soak through and dried quickly. Again having quick access to basic items (snacks, camera, lip balm, etc) was appreciated as was having a convenient place to stash the bits of petrified wood I collected (the edges can be quite sharp and I learned the hard way that putting them in my pants pockets can have bad results). Aside from the sweat, another problem I ran into was that I did not bring along a day pack so during my day trips I was wearing only the RIBZ pack. As a result carrying water was a problem. I had a 1L water bottle with a mini carabineer and clipped it to one of the straps where it connected to the back of the pack. This was not an ideal solution as I found the location made it difficult to clip/unclip the water bottle and at one point the mini carabineer got bent and the water bottle fell off. Luckily this was during a stretch that I had to backtrack and I found the bottle on my way back. Another thing I noticed was that the hook-n-loop strip to keep the zipper closed would come loose sometimes when I twisted or bent over. But I did not have any trouble with the zipper coming down.

UmptanumThe look of the pack is significantly different from a backpack and I found myself a bit self-conscious when wearing it. Not helping matters are my teen daughter’s comments about how ‘geeky’ I look when wearing it. I believe this is more a function of it being a very different look than anything else, and I will hold off on judgment of this until the end of the testing period.

Learning the best way to fill/organize the pack has been a challenge. The instructions mention filling the pack before putting it on and adjusting it, but I found it difficult to organize and arrange the items before putting it on. Once on and full, and as the contents change, I find it advantageous to readjust the straps in order to maintain a good fit.

The zipper arrangement for the large pocket has both advantages and disadvantages. Since it wraps over the front corner of the pocket, when open it provides better access to the interior than if the zipper did not wrap around the corner. However I find I often need to use two hands to zip it closed again. This does not seem like that much of an inconvenience except that it can be a pain when my other hand is holding both my trekking poles and/or whatever I just removed from the pack.

The front zipper is also a quandary for me. Since the pack has few attachment points I considered attaching my whistle or micro light to the zipper pull but feared it might make the zipper more likely to work its way open. I really wish the pack had some additional attachment points and wonder if installing the zipper upside-down might not function better. That said, as mentioned above I have yet to have any difficulty with the zipper so this may be an unwarranted concern.

Overall my opinion so far is that this being very different to anything I have ever used it is taking some time to get used to it and figure out how best to find how to change what I carry and how to best utilize it. Also, it is looking like this pack may be better suited for me in cold weather when heat will not be as much of a problem and when pack volume is more of a concern. With the use I have had so far, my view is that I appreciate the ease of access to items, and I can see how the extra pack volume could really come in handy. I am looking forward to continuing using the pack over the remaining 2 months of testing (in my area summer is rapidly arriving).


Long Term Report

July 26 2011
UsageWOD
  • William O Douglas (WOD) trail
  • Mt Adams

Prior to the opening of the official opening of the William O Douglas trail I decided to hike the entire 26 miles (42 km) from the trail head to the end of the portion we were officially opening (and the first area open for camping), camp, and then hike back to the nearest road where I was picked up. Given that this was about twice the distance I normally travel in a day when backpacking I knew it would be a good opportunity to test some gear and if there was any rubbing, chafing, or discomfort this should make it apparent. And despite our reputation for 300+ days of sun a year, it started raining soon after I got started, rained off and on throughout much of the day and so I spent most of the trip wet.

My testing till now suggested that where this product would be of most use to me would be when additional pack volume and easy/immediate access to some of my gear was important. Along those lines the best example of that I could think of during the summer months was to climb Mt Adams (something I try to do at least once a year).

Mt AdamsDuring my long trek on the WOD, I was expecting blisters and chafing, and when it started raining I was all but certain that this would be the case. I fully expected at least some discomfort in places where my backpack straps and the front pack straps crossed or overlapped, but to my surprise the front pack caused me no discomfort at all. As experienced previously, I did sweat quite a bit under the pack in the warm weather, but since it was raining I was already wet so that did not matter much, if anything the pack helped keep the chill off when there was wind.

On Mt Adams the front pack really shined. It was all that I expected it to be. Having the additional pack volume allowed me to better organize my gear, especially the smaller items, and I found having easy/immediate access to key items really nice. I really enjoyed having direct access to my camera, sun screen (reapplying sun screen often is a must on this trip), lip balm, and spotting scope. I am really glad I had this item as it made the trip easier and more enjoyable. And I am glad I was able to include this trip in the testing because I was kind of on the fence about how I would end up using this item in the future, but this trip really clarified it for me.

Mt AdamsIn looking into how I expect to use the pack after the testing is over I doubt I will use it much for warm weather trips. It does not allow enough ventilation so perspiration is an issue and since I normally don’t need the additional pack volume I don’t see it as adding much value to my existing packs. However for trips like Mt Adams and winter backpacking/snowshoeing, I fully expect this pack will be a standard part of my equipment list. And if I can come up with a way to add the ability to carry water in or attached to this pack I could see it being the only thing I carry for some quick/light day hikes. Along those lines I am going to start looking at some of the smaller hydration pouches that area available to see if maybe I can find a pair that will work in the pouches.

Likes:
  • Easy to put on
  • Adjustable
  • Lightweight
  • Provides easy/quick access to content
Dislikes:

  • Having to adjust the shoulder pads
  • No external attachment points
  • No hydration compatibility


This concludes my report. I would like to thank the folks at RIBZWEAR and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test this pack.

 



Read more reviews of RIBZ Sportswear gear
Read more gear reviews by David Wilkes

Reviews > Packs > Frameless Backpacks and Day Packs > RIBZ Sportswear RIBZ front pack 2012 > Test Report by David Wilkes



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