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Reviews > Packs > Frameless Backpacks and Day Packs > RIBZ Sportswear > Test Report by brad banker

RIBZWEAR - RIBZ FRONT PACK SYSTEM
TEST SERIES BY BRAD BANKER
LONG-TERM REPORT
May 26, 2009

CLICK HERE TO SKIP TO THE FIELD REPORT
CLICK HERE TO SKIP TO THE LONG-TERM REPORT

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Brad Banker
EMAIL: brad_banker@hotmail.com
AGE: 35
LOCATION: Greensboro, NC, USA
GENDER: M
HEIGHT: 6' 0" (1.80 m)
WEIGHT: 240 lb (109.00 kg)

I went on my first backpacking trip at 5 years old, and hiked quite a bit growing up. I picked it back up again in my 20's and have regularly backpacked now for over 10 years. I backpack the mountains of North Carolina and Virginia on 1-5 night solo or group trips, mostly on or around the Appalachian Trail in all seasons in temperatures from 90+ F (32 C) to under 0 F (-17 C). My companions are my wife and my two golden retrievers, or whoever wants to disappear into the woods for a while.


INITIAL REPORT

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer: Ribzwear
Year of Manufacture: 2008
Manufacturer's Website: www.ribzwear.com
MSRP: US$ 59.95
Listed Weight: 18 oz (524 g)
Measured Weight: 12 oz (338 g)
Other details:
Ribz is a front/ side pack system that offers 800ci of space for easily accessible storage.

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

Ray from Ribzwear called me before he sent the pack system, due to my measurements being on the upper end of the large size with with full layers on. In sizing the pack system the measurements used were waist and bust size, My waist is 38 in (97 cm), but being a larger chested male at 6'0"(1.58 m) and 240 lb(109 kg) or so my bust was 53 in (135 cm) with the total sum of all of my possible cold weather layers. Ray said that the sizing tends to follow the waist size more so than the bust size, due to the pack's position on the ribs. He recommended the large size. The pack system is significantly lighter than advertised on the website on my scale.

Initial impressions:
The pack seems very sturdy and constructed of tough nylon material. The material seems to have good potential to be water and abrasion resistant. The shoulder straps are 1.5 in (3.81 cm) wide and are also made of lightweight tough nylon material. The stitching seems very solid all in all areas.
The measurements of each panel on the large sized pack are 17 in x 12.5 in (43.18 cm x 31.75 cm). The pack panels are connected in the back by three elastic straps and in the front by a zipper. The zipper teeth are heavy duty plastic with metal pulls. There are nylon pull tabs attached to the ends of th zipper pulls for quick access. There is a double thickness webbing strap sewn on the bottom of the pockets at the base of the pack. I'm not sure as to its purpose (it may have one), but I see a possible place where weight may be trimmed off to decrease the weight of the pack system in this feature. Also, the zippers seem very sturdy and remind me of the zippers on a life vest for water skiing. The front of the pack system is zipped shut like a life vest as well, which seems to me to be appropriate for this type of zipper, bit the zip closures on the pockets may be best served by a smaller lighter zipper type.
IMAGE 1
Ribz front

IMAGE 2
Ribz open

IMAGE 3
Ribz side

The pack system is made of two panels. In each panel there are two zip pockets. The largest pocket in each panel zips open from the top. This main pocket is further subdivided into one long pocket the entire length of the side of the pack toward the outside, and another bisected set of pockets deep to that. Also on each panel there are pockets that zip from the front, rather than the top, on either side.
IMAGE 6
Ribz top pocket open

IMAGE 7
Ribz front pocket open

The pack system fits snugly, but is very comfortable. I notice that the elastic bands in connecting the panels in the rear allow for significant volume changes with different layering options. The shoulder straps are easily adjustable. This may be a good thing in the long term for me, in that unfortunately my weight tends to yo-yo from 220-250 lbs (100-113 kg) , and I also backpack in all seasons. I therefore vary quite a bit in size throughout the year(s). My initial impression is that this product shows promise in keeping up with this size factor.
IMAGE 4
Ribz on front

IMAGE 5
Ribz on back

READING THE INSTRUCTIONS

No specific instructions were included. It seemed self explanatory to me. Zip the front to close, adjust the straps to fit, put stuff in the pockets.

MY HISTORY WITH FRONT PACKS

Years ago, after college, I backpacked Europe for 5 months. I think my starting pack weight was somewhere around 70 lbs (31.75 kg). This type of backpacking was completely different from wilderness backpacking. This type of packing was mostly riding trains, walking city streets, country roads, and going from hostel to hostel from September through February from Neutron Africa to Denmark. One method I developed to balance my heavy load was carrying a day pack on the front of my chest. I found it balanced my load very well, and I had easy access to water, camera, guide book and maps, food and rain gear. It also kept my money and passport near my hands. Pickpockets are sneaky there in the touristy areas.
I have, in the years since, tried to perfect and modify this system for wilderness backpacking. I have tried many types of front packs. The old day pack was too heavy for this type of application, and after years of trial and error, I have settled on a method that I am satisfied enough with not to radically change, but not satisfied enough with to stop looking. I've settled. Something I don't like to do. I use a small fanny pack style system clipped around my waist with the buckle in the back, hanging over my hip belt of my pack. I tend to keep my map, knife, first aid kit, firestarter, headlamp, some food, a bandanna and whatever else I can cram into it. It's not super comfortable, but not too annoying. It works somewhat as a daypack, if I clip a couple of Nalgenes to it with carabiners. I must admit I am quite excited about testing this product and putting it to use as a way to balance weight from front to back and as a multi-purpose item as a day pack.
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IMAGE 9
Ribz loaded side

IMAGE 10
Ribz loaded back

SUMMARY

This concludes my Initial Report. Please be on the lookout for my Field Report in two months after some cold weather testing. I would like to thank Ribzwear and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test this pack.


FIELD REPORT

FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

This pack was tested in winter conditions as a complement to my regular smaller-sized 3000ci (50L) pack system to make a lighter winter system. I used it on 2 separate 3-day and 1 4-day overnight backpacking trips in snow/ sleet/ freezing rain in southwest Virgina along the Appalachian Trail at altitudes of 5700 ft (1737 m) in temperatures varying from 0 F (-18 C) to 40 F (7C) as planned. In addition to the overnight trips it was used as day pack on 5 day hikes in central North Carolina at elevations of 400 (122 m)ft to 800 ft (244 m) in more moderate temperatures.

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

Overall, I have been very pleased with this pack's performance. I found it to be very comfortable as a day pack and in addition to my backpack. I decided to put my first aid and toiletry supplies, camera, knife, fire starter, bandanna, glasses, sunglasses, hat, rain jacket, gloves, snacks, 2 soda bottles with water, water filter, and emergency supplies in it for both dayhiking and backpacking. I found that the volume of items that I wished to stow fit nicely into the system. I consider these items essential for both applications.

Structurally I have been pleased with several things:
1. The durability of the pack so far overall.
2. The zippers are solid and sturdy.
3. The straps are functional, adjustable and comfortable.
4. The elastic bands in the back do a good job of allowing the pack to flex and adjust with movement and layering. I honestly sometimes forget it is on.
5. The pocket configuration works well for me. The front access pockets work well for maps, bandanna, and more flat type items. The top load pockets and multiple places to put things in are surprisingly high capacity.


I have identified a few issues or weakness that may be improved upon:
1. The nylon on the inside near the zippers has frayed slightly, and threatens to get caught in the zippers from the inside.
IMAGE 1
nylon around zipper

2. For an ultralight application, I would recommend a smaller, lighter zipper for the pockets, although the original zipper may be perfect for the front closure.
3. There seems to be an excessive amount of strapping sewn to the bottom of the pockets. Initially I had questions as to the purpose of this material and still don't understand its purpose. It may be unnecessary weight, but of course it may have a structural benefit of which I am not aware.
4. I would not hesitate to consider this a lightweight modular backpacking component, but it would be a stretch to call it ultralight, although an ultralight version would be easy to configure from this design.

SUMMARY

Overall, I am very pleased with the Ribz Front Pack System as of this field report. It has survived cold, wet, snow, ice and a big guy who is rough on his gear for several months, and I will continue to utilize it for the foreseeable future. I have found that the nylon material is water resistant to a greater degree than anticipated.
IMAGE 2
RIBZ in the winter

TESTING STRATEGY

I plan to continue to use this pack to amend my small volume pack and as a day pack. I want to put a bit more wear on it, and will then follow up with my long term report and some more pictures to demonstrate the wear and tear.


LONG-TERM REPORT

LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

I have used this front pack system in winter rain, snow and sleet as a complement to my regular smaller-sized 3000ci (50L) pack system to make a lighter winter system. I used it on 4 separate 3-day and 2 4-day overnight backpacking trips in snow/ sleet/ freezing rain in southwest Virgina along the Appalachian Trail at altitudes of 5700 ft (1737 m) in temperatures varying from 0 F (-18 C) to 40 F (7C) as planned. In addition to the overnight trips it was used as day pack on 10 day hikes in central North Carolina at elevations of 400 (122 m)ft to 800 ft (244 m) in more moderate temperatures.I have used it in warm spring weather, including rain and sun. The majority of its use was as a secondary front pack to my light weight pack to improve the volume of my winter backpacking system. I have also used it as a day pack in several configurations: with and without a hydration pack, as a stand alone pack, and for other outdoor adventures such as trail work and range shooting.

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

Overall I have been very pleased with the performance of this pack in the field. It is lightweight, although I would hesitate to call it ultralight (for the purists out there), but as I am only a lightweight backpacker and not a gram weenie I am very satisfied with it.
It has withstood rain, wind, snow, snowmelt, sleet and held up very well. It is relatively water resistant and the zippers are easy to manipulate with gloves or mitts on.
I attempted to use it mountain biking, but found that my knees bumped the pack when pedaling, so I discontinued its use for that purpose.
The one drawback to using it as a pack is that it is difficult (though not impossible) to use with a hydration bladder, although I was able to dedicate one side of the pack to a 3 L (101 oz) hydration bladder. It makes the pack feel off balance to me, but is doable. I have found that carrying 2 20 oz (.59 L) soda bottles and my filter tends to work well for most day and backpacking trips. This also helps me balance out the weight a bit by carrying one bottle on each side.
I feel the pack contains ample room for a daypack or front pack addition to a lightweight backpacking system, or simply as a volume extender for longer or cold weather trips.
Essentially my report is unchanged from my field report. No significant increase in wear has occurred from last report either, which I did not expect to be the case. There was some fraying around the interior of the pack at the zipper, which is pictured in the Field Report. I had originally planned to document the progressive wear, but it has not shown up yet, after 6 months of use.
I still have not determined the purpose of the extra strapping along the bottom of the pack, but it does not affect the product's performance in my opinion.

SUMMARY

In summary, I have been very pleased with the performance of this product. It has served well as a accessory component to my winter packing system, as a day pack and as an all around gear hauler. Again I would call it lightweight, but not ultralight. In my opinion an ultralight version could be easily made by removing excess strapping, paring down the zipper size, possibly pack volume and going with a lighter weight material. That being said, it works great for me and my proposes, but of course as I have said earlier, I am a big guy who is rough on my gear. RIBZ has stood up to the test so far.

CONTINUED USE

I plan to continue to use RIBZ front pack system for backpacking, hiking and other outdoor adventures. Thanks to BGT and RIBZ for the opportunity to test this product.

This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1. Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.

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