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Reviews > Packs > Frameless Backpacks and Day Packs > Terra Nova Laser 20L Pack > Test Report by Carol Crooker

TERRA NOVA LASER 20L PACK
TEST SERIES BY CAROL CROOKER
LONG-TERM REPORT

INITIAL REPORT - October 26, 2009
FIELD REPORT - December 30, 2009
LONG TERM REPORT - March 06, 2010

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Carol Crooker
EMAIL: cmcrooker AT gmail DOT com
AGE: 50
LOCATION: Phoenix, AZ
GENDER: F
HEIGHT: 5' 10" (1.78 m)
WEIGHT: 165 lb (74.80 kg)

For the past 10 years, I've backpacked about 30 days each year, usually in Arizona and the western mountains on trips that last 3 to 6 days. Weather has varied from 107 F to a low of 0 F (42 to -18 C). My three-season base pack weight varies from about 8 to 12 pounds (4 - 5 kg) and my winter base pack weight is about 18 pounds (8 kg). I normally use a tarp for shelter. I also packraft (backpacking that includes travel by raft) and apply the same lightweight principles I use backpacking.


INITIAL REPORT

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS

IMAGE 1
Manufacturer photo.
Manufacturer: Terra Nova
Year of Manufacture: 2009
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.terra-nova.co.uk
MSRP: GBP55.00
Listed Weight: 328 g (11.6 oz)
Measured Weight: 12.0 oz (340 g)
Features: Contoured back and hip belt, spacer mesh on the back panel and shoulder straps, full length water resistant zipper, two bottle pockets on hip belt, two zipped hip pockets, two mesh stow pockets, removable chest strap/whistle, front compression cords, zipped "change pocket," and internal hydration sleeve.

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

This is a sharp looking pack with a pleasing combination of black mesh and black fabric with greenish-yellow silnylon type fabric. The pack is very lightly padded on the shoulder straps and hip belt with padding in four places on the back panel - two patches over the hips and two patches over the shoulder blades. According to the manufacturer website, the pack is "[d]esigned for lightweight day use, adventure races and mountain biking." Although it is not explicitly stated, I believe the pack volume is 20 L (1220 in^3), which is quite tight even for a very minimalist warm weather overnighter.

Materials and workmanship look top notch on the Laser.

The bottle pockets on the hip belt are nice and deep and built for narrower bottles such as a bike bottle. The pockets can be closed at the top with a bungee, so smaller items could ride in these pockets. The bungee on the pockets is very small, about 2 mm (.08 in) in diameter. The same size bungee is used on the front of the pack. A length of bungee is used on each side of the front of the pack (instead of one length covering the whole front of the pack which would cross over the vertical zipper). The bungee could be used to secure something taller than the front mesh pockets. All four bungees can be adjusted with a cord lock. The bungees on the hip belt pockets are secured at one end by a knot where it feeds through a triangular tab. It is fairly easy to pull the knot through the hole in the tab that the bungee runs through. I will keep an eye on this during the test to see if the bungee pulls free on its own.

All the zippers on the pack are water resistant and slide open only with some effort. All the zippers have cord pulls which help to get a good grip for the unzipping. Besides the two hip belt pockets and main compartment, there is also a zippered pocket on the top, right of the front of the pack that is big enough to hold a fleece hat and gloves.

The main compartment has a vertical zipper. The only division inside the main compartment is a hydration sleeve.

The pack does not have a frame and can simply be folded in on itself to about the size of a very large grapefruit.

The sternum strap is adjustable up and down and can be removed completely.

The fabric used on the Laser is thin - about the same weight or slightly heavier than I have seen in silnylon packs. The manufacturer website does not specify what the fabric is. The exterior feels like silnylon, but the interior feels almost as if it has a very thin urethane coating. There is a heavier weight half-circle of fabric forming the bottom of the pack.

READING THE INSTRUCTIONS

No instructions are included with the pack or online. The design is straight forward, although I'm not sure what the intended use is for two features on the shoulder straps. There is a two loop daisy chain on each shoulder strap and two elastic loops on each shoulder strap, one above the sternum strap, and one below. I speculate that these allow another way to attach water bottles.

TRYING IT OUT

I took the Laser to the zoo along with my four-year-old niece and my sister the day after it arrived. The pack does not have a frame but it felt fine with an approximate 10 lb (4.5 kg) load that rode in the bottom of the pack. It sagged from my shoulders as I would expect from a frameless, under loaded pack, but stayed in place nicely once I fastened the hip belt.

I carried a water bottle in each hip belt holster and one in a back mesh pocket.

The water bladder sleeve helped me to segregate items in the main body of the pack. I put my wallet and keys in the bladder sleeve and lots of snacks outside the sleeve.

One zippered hip belt pocket held a small digital camera and the other some lip balm. The hip pocket kept my camera accessible, but the stiff zipper made it slightly inconvenient to extract my camera.

I have a 19 inch (48 cm) torso and the Laser is just long enough for me with a light load. I will test it fully stuffed to see if that brings the hip belt up above my hips. I prefer a hip belt to fall at my hips, but for a small pack like the Laser, the belt is meant more to hold the pack against the body than to transfer the load to the hips, so a higher riding hip belt is still functional.

SUMMARY

The Terra Nova Laser 20L pack is well built. My initial impression is that the features have been carefully thought out and will prove to be useful and conveniently placed. Testing will tell if this is the case.


FIELD REPORT

FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITION

IMAGE 1
Stuffed full for an overnight trip.
November 1, 7, 21, and 28; December 5, 12, 19, 26 South Mountain Park, near Phoenix, Arizona
Elevation 1200 ft (370 m)
Weather warm for the desert (not hot), about 85 - 65 F (29 - 18 C) and bright.
Day hikes on rocky, desert trails typically lasting an hour and a half.

December 15 and 16 Superstition Mountains, near Phoenix, Arizona
Elevation 2400 - 3600 ft (730 - 1100 m)
The temperature ranged from 71 to 35 F (22 - 2 C) with almost no wind.
This was a quick overnight out and back to Bluff Springs on rocky desert trails.

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

I used the Laser mostly for day hiking at South Mountain Park here in Phoenix during field testing. I typically carried a tall, narrow water bottle in one belt bottle pocket, with lip balm and an energy bar in one of the zippered hip belt pockets and a jacket in the main pack bag. The tiny bungee cord pulled out of its retaining tab when I put a water bottle in a pocket on my first day hike. I added another knot to the end of the cord and the bungee has stayed in place since. The pack rides easily on my back. The zippers are stiff as I mentioned in the Initial Report. I haven't encountered the type of weather that would make me appreciate water resistant zippers, so I lament the stiffness.

I used the small front zip pocket to keep my car keys easily accessible.

IMAGE 2
Rear view of overnight pack.
I used the Laser with a water bladder and one bottle for six day hikes at South Mountain Park. The pack carried well, hugging my body. I noticed that since there is only thin nylon down the center back of the Laser, the water bladder was cool on my back. The bladder settled nicely into a pocket for that purpose inside the Laser. There is a hook above the pocket to attach a bladder to so it doesn't slump. I threaded the water bladder hose through an elastic strip near the top of the shoulder strap and through a second strip lower down. The hose stayed in place and out of the way. The bladder mouth piece was conveniently located for sipping.

The waist belt pockets are very handy for holding small items and I can zip and unzip them with one hand. When the pockets are fully loaded, my arms brush against them but it is not much of a nuisance, especially when using trekking poles. I don't think the pockets can be moved back any further and still be accessible. I gladly trade this small inconvenience for the accessible storage.

I made a comment in my Initial Report about the Laser being small (20 L, 1220 in^3) for even a warm weather overnighter. I can now attest that it is big enough for a comfortable overnight trip with temperatures down to 35 F (22 C). I packed ultralight of course, but I didn't pack for a suffer fest. I included my favorite chair and a 20 F (-7 C) down quilt along with a small inflatable sleeping pad. I used all the pockets and the Laser was stuffed so full the seams were stressed (see photo). The hardest thing to pack was my stove kit which fit inside a 600 ml (20 oz) titanium cup. I ended up fitting that--barely--into one of the bottle pockets on the belt.

IMAGE 3
Stressed seams.
The Laser initially rode quite high packed for my overnight, but after lengthening the straps the waist belt dropped to about hip level which transferred some of the pack weight (which started at 11 lb, 5 kg) from my shoulders. The shoulder straps are wide enough to distribute pressure even though they are very thinly padded.

It turns out the Laser is just the right size to hold my double-chamber-blow-up pillow (see photo).

I took the Laser back to the zoo again. It held a coat, some snacks for my niece and me, my wallet, camera and some other small items easily and carried nicely. The waist belt needed to be fastened or the pockets were left flapping and got in the way.

SUMMARY

IMAGE 4
Just the right size for a pillow.
The Laser is a very nice pack. It is a good volume for day hikes and is well constructed and designed. I've listed some dislikes below but I had to search for them and I've also listed an acceptable tradeoff for each dislike.

What I like:
- Well constructed and designed
- Attractive
- Lightweight yet fairly sturdy
- Waist belt pockets conveniently hold multiple small items
- Small front zip pocket useful for keeping keys handy
- Rides well
- Good volume for day hikes: enough space to hold cooler weather clothing yet small enough for warm weather hikes with minimal gear

What I don't like:
- Zippers are stiff (but their water resistance might be handy in wet weather)
- Water bladder is chilly against the back through thin fabric (a good tradeoff to minimize weight)

Check back in two months for my Long Term Report.


LONG-TERM REPORT

LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

January 1, 10, 16, and 23; February 6, 13, 20 and 27 South Mountain Park, near Phoenix, Arizona
Elevation 1200 ft (370 m)
Weather warm for the desert (not hot), about 85 - 60 F (29 - 16 C) and usually bright.
Day hikes on rocky, desert trails typically lasting an hour and a half.

January 21 Phoenix neighborhood
Elevation 1200 ft (370 m)
Temperature around 60 F (16 C), very windy and lightly raining.
A walk with the dog around the neighborhood.

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

During the long term test phase I continued to use the Laser for day hikes but stopped carrying a partially full water bladder as I had during the field report phase. I found that the pack rode looser without the water bladder to give it shape and that I needed to use the sternum strap to keep the pack straps from sliding off my shoulders when I wore a slippery jacket (as opposed to a cotton shirt). I don't count this as a flaw since fastening the sternum strap was an easy fix.

The sternum strap was too high on my chest in its delivery configuration but there were spots to lower it two spaces or raise it one. Moving the strap required unthreading and rethreading the nylon strap through a tri-glide for each side but the change only required a minute.

It was windy and rainy one day, so when I took the dog for a walk, I wore the Laser. The pack contents remained dry after a half hour walk in light rain.

I used the Laser for a quick overnighter during the field report phase. I had to really stuff the pack to get all my gear inside, so much so that I could see that the seams were stressed. (I included a photo of the seams in my Field Report.) The seams may have been stretched during that trip, but they have not failed and the pack still looks like new.

SUMMARY

The Laser is a nicely constructed and engineered pack. It has plenty of space for everything I need on day hikes, yet is light enough that I don't begrudge carrying it even when I only need to tote water and snacks. I like the waist belt, waist belt pockets and easily accessible bottle pockets. I probably will not use it for another overnight trip since getting all my gear in was a tight squeeze and I have another pack that weighs about the same but with more volume.

My list of likes/dislikes has not changed since the Field Report.

CONTINUED USE

I expect to continue using the Laser for longer day hikes when I need to carry extra snacks, water, or a jacket and for short day hikes in the cooler months when I want to be able to stuff a jacket into the pack after I warm up.

This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.5 Copyright 2010. All rights reserved.

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