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Reviews > Packs > Frameless Backpacks and Day Packs > Terra Nova Laser 20L Elite Pack > Test Report by David Heyting
Name: David Heyting
Height: 6’ 0”, 1.83 m
Weight: 205 lb, 93 kg
Chest: 46", 117 cm
Waist: 38", 97 cm
Sleeve: 36", 91 cm
City, State, Country: Snoqualmie, Washington, USA
I have been hiking and backpacking for over 15 years. A great deal of the backpacking that I do is related to mountaineering and rock climbing in the Pacific Northwest. When not climbing, I’m a hiker that tries to go light in order to push more miles. My main areas of exploration are the Washington Central and North Cascades, but I have done lots of hiking in the British Columbia Coastal Range as well as the Oregon Cascades. I am also an avid adventure racer and compete in several races each year ranging from 2 hours up to several days in duration.
Manufacturer: Terra Nova
Model: Laser Elite 20L Backpack
Suggested Use: Ultra-light multi-purpose backpack
Listed Weight: 7.4 oz / 210 g
Measured Weight: 7.5 oz / 213 g
Volume: 1220 cu in / 20 L
MSRP: $69.95 US
The Laser Elite 20L Pack (photo courtesy of Terra Nova)
The Laser Elite 20L backpack is Terra Nova’s attempt to develop a pack that is as close to carrying nothing as possible. The pack features padded shoulder straps, a hip belt with pockets, side compression, and storage pockets. All for at only 210g (7.4 oz). The top of the pack features a roll-top that is secured by two buckles. Access to the main compartment through the roll-top is done through a Velcro enclosure. Additional attachments can be made to both the side compression straps and the front shoulder straps.
The Laser is for all sorts of activities from hiking to adventure racing. The company’s website lists that the Laser comes from its Superlight race equipment line of products. Terra-Nova also offers a one year guarantee from original owner defects in materials and workmanship.
A close up of the hip pockets
November 20, 2009
My first thought was wow – this light! In taking a closer look at the pack, what really surprised me was the fact that despite the ultra light weight of the pack, it still includes some of the items that I find essential to a pack. Namely hip pockets and padded shoulder straps. And not to forget side compression straps to enable me to really cinch down the pack for running use.
The pack appears to be constructed with nylon product, however the company’s website does not list any information on the construction of the material. The material is very lightweight and almost has a translucent appearance. This will be a key element to this test to see how this product holds up during the testing period and how much abuse it can handle from being swiped by branches and other expected encounters.
View of the mesh side pocket and cinch cord.
The main access to the pack is very interesting as well. It features an opening that is secured via Velcro strap that is then part of a roll-top system and is secured by two buckles. The nice part about this is that it is easy to re-size the pack and keep things tightly packed. Thus when I am running the Laser will not be flopping around. However I wonder if this will make it harder to access the main compartment. I will be curious to see my experience with this item.
One item of note that I see as a potential problem when I have tried on the pack, is the length of the pack on my back. I am not the tallest person, however I am a little bit wider through the chest. Thus when wearing the Laser, I find that when I tighten down the shoulder straps, the waist belt is pulled up around my belly button. I have experienced this on other packs and my solution is to not use the waist belt as intended. However this will limit the effectiveness of the hip belt pockets.
Close up of the shoulder strap and padding.
Features to Test
I plan on using the Terra Nova for some hiking, trail running and adventure racing. On the calendar I am tentatively signed up for a race that will coincide with the testing period. I will try to carry some differing weights and see how well the pack performs. I will most likely use the pack for some mountain biking as well – since the pack is designed for all-purpose and adventure racing use. Most of this will take place in the Central Cascades and Issaquah Alps areas.
Initial Likes and Dislikes:
Likes: Lightweight with bells and whistles!
Dislikes: The sizing might be an issue.
February 1, 2010
During the Field Testing period, I was able to get out on 11 different trips with the Laser Elite backpack. All of these tests occurred in the Central Cascades, on the I-90 corridor. I did multiple trips on my local peaks: Mt. Si (4,167 ft, 1270 m) Rattlesnake Mt.(3,547 ft, 1081 m ), Tiger Mt. (3,004 ft, 916 m), Squak Mt. 2,024 ft, 617 m) and Cougar Mt. (1,595 ft, 486 m). Trip length ranged from 5 miles round trip to 13 miles (8 to 20 km) round trip. Many of the trips were done in the dark either in the evening or very early in the morning. Two of my trips included some light rain.
The Laser Elite 20L overall is a nice speed pack. Meaning a great lightweight pack that is good for shorter trips with minimal gear. As with any frameless pack, I made sure to load the pack so that something soft – for me it was typically my rain shell – was placed on the side of the pack that is adjacent to my back. Since the pack does not have any sort of internal frame, failure to do this can lead to a painful trip. I actually found that I only had to stop and adjust the pack's contents a couple of times during my trips, in order to rearrange the contents so that things weren't protruding into my back. The shoulder straps proved to be comfortable and easy to tighten down to create a more snug fit.
I did find the pack to be too short for my body. During periods of increased speed and motion, I found that the waist belt would ride up towards my belly button. Which I found to be quite annoying. For most of my trips I simply did not use the waist belt at all. I would strap the buckle and just let it dangle behind my back. I found this to be much more comfortable for me than having he waist belt around my stomach. This meant that I did not thoroughly test the hip pockets as I was not using the waist belt. I would say that based on my testing of stuffing the hip-belt pockets with items and food, the pockets could be a little bit bigger as even fitting in a Cliff Bar takes up the entire space. Due to the fact that I was not using the waist belt, the pack did seem to move around a bit more than with the hip-belt in use. Thus I actually added a chest strap and found that by doing this the pack rode quite nicely even without using the waist belt. At six feet tall, I do not consider myself to be super tall, so the fact that the waist-belt did not work was a little be frustrating.
The access to the pack through the main compartment was easy and convenient. I really like the Velcro closure on the top of the pack. I found it was easy to open and I liked how it closed securely. Thus I did not have to worry about anything falling out of the pack when taking the pack on and off or in case of a stumble. The roll down top is a nice feature to keep the pack extra sung, however I found that even without using the system the pack seemed to have a nice ride. Thus the roll down feature seemed to be a little bit on the overkill side of things. The two side pockets worked out for me as the perfect place to stuff my water bottles.
Two of my trips featured rain. During these trips I was happy to see that it took a while for the pack to completely soak through. The pack is not waterproof, but at least it could fend off a mild mist or drizzle.
Items for Continued Testing:
I am hoping to get in a short adventure race in with this pack. Adventure racing is listed as one of the activities that the pack is designed for. I usually compete in several each year and one does conincide with the testing period, so baring anything unforseen I am hoping to put the Laser Elite to the test in a race. I also want to try some trail running to see how well the pack performed at higher speeds, as on all of my trips I stuck with hiking. I will still try the waist belt a few more times to confirm my position that the waist belt just does not work for me.
Field Likes and Dislikes:
Likes: The pack is super light and still comfortable.
Dislikes: The waistbelt continually hitting my belly button rather than my waist.
Long Term Report
April 3, 2010
Long Term Conditions:
During the Long Term Testing period, I was able to get out on 8 different trips with the Laser Elite backpack. Like with the Field Testing period, all of these tests occurred in the Central Cascades, on the I-90 corridor. Again I hit up all of my local peaks: one trip up Mt. Si, 4,167 ft (1270 m), one trip up Rattlesnake Mt., 3,547 ft (1081 m), two trips up to Tiger Mt., 3,004 ft (916 m) – on one of the two trips I traversed over to South Tiger Summits 1 and 2 – all are about the same height, One trip on Squak Mt., 2,024 ft (617 m), two trips on Cougar Mt., 1,595 ft (486 m) and one trip up to the Granite Lakes area, 3,000 ft (916 m). Trip lengths ranged from 5 miles round trip to 13 miles (8 to 20 km) round trip. Generally I get out at least one day a week. Most of my trips were in all or partial dark as I am either up early in the morning or I am hiking by headlamp at night. The total trips for the testing period with the Laser Elite, were 19.
The Laser Elite.
Long Term Results:
Really I experienced more of the same as in the field report. The backpack is extremely lightweight, which I really like. It almost feels like I do not have a pack on at all. However I did continue to use the pack without bothering to buckle the waist strap as it continued to ride up to my stomach. Nevertheless I do not think this had much of an affect on the comfortableness of the pack for me. If packed properly the pack is comfortable on my back. Also when doing some light running, the pack did not have excessive moment, but rode snugly on my back. Thus I am not sure how much of a difference the waistbelt could have made. I do not view this as a major concern for me.
I was able to do a short sprint style adventure race course with the Laser Elite. I thought that this pack was a great fit for this type of endeavor. I was able to carry my running shoes, while riding my bike and still had room for some water, a jacket and the mandatory first aid kid and emergency gear. The weight savings and the design of this pack worked great for a 2 to 3 hour race. Based on my experience, for a 24-hour race in the summer, this pack would probably work as well. With the Velcro on the top opening, it was a little bit difficult to get in and out of the pack when I was in a hurry to get through a transition area.
I have not experienced any issues with the durability of this pack or seen any usual wear and tear. Even the Velcro opening is holding up well.
Velcro top opening.
I will continue to use the Terra Nova Laser Elite 20L Pack for many of my shorter local hikes. It is the perfect companion for me for my typical maintenance hikes. I will also use the Laser Elite for competing in sprint style adventure races. The fact that the pack weighs basically nothing, yet still has enough space to carry my running shoes for a remote bike to trek transition, is perfect. That way I am not stuck strapping my shoes to my pack and having them jolt around the entire race. The pack seems to be constructed well and has held up quite nicely. All in all a nice ultralight choice.
Long Term Likes and Dislikes:
Likes: The weight and comfort – and the weight to size ratio – not much weight for a decent carrying capacity.
Dislikes: Again, the waistbelt continually hitting my belly button rather than my waist.
This concludes my Report. Thank you to Terra Nova and BackpackGearTest for the chance to conduct this test!
Read more gear reviews by David Heyting
Reviews > Packs > Frameless Backpacks and Day Packs > Terra Nova Laser 20L Elite Pack > Test Report by David Heyting