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Reviews > Packs > Frameless Backpacks and Day Packs > Terra Nova Laser 20L Elite Pack > Test Report by arnold peterson

TERRA NOVA LASER 20L ELITE
TEST SERIES BY ARNOLD PETERSON
Terra Nova Laser 20L Elite Pack
Terra Nova Laser 20L Elite Pack

LONG-TERM REPORT

INITIAL REPORT - November 18, 2009
FIELD REPORT - January 26, 2010
LONG TERM REPORT - March 16, 2010

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Arnold Peterson
EMAIL: alp4982(AT)yahoo(DOT)com
AGE: 71
LOCATION: Wilmington Massachusetts USA
GENDER: M
HEIGHT: 5' 8" (1.73 m)
WEIGHT: 165 lb (74.80 kg)
BOOT SIZE 9

Backpacking Background: At this time almost all my experience has been hiking in New Hampshire, Florida, Colorado USA, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia Canada using an 11 lb. (5 kg) day pack. I have backpacked on Mt. Washington and at the IMP shelter located between North Carter and Mount Moriah mountains in New Hampshire. The gear I will be writing about has been used a lot hiking mostly all year around in New Hampshire. I have recently completed the forty-eight 4000 footers (1219 m) of New Hampshire. My day hikes have been as long as 12 hours covering almost 20 miles (32 km).


INITIAL REPORT

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer: Terra Nova Equipment LTD
Year of Manufacture: 2009
Manufacturer's Website: www.terra-nova.co.uk
MSRP: 45
Model: Laser 20 Elite
Listed Weight: 7.4 oz (210 g)
Measured Weight: 7.7 oz (218 g)
Listed Capacity: 20 L
Color: Green with black mesh pockets
Other details: Single main compartment, frameless, 2 zippered hip pockets, 2 side mesh bottle pockets, top loading roll top closure

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

The mainly light green body with black mesh pockets and straps makes the Laser Elite 20 eye appealing. Although very light in weight, the pack feels sturdy. It has wide thinly padded shoulder straps and even has a pair of small zippered hip pockets. The adjustable compression cords above the large mesh pockets help keep the pack trimmed. On the shoulder straps there are 3 small loops on the left side and five loops on the right side. The roll top opening is closed with a hook and latch system. The top of the bag is secured by 2 adjustable straps. This can help to prevent precipitation from entering the top of the pack. For a pack that weighs about as much as the average digital camera it has a lot of features found mostly in heavier packs.

READING THE INSTRUCTIONS

The only item that came with the Elite 20 was a small hang tag which gave a brief description of the 4 models in the Laser line of products.

TRYING IT OUT

I have a current medical restriction of 20 lb (9 kg) and this pack may make it possible to meet that goal. The first thing I had to find out is if there was a possibility to use the Laser Elite for backpacking. I first tried my tent and found it was too long to fit in, unless I leave the top of the pack open. My 30 F (-1 C) sleeping bag fits in as long as it is not in the stuff sack. The weather in my region is usually too cold for me to use that sleeping bag during the upcoming winter months. Then I read from the Terra Nova web site about a tent called the Laser Photon Elite that can be used with the Laser Elite 20 pack for a lightweight backpacking experience. I am a little disappointed that the anticipated winter weather will prevent me from backpacking with this pack during the test period. I did wear the pack with my tent, sleeping bag and 2 one liter bottles in the mesh pockets. This worked out to be about 10 lb (4.5 kg). I was quite comfortable with this weight and felt the padding was adequate especially with winter clothing on, testing will prove my speculation. Opening the pack is easy but requires some effort. There are 2 small loops at the center of the opening. A good tug with a finger in each loop opens the top of the pack. I may need to remove my gloves to open and close the pack. Closing the top is a little slower and with a little practice it was fairly easy. Getting something out of the pack while hiking will probably require taking off the pack. If I wanted help from a fellow hiker, I would have to squat and have them remove the item. Some fellow hikers may not want to be responsible for closing the pack.

I am so used to a chest strap that I found myself trying to pull the shoulder straps closer to each other. I noticed a pair of horizontal loops on the shoulder straps that could accommodate something that could act as a chest strap. I noticed that there are 3 loops on the right side at chest level and one loop on the left side at chest level. The single loop on the left side is at the same height as the center loop on the right side. My guess is the extra loops on the right side are for attaching additional items. I will be trying items like a camera, or cell phone. Near the bottom of the shoulder strap there are two vertical loops on each side, probably for attaching additional items.

The zippered pockets are water resistant. It was easy for me to put items in the hip pockets with the pack off my back. When I had the pack on, it was a lot more difficult for me to insert items. Part of this is that I am not as flexible as I used to be.
back view of pack
back view of pack

top of shoulder strap and hanging loop
top of shoulder strap and hanging loop

one liter bottle in mesh pocket
one liter bottle in mesh pocket

compression cord and rolltop securing st
compression cord and rolltop securing strap

waist belt
waist belt

hip pocket
hip pocket

items that can fir in hip pocket
items that can fir in hip pocket

SUMMARY

The Laser Elite 20 will meet my current goals of lightness. This pack appears to have all the necessary features to accommodate most of my needs in a small pack. I find the pack attractive and hope it will become a part of my regular equipment. I would like to have a little more padding on the shoulder pads and the hip pockets a little larger and placed closer to the belt buckle.

This concludes my Initial Report. The Field Report will be amended to this report in approximately two months from the date of this report. Please check back then for further information. I wish to thank BackpackGearTesters.org and Terra Nova for the opportunity to test the Laser Elite 20 pack.


FIELD REPORT

FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

Locations in New Hampshire

I hiked 4 hours with 4 other hikers on Old Bridle Path, Lafayette Mountain, it was about 28 F (-2 C), overcast with the ground partly covered with snow and ice. I also hiked for 2 hours at the Flume, on bare ground with the temperature around freezing.

Locations in Massachusetts

I hiked, and snowshoed in several forests where temperatures ranged from 10 F (-12 C) to 40 F (22 C). I also used the pack for carrying stuff for the volunteer work I do in Lowell. I went snowshoeing 3 times for about 8 hours and several hikes and volunteer work for a total of 14 hours.

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

I have found the Laser Elite has worked well in temperatures down to 10 F (-12 C) and the material was still very flexible. I have been comfortable with loads up to 12 lb (5.4 kg). I had expected some soreness due to the thinness of the shoulder straps, but this concern did not materialize. After using the pack several times and for quite a few hours I was surprised I did not miss having a breast strap. In some ways I prefer not having the breast strap. When I had a breast strap I got in the habit of hanging my hands from it and that put more pressure on my shoulders.

Carrying water

For water containers I typically refill one liter plastic juice bottles. The diameters I have used so far are 3.5 in (9 cm) and 3.25 in (8 cm). With a light loaded pack the bottles fit in easily into the pockets, but when the pack has more gear, the bottles have to be pushed in and there is enough flexibility in the mesh pockets to allow this to happen easily. In the next test period, I hope to be using a smaller diameter one liter bottle. I do have to take the pack off to get a drink, but now I am like the rest of the hikers who have always used various types of water bottles.

Dealing with trail obstacles

On the hikes I did in New Hampshire there were many trees that had fallen over the trail. I found myself pushing through the bush to get back to the regular trail. There were several places where I crawled under trees or climbed over trees to continue on the path. Due to the compact design of this pack, it stayed in place on my back making it easy for me to maneuver under these tight conditions. I did not get caught on branches and was better able to judge my clearance when crawling under trees. I did not get caught as I usually do with a regular pack. Most of the time it is easier for me to crawl under a tree than to go over a tree. The smaller profile of this pack made that possible.

Carrying capacity

I am surprised at the amount of gear I can put in this pack. More importantly I can get all the things I need for a winter day hike or a snowshoe. I have water, clothing, socks, gaiters, gloves, traction devices, and snacks. I found the pockets on the waist belt to be on the small side. I would like a little more space so my camera would fit easier. This will be especially true in warmer weather when I will not be carrying my camera in a chest pocket to keep my camera warmer.
Old Bridle Path,
Old Bridle Path,

Wilmington town park
Wilmington town park

Middlesex Fells Reservation
Middlesex Fells Reservation

local forest
local forest

SUMMARY

The 3 things I like about this pack are the lightness, storage capacity, and comfort while using the pack. I would like to have larger pockets on the waist belt. At this point I think I prefer a zipper to open the pack rather than the hook and latch system.

This concludes my Field Report. The Long Term Report will be amended to this report in approximately two months from the date of this report. Please check back then for further information. I wish to thank BackpackGearTesters.org and Terra Nova for the opportunity to test the Laser Elite 20 pack.


LONG-TERM REPORT

LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

Locations in Massachusetts: temperature; time duration; weather; field conditions; snow cover.

Harold Parker State Forest: 15 F (-9 C); 5 hours; sunny light wind; rolling hills with a lake and pools of water; mostly powder with some bare rock.
Merrimack River: 32 F (0 C); 4 hours; partly sunny; wind off water; rolling hills along river bank, mostly bare with icy patches.
Breakheart Reservation: 45 F (7 C); 2 hours; sunny; no wind; hills with rocky areas and ponds; very few patches of snow/ice.
Merrimack River: 46 F (26 C); 5 hours; sunny; no wind; rolling hills along river bank, completely bare with muddy areas.

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

Problem and resolution

On my first hike in this test period the hang loop detached at one end as I was picking up the pack. I had always been advised to pick up a pack by the hang loop as that is what it is made for. Being at the trailhead, I did not carefully inspect where the loop had been detached. While I was putting the pack on I heard a ripping sound and took the pack off right away. I found part of the shoulder strap had become detached from the pack. See picture below. Since the pack was made in the United Kingdom, I contacted customer service via email. I noted I was willing to repair the rip. I was notified that a replacement pack would be sent to me. A replacement pack arrived and I decided I would only use the hang loop to pick up the pack when the pack was empty. I had no further problem during the remainder of the test.
Problem area
Problem area


Hikes during this test period

I hiked 4 times for a total of 16 hours. I usually carried 2 L of water and that was usually enough. On longer hikes, I would have to add more bottles inside the pack, and as my outside bottles emptied, swap them with bottles from the inside. To get water, I either had to have someone get a bottle from outside the pack, or take the pack off, take a drink, and put the pack back on. The pack does go on and off easily. When there is no good place to put the pack down, I would ask for assistance. On one hike, I did have a couple 1/2 L bottles inside the pack and was able to isolate them from my back, so I did not feel any discomfort. I was hiking a little faster without snow, and in places where it was not wet or muddy, I had no trouble with the load shifting in my pack, nor did I did feel unstable due to the pack.
along Merrimack River
along Merrimack River


With proper loading, the pack was comfortable within certain ranges. The limits would be a combination of pack weight and hiking time. I found that with a load up to about 12 lb (5.4 kg), I could hike about 4-5 hours before I would begin to feel some discomfort. Under 4 hours I could carry a slightly larger load. I would not want to go over 15 lb (6.8 kg) for any period of time with this pack. If I had hard objects in the bag, I made sure there was something soft between the object and my back.

Attaching items to the pack

I was unable to find a way to attach items to the outside of the pack in order to carry them. The added items were uncomfortable, unstable, and just did not work for me.

Suburban uses

I carried a small laptop with a 13 in (33 cm) screen. I first put my laptop in a padded sleeve and then into the pack. I added some papers that I needed when I volunteer teach a student in Lowell. Because it is a softpack, my papers got ruffled. If I were to do this a lot, I would need protection for my papers. On short trips to the city, the pack is excellent for carrying a couple water bottles, a snack, and some light clothing or rain gear.

SUMMARY

The outstanding feature of this pack is the lightness. I found the pack to be stable on my back. I would be comfortable with a hiking load of 12 lb (5.4 kg) or less for many hours hours. On the down side the waist pockets are too small for me, and careful packing is needed for comfort. This is a great pack for most day hikes when emergency gear is not needed.

CONTINUED USE

I will continue using this pack for most day hikes not requiring a heavy load, and if I acquire light and space saving tent and sleeping bag, I will attempt backpacking with this pack.

This concludes my Long Term Report. I wish to thank BackpackGearTesters.org and Terra Nova for the opportunity to test the Laser Elite 20 pack.

This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.5 Copyright 2010. All rights reserved.
Read more gear reviews by arnold peterson

Reviews > Packs > Frameless Backpacks and Day Packs > Terra Nova Laser 20L Elite Pack > Test Report by arnold peterson



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