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Reviews > Packs > Internal and External Framed Backpacks > Lowe Alpine Cerro Torre > Test Report by Sam Stamey

LOWE ALPINE CERRO TORRE
TEST SERIES BY
LONG-TERM REPORT

INITIAL REPORT - October 21, 2009
FIELD REPORT - January 18, 2010
LONG TERM REPORT - March 15, 2010

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Sam Stamey
EMAIL: samstamey at yahoo dot com
AGE: 43
LOCATION: Santa Rosa, CA
GENDER: m
HEIGHT: 6' 0" (1.83 m)
WEIGHT: 170 lb (77.00 kg)

Backpacking background: I started backpacking two years ago with my wife and two children (ages 8 and 10 at the time). We have been car camping for 20+ years. Most of our backpacking has been three season camping in the Sierras, 6000 -12,000 ft (1800 m - 3658 m) and on the Northern California Coast. We mostly do a combination of car camping and backpacking. Our family recently switched from one 4 person tent to using two 2 person tents. I usually carry most of the weight and my internal frame pack weighs between 40-50 lb (18-22 kg).


INITIAL REPORT

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer: Lowe Alpine
Year of Manufacture: 2009
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.lowealpine.com/
MSRP: US$ 279.95
Listed Weight: 5lbs 4oz (2.89kg)
Measured Weight: 6lbs 2oz (2.81kg)
Listed Volume: 4000 + 1200cu in (65 - 85L)
Listed Load Zone: 55 - 70lbs (25 - 32kg)
Other details:
Material: NHC330 - "High abrasion resistant lightweight fabric" / N630 - "an extremly tough denier nylon fabric"
Internal water bladder storage
Floating Lid - Lid straps lengthen to accommodate added volume.
Pole holders
External bottle pockets
Built in rain cover
Custom Torso adjustment
Front door access to main area of bag.

PRODUCT INFO AND INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

The Lowe Alpine Cerro Torre is a large pack suitable for carrying large loads for extended periods of time. This size pack is generally targeted towards hikers who are going out for more than a weekend or need to carry a large load.

The Cerro Torre falls into the TFX - Torso Fit Expedition range in their 2010 pack catalog and is described as a classic Lowe Alpine trekking/expedition pack. The key features listed in the catalog for this pack are:

TFX back system for maximum load carrying comfort.
Patented adaptiveFit hip belt for personalized comfort
Front entry system gives wide access to the contents
Strong lash points allow items to be added to the outside of pack

The TFX system has three levels of back systems: TFX6, TFX8, and TFX10. This pack utilizes the TFX10 system which includes -

TorsoFit - Used to adjust the fit to meet user's unique body shape.
TorsoMotion - Allows the torso to twist and the hip belt to rotate to allow the body's natural movement while hiking.
Supportive AirChannel - Allows for air flow on the back while at the same time giving support.
AdaptiveFit - Harness and hip belts automatically adjust to the wearers shape just my tightening them.
Rebound Foam - Very resilient foam designed to return to its original shape after being deformed for a long time.
I will be figuring out how to take advantage of these features and testing them over the next several months.

The pack is a 65:85 which is Lowe Alpine's new naming convention for their packs. This name shows that it is a 65 liter pack which expands to 85 liters.

The pack itself seems to be very well constructed. The seams are triple sewn, capped with seam tape and then sewn again. The pack has reinforcements at the high stress areas such as the where the shoulder straps are attached to the pack.
The zippers and pulls appear very durable. The buckles are made from some type of high impact plastic to keep them light and strong. There are enough straps and cinches to compress the pack and still have plenty of room to attach external items such as ropes, hats, and camp shoes.

The pack material is a combination of NHC330 - "High abrasion resistant lightweight fabric" and N630 - "an extremely tough denier nylon fabric". It feels durable and flexible. I could not find any information on weather the material is waterproof.

This is a top loader pack that also has two larger zippers on the front for accessing the pack without going in through the top. One of the openings in the front is low down on the pack and is an access to the sleeping bag compartment. The other zipper access opening is very large and opens into the main part of the pack. There is a panel between the two compartments to keep items our of the sleeping bag area. This panel zips all the way open and can be pushed out of the way to make one big compartment.

Behind the hip belt, on the sides of the pack, are two large open top pockets for storing gear or water bottles. The hip belt itself is well padded and adjustable both around the waist and also has straps to pull the pack closer to the body.

The top lid has two large compartments in it, one on the outside and one on the inside. The lid straps adjust to make the lid sit on top of the pack even when the pack is extended to the full capacity. The top lid also has international SOS signal instructions printed on the inside.

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Along with the pockets on the lid for storage is a pocket on the lid to store the rain cover which is a bright orange cover that folds up and stores in the pocket when not in use. Putting the cover on the pack is very easy to do by unfolding he cover and stretching it over the pack. The cover has elastic around the edges and a drawstring to tighten it around the pack and is big enough to cover the pack when it is fully loaded.

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The pads for the upper back, ventilated center back and upper shoulders seem well padded and designed. The pads on the shoulder belts do not seem to me that well padded for a pack this size. I feel that with this pack fully loaded those pads may not be adequate protection for my shoulders, but I will find that out in the field test. The hip belt has a quick adjust buckle to tighten or loosen the pack around my waist easily. The sternum belt is adjustable as well and also has some elastic in it which allows the strap to expand when my chest expands.

The center back vertical pads (shown in picture on right) seem like a good design for keep air flowing between the pack and my back. I may not fully see the benefit of that ventilation until the spring /summer season when I will carry the pack with only a shirt between me and the pack instead of a jacket.






A small pouch, that can be attached to the shoulder strap, came with the pack and looks like it will fit a GPS, Cell phone, or small camera.

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On the outside of the pack are many places to attach items such as shoes, hats, gloves, etc. One of the features that I thought was really cool is the ability to easily strap on walking sticks to the sides of the pack. I often use my walking sticks but don't always want to carry them in my hands and attempt to strap them on to my pack somehow.

Lowe Alpine solved this issue for me by providing an adjustable elastic strap on the side of the pack near that center to wrap around my walking stick and then toward the bottom attached to the ice axe loop is a small disk with an X in it to put the pointed end of my stick into to hold it on the pack.

READING THE INSTRUCTIONS

There were no instructions that came with the pack and no information that I could find on the website. I did find out that this is a 2010 pack and it appears that Lowe Alpine has not released this pack to the public at the time of this review. I am on my own for figuring out how this pack works and what all the bells and whistles are on the pack.

TRYING IT OUT

IMAGE
Adjusting the pack to fit my frame was fairly easy. I first had to measure my back and then go to the Lowe Alpine website to get the color coding that corresponds with the length of my back. Once I got that I simply pulled the lower back pad away from the pack and slipped the "tongue" out of the pack, loosened the strap that holds the shoulder harness in place and adjusted it by either tightening or loosening it until the shoulder harness matched up to the color coded line on the lower back pad "tongue". This is hard to explain but easy to do with the pack in front of me. The picture on the right should help explain the adjustment process.

Putting on the pack was very as easy as any other pack that I have tried on. I first loosen all of the hip belt an shoulder straps, put the pack on my back and then adjust the straps so that the pack fits snug but not too snug.

SUMMARY

The Lowe Alpine Cerro Torre 65:85 is a large pack suitable for week plus trips, winter camping, or packing in a lot of gear for a weekend trip. It has many features that make it easy to organize such as front access zippers, three zippered pockets, water bottle pockets, hydration sleeve and walking stick straps. External straps and attach points will make it easy for me to cinch the load and strap down my extra gear.

This pack looks durable and should last a long time with the proper care. I am very excited to test this pack out in the field.


FIELD REPORT

FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

I have had this pack out on trips to the California Coast at Point Reyes and to Lake Sonoma California and into a local State park (Annadel State Park) in my town. A total of about 7 days and about 25 -30 miles (40.25 - 64 km) with this pack on.
IMAGE 1


The trips have been cool and dry for the most part with a little moisture from fog. I have not experienced rain or snow with the pack yet and have not hiked on any really hot days. I would say the temperatures have been 50 - 70 F (10- 21 C) and the altitudes have been between sea level and 1000 ft (305 m).

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

The backpack has worked well for me so far. There have been no issues of failure or manufacturing defects. All straps, pads, zippers, and openings have worked without a problem.

Here are some of the things that I have noticed in the field:
IMAGE 2IMAGE 3


Straps/pads/buckles:
The hip pads are generously padded and I am thankful for that. I have not had any abrasions or hot spots from the hip pads. The straps to adjust the hip belt are strong and placed in just the right places for me to reach and adjust them. The main buckle for the hip belt is large which makes it very easy for me to adjust the belt quickly while on the go. The straps slide nicely and easily tighten or loosen.
The shoulder straps are not as padded as I would have thought for this size pack although I have not really noticed any pain in my shoulders. I will continue to observe the pads to see how they wear and if they breakdown at all in the next couple of months. The shoulder straps also slide very well and are easily adjusted and reachable.

The chest strap has a bit of elastic in it that gives me a little more breathing room for my chest. The flexibility of the strap makes it so I do not need to adjust the chest strap nearly as I often as I do with my pack that does not have that flexibility. The chest strap also has the capability to slide up and down my chest so that I can move it if I feel any irritation or if I need to adjust how high or low the pack is sitting on my back.
IMAGE 4


Overall the straps and buckles work well together and make it easy to adjust the pack for comfort.
The pack has a large front flap that opens to the inside of the main compartment via a zipper and buckles which I thought would be great for quickly grabbing or storing gear. I have tested this a few times and have personally found that it is more trouble than helpful. In order for me to get the flap open I need to unbuckle the top lid (if I have a smaller load and the lid comes down over the flap.), unbuckle four buckles and then unzip the compartment. If I have anything strapped to the outside of the pack then I also need to remove that first. At that point I might as well just open the top and reach in for my gear or stow my gear. Once I get the flap open I need to pray that the gear above the flap will not fall out or adjust itself so that I cannot get the gear in the correct place to zip the flap back up. I feel that Lowe Alpine can do away with this access and save weight without the zipper and buckles.
IMAGE 5

Inside the pack there is a zippered separator that I have found useful. I can zip it all the way open so that I have one large compartment, zip it closed so that I have two separate compartments or leave it half way open so that I can put long items, such as a sleeping pad, down to the bottom but then still have a "shelf" to help with packing and distributing weight around the pack.

The lid has two good sized zippered compartments and one small compartment for the rain cover. The large compartments are great for my small items such as keys, pencils, journal, flashlight, etc.; all the items that I need easy access to and don't want to lose in the main compartment.

The lid also has three straps on it to make it "float" up and down depending on the size of my load. The straps adjust easily and the front two straps have nice buckles on them and let me crank the lid down tight to better secure my load. The lid is removable if I wanted to save some weight but I enjoy the small pockets and the "security" of having a lid to keep rain and other items out of my pack. I also like the straps to cinch down the lid.

The two pockets on the side of the pack are good sized and hold my one liter water bottles with ease. The only issues that I have with them is that they are so far back that it is a big effort for me to reach them both when I am removing items and especially when I am trying to put something in them while I have the pack on.

My only real wish for this pack is for a couple of small pockets on the main pack, either inside or outside. I like to have some pocket choices for items that tend to get lost such as cameras or GPS units.


SUMMARY

So far in my field testing of this pack I have found it to be a well built product with quality stitching, construction, and hardware. The size of the pack is good for weekend trips and holds all of the equipment that I need.

The packs straps, pads, and buckles all work well and are easy to adjust both off the trail and on the trail. The zippers and openings have all worked well so far and I have no complaints.

Other than the outside pockets being too far back on the pack for my reach and my desire for a couple of more outside zippered pockets, I cannot think of any other changes I would make or request.

Over the next two months I will put some more trips on this pack including a snow trip or two to find out how this pack works in the cold.

This concludes my Field Report on the Lowe Alpine Cerro Torre. Please check back in two months for my
Long-Term Report on this item.


LONG-TERM REPORT

LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

Over the course of this long term test I have taken this pack on about 15 day and overnight trips: from sea level to nearly 6500 ft. (1981 m) around Lake Tahoe California.
The weather for the last two months has included a lot of rain and some snow and ice. The temperature has ranged between 17 F and 50 F (-8.3 C and 10.0 C)

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

No complaints about the packs performance during the entire testing period. The packs straps, buckles and zippers performed without any malfunctions or mishaps.

IMAGE 1

All of the stitching held up nicely and other than a few small scratches here and there on the pack, there are very little signs of four months of use on this pack.

Over the last few months I was able to take the pack on some overnight and day trips in the snow. I found that the pack was large enough to pack my snow items in and there was plenty of space and tie-downs on the outside to strap my snow shoes and poles. The pole straps on the side of the pack were very handy and easy to use. I simply put the point into the plastic holder and then wrapped the built in straps around the poles to hold them close to my pack. The straps are located in a nice place on the sides of the pack that keep them out of the way.

I was curious to find out how the zippers and buckles would work in the snow and with gloves on. I found that the zippers worked without a problem in the snow and ice. They did not freeze or get stuck when I tried to open them. The pulls have nice big grips on them so it was easy to grab them with my gloves on. I still did not take advantage of the large zipper to get into the pack instead of putting everything through the top. I felt that it shifted the load too much to open that zipper. I do not mind and actually prefer to use it as a top loader.

The buckles worked well in the snow and ice as well but it was a little harder getting the buckles undone with gloves on. This was expected and no harder than any other buckle I have tried to undo with gloves on. The straps adjusted smoothly during the entire testing period.

I had some trouble getting the pack adjusted correctly to the length of my back. I noticed this early on in the testing and thought that I needed to get used to the pack and I would figure it out but I don't think I have yet. It is not that adjusting the frame is hard. As a matter of fact Lowe Alpine has made the adjusting of the frame very easy with the color coordinated adjustments system. My problem is getting the back adjusted, the shoulder straps, and hip belt, adjusted to match. I have a 21 in. (53 cm) back which makes it a little harder I believe because it is on the uppers side of the adjustment for the pack. I just can't seem to get it adjusted correctly so that the lower part of the pack is not rubbing on my butt. I will keep working on adjusting and packing differently. I am not sure that I can get the right combination for a perfect fit.

The outside water bottle pockets are still too far back for me to comfortably reach but they do hold two water bottles nicely and since I usually hike with someone else I simply ask them to grab my water bottle for me while we are hiking,

I only needed to use the rain cover one time during a rainy snow. It was easy to get out of the pocket it lives in and putting it on the pack was as easy as stretching it over the pack and cinching down the tie. The cover repelled the water nicely and once it was dry it was easy to fold and put back in the pocket.

The material on the pack repelled water nicely. While I did not carry the pack in the rain without a cover, the pack did get wet from water on the trees and the snow and repelled the water without soaking in to the pack or contents.

The one thing that I do miss on this pack that I have on another pack is the ability to use the lid as a hip pack for day hikes out of base camp. If Lowe Alpine could incorporate that feature into this pack I think it would be great.

The pack seems well made and I would say that I could carry this pack for a long time without it breaking down.

SUMMARY

Overall I would say that this a very well made pack with some good technical specifications such as the color coded back adjustment, the hiking pole holders, and the heavy duty zippers.

The size of the pack is great for a long weekend or an overnight in the snow. I would say that some people could use if for weeklong trips but it would be pretty full for me considering most places I hike require a bear canister which takes a large amount of room in my pack.

This pack is durable and easy to care for which makes it a great pack to keep around for many years.


CONTINUED USE

I will use this pack as an additional pack to the one that have carried for the last four years. I will use this pack mostly for weekend trips or longer trips that do not require a bear canister.

I want to thank Lowe Alpine and BackpackGeartest.org for the opportunity to test this pack.
This concludes my testing of the Lowe Alpine Cerro Torre pack.

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

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