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Reviews > Packs > Internal and External Framed Backpacks > Lowe Alpine TFX Summit 65 15 Pack > Test Report by John Waters

LOWE ALPINE TFX SUMMIT 65+15
TEST SERIES BY JOHN R. WATERS
LONG-TERM REPORT
September 25, 2007

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

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: John R. Waters
EMAIL: exec@bysky.com
AGE: 58
LOCATION: White Lake, Michigan USA
GENDER: M
HEIGHT: 5' 9" (1.75 m)
WEIGHT: 178 lb (80.70 kg)

My backpacking began in 1999. I have hiked rainforests in Hawaii, Costa Rica, and Puerto Rico, on glaciers in New Zealand and Iceland, 14ers in Colorado and Death Valley's deserts. I hike or snowshoe 6-8 miles (10 km-13 km) 2-3 times weekly in Pontiac Lake Recreation Area, with other day-long hikes on various SE Michigan trails. I also hike in Colorado and am relocating there, which will increase my hiking time and trail variety tremendously. My daypack is 18 lb (8 kg); overnights' weigh over 25 lb (11 kg). I'm aiming to reduce my weight load by 40% or more.


INITIAL REPORT

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer: Lowe Alpine
Year of Manufacture: 2007
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.lowealpine.com
MSRP: US$299.95
Listed Weight: 7 lb 3 oz (3.26 kg)
Measured Weight: 6 lb 15 oz (3.15 kg)
Torso: 16-23 in (41-58 cm)
Volume: 65+15L/4000+900cu.in
Other details: "TFX® 9 adjustable back with micro adjust . Extendible lid converts into a beltpack . New molded Noggin Notch™ for head space. Rain cover. 2 compartments with zip-out divider."

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS - May, 2007

The Lowe Alpine Summit 65+15 backpack arrived in a lightweight cardboard enclosure. I can't call it a box because it was so light and thin. Beat up and partially open, I mention this only because I'm thinking, "This package is light for sure ... is there a bag in here? If there is, it's already taken a beating. It's been given a good test already". I ripped the package open and, I have to admit, my first impression was that the pack is very impressive. It's a big bag, but it is very light for its size.

From the bottom of the bag to the bottom of the top extension is 31 in (79 cm). Add another 5 in (13 cm) for the extension (but I'll probably never be use it fully extended since the top will need to be cinched closed at some point). If the sides are pulled out from side to side with no contents they extend to 17 in (43 cm) and if they are made so the sides are flat, the width is 11 in (28 cm). With the sides flat, the depth is just under 10 in (25 cm). Let's see; 11 x 31 x 10 = 3410 cu in (56 L). That's a lot of space in the main area and that's not stretched out to the maximum capacity either. My guess is that I'll be able to get in everything I need for a several day trek and maybe even have room for stuff I don't really need.

I like the color. I can see why Lowe's calls it "lizard green". It reminds me of a gecko's color. Not too bright; it is a pleasant green color that I will not be embarrassed to wear on the trail.

The top section comes off. REALLY. Not having any instructions and not finding any on the Lowe Alpine web site, the removal of the top as a belt pack was left to the "ingenuity of the user" ... me. It reminded me of the brain teasers my daughter gave me as Christmas presents. Twist here, rotate this, pull here and keep trying. The two side straps came off okay. They just get totally let out through their buckles. But the center strap was more difficult. Getting that figured out made me feel good when I got it in less than 10 minutes. It has a locking element that fits through the buckle slot to hold it in place. To remove it, I pass the whole element back through the slot. Ingenious design. And I won't lose the piece because it won't come off the strap.
Fully Opened Summit
Lowe Alpine Summit 65+15


Lid Pack
Summit Lid/day pack
Now for another challenge. How to wear the top I just removed as the belt pack. Lowe's did not include any user instructions with the Alpine Summit nor are instructions available online. This pack is intricate and I want to know what all the buttons, hooks, pockets and connectors are intended for. As a user, I may totally miss an important design feature or use one inappropriately.


So here I sit, holding the belt pack in my hands with not yet any idea about how to connect it to my belt, wrap it around my waist, or otherwise use it in any way other than to hold it in my hands. So I am going to keep writing this report and if anything comes up before I finish, I'll give the results. I've emailed Lowe Alpine and asked for help. I feel dumb. I can't put a belt pack on. Another reason for me to always practice with my gear long before I take it out on the trail.

Anyway, the belt pack that I can't figure out how to use has a nice big compartment. I don't have a lot of dried beans to calculate volume, but it measures approximately 9 in (23 cm) high, 10 in (25 cm) wide and average about 3 in (8 cm) deep (it tapers from 2 in (5 cm) deep at the bottom to 4 in (10 cm) deep at the top). So, 9 x 10 x 3 = 270 cu in. (4 L) That is a pretty big fanny pack for sure. There is no water bottle holder, but there is a clear plastic 8 in x 9 in (20 cm x 23 cm) zip pocket on the outside face that would go against my backside. It's got a bright orange zipper for some reason which does NOT glow in the dark. (Hey I had to try it - there are no instructions so I didn't want to miss an important feature).

Back to the main bag.

Starting at the top, the extension has draw tights at the top and bottom of the extension section. So there is one draw string at the top and another 7 in (18 cm) below that. When completely open the top section is a circular opening 12 in (30 cm) in diameter. When it reaches the top of bag itself, the opening (if made a rectangle) is 12 in (30 cm) wide x 9 in (23 cm) deep. That's a pretty wide opening. I put my feet in and stood up inside it and bag top reached my crotch. Not that I would ever have a need to do this unless there was a picnic and everyone got drunk and wanted to do bag races, however it does show that this bag can hold a lot.

There is an inside hydration pocket with a tube opening only on the right side. Again, "since there are no instructions" (herein referred to as STANI for future reference and to make typing easier) and the specifications don't say, I don't know yet what size pouches this will hold. Since I have several different sizes, I shall try them and report on that later. Appearance is that at least a one liter (1 qt) will fit in the 9 in x 10 in (23 cm x 25 cm) pocket.
Inside Summit
Inside of Summit


Bottom Compartment
Bottom Compartment of Summit
Starting at the bottom of the hydration pocket at approximately 18 in (46 cm) from the top of the bag (25 in (64 cm) from the top of the fully extended extender section) is another bright orange heavy duty zipper that works with a black nylon flap to compartmentalize the interior. Other than the hydration pocket, there are no other pockets, compartments, hooks or hiding places in this interior compartment.

The compartment flap creates a bottom compartment, void of other pockets or pouches, so it is completely usable space. At approximately 10 in (25 cm) high by 12 in (30 cm) wide and 7 in (18 cm) deep, that space will be great for items like food and accessories that need to be gotten at during active hiking. I can see that I will have to remove the pack, lay the back down against the ground so this section is pointed up much like a suitcase. The zippered flap can only be zipped from the inside of the bottom compartment since the zipper only faces down. Again, STANI, I sure would like to know why the designers put a 1.5 in (4cm) hole along the stitch line of each zipper about 2 in (5 cm) from each end. I guess if I wanted a pole to extend down inside the bag between compartments, but it is not obvious yet what that is for.


There are two compression straps on the outside of each side. The hiking pole holders are nice. At least I think that is what they intended the elastic holders at the top corners of the back section for. The poles will fit into the bungee loops and there is a unique hook that allows a quick release.

Left Side of Summit
Left Side oF Summit
Right Side of Summit
Right Side of Summit


Water Bottle Pouch
Water Bottle Pouch
The exterior back panel has 6 fabric hooks for hanging and strapping stuff. There are two hefty exterior compression straps on either side of the lower compartment going from top to bottom at about 25% of the way in from each side.

There is a side pouch on the right side of the pack with a water bottle holder in the form of a tuck-away mesh pocket. This water bottle holder holds the water bottle with the top tilted forward at a 45 degree angle. This is a great design and makes it so much easier to get the water bottle without removing the pack or asking a friend to get it.

The belt support on this pack is designed for a heavy load. At 4 in (10 cm) wide at its narrowest to 6 in (15 cm) on the hip, each 12 in (30 cm) long section is about 1.25 in (3 cm) thick with padding. There is a rubber hand pump mounted on the right side of the belt, just past the center buckle. This pump works to increase and decrease the air in the back lumbar support; something I'll need to check out for sure on the trail. I am surprised it takes up so much room on the belt though. At 4 in (10 cm) high and 3 in (8 cm) wide, that is space I usually use for my camera belt pack. So I am going to have to see how that works out and if the trade-off of lost belt space is worth being able to adjust lumbar support in real-time.


In order to fit this pack correctly, I will need to either do it myself using the information on the Lowe's website or find a dealer to do it for me. Being the engineer, I am going to try to do the fitting myself. However, the Lowe's website does say that a "trained member of the staff will use a Torso Fit measuring stick to measure back length" - my torso length is 18.5 in (47 cm) - and will make the adjustments. So I shall try this fitting process myself and then head to REI and plead for help to see how far off I was. I'll report on this process in the next report.

Meanwhile, I am going to get more coffee and see if I can figure out the belt pack puzzle. It'll be interesting to see if the folks at REI can help with that also.

Okay, Lowe Alpine emailed me back and answered the email I sent just 2 days ago over the weekend. That was a pretty quick response. Their reply about the belt pack was that there are two slots on the sides of the pack where the belt is stuffed. The slits are on the inside of the pack along the sides of the clear plastic compartment. I looked all over for slits and stuffed belts, but not all over enough because these slits are in what I would consider the inside part. But after getting them out (my wife fished them out because her hands are smaller), I can now put the pack around my waist and it fits quite well. It will hold a lot of stuff and I can even stick a water bottle inside. The nice thing about a belt pack is that it can be shifted around while wearing it so that it is directly in front of me, giving full access to the pack without removing it.

I asked Lowe Alpine if there was an instruction manual. They said there is none and that if I have any questions, I should ask the store where I bought it. I wish all manufacturers would create user manuals pointing out how the features of their packs were intended to be used and to give examples.

My initial inspection of the backpack found a few other neat features on the Summit including; a sternum strap buckle which doubles as a whistle (very shrill) and a stretchy pouch on the left shoulder strap for a cell phone or GPS. And while it took me a few minutes to find it, I knew from the Lowe Alpine website that the Summit comes with a rain cover. Tucked away in its own side Velcro-ed pouch I found a bright orange rain cover. Cool.

Now to load this baby up several different ways to see what the best way to pack is, and to get out on the trail. I'm sure I'll discover more features and benefits in the four months ahead.


FIELD REPORT

FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

Over the last two months, I hiked several times a week when in southeast Michigan at local recreation areas on training hikes with full pack weights. I also traveled to southeast Colorado monthly for 14 to 21 days at a time with at least 2 days of each trip dedicated to hiking (weekends). Plus, during the course of business, I had to hike into remote locations often for antenna/tower work. This had me climbing up rocky random paths and remote access roads which are not maintained. I always wore a pack in these situations and hiked 4 or 5 mi (6 to 8 km) each day through this terrain, putting on as much as 30 to 40 mi (48 to 64 km) each week and 60 to 80 mi (97 to 129 km) or more each month. During these hikes, my pack weight generally consisted of 25 to 40 lb (11 to 18 kg) of gear while scrambling over very rocky sloped and slippery terrain..

Michigan weather during the testing period was mostly dry and fairly warm in early summer. Colorado weather was wetter than normal and cool to rather warm. Temperatures ranged from 40 F (4 C) at night to 90 F (32 C) in the daytime.
On the Newlin Trail in Colorado
Newlin Trail in Colorad

Terrain has covered everything from flat sandy lakeshore (in Michigan) to the mountainous Sangre de Cristos and Cooper Mountain regions in Colorado. Elevation ranged from a low of 600 ft (183 m) in Michigan to a low of 5000 ft (1524 m) in Colorado, and up to 13000 ft (3962 m) in Colorado

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD - July, 2007

There are 7 things I look for when getting an overnight extended backpacking trip bag:

1. How much it holds
2. How much it weighs
3. How well it packs
4. How comfortable it appears to be
5. How many useful features there are
6. How durable it appears to be
7. Its price/feature ratio (how many of the 6 things I can get for the lowest price)

I can see from the vendor specifications how much it weighs and I can maybe see many of the useful features of the pack. But until I purchase the pack and use it, the rest of the criteria on my list cannot be measured or evaluated.

My testing (to-date) of the Lowe Alpine TFX Summit 65+15 pack in the field has told me what I needed to know.

I used this pack several times during the past two months. Twice for overnight hikes and the rest for day hikes with extended use. The overnight hikes helped me to see how things pack and how much the pack can hold. During my extended test, I'll be doing a 3 night minimum overnight, but even for my single night trips, I packed the bag with enough supplies for a 4 night trip. My extended day trips are more for wear and tear testing, since I load the bag up pretty heavy with equipment to get me back and forth to my company's tower sites over rugged terrain. These hikes usually have me carrying 30 pounds (14 kg) or more of heavy equipment that no consumer bag should be subjected to. I call it stress testing.

Below, I'll detail my findings to date for each of the 7 points in order.

1. How much it holds.

The vendor specification is for 4500 cu in (74 L), They say they get that value by filling the bag with beans. Unfortunately, most packers carry other stuff and stuff that is usually larger than a bean and doesn't fill the cracks and crevices as well. In reality, this bag does hold a lot. I packed in:

* Sleeping bag in the bag section (covered later) in its stuff sack
* Sleeping pad rolled up and vertical on the inside along the side
* Tent on the outside (Coleman Siege 2)
* Rolled up ground cover on the outside
* Camp stove
* 2 fuel canisters
* Aluminum pot kit
* Lexan knife, spoons, forks (2 each)
* Spare socks, wind jacket, fleece, rain jacket, spare shirt, change of underwear
* Headlamp and spare batteries
* 12 food bars
* 32 oz (0.95 l) Nalgene water bottle in outer pocket, 16 oz (0.47 l) in the waist pack
* 3 l (101 oz) water bag in bag pouch
* Sandals for water crossings
* Sun block and bug spray
* Bear spray
* GPS clipped to chest strap
* Sandwiches for day 1
* Tea bags, freeze dried meals for three nights, sugar packets
* Tuna package lunches (the BumbleBee brand in the plastic kits) for 3 days
* Assorted other small stuff, like a whistle, small flashlight, pens, a few sheets of note paper, lighter, band aids
* A small field guide to birds, flowers and footprints
* Compact binoculars

I left the kitchen sink at home.

2. How much it weighs

The weight of the pack with all my stuff came in at 43 pounds (20 kg) since I was carrying so much water. BUT it was easy to carry (more later).

I don't think that there is much more that I would want to carry for what I do. However, I'm not into rock or ice climbing, so I didn't have a need to pack that kinds of gear.

3. How well it packs.

I'm a roll-it-up-keep-it-sorted packer. Meaning all my clothes get rolled and all the other stuff that can't be rolled gets put into pack sacks inside the larger bag. I know people that toss their loads in randomly, but can't find anything when on the trail. I like using sorting bags of different sizes to keep things together. For me, with a spacious bag like this, and not using individual sorting bags; some things would not be found until the end of the trip when it's time to unpack.

This bag has two compartments in the main body: The upper main compartment and the lower sleeping bag compartment. So I put the sleeping bag into the lower section where it fit snuggly. With the bag in the lower section, there isn't room for anything else. I've tried.

The upper compartment held all the other stuff well and I did NOT have the collar extended to full height. So on my next trip in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in Colorado where I'll be out for 3 or 4 nights, the collar extension may be getting some use, but the only extras would be food or maybe a few warmer clothing items if the weather gets colder. I have a few of the higher peaks around here to conquer so this extra space will be useful for rolled up cold weather gear.

My 2-person tent fit nicely on the straps at the bottom and held pretty snuggly. The tent stuff sack is nylon, so it did move around and over the course of a few days of hiking, I found myself stopping to center it a few times and occasionally reaching around back to feel if it was slipping. It seems that no matter how much I snug the hanging strap on nylon gear, they slip, so it's no fault of the bag.

I used the external mesh water bottle holder with a pretty large Nalgene bottle. We hike mostly in the high desert so I use a lot of water. This mesh pouch is angled at 45 degrees to point the bottle towards me (see my initial report). It IS easy to remove and use, but I still had a time getting it back into the pouch each time. I thought that a narrower bottle would be better, so when I got home I tried a 33.8 oz (1 L) bottle of Sam's Club flavored water (great stuff - zero calories, sodium free and nice tasting) and it fit well - all the way up to the neck of the bottle. But it was still a chore to get back into the pouch because my left hand can't quite reach all the way around my 36 in (91 cm) waist to the neck of the pouch to hold the fabric around the opening to keep it open long enough to insert the bottle. I don't think my stomach sticks out THAT far! (I ask my wife to keep her comments to herself). So the bottle keeps folding the top over and I had a heck of a time getting the bottle in. I call it the "bottle insertion workout"; because I think I exerted more energy trying to get these bottles back in the pouch then some of the scrambling I did on the hikes.

There are other straps on the back of the bag that I did not use. I would like to be able to strap on a pair of snowshoes, as I can on one of my other packs, but I don't see how yet. I'll work on that for a winter test.

The detachable waist pack can be used for storage also, and that's where I stored the stuff I would most likely take with me on short excursions; sunscreen, bug spray, band aids, maps, whistle, a few food bars and a 16 oz 0.47 L) water bottle. Because I stored them there before I took off, taking them with me was simple.

There is no place to hold a water bottle or pouch in the waist pack though. I just used a smaller bottle and stuffed it into the larger compartment. Since the pack can easily be rotated around my waist, it was easy to get into the pack to get things. There is a clear plastic zippered compartment on the inside of the pack that faced my body, and that's where I kept things I wanted to see, like the field guide foldouts, gum, and food bars. These were all accessible by just rotating the pack around so it was in front of me rather than at my rear. It's not the most attractive body fitting waist pack. In fact I think it's kinda weird looking, but it works.

4. How comfortable it appears to be.

Like I said before, unless I were to go into a store and have a sales person personally fit a bag for me, there is no way to know, when buying online or mail order, if a bag is going to be comfortable until it's used for a while in real field conditions. Heck, even if I were to get a custom fit, it still may not feel right with extended use.

LA advertises their "Micro Adjust" fitting system for the back support of this pack. There is a padded plate that goes against the lower portion of my back (the small of the back) that is fastened to the main support. When this is pulled away from the main vertical support it can fold down and expose the Micro Adjust system. LA thoughtfully put a color sizing chart on the back of the back support that becomes visible when it's folded down. It goes from XS (extra small - 15 in/38 cm) to XL (extra large - 23 in/58 cm) in nine color-coded steps. Each color code corresponds to a color bar on an adjustable strap that shortens or lengthens the height of the back support. Since the strap doesn't have fixed detents, the height can be adjusted anywhere, hence Micro Adjust, since the color bars are merely for reference.

I have to admit that having that flexibility was interesting. It's very easy to do and a height change can be done in seconds. I was able to stop, take off the pack, lay it down the outside of the pack facing down to the ground and the part that goes against my back facing up toward me, and make micro-adjustments at various rest stops. I found that there were times when my actual height of 19 in (48 cm) was fine, but that after walking for a while with my heavy load, making changes allowed me to alter my form and I think relieved some back strain. I used it in various settings and I'm still not sure where it should be, but it is nice to know that I can make those adjustments as I feel like it.

The shoulder straps were very comfortable. No abrasions or problems at all, even wearing a light Capilene tee shirt. There are two shoulder strap adjustments. One towards the bottom of the strap and one practically at ear height (the end of the strap to adjust this falls just above shoulder height so it's easy to reach). I found that making these adjustments was quick and easy and allowed me to adjust the snugness of the pack to my shoulder and to adjust the angle of the pack in relation to my frame. The top adjustment pulled the top forward or allowed me to relax it. So experimenting I could move all the weight of the pack to my shoulders or move all the weight to sit on my butt, or anywhere in-between. It's nice to be able to move the load around to put less stress on single parts of my body, so I enjoyed playing with different positions.

The waist belt is great. It's big and padded and very comfortable. I liked the pump up lumbar support, but that pump is huge and leaves no room for putting a camera at my waist. I admit playing with different settings, but since LA doesn't ship any sort of instruction booklet with their pack, I didn't know how to let the air out at first and had to put a lot of thought into how that might happen. I had to stop along the trail and play with it for a while to figure it out.

I found the pack quite comfortable. I like to test fully loaded packs by full waist bend toe touching and then twisting rapidly from side to side, just to see if the pack throws me off balance, comes loose or acts out of control. This pack stayed firm against my body, didn't roll and didn't fly over my head doing toe touches. It was stable and secure. The flexible waist system allowed the pack to move left or right as my body flexed, so the waist belt stayed in position but the frame kept in the same vertical axis as my spine. Quite nice. As I scrambled over boulders there was none of that inertial push I've gotten from other packs because the load wanted to move and the pack would not. This pack moved with me, so I was not thrown off balance.

5. How many useful features there are?

These are in addition to the ones already talked about.

Well, there may be more then I know of because the folks at LA, as I have mentioned before and mention again here, do not have a user's manual. I thought it might just be my engineering background and analytical behavior, but I read other reviews and everyone talks about how important a good manual is. I bet there are features, or intended features, that I just overlooked.

There is a cell phone mesh pouch on the left chest shoulder strap. My Sanyo RL-4930 fits just fine, but my Sporttrak Pro GPS will not. I have a GPS pouch with Velcro to surround a pack shoulder strap and that mounted just fine on the right side strap.

There are also a few 3/8 in (0.95 cm) nylon loops or straps (hard to define what to call them) that run at 45 degree angles across both shoulder straps that are useful for hanging things with carabineers or for stuffing maps, papers, notes into, maybe even a pen now that I think of it. I used one for hanging my whistle.

I also liked that there is a concave portion of the back support panel behind my head. This meant that I was not hitting the support frame when I put my head back under normal use. It made looking around more enjoyable.

I did not get to test the rain cover. It's there though. Inside a compartment behind the left side's mesh outside pouch. I can see that I would have to take the bag off, remove anything I had in that pouch, pull out the rain cover and cover the bag, then try and get whatever was in the pouch back in the pouch or find another place for it, then put the bag back on. It hasn't rained yet during my frequent use of this bag, but I have run through the process just in case I need to do it. Better to practice when dry.

6. How durable it appears to be

At first glance this pack looks rugged and after a lot of use, it so far has proved itself so. It's very well made. Nothing has come loose, broken, ripped, become unstitched or tangled. It's a quality piece of gear. Now if only there was an instruction manual.

7. Its price/feature ratio

What's a quality piece of gear worth? I find that it usually pays to pay a little more. So far, the Lowe's Alpine Summit is definitely worth its cost to me.

SUMMARY

This concludes the first two months of field testing of the Lowe Alpin TFX Summit 65+15 backpack.


LONG-TERM REPORT

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD - Sep 2007

I've used this pack a lot during this test trial. Not just for hiking but for work as well. My goal was to use it as much as possible to see how much of a beating it would take and if I could find uses for the "undescribed things" hanging from and attached to the bag; various ties and clips that are described nowhere in any form in any type of instruction sheet either printed or online. Since their use was being left up to my imagination, I had to be imaginative and use the bag a lot.

I've used a lot of backpacks in the last several years. Everything from waist packs (my fanny isn't large enough to hold a pack up so I don't call them fanny packs) to large capacity packs. One would not think that there could be that much new that could be done to a bag that gets slung over the shoulders and tied around the waist in order to carry stuff. In fact, I understand that most of the manufacturers have their products designed in the Far East by people that don't even hike or have never even been on a trail. But not to digress too far, I am seeing changes in backpacks for the better.
Sweat Marks
Sweating in the Desert
First of all, this one holds a LOT of stuff. I've gotten more than 50 pounds (23 kg) into this bag and had no issues with transporting that much of a load. Just the usual "I'm floating" feeling when the pack comes off after carrying that much weight around for hours.

Being a large top-loading bag with a side zipper, I use small organizer bags to make my stuff more easily accessible. I don't think I could survive even an overnight if I were to just throw everything into this bag without using bag organizers. I would get so frustrated it would not be an enjoyable adventure.

My hiking and use of this bag took place in high desert in Colorado. Temperatures ranged from 50 F to 92 F {10 C to 33 C) and most of the time I've been just wearing a wicking nylon tee shirt because of the heat. It's dry here with humidity ranging from 10 percent to 60 percent when there are storms, with it being in the lower range most of the time. As a result, I don't sweat that much when hiking. I have used other smaller day packs for my travels and, of course, have my favorite, which never gets me to the point that I get wet clothes. This pack, on the other hand, and for reasons yet unknown, makes me sweat under the shoulder straps and under the back padding. See the pictures of me after just about 3 miles (5 km) on the trail in bright sunshine at 79 F (29 C) after scrambling over rocks and climbing 300-400' (91-122 m) up and down a small cliff area. You can see the wet lines on my shoulders and back.

All internal frame packs are supposed to be as close to my body as possible with all the weight on my waist so that even if I lift the shoulder straps together they will have very little weight pulling on them. This bag allows me to do that with its elaborate strapping system and the bag never felt uncomfortable or out of balance with full weight or with light weight. Light weight would be a small amount of items tossed in the bag that fill maybe only half the bag but end up at the bottom and cause a rotational torqueing that modifies my center of gravity by putting the extra weight a foot (30 cm) away from my center line. An off balance bag can cause me to sway when jumping between rocks for example, but I never had that problem with this bag. It clung to my back like it was part of me. It just caused me to sweat more than I am used to.
By the way, as a note, an internal frame pack should be packed with the heavier items towards the back of the wearer. It's pretty easy to just toss items in from the top, putting the heavy items at the bottom, but the bag should be packed with the heavy items as close as possible to the wearer's center of gravity, which is the back of the wearer. A top loading bag this large makes that difficult. I can load the bag to get started by placing it horizontally with the top opening facing me, so that I can load the heavy items (pans, gas cans, laptop (doesn't everyone bring one along?) so they are against my back, but once the bag is stood upright, they fall to the bottom, even if lighter items are packed on top. So to the manufacturers of internal frame packs I say "Please design your bags with vertical zipped compartments!" so that the heavy items can be kept against my back like they are supposed to be.

I figured out the way I think the manufacturer intended hiking poles to be mounted. See the picture. The pole tips get inserted into the holes in the gray loop strap, which keep the tips at bay, and then the top adjustable side strap hold the top of the poles. I can get this going okay on the right side of the pack, but can't get this to happen the same way on the left side.

I've still not used the waist pack because it is so time consuming to remove and get into service. I did finally get the straps together for using the bag without the waist pack at top. This bag has really long straps. So even though it has a "self-fitting" micro-adjust back panel that lets almost anyone fit the lumbar panel, there is a need to shorten the straps with tie wraps. I am not going to cut them because I may need the extra lengths at some point though.
Poles Lashed Down
Hiking Poles Lashed to Alpine

After extensive use, there is no wear and tear, no pulls, and no rips. I even snagged on trees and broke branches to get free when ducking under limbs. "You don't have to destroy it to test it!" my hiking partner shouted as the branches snapped. Yeah, I needed to see how tough it is.

SUMMARY

This is an excellent pack for extended trips and it fits well and is very adjustable in the field with its unique micro-fitting back panel system. The detachable waist pack is a nice feature, but a little awkward to wear and use. The slanted external mesh water bottle pouch on the right side I finally got the knack of if I use a smaller 24 oz bottle. Although at times I can sense the frustration building as I try to put the bottle back in after using it. In most cases I would use the hydration pouch anyway, but getting that water bottle in and out was a challenge I had to meet.

This bag is a keeper for me. I'll use this a lot because it is so comfortable. At least until one comes along with vertical zippered internal compartments.

Thank you to Backpackgeartest.org and Lowe for the opportunity to test this excellent pack.

John R. Waters

This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1. Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.

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Reviews > Packs > Internal and External Framed Backpacks > Lowe Alpine TFX Summit 65 15 Pack > Test Report by John Waters



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