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Reviews > Packs > Internal and External Framed Backpacks > Lowe Alpine TFX Wilderness ND 65 15 > Owner Review by Andrea Murland

Lowe Alpine TFX Wilderness ND 65+15 Pack
Owner Review by Andrea Murland
March 26, 2010

Mt. Assiniboine

Tester Information

Name: Andrea Murland
Email: amurland AT shaw DOT ca
Age: 24
Location: Rossland, British Columbia, Canada
Gender: Female
Height: 5 ft 2 in (1.57 m)
Weight: 125 lb (57 kg)

I began hiking frequently in 2006 and have since hiked in Western Canada, Australia, and spent 2 months backpacking in the Alps. I spend most weekends either day-hiking or on 2-3 day backpacking trips, with some longer trips when I can manage them. I also snowshoe and ski in the winter, but don’t have a lot of experience with winter in the backcountry yet. Elevation is typically 500-3,000 m (1,600-10,000 ft), in the Canadian Rockies and the Selkirk, Purcell, and Monashee ranges. I try for a light pack, but I don’t consider myself a lightweight backpacker.

Product Information

Manufacturer: Lowe Alpine
Manufacturer's URL: www.lowealpine.com
Model: TFX Wilderness ND 65+15
Year of Manufacture: 2007
MSRP: Not Available
Colour Reviewed: Titanium/Haze Blue
Other Colours Available: Terracotta/Papaya, Burnt Olive/Light Olive, Dark Aqua/Granite
Listed Volume: 65 L (4000 cu in) + 15 L (900 cu in)
Listed Weight: 2.97 kg (6 lb 9 oz)
Measured Weight: 2.97 kg (6 lb 9 oz)

Wilderness ND 65+15

Description

The Lowe Alpine TFX Wilderness ND 65+15 Pack is a women’s-specific internal frame pack which features Lowe Alpine’s TFX 7 suspension system. Lowe Alpine specifies that it fits torso lengths 38-56 cm (15-22 in) and has a load zone (the maximum load at which the pack can be comfortably carried) of 25-30 kg (55-60 lb).

As part of the TFX 7 system, the torso length on the Wilderness is adjustable. The lumbar pad can be pulled down and out (it’s fastened in place with hook-and-loop closures) to reveal a colour-coded strap running through a buckle as well as a diagram of how to adjust it and what colour corresponds to what torso length. Adjusting the strap changes the position of the shoulder harness up and down on the pack. I have a roughly 40 cm (16 in) torso, so I have the adjustment cranked down to almost the smallest setting. The frame of the Wilderness is two stays which run down the outside edges of the back panel, coming together in a V-shape to insert into pockets on the backside of the hipbelt. The hipbelt is free to pivot from the stays, so that it adjusts to my position as I walk. Load lifter straps connect the top of the frame to the shoulder straps, and the pack has a sternum strap with a whistle on the buckle. The sternum strap can be moved up and down on the shoulder straps. There is thick padding in the lumbar pad, shoulder straps, and hip belt. At the top of the back panel is a haul loop and a plastic moulded Noggin Notch to create space for my head.

Although the Wilderness is a top-loading pack, it has a lot of access points and other pockets. Let’s start at the top. The lid of the pack has a two-way zipper into its main pocket, which contains a key clip. The underside of the lid has an SOS panel with mountain distress signals as well as a small pocket. The lid is removable by unthreading the two buckles on the side of the lid and sliding the middle buckle apart (it’s a round piece of plastic fed through a square hole). The centre lid attachment is also a rope compressor on top of the main pocket. The main pocket of the pack has a 20 cm (8 in) collar with a drawstring closure with a cord-lock at the top and bottom of the collar. Inside the main pocket is a hydration pouch with an elastic top; the tube of a hydration bladder can be fed through a port on the wearer’s right side which is labelled with an H2O symbol. The front of the pack has an upside-down-U shaped two-way zipper which opens into the main pocket for front access. On the inside of the front panel that zips down is a small interior pocket. A zip-out divider inside the pack separates a bottom compartment if desired. The fabric divider is sewn along the back panel, so it can’t be completely removed. A two-way zipper at the bottom of the pack allows access to the bottom compartment. Each side of the pack has a zippered bellows pocket as well as a mesh water bottle holder with an elastic cord-lock to cinch it down. In addition, the wearer’s left side of the pack has a small pocket with a hook-and-loop closure which houses the included rain cover. The hip belt has a small removable zippered pocket on both sides. They are each attached using a metal snap, a hook-and-loop closure, and another round-buckle-through-a-square-hole setup. All exterior zippers, except on the hip belt pockets, have storm flaps.

The Wilderness also has a lot of straps, buckles, and attachment points. Once again, from the top. The top of the lid has plastic lash points. As I mentioned above, straps on either side of the pack attach the lid to the pack, and a center strap acts as an attachment as well as a rope compressor. The lid fastens to the rest of the pack at the front by two straps and buckles, again on either side. All of the straps connecting the lid to the pack are adjustable so that the pack can be made taller or shorter to accommodate the contents. The front of the pack has a daisy chain running down the centre, and a strap with a buckle at the top of the zippered front panel. Inside the front panel is a strap running across the pack to keep items in the main pocket in place and compressed. On both sides of the front of the pack there is an elastic loop, with a cord-lock on one end and a hook on the other end; this cord can be used to easily fasten trekking poles, an ice axe, or anything else to the pack. Directly below this cord is an ice axe and trekking pole loop. A feature of the loop is slits in the webbing which accommodate the tip of a trekking pole. The ice axe loops are above the bottom compartment entrance to allow access to the compartment while items are attached. The bottom compartment has straps on either side which run from the bottom of the pack to the top of the zipper for compression. Each side of the pack has two compression straps, which run across and below the bellows pocket.

Pole Attachment


The included rain cover is bright orange nylon, with the Lowe Alpine logo. It has a cinch cord sewn along the edge, with a cord-lock at the top of the cover.

Field Conditions

I purchased the Lowe Alpine TFX Wilderness ND 65+15 pack in the Spring of 2008 in preparation for a 4.5 month backpacking trip, which was a combination of travelling and living out of a backpack, and backpacking-hiking. Through the first 2.5 months (after that I was just travelling), I hiked with the Wilderness pack on the following hikes:
5 days, Berchtesgaden National Park, Germany
3 days, Triglavski National Park, Slovenia
3 days, Sudetendeutscher Höhenweg, Austria
6 days, Stubai Höhenweg, Austria
3 days, Lechtal Höhenweg, Austria
3 days, Ötztal Alps Traverse, Austria
4 days, Catinaccio Area, Italy
2 days, Surenen Pass, Switzerland
2 days, Wildstrubel Traverse, Switzerland
14 days, Walkers Haute Route, Switzerland & France
2 days, Cinque Terre, Italy

Using my pack as a backrest in camp
In Camp
In the summer of 2009, I hiked with the Wilderness pack on a 5-day hike in the Mt. Assiniboine area in British Columbia. As well, the pack has been on numerous search & rescue training exercises.

My pack has encountered weather conditions of every description – sun & heat, pouring rain, snow, hail, and sleet.

At night, my pack lives in the vestibule of my tent. I put the rain cover on and put the pack cover-down to keep it dry from rain and dew.

The pack has been used extensively as a seat or backrest in camp, and the rain cover has been used for sliding down snow fields when I’ve been too lazy to walk.

The general configuration of my pack when I’m backpacking is as follows:
  • Bottom compartment: sleeping bag, sleeping pad if it fits (it depends which sleeping bag I’m carrying), assorted small items as they fit such as towels, sleeping bag liner, or a first aid kit.
  • Lid pockets: personal items, GPSr, compass, notebook, energy bar, knife, etc.
  • Inside of front panel: extra plastic bags.
  • Side bellows pockets: rain gear on one side and camp shoes on the other side.
  • Hydration pouch: 1.5 L (50 fl oz) hydration bladder.
  • Hip-belt pockets: camera on one side and handkerchief and lip balm on the other side.
  • Main pocket: everything else.
  • Review

    Fit, Comfort, and Load Carrying:
    I spent a lot of time shopping for this pack, so it was no great surprise (but definitely a relief!) that it fit well and was comfortable out on the trail. I made some small adjustments to the torso length and length of the shoulder straps early in my summer of backpacking in 2008 to fine-tune the fit. The torso length adjustment is a great feature – I found that changing the length made the most difference in how comfortable the pack was, and I was very happy to have that ability.

    The women’s-specific shoulder straps (narrower than men’s packs) were comfortable, and felt close enough together, not like they were falling off my shoulders.

    Weight transfer to my hips is good. The pack is capable of comfortably transferring the whole load to my hips and leaving my shoulders free, which is nice in the afternoons to shift the load a bit and give my muscles a break. The hipbelt is comfortable, and I have never found that it dug in anywhere, though early in the backpacking season I have pressure bruises on my iliac crests as I break my body in.

    When fully loaded, the pack is certainly comfortable. However, the compression on the pack when there is excess space isn’t great. The strap inside the front access panel keeps items in place and tight as long as they’re packed in fairly well. The two compression straps on each side of the pack do a good job of compression front-to-back, but I find that keeping the pack load centered on my back side-to-side is a problem when the pack isn’t stuffed full. The Wilderness pack is fairly wide across the back, so items fall down and to the sides, and there is no way to keep them in a more vertical position or to compress the pack down vertically if they do fall out to the sides. The pack is a bit awkward feeling when it’s not full, because all of the load sits at the bottom of the pack and out to the sides rather than higher in the pack and centered. The lack of compression with a partially-full pack is particularly noticeable when I have the side bellows pockets filled, as the compression straps go across those pockets and have to be extended.

    The rope compressor works just like it should, though it’s a bit of a challenge when the pack’s not full, since the rope doesn’t have anything to sit on then. Of course, if my pack isn’t full, I just put the rope inside.

    Rope Compressor & Front Panel


    The Noggin Notch doesn’t really line up with my noggin. The top of the Notch is at the base of my skull, so when I tip my head back I still hit the back of my head on the lid of the pack. This is my first pack of this size, so I can’t compare whether I have more range of motion with the Notch than without, but it seems strange to not be able to get my head into the space designed for it.

    The pouch for a hydration bladder fits mine perfectly, and it’s easy to thread the hose through the opening. There is no hose clip on the shoulder strap, so I tuck the bite valve under the sternum strap, and that keeps it from flopping around.

    Durability:
    Great! The fabric has a few scuffs and shows a bit of fuzziness in a few spots, but there are no rips, tears, scores, or anything else of concern on the pack, which I think is pretty impressive for the number of rocks it’s been dropped on and the number of train rides it’s suffered through.

    The fabric is a bit faded. I had a Canadian flag sewed to my pack for a couple of months, and there’s a darker patch where the flag was.

    My pack is a pretty light colour, so it shows dirt quite well. This is particularly noticeable on the front panel and lid of the pack. The shoulder straps also picked up enough dirt in 2008 (and sweat) to be pretty gross looking. I thoroughly washed the pack once by hand, taking it completely apart, and most of the marks came off.

    The zippers still run freely and have caused me no problems.

    Organization & Access:
    I really like the organizational features of the Wilderness pack. First of all, it is perfectly functional as a traditional top-loading pack, with or without the divider to separate the bottom compartment. I like the bottom access, since it means I don’t necessarily have to dig right to the bottom of the pack, which is longer than my arms. I also like the side bellows pockets, since they give me a place to put items that are bulky but not too heavy and that I might want quick access to, like my rain gear. Because they have a fabric pleat in them (the bellows), having the pockets full doesn’t take away from the volume of the main compartment. Most importantly, I have fallen in love with the front panel access. Within seconds of setting my pack down, I can have the items low in the main compartment out. In Europe, that meant that I always carried lunch and snacks for both of us, since my hiking partner had a top-loading pack with no separators or other pockets and it was a nightmare to find stuff in her pack. I could also have the stove and fuel out and have water on for dinner before we even had to unpack anything else. With the pack laying down, I can take items in and out of the front panel without disturbing the overall organization of the other items in the pack or having everything fall out of place when I pull out a lower item. No more rummaging around blindly at the bottom of a pack!

    The hip belt pockets are really convenient. Having my lip balm readily available without melting in a pants pocket is great, and having my camera in the other pocket gave me quick access to capture the perfect shot when I saw it. The hip belt pockets are large enough for a medium-sized point-and-shoot camera, though there isn’t any padding, so I have to be careful not to scrape myself along too many rocks.

    The trekking pole attachment is awesome. It’s quick, easy, and secure. A few times I had the tip of a pole come out of the slit in an ice axe loop, but it was a 2 second job to get my hiking buddy to put it back, and I never lost the pole completely; it would just swing on the elastic loop.

    Rain Cover: Rain Cover Toboggan
    The rain cover does a good job of keeping water out of my pack. Any water ingress during heavy rain has been through soaking into the padding on the back of the pack, which is not covered by the rain cover. It’s nice to have dry stuff to put on to sleep in!

    The cover fits comfortably over the pack. I can have my hiking poles attached and still put the rain cover on easily, but I haven’t have the collar on the pack fully extended when I’ve done that. The cover also fits nicely into the dedicated pocket on the pack for it.

    In 2008 I did get a couple of holes in the pack cover. This was likely from dropping my fully loaded and covered pack onto rocks and having it slide...more than once. Apparently sharp rocks and nylon don’t mix. The duct tape fix that I’ve had on since then seems to be working.

    I have used the pack cover several times as a quick transport down a snow field, since I don’t like going downhill and sliding seems like way less work than walking. The nylon is adequately slippery, and the cover is big enough for my bottom and the bottom of my pack. It can, however, be hard to keep in place while sliding.

    Summary

    The Lowe Alpine TFX Wilderness ND 65+15 pack is an excellent pack for long trips. It carries loads very comfortably, has excellent organization and access features, and has stood up to every form of abuse I’ve thrown at it. I will be using this pack for many years to come.

    Thumbs Up:
    Adjustable fit (torso length)
    Load transfer to hips
    Front panel access
    Included rain cover
    Trekking pole attachment system
    Durability

    Thumbs Down:
    Inadequate side-to-side and vertical compression
    Colour shows dirt
    Noggin Notch doesn’t line up with my noggin

    in Germany

    Read more reviews of Lowe Alpine gear
    Read more gear reviews by Andrea Murland

    Reviews > Packs > Internal and External Framed Backpacks > Lowe Alpine TFX Wilderness ND 65 15 > Owner Review by Andrea Murland



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