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Reviews > Packs > Internal and External Framed Backpacks > REI Ridgeline Pack > Test Report by David Heyting

REI Ridgeline Backpack
Test Series
Last Update: Long-Term Report Report July 27, 2007

Inital Report: March 15, 2007
Field Report: May 22, 2007
Long-Term Report July 27, 2007

Tester Information:
Name: David Heyting
Age: 29
Gender: Male
Height: 6’ 0”, 1.83 m
Weight: 205 lb, 93 kg
City, State, Country: Snoqualmie, Washington, USA

Backpacking Background:
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 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 24 hours in duration. .

Initial Report
March 15, 2007

Product Information
Manufacturer: REI
Model: Ridgeline Backpack
Listed Weight: 4.12 lbs / 2.15 kg
Measured Weight: 4.14 lbs / 2.21 kg
MSRP: $185.00 US
Size: Large
Color: Redstone

Product Description:
The Ridgeline is nylon pack that has an approximate volume of 4,150 cu. in. (68 liters)-(for a large as listed on REI’s website). It is constructed of 630 denier nylon with a polyurethane coating that is added for weather resistance. The Ridgeline features on aluminum stay that is visible around the perimeter of the backpack, however it still functions as an internal frame backpack. The pack features an ActivMotion hipbelt that is designed to pivot and provide a better balanced pack during motion. The Ridgeline features a molded-foam back panel that is designed to provide comfort and air flow. The torso length can also be adjusted with a “rip and stick” Velcro system of moving shoulder straps. The Ridgeline also features a patented Delrin rod hipbelt that “redirects weight out of the lumber area and onto the hips, distributing it evenly.” There is a built in inner sleeve to hold a hydration bladder and dual ports to allow a water tube to reach either shoulder with ease. The pack can be a top loading pack, but also features a panel holding zipper access for multiple loading options. The Ridgeline has top, bottom and side compression straps for tightening. These also can be used for additional storage options. The pack has a zipper top pocket on the pack’s lid that also includes a map storage area. There are two mesh side pockets as well as a large vertical mesh pocket that runs down the center of the pack that can be used for additional storage. Two ice axe lopes are sewn into the back of the pack

Molded-Foam back panel

Initial Impressions:
There are two things that jump out at me on the Ridgeline; the first is the aluminum frame. The frame is visible; however the pack retains the qualities of an internal frame backpack. The design looks to be done to decrease the overall weight of the backpack. However I wonder if this will be an issue during use in terms of the pack acting like an external frame pack. The second thing is the hipbelt. It has a very different design than I am accustomed to. The hipbelt is designed to pivot with me as I move, keeping the pack in better balance. During some initial use, I was able to feel the pack moving with my body and liked the way it felt when pivoting. I also liked the system that was designed to tighten the hip belt to my waist. Instead of having to tighten the buckle by pulling the straps into my body, I am able to pull the straps away from me to tighten the hipbelt. This allows for a much quicker and tighter fit as I am able to get much more force from pulling away from body rather than into my body.

The Ridgeline features lots of little pockets to store my gear. From two side mesh pockets, a top lid with two access points to side access zippered pockets there are lots of places to store gear. It also features great access to each of these pockets, which should enable me to be much more organized. I really like the fact that it not only has side pockets for storing a water bottle, but also has a slit in the side, so that I can not only carry skis easily with the Ridgeline, but also I am still able to have my water bottle in the pocket for easy access. The panel access zipper is also nice as I can get into the back without having to unload everything. I also like the fact that a hydration storage area is included and it is easy to get my bite pieces through the tube hole! This is an added plus as sometimes these are designed too small for my tastes.

One thing that caught my eye was the buckles. Instead of being solid, they are designed sort of as a hollow frame. Still easy to use, they just look very unique when unbuckled, almost like the buckles are broken. I am not sure how much weight it saves, but I think saving a few ounces here and there is a job well done. All and all the pack features some very interesting design features that appear to provide a pack that can load just about anything.

Panel access zipper

Initial Likes and Dislikes:

Likes: The fabric really soft and stretchy, which makes it comfortable to wear. I like the fact that it is fully taped – meaning no leaks!

Dislikes: Nothing so far!

Field Report
May 22, 2007

Field Conditions and Locations:
Along with some day hiking in my “home” area of the Central Cascades of Washington, I was able to test the Ridgeline on two more intense trips in Oregon. The first of these was a winter ascent of Mt. Hood at 11,000 ft. (3353 m). The climb started at Timberline lodge at 6,000 ft (1829 m). and we followed the standard south side route up and then did a chute variation of 50-60 degree ice near the pearly gates. The conditions were great, except for a steady wind that was probably a sustained 25-30 miles per hour ( 40-48 km/hr) on the summit. The second was long two day hike in the Central Oregon Cascades, just outside of the town of Oakridge, OR. On this trip I covered about 20 miles (32 km). I ventured onto some trails near Tire Mountain that are mainly used by mountain bikers. I experienced a constant drizzle throughout the trip. Both trips I would say that I carried pretty minimum weight, based upon my activities. Even on the trip on Hood, we went fairly light in terms of gear.

Resting on Mt. Hood

Field Performance:
Overall I have been very impressed with the performance of the Ridgeline. I was very impressed with how the pack felt during movement. I tend to chalk this up to the way the hip belt is designed to pivot with me as I move. This really came into play during my trip on the ice chute on Mt. Hood, I never felt unbalanced or that the pack was leaning to one side or the other. I also liked how the hip belt system tightened around my waist. I really felt that I was able to get a snug fit with the pack’s more unique system of pulling the straps away from my body to tighten. The belt was comfortable on my waist throughout the testing period. Going into the Field Testing period, I was worried about the aluminum frame being a problem, as it is mostly exposed, yet the pack is made to function as an internal frame pack. I thought that it might cause some uncomfortable rubbing; however I did not experience any of these issues, the frame performed great. I was actually grateful as I imagine that REI was able to shed some weight, by using this type of system. The shoulder straps were very comfortable and did not cause any soreness or discomfort. I also felt the molded back panel gave me no issues and felt good on my back. I had to make very few adjustments to the pack in order to get a great fit. The minimal ones that I had to make consisted of moving up the shoulder straps to fit my back length, which was very easy. The Pack features a velcro system that made it easy for me to adjust the torso length and fine tune to fit my specific needs. All of these items contributed to a comfortable pack.

I really enjoyed the multiple pockets and storage area on the pack. With the side panel pockets, it was perfect for carrying water bottles. Although I did have some issues with a water bottle that keep wanting to try and race me down Mt. Hood. I think this had a little more to do with my not securing my water bottle, than any issue with the Ridgeline, as the side pockets in question seem deep enough to securely hold a water bottle. The back mesh pocket was also great for stuffing items that my teammates could easily access for me during my trips.

After the Initial reporting phase, I really loved the cool sleek buckles that can be described as trimmed down with basically a frame, without extra plastic. They seemed innovative and unique. However in the field I was completely disappointed with them. They drove me insane on Hood. When I had gloves on or if my hands were cold I had a horrible time trying to buckle them. Unbuckling was not as problematic; however getting them closed was very difficult. I had a hard time grabbing them and holding them straight to buckle them back up. Due to the fact that the buckles are sort of just a frame design, there was no “meat” to grab onto. Thus a couple of times I had to take off my warmer over gloves in order to get the Ridgeline secured. Really annoying.

Hood with the Hogsback in view to the left.

Field Summary:
A great riding pack during periods of intense movement is a description that fits the Ridgeline. It is also a pack that offers lots of great storage opportunities and some nice little perks. For me it seems to be a great choice for a one to two day trip or a shorter trip in which I decide to bring the kitchen sink along. Although designed with unique but difficult to use buckles.

Items for Continued Testing:
My goal for the Long Term Testing period is to experiment with weight loads. During my trips in the Field Reporting period, I carried fairly light loads, and my day hiking with the Ridgeline did not help in looking at the question of how much weight can the Ridgeline handle. I hope to have this answered in a couple of upcoming climbing trips, in which I will be going overnight with a warmer sleeping bag, more clothes, and a full assortment of climbing gear.

Field Report Likes and Dislikes:

Likes: The comfort and movement the hip belt and pivot system provided. It made for a smooth ride and comfortable trips.

Dislikes: Those sleek buckles were a pain to access with gloves and cold hands!

Long-Term Report
July 27, 2007

Long Term Test Conditions and Locations:
Along with some day hiking in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness area in the Central Cascades, I used the Ridgeline on two great trips. The first was a long day hike up Dirtyface Peak (about 6000 ft - 1829 m) in the Central Cascades. During this trip I did some scrambling, mostly all 3rd class. However I was able to see how the pack performed while using my arms and legs to get me over some of the rock sections. We actually incountered some light snow on that trip during our descent, however the temperatures appeared to be much more moderate - proably staying in the low 40's (4.4 C). The next trip was an overnight trip in the Oregon’s Central Cascades. I camped at Sunshine, starting from Frog Camp and explored a region of the Sister’s Wilderness near the North and Middle Sisters. The daytime temperatures were in the upper 80's F (27 C) with the nighttime lows of around 45 F (7.2 C). The trip started at around 5000 ft (1524 m) and we topped out at around 8500 ft (2591 m) while exploring an area near a peak called the Big Brother. During this trip I packed a sleeping back and a bivy sack. The Trip was about a 18 mile (28.98 km) round trip.

Hiking on Dirtyface Peak.

Long Term Performance:
The Ridgeline has continued to be a very comfortable backpack. I did make some minor adjustments to the torso length after my scrambling trip as during the scrambling the pack felt a little bit bulky. I think this is mainly due to the way the top portion of the pack is designed. It is difficult to look straight up, as my head hits the top portion of the aluminum backpack frame. This limits my line of sight when I am trying to look straight up. This is something that I have found on many packs. Despite this visabilty issue, I felt the pack rode quite well and moved with my body during more intense periods of scrambling.

The easy access to items, via the pockets on the Ridgeline still continues to impress me. I feel like the pack can handle lots of items on the outside of the pack, which is nice as I am able to access them without having to take the pack off to unpack everything, grab what I am looking for and then repack. The pockets seemed to hold up great, even after getting scrapped on lots of Granite on Dirtyface Peak.

The hydration system is a great feature that needs some mentioning. It is easy to get a bladder in and out of the pack due to the design of tube hole opening. The pack features a stretchy fabric around the exit hole, so it is quite easy to thread the mouthpiece through hole. This is a great feature when trying to refill my bladder in the field. It helps to avoid spills!

I felt the pack held up great over the long-term testing period. The outer fabric seems to be abrasion resistance or seems to hve good abrasion resistance. This became very evident as I mentioned above, while scrambling as I continually was scraping the Ridgeline on rock throughout the day and did not notice any scratches or abrasions on the pack.

Summary :
I have found the Ridgeline to be a great choice for a weekend overnight trip. The pack is very comfortable and easy to adjust to gain the correct fit. The plethora of pockets is great for carrying items that I want to access quickly and easily. It has a built in hydration sleeve that is easy to get a bladder in and out of. The pack features a great ride and really moves with me as I move. This appears to be due to the design of the hip belt, which allows it to pivot. This adds not only to balance, but also means a comfortable trip as the pack does not start to push and pull me causing sore spots. The buckles can be hard to clip at times. All in all a great pack.

Long-Term Report Likes and Dislikes:

Likes: Easy in and out hydration system

Dislikes: I still have issues with the buckles.

Continued Use:
I plan on using the Ridgeline for weekend overnight trips not exceeding three nights. I think it is the perfect pack for weekend trips. I will continue to use the pack for some longer day trips and glacier climbing, however probably would not use it for pure climbing or scrambling trips on rock. It will definitely be a staple in my closet.

This concludes my Test Report. Thank you to both BackPackGearTest and to REI for this fantastic opportunity to test the Ridgeline Backpack.

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Reviews > Packs > Internal and External Framed Backpacks > REI Ridgeline Pack > Test Report by David Heyting

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