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Reviews > Packs > Internal and External Framed Backpacks > REI Ridgeline Pack > Test Report by Jo Ann Moffi


INITIAL REPORT: March 12, 2007
FIELD REPORT: May 22, 2007
LONG TERM REPORT: July 23, 2007

REI Ridgeline Pack
Photo Courtesy of REI website

Name Jo Ann Moffi Backpacking Background:

I was introduced to backpacking about 15 years ago when I met my husband. We have been backpacking, canoe camping, car camping, hiking, and participating in all sorts of outdoor activities ever since. We live in a border town (US & Canada), so we spend lots of time in both countries for our outdoor excursions. When making a decision on gear, I like to go lightweight and practical. I don't like to carry around extraneous bits and pieces.
Age 33
Gender Female
Height 168 cm (5 ft, 6 in)
Torso Length 50 cm (19.5 in)
Hip Measurement 104 cm (41 in)
Weight 84 kg (185 lbs)
Email Address jomoffi AT gmail DOT com
City, State, Country Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada

Product Information

Manufacturer:  Recreational Equipment Inc.
Year of Manufacture: 2007
MSRP: $185
Size: Medium (Also Available in small)
Colour: Frieze (Light blue and steel grey)
Listed Weight: Medium: 1.9 kg (4 lb, 4 oz) (
Small: 1.87 kg (4 lb, 2 oz))
Actual Weight: 2.0 kg (4 lb, 6.5 oz)
Approximate Volume:
Medium: 60 L (3,661 cu in) (Small 56 L (3,417 cu in))
Fits Torso: Medium: 43-48 cm (17-19 in) (Small: 41-46 cm (16-18 in))
Fits Waist/Hips: Medium: 71-142 cm (28-56 in) (Small: 64-117 cm (25-46 in))
Material: Nylon
Frame Material: Aluminum, HDPE (High Density Polyethylene), Foam
Warranty: 100% Guarantee: Ensures that every item purchased at REI meets the consumer's standards or it can be returned for a replacement or a refund.

Date:  March 12, 2007

Item Received: March 9, 2007

The REI Ridgeline Pack (herein after called the pack) arrived in excellent condition. The hang tag included with the pack indicates the warranty information as well as the specifications of the pack and a brief
description of the main features. Although no instructions were included with the pack, a careful examination of the pack and all its features makes it is easy enough to figure out how to use the pack. 
REI Ridgeline Pack Back View
Features of the pack:
  • Aluminum perimeter frame around the outside of the pack on the back panel. The frame is completely removable. It is visible from the outside of the pack and is anchored down by two rubberized nylon stays at the top corners of the pack, slides down behind the back panel and into a pocket on the back of the hipbelt. It is like a hybrid between an internal and external framed pack.
  • Rip and Stick torso adjustment. This is simply a very large Velcro panel on the back of the back panel so that the shoulder harness can be moved up and down to accommodate different torso lengths.
  • ActivMotion hipbelt with pivoting motion. The hipbelt Velcros to the bottom of the aluminum frame and is also removable.The hipbelt pivots up and down.
  • Shoulder straps placed closer together and shaped to accommodate a woman's bust. The shoulder straps attach to the top of the pack just above the aluminum frame, to the backpanel via the Rip and Stick torso adjustment, and to the back of the hip belt. The shoulder straps are completely removable.
  • Adjustable sternum strap. The strap slides up and down a channel on each side of the shoulder harness.
  • Two compartments: main and top.
  • Access to the main compartment is from the top via a two drawcord system or from the bottom via a zipper on the front of the pack body.
  • Access to the top compartment is via a zipper along the top of the compartment.
  • Additional pockets: one mesh pocket on each side at hip level, one zippered pocket on each side at hip level, one map pocket on the underside of the top compartment, and one long mesh sleeve running the length of the front of the pack.
  • Additional attachment points for gear: 4 D-rings on the top compartment, two nylon loops at the bottom of the main pocket, a nylon daisy Chain running the length of the main compartment on each side, plus top, bottom and side compression straps that can also be used as attachment points. There are also nylon straps on the hip belt that could be used to attach smaller items.
  • Hydration sleeve on the inside of the main compartment. Two hangers at the top of the pack keep the bladder from sliding down into the bottom of the pack.
  • Hydration ports exiting the main compartment at shoulder level so that a hydration tube can be used from either side. There is also an elastic loop on each shoulder strap to anchor down a hydration tube.
  • Two compression straps on each side of the pack to compress the main compartment.  The compression straps make it easy to flatten the pack when a small load is being carried.
  • Nylon loop carry handle at the top of the pack on the back.
REI Ridgeline Pack Additional Pockets

This is a well thought out pack. I already appreciate some of the features and look forward to testing them out in field. Once I had the pack in my hands, a few of things immediately caught my eye that are not evident on the website: 
  • The hip belt. The nylon strap attaches to the belt at two points on each side. This gives the hipbelt a kind of a lever system when tightening the straps. The straps tighten on each side so that the buckle can be centered easily.REI Ridgeline Pack Hipbelt
  • The buckles themselves on the entire pack. They are what I would consider to be minimalistic, the female side is pared down in comparison to what I am used to on other packs and gear. They feel a bit flimsy, so it will be interesting to see if they hold up during the test period.
  • The frame, shoulder harness, and hipbelt are all completely separate units that can be removed from the pack itself. I can see this being handy for airline travel, as all three could be removed and put inside the pack if necessary. This would also make repairs and replacement of damaged parts easy. If one component was damaged, just that piece could be replaced rather than having to replace the entire pack.

I will be taking the pack on several backpacking excursions including an early spring trip in northern Michigan, a few of overnighters in Lake Superior Provincial Park scattered throughout the spring and summer, a multi-day trip along the southern shore of Lake Superior in the summer, and a week-long canoe trip at the end of the test period.

Date: May 22, 2007

End of March: Pigeon River State Forest Trip
The first overnight outing for the pack was in the Pigeon River State Forest in the lower peninsula of Michigan with a group of friends. On the first day, we bushwhacked from Osmun Lake to Pigeon River, approximately 8 km (5 mi).
The second day we continued to bushwhack from our campsite beside the Pigeon River to where our cars had been shuttled, approximately 10 km (6.2 mi). The terrain was a mix of poplar stands, maple, spruce, and pine trees. Some of the trek was done on a two track trail and following game trails. Much of our travel was following our own trail, getting very friendly with the trees, shrubs, rocks, downed trees, boggy areas, crossing creeks, beaver habitat, and other marshy areas. The weather on the first day was cool, about 10 C (50 F) with overcast skies. It rained overnight and cleared the next day. The second day we were treated to a sunny 20 C (68 F) day.

My pack carried my clothing (cold weather items), kitchen cooking gear, emergency items, my sleeping bag & pad, food for two people for the two days, my hydration pack, a water bottle, and snacks. All this weighed about 18 kg (40 lb).

Mid May: Lake Superior Provincial Park Trip
The second overnight outing for the pack was along the Coastal Trail in Lake Superior Provincial Park in Northern Ontario. The portion of the Coastal Trail I travelled on this trip was approximately 18 km (11.2 mi) in length over two days of hiking. The terrain was single track leaf strewn trail, sandy and very rocky beaches. Most of the going was uneventful until the end of my second day when I turned my ankle on the smoother going of the single track trail. Luckily I was fairly close to the trailhead so I didn't have to travel far to my car. The weather on the first day was cool and rainy with temperatures hovering around 11 C (52 F). It dropped sharply to -3 C (26 F) overnight and climbed to about 8 C (46 F) the second day with sunny skies.

My pack carried my extra clothing, kitchen cooking gear, sleeping bag & pad, food for myself for three days, a water bottle, emergency items, bug gear, my tent, and my dog's food and supplies. All this weighed about 14.5 kg (32 lb).

Day Trips: Hiawatha Highlands and the Voyageur Hiking Trail
I carried the pack on a couple of day hikes just to get the 'feel' for what I thought was right for the shoulder harness, hipbelt, etc. Very little weight was carried in the pack, less than 4.5 kg (10 lb) on all the day hikes I took the pack on. The areas were very similar, well maintained two track trails through boreal forest frequented by many hikers, dog walkers, runners, and bikers. Small creeks cross the trails on several sections, but are easily stepped over and are dry creek beds once the summer wears on.

Fit and Comfort:
On my first trip with the pack, after the first day there were two pressure points on my shoulders where the pack was resting. The second day I had to pull the sternum strap in another inch or so to keep the pressure off those sore spots. I was also having trouble keeping the hip belt from riding too low on my hips for my comfort. After another couple of hours of hiking, it was becoming very evident that I needed to do some serious readjusting of the fit. I had my husband and a friend look at the pack while I was wearing it to determine what needed adjusting. After moving the shoulder harness up about an inch and readjusting the harness suspension, we achieved a much more bearable fit. If I was alone in the field, because I was having problems with the hipbelt sliding down, I would have moved the shoulder harness down to get the torso length shorter. I was still adjusting the shoulder suspension periodically throughout the afternoon, but that was more because of the already sore spots on my shoulders.

On the second overnight trip with the pack, the adjustments that were made at the end of its first trip were definitely what the doctor ordered. I had only one small area of the shoulder harness rubbing on the inside of my left arm, more likely from the reaching out to steady myself while climbing over rocks and some downed trees. Even after I twisted my ankle, I did not find travelling with the pack on awkward or uncomfortable.

The shoulder harness, hipbelt, and other adjustment points are easily manipulated while wearing the pack. The rip and stick adjustment takes some prying to pull the two layers apart, but this is a good thing. If it was too easy to pry apart it might slide around while the pack was in use. It is definitely easier to adjust when the pack is empty than when the pack is fully loaded.

The sternum strap can easily be moved up and down to accommodate changes in the way I want to wear the pack. The shoulder straps give ample room my averagely endowed bust.

The hip belt once adjusted in a comfortable position provides plenty of cushioning. I found it was easier to loosen the hipbelt strap before unclipping it than trying to loosen the strap once unclipped. The ActivMotion pivot feature on the hipbelt allows for the pack to pivot up and down, which I have not found to be very useful as of yet. I did have the hipbelt pop off the frame a couple of times as the frame just slides into a pocket in the hipbelt. A piece of Velcro could be added her to keep it from happening at all. The load of the pack remains centered and stable, even when bushwhacking through heavy brush.

The temperature on the Pigeon River Trip hovered around 10 C (50 F) the first day and jumped to a balmy 20 C (68F) on the second day. On my second overnight trip to Lake Superior Provincial Park, it was around 11 C (52 F) on the first day and 8 C (46 F) on the second day. I didn't find any of these temperatures affected how sweaty my body was where it was contacted by the pack. The way the pack wears allows for air to get at my back so I don't feel hot, at least not in the temperatures I have experienced thus far with the pack.

Hydration Reservoir Sleeve:
My current hydration system fits into the sleeve provided in the pack, however, the anchors at the top for holding the bladder up are too small for the holes in my hydration bladder. I ended up putting one of the anchors through the exit for the hose on one side of the bladder. The other anchor I left loose. This was adequate to keep the bladder from sliding down into the sleeve. The sleeve does not keep condensation from reaching the items in my pack, it is simply a nylon divider between the bladder and the rest of the compartment. The exit for the hose from the pack is easily swapped from one side of the pack to the other. The hose is anchored down by a small length of elastic sewn into the shoulder harness, one on each side so that I can use it on either the left or the right. After the first trip, the elastic on the left side had broken the elastic fibers. It still functions to hold the hose along the length of the shoulder harness, but the damage is noticeable. 

The Main Pocket:
The main pocket comfortably holds the gear that I need for a 2-3 day backpacking trip, with my sleeping pad and shelter attached on the outside bottom straps. There are two cordlock sliders at top the main compartment used for entry into this compartment. I find the top one to be the most useful and haven't needed to use the second one. There is also a compression strap at the top of the main compartment for compressing the items in the main compartment. This is a nice feature. It enables me to get the main compartment maximally compressed before doing up the compression straps for the top compartment. It may just be more esthetically pleasing to have everything compressed neatly, but I like it.

I originally though I would have a ton of use for the bottom access zipper for the main pocket, but I have yet to use it while backpacking. I store my least used items in the bottom of the pack, namely my sleeping bag and first aid kit. These items I haven't needed until I am ready to set up camp for the night and up to this point, I have taken most of the other things out of my pack so they are easily accessible from the top of the main compartment.

Additional Pockets:
The mesh pockets on each side of the pack are difficult to reach when wearing the pack. I would find it much easier if they were located on the hip belt. The mesh pockets easily accommodate a 710 ml (24 oz) stainless steel water bottle and a weather meter in the same pocket, a 1 L (34 oz) plastic bottle alone, or a 500 ml (17 oz) stainless steel travel mug and a snack bar in the same pocket. The mesh pockets have an elasticated top edge to help hold items in, which is at just the right height to go around the under side of the lid of my water bottle.

I can un-zip the zipper of the side pockets located under the mesh pockets, but again, reaching into the pocket is very difficult while wearing the pack. I haven't found much use for the zippered pockets yet, other than to store my car keys.

The map pocket on the underside of the top compartment is not see-through. It is just an area to store maps while not in use. I have used this pocket to store my drawing pencils and sketchbook as well as a paperback novel.

On the first day hike I took the pack on I found that one of the cordlocks for the drawstring to the main compartment would not hold tight around the drawstring cords. I could not depress the cordlock and it slid freely along the cords. I contacted REI online via their REI Live Help option and explained the problem to the agent through their messaging system. The agent gave me a couple of troubleshooting tips to try, but it was quickly evident that the cordlock was defective. The agent sent me a new cordlock with instructions on how to activate it once it arrived. Two days later, the new cordlock arrived and functions just fine.

On the first backpacking trip of the year, I put this pack through a fair amount of bushwhacking off trail. It was whipped by passing branches, scraped between trees and bushes, and had brush, spruce and pine needles, and small branches fall on it. Other than some dirt marks and accumulating conifer needles and small twigs in the side pockets, the pack fabric held up very well. There are no tears or abrasion marks.

I was originally concerned that the buckles of the pack wouldn't hold up very well to repeated use as the test period went on. After two months of use, the buckles function just as well as they did the day the pack arrived. They are surprisingly sturdy for their minimalistic style.

Weather Resistance:
During my second overnight trip with the pack, I encountered some light rain lasting about an hour. I did not use a pack cover. The polyurethane coating was enough to keep the rain from dampening anything inside the pack. The outside of the pack was slightly damp the next morning, but after about an hour of exposure to the sun while on my back it was dry.

Date: July 23rd, 2007

Late June: Lake Superior Provincial Park

The pack and I did an overnight trip in Lake Superior Provincial Park in late June. The weather was cool but sunny, the temperature hovered around 15 C (59 F) for the two days I was out. The trail was a well travelled one through a mostly cedar treed area along a river. Lots of roots and rocks were encountered along the way. Some clambering over logs and climbing man made steps made travelling with a loaded pack challenging but fun. The pack weighed about 15 kg (33 lbs) with all my gear: 
extra clothing, kitchen cooking gear, sleeping bag & pad, food for myself for two days, a water bottle, emergency items, bug gear, my tent, and my dog's food and supplies. 

Late July: Lake Superior Provincial Park
I spent three days in Lake Superior Provincial Park in Late July, this time along the Coastal Trail. The hiking was along a challenging portion of this trail, climbing rocks and clambering through chasms. There was also some travel along rocky and sandy beaches. I travelled at a very leisurely pace, about 8 km (5 mi) a day. The weather was ideal, bright blue skies for the whole weekend with the temperature 28 C (82 F) during the day. There was a light breeze and virtually no humidity. Perfect weather for backpacking. Again, my pack carried extra clothing, kitchen gear, sleeping bag & pad, food, water bottle, emergency items, bug gear, my tent, and my dog's food and supplies. It weighed in at about 16 kg (35 lbs) at the beginning of the trip.

Day Trips: Tahquamenon Falls State Park & Lake Superior Provincial Park

I have continued to use the pack during day hikes lasting longer than a couple of hours and more than 5 km (3 mi).
The pack carried between 4.5 and 6.8 kg (10 and 15 lb) on my day hikes. Both areas are similar in geography, consisting of well-maintained trails through boreal forest frequented by many hikers and backpackers. Small creeks cross the trails on several sections. Roots and stumps jutting into the trail are common, as are muddy sections after a rainfall. The weather ranged from overcast and drizzling to bright sunny days. Temperatures ranged from 12 to 25 C (54 to 77 F). 

Continued Observations:

Fit and Comfort:
After the initial adjustments I noted in the Field Report, I have had to make no further alterations other than to stabilize the load of the pack once it is on my back. No further rub areas have arisen, so I attribute the rubbing experienced on other trips to what I was doing while wearing the pack. I absolutely love the way the hipbelt adjusts and tightens. As long as I remember to loosen the hipbelt before unclipping, it is very easy to tighten down once I'm wearing the pack.

I still have not noticed a difference between other packs I have used and the pivoting of the ActivMotion feature on this pack.

We have had unseasonably cool weather here in Northern Ontario and Upper Michigan, so I haven't noticed that the air flow at my back to be an issue. I can feel a breeze blowing across my midback when wearing the pack, so I would anticipate that in warmer weather I would not find the pack too hot.

Field Performance:
The load I carried in the pack varied from 4.5 kg (10 lbs) to 16 kg (35 lbs). There wasn't any significant difference in the way the pack moved on my back other than the obvious with more weight in the pack I was more aware of it on my back. While I am not extremely picky about how I carry items in my pack, I am aware of load balancing strategies and try to keep that in mind when loading stuff in there. I still tend to keep my sleeping bag in the bottom even though it is one of the lighter items in my pack.

On day hikes, the pack easily accommodated the items I wanted to carry with plenty of room to spare. Usually the items in my pack included snacks and sandwiches, some sort of water treatment (either a filter or purifying tablets), a rain/wind jacket, a book in the main pocket with maps, and some miscellaneous items like a knife, matches, cell phone, keys, etc in the top compartment.

For overnight trips I could carry all the items I wanted for the trips I took. I generally don't change too much for trips one night in length as opposed to ones lasting 3-4 days. The difference is usually just the amount of food I take and a couple of clothing items. The pack was fairly full for all the trips I took with it; especially the ones when the weather was cooler as I took extra cool weather clothing. I would put my sleeping bag, kitchen items, bear rope, dog food, my food, clothing, and fuel in the main compartment. I strapped my tent and sleeping pad on the outside of the pack using the compression straps at the bottom. My emergency items, toiletries, map & compass, and an extra snack would go into the top compartment. I used the map pocket on the underside of the top compartment for a novel and/or sketchpad and pencils. I carried bear spray in one of the mesh side pockets with my bug netting and a water bottle with a snack or two in the other mesh side pocket. The small zippered pocket behind the mesh side pockets I used for my car keys. On cooler weather trips, I would strap my jacket or fleece just under the compression strap at the top of the pack under the top compartment.

Hydration Reservoir Sleeve:
About two thirds of the way through the test period my hydration bladder developed a leak. I replaced the bladder with a Camelbak Omega 3 L (0.8 US Gal) reservoir. This bladder did not work well with this pack. It went into the sleeve OK, but the anchors at the top would not accommodate the one clip at the top of the Camelbak Omega. I could get the clip onto one of the anchors, but then the bladder would migrate to one side of the pack making my load unbalanced. I ended up leaving the bladder behind and using water bottles for the remaining overnight trip in the test period.

The Main Pocket:
To test out the bottom access zipper to the main compartment, I used it to remove my sleeping bag on one afternoon to have a rest and a read of a book on the beach. I laid down the pack on its back and took out the sleeping bag, leaving the pack on its back so that the rest of my gear wouldn't slide down into the bottom of the pack. The zipper worked as I expected and I was able to get the sleeping bag out and back into the pack easily.

Additional Pockets:
I continue to find accessing items in the mesh side pocket a challenge when wearing the pack. It is easier to access items in the mesh pocket when the pack is not fully loaded. This may be because it is easier to pull the pack a bit more to the side than when it is full of my gear.

This pack is very well made. Other than my original comment about the hydration hose elastic losing its elasticity on my first trip with this pack, no other issues have arisen with the pack. The elastic has not deteriorated any further and continues to hold the hose in place.

The buckles that I was concerned about in my initial report continue to function fine. I admit I am surprised at their sturdiness for their size.

Weather Resistance:
I did not encounter any rain during the Long Term Report stage. 

After the last backpacking trip, I wiped down the pack with a damp cloth to brush off some dirt that was starting to accumulate along the sides and top of the pack. It easily brushed off the Ripstop fabric.  Water spillage from my water bottles did not seep into the fabric, but would bead on it before dripping off.

Overall, I am very pleased with this pack. It is sturdy, fits well, and holds the gear I need for a 3-4 day backpacking trip in the spring and summer. I would consider this to be a very good value for the cost of the pack and would purchase this model in the future if and when I am in need of a new pack.

This concludes my Long Term Report and this test series. Thank you to BackpackgearTest and REI for the opportunity to test this pack.

Read more reviews of REI gear
Read more gear reviews by Jo Ann Moffi

Reviews > Packs > Internal and External Framed Backpacks > REI Ridgeline Pack > Test Report by Jo Ann Moffi

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