The North Face Power Duo!
I have always been a true fan of day trips. Often times, living in Southern California, people tell me it’s hard to find good backpacking adventure that doesn’t require hours of driving. Truth is, adventure is easy to find, you just have to know where to look for it and fortunately we usually do. Our latest adventure took us on a backpacking trip right in the heart of Southern California. Gear is always crucial on any trip, but my pack and boots are the 2 most important items that require extra attention when pairing this gear for a specific trip. The expert team from The North Face outfitted our trip up by sending us the Banchee 65L pack, and a pair of Mens Ultra Extreme II GTX boots. As we break in this duo and understand their capabilities they will see many different trails. We will add to our written experience after each trip that will take us across the desert and Big Sur Coastline.
Fresh out of the box I was impressed by how light these boots were. This always serves as an ice breaker since holding a heavy boot never instills confidence. I am accustomed to larger outsoles and overall footprints therefore I was slightly concerned that they’d give me some blisters or wouldn’t hold up to continues rock strikes. Fortunately my concerns were completely premature as It didn’t long before I fell in love with the Ultra Extreme II GTX boots. On our 11 mile loop we threw big boulders, sand, fine dirt, and even some streams at them and they just kept performing without missing a step. These are considered full waterproof boots but they aren’t a closed system therefore it’s best to consider them as being highly water resistant for most trips. I never once allowed water inside the boots as we crossed several streams which is vital when you aren’t wearing waterproof socks. Breathable, waterproof GORE-TEX® membrane with Duratherm® insulation provides an extreme level of confidence that this design will protect your feet during winter and spring treks. The soft fabric lining only further aids in warmth and comfort for longer days on the trail. Given that these boots are designed for colder weather trips we were pleased to be wearing these without overheating during the spring.
The low weight of this boot made it easy to walk long distances as there were times I could hardly feel them on. It’s rare that I find a pair of capable boots that offer the comfort of my daily performance footwear. I was honestly waiting for the pressure points to reveal themselves mile after mile. Whether it’s from the rigorous development process of shares features from The North Face trail running shoes the Dual-density, compression-molded EVA midsole with CRADLE™ surpassed all expectations. Scaling boulders and trekking through gravel terrain was effortless thanks to the TPU CRADLE™ heel-stabilizing technology with full-length Pebax® Snake Plate™. Even walking around in my house I could feel the carpet slightly sticking as I broke these in weeks before the trip.
One thing I did notice however is these boots tend to run a little warm for winter, so I would hesitate in wearing them in the warmer summer months. To my amazement when I took these feature packed boots off there were no blisters, not even a hot spot. The fact that these come with an extremely durable Vibram sole and provide comfort right out of the box I can confidently say that I’m sold!
The Banchee pack was about the average weight of other packs that we have used within 65 liter size range at just under 4 pounds, but the front pouch organization was definitely above par from other packs we’ve seen. Due to its moderate size and plethora of storage this pack is best used for overnight, or multi day trips. Our test pack arrived in Bomber Blue, but also comes in Q-Silver Grey. I could go into all the features of this back, like the top loading floating lid, aluminum frame, or OPTIFIT suspension, let’s be honest what we really care about is how does this bag fit, ride, and perform?
I’m 5’11 and opted for the L/XL size, and once adjusted properly this pack fits super snug above the hips and close to my back. I was able to move quickly through rough terrain without ever feeling like the bag was was going to throw me off balance. The lumbar support was a little higher on the Banchee than some other packs we’ve tested, but I really enjoyed where it sat. Our fully packed bag weighed in at 32.5 lbs and swallowed our tent, summer bag, stove, cookware, and 2 days worth of food, along with some other random items.
My favorite feature on this bag was the oversized exterior pocket, which has what The North Face refers to as a beavertail construction. Basically it’s an elastic pouch behind the front two zippers pockets that allows you to shove extra gear in, like a rain jacket, and still allow the pack to fit close to your body.
This has definitely been one of the better load controlling packs we’ve tested. Speaking of the front pockets, the double zipper pockets made a breeze of organizing our gear from site to site and was very easy to access during our stops. This pack excels in so many areas and the only thing I could knock it for was design of the side pack water bottle holders. So many companies nowadays still use the long straight opening H20 holders which make it insanely difficult to withdraw your bottle while hiking. I really wish more companies would move to a slant design where the bottle would be in a more ergonomic placement to pull it out and place it back in while trekking. Overall this pack should be on your list for bags to consider for your multi day trips.
Stay tuned as we continue on with this gear and backpack our way through some of our favorite trails and National Parks.