Travel Gear: The North Face Banchee 35.

For years I’ve been traveling with my trusty Jansport Superbreak 25L backpack. It’s light, compact and surprisingly carries a lot with proper packing. It has been serving me well and it will always be my number one choice for overnight to three-day trips. When hiking and camping I use a 40L Montanara backpack, which was a hand-me-down from my mountaineer-uncle. That pack is a really old model and thus straightforward — lightly-padded straps and belt, main compartment, top lid and side pockets — no other fancies. That pack has definitely seen its days and deserves to retire, which is why I did not bother bringing it to Europe.

Me with my college friends on our way up Mt. Maculot in Batangas, Philippines. Spot my old pack, it's purple and black!

Me with my college friends on our way up Mt. Maculot in Batangas, Philippines. Spot my old pack, it’s purple and black!

I’ve been wanting to get a TNF pack for YEARS  but needed a really good reason so the price could be justified, and what could be a better reason than to be living at the foot of the Dolomite mountain range?! Yes, I literally peek through our living room window and stare at the gorgeous mountain every single day!

As mentioned in the North Face Alteo 35 post, the brand choice is simply a preference and I had intended to acquire my college dream — a Women’s Terra in Seafoam Green. But I was set on a 30-35L pack and the smallest Terra available was at 40L, hence I have chosen the Banchee 35 in High Rise Grey/ Miami Orange! As superficial as it sounds, I picked it for the compartments and the colors. Do you guys know how much  I love the color orange?

The Banchee 35 is a top-loading pack weighing at 2 lbs, and has three compartments at the front and two stretchable mesh pockets on the sides. It has the typical compression straps which let you adjust how compact you want your pack to be for a sturdier load. One con is the lack of a side or bottom access to the main compartment, so you will definitely have to dig into the pack if you need items at the bottom. Being a 30L pack though, it’s not that hard of a challenge. It has the same loops at the flanks for trek poles or other equipment, and two straps at the bottom for compression adjustment or additional storage for your tents or poles or whatever.

Beautiful.

Loving the contrast between grey and orange.

The beaver tail expands to a roomy compartment which, I think, could hold a size 5 football. In front are two zippers on either side; one opens to the full width of the beaver tail and the other opens to half — perfect for bottles or a retractable baton.  BTW, I read that retractable batons are illegal in some countries.

20140516-150737.jpg

 

At the back is the typical mesh lining, which provides air circulation between me and the main compartment. The belt and shoulder straps are heavily-padded and at the moment, the hipbelt padding is a little stiff because it’s still new; it doesn’t exactly affect the pack performance, though. It’s also equipped with the Safe-T whistle and I recently learned that this particular set of straps, apart from being adjustable by sliding it upward or downward, could also be removed by simply pulling them out.

The Banchee 35 is equipped with the Optifit feature which allows further customization of your pack. The shoulder straps could be adjusted higher or lower to fit your torso. This is a feature that I really like since I am blessed with a pretty short torso. (I am only 5’1.5″, and yes, that half inch is very important.) Despite an XS/S-sized pack, I still had to adjust the shoulder straps to fit me perfectly. The belt has additional storage in the zipped compartments, which also conceal the Optifit buckles. These pockets are tad too small for my liking, though — passports wouldn’t fit inside without deforming. You could, however, store smaller items such as keys, money, snacks or your husband’s fitted rain cover for his Alteo 35. See, the Banchee 35 doesn’t come with a rain cover so I borrowed Rambi’s.

Peek-a-boo, I see you.

Peek-a-boo! I see you, Optifit buckle.

 

Now unlike the Alteo 35, the top lid pocket is not detachable but that’s not exactly a bad thing. I particularly love the top lid since it’s the perfect storage for important stuff like my wallet and passport; easily accessible and secure since the zipper is right behind the back of my neck. No reason to take it out. Inside is a zipped mesh pocket with a security hook (not seen in the photo) and a roomy compartment.

Pocketsss!

Pocketsss!

Main compartment!

Main compartment.

Now we go inside the pack and we see the main compartment and a small pocket for your hydration pack! The pack’s frame bends inward slightly towards the main compartment as well, although not as dramatic as the Alteo’s wind tunnel so there’s more room to reach in.

That’s it for the cosmetics, how does the pack fare in performance? I filled this baby with a ton of stuff, adjusted the straps to my liking, did jumping jacks, and boy, this pack sure hugs you right. I was able to pull the pack low enough to sit right where I want it on my hips and thanks to the Optifit feature, I adjusted the shoulder straps low enough to rest, not hover, on my shoulders.

So all in all? I love it. I love it. I love it.

Available for $169.00 on The North Face and BackCountry websites.

 

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