There are two broad schools of thought in rucksack design. Either keep things simple by offering a stripped-down back system to ensure the pack is light and functional, or go for comfort with an engineered back system that adds weight but makes lugging heavier loads easier.
The North Face’s Terra 65 rucksack falls into the second camp. It’s not as heavy as Karrimor’s Jaguar 55-75 (2778g), but it’s almost 900g more than GoLite’s 72 litre Quest rucksack (1450g). The Terra 65 is all about comfort, and its key selling feature is the Opti-Fit back system, designed for comfort and stability.
Pull the catch at the base of the back system, and you can slide the shoulder straps up and down to adjust to the back length. This feature, combined with the dual density padded shoulder straps and hipbelt, makes for an impressively comfortable carry. There’s also the Verti-Cool back panel – basically a gap in the back system that runs along your spine to keep you well-ventilated, which was less convincing.
I put this pack to the test in the Lakes, and I was impressed by the comfort and ease of carry. It’s very well-featured with a side opening, large lid pocket and side mesh storage pockets for water bottles. There’s a large external pocket with stretch cover, a neat segregated area for your sleeping bag at the base of the pack, and a full rain cover.
So should you buy it? There’s no doubt that this is a comfortable pack, so if you’re intending to carry larger loads into the hills this is an excellent option. For anyone interested in shedding weight, though, the benefits of highly engineered back systems are lost if you’ve already invested in lightweight tent, sleeping bag and cookset.
This is the kind of pack I’d use for a weekend of wild camping, walking, scrambling and climbing when I need more gear. It’s a good expedition-style pack, comfortable and well-featured – but it’s not for weight watchers.
The North Face’s Opti-Fit back system is a very neat way to get the back length just right for you. Specialist shops will be equipped with specific measuring tools to get this adjustment spot on for you. This is a good reason to go to a shop you trust, as this fitting could seriously enhance performance.
Stretch front pocket
There are no side pockets, making this a relatively sleek pack, but it does have a spacious pocket on the fixed lid and a front pocket made from stretch material. The latter is a good place to store waterproofs or to stash thermal layers.
Zipped side entrance
This makes it easier to locate items buried deep in your bag, but on the hill you’re likely to be using a dry bag, so this is more useful for storing wet kit outside that, or for when travelling.
Capacity 63 litres (medium); 65 litres (large)
Weight 2140g (medium); 2340g (large)
Materials 420D polyester dobby; 420D mini ripstop polyester
Sizes medium, large
Features fixed lid, Opti-Fit adjustable back system, side mesh pockets, rain cover,
side zip access to main pack
Made in Vietnam
Stockist details (01539) 822155; www.thenorthface.com
The The North Face Terra 65 is a brilliantly comfortable pack that is built to lug larger loads and will deal with longer trips when you’re spending a number of nights in the hills.
Review by Matt Swaine
First published in Trail magazine July 2010