The North Face Banchee 35 Litre Rucksack
The North Face Banchee 35 Litre rucksack Review By Dan Webber
When I first received this sack to review I was somewhat disappointed. I was expecting a lightweight day sack ideal for fast days in the mountains or a bouldering trip to the forest. Something that could easily be squashed into an over-head baggage compartment on a low cost plane trip to sunny climes. The North Face 'Banchee 35' doesn't fit into this criteria. It's aimed at hiking where load-carrying-ability and comfort are above ultra lightweight and squash-ability. The aluminium frame construction (the key thing that prevents squash-ability) is the very thing that aids load carrying, with the mesh back keeping the sack away from your back preventing sweating but also making the load feel more stable and comfortable over a long day in the hills. The North Face call this mesh back OPTIFIT TM ventilation and it really does allow air to circulate around your back which is particular pleasant in hot conditions to keep your body core temperature down or in cold conditions when you want to try and prevent heat loss from sweating.
When I first tried the pack on I found that the back was a bit long and the pack felt like it sat too high on my hips. But the back length can be quickly and easily adjusted via some Velcro - the OPTIFIT TM Adjustability. The pack still felt like it sat high on my hips but once loaded down on my first proper use I soon got used to it and actually found it more comfortable than other suspension designs I have tried. The pack can also be neatly adjusted to fit your hips inside the impressively padded hip pockets. The sack I reviewed was a large / xtra large, but it comes in other sizes so make sure you check which will fit you best. There is also a specific women's fit as well with female friendly dimensions.
On your back the load feels very stable, and the side compression straps neatly hold the contents even if your pack isn't completely full. The chest strap and hip belts can be drawn tight and don't slip which can be a problem on other sacks. One of the advantages of the suspension design is that pointy items like stoves or bottles don't dig into your back like they do on a standard design, something I appreciated when walking into the crag the other day with a sack full of rope and quickdraws. However, the reason for this comfort, the suspension design is the very reason I wouldn't choose this as a climbing sack.
In terms of storage the Banchee comes well equipped with a plethora of pockets. The top lid pocket has a very useful mesh compartment inside which is extremely useful to prevent valuables such as mobile phones and car keys (attached to the key clip) from falling out when rummaging around for your head torch in the dark. The front pouch is a good size and great for quickly shoving in discarded items of clothing before a big up hill. And this pouch has 2 additional pockets, one wide perfect for maps and the other thin perfect for snacks. I also particularly like sacks with pockets on the hip belts, like this has, as they are great for storing items you need to grab quickly like compact cameras, GPS or sweets / chocolate to give you that essential sugar boost!
To keep you hydradated on those long slogs up there is a hydration bladder pouch in the internal compartment and a slot for your hose on the left. If you prefer a bottle approach to fluid intake then there are also 2 really useful mesh side pockets that are expansive enough for 1 litre water bottles.
On The Outside
The pack has 2 ice axe loops and elastic draw loops to keep them secure, front pouch would also be good for storing walking crampons, making them easily accessible. One minor draw back I found is that the sack has no side zip entry which can make it tricky to access items right at the bottom when fully loaded.
The material is lightweight but sturdy and seems to be suitability water resistant, but only time will tell how well it stands up to wear and a months of use in British winter rain!
I wouldn't normally choose a suspension design pack and but after using this pack to carry some reasonably heavy loads I've been converted to the benefits of comfort and stability it offers over a standard design in the right circumstances. The North Face Banchee 35 fits the brief if you are looking for a comfortable hiking sack for long days walking in the hills.
What The North Face say;
For light and fast backcountry forays The North Face Banchee 35 offers a hiking backpack with great balance between volume, fit and features. Loaded with pockets for gear accessibility and OPTIFIT TM technology for balanced loading and comfort, this is a pack you can take on any adventure.
Dynamic aluminium frame provides superior freedom of movement and load control
Two tool keepers
Fabric 210D rips top weave nylon
Volume - 35 litres
Weight - 1270 grams
Sizes S/M, L/XL
Colours: Nautical Blue/Energy Yellow, Flashlight Green/Safety Green