The following is my text version of my Initial Report on the Lowe Alpine TFX Summit 65+15 pack. The html version can be found at http://www.backpackgeartest.org/reviews/test/TESTS/Lowe%20Alpine%20TFX%20Summit%20IR--Wheiler/
As usual, the html version has all the photographs, the table, and fewer Yahooisms. Thank you for your assistance in editing this report. Sorry for the length but this pack just has so much to talk about!
LOWE ALPINE TFX SUMMIT 65+15 BACKPACK
By Michael Wheiler
Initial Report: May 1, 2007
Long Term Report:
Name: Michael Wheiler
Height: 5'10" (178 cm)
Weight: 175 lb. (79 kg)
Torso Length: 19 3/4" (50 cm)
Hip Measurement: 34" (86 cm)
Chest Size: 40" (102 cm)
Location: Southeast Idaho
Email: jmwlaw AT ida DOT net
I have about 39 years experience hiking, camping, and backpacking. I have been active in the Boy Scout program as a youth and as an adult leader. I was a Scoutmaster for seven years with an active monthly outdoor program. Since being retired from that position, I still try to get out monthly. In the last two years I have been able to climb three of Idaho's highest peaks.
Field Testing Environment:
Most of my camping, hiking and backpacking occurs in the southeastern Idaho area but spills over into western Wyoming and western Montana. I occasionally get into the mountains of central Idaho as well. The areas I frequent generally range from 5,500 ft (1,600 m) to 8,500 ft (2,600 m). The weather in southeastern Idaho is fairly typical of a high desert plain. Winters are usually cold with temperatures at times reaching -20° F (-29° C). Snow depths vary widely but are generally over 10-12 feet (3-4 m) in the high country. On average snow depths in the lower mountainous areas can be between 4 to 6 feet (1-2 m).
Item: TFX Summit 65+15
Manufacturer's Web Site: http://www.lowealpine.com
Date Received: April 24, 2007
Color: Lizzard Green/Slate (also available in Truered/Black)
Manufacturer Suggested Retail Price: Contact Local Dealer
Product Specifications and Features Per Manufacturer Unless Otherwise Noted:
Pack bag Fabric
Main bag: 4,000 cu. in./65 L
Lid: 900 cu. in./15 L
7 lb. 3 oz. (3.26 kg)
As measured by tester: 7 lb. 1 oz. (3.20 kg)
Extendable, removable and converts into a belt pack; elasticized insert; 3 internal and external zippered pockets
TFX 9 adjustable from extra small (15"/38 cm) to extra large (23"/58 cm)
Radial side compression straps to control the load and create stability
Body shaped with GPS pocket on the left shoulder strap and sternum strap
Molded "Noggin Notch" for head space
Two compartments with zip out divider
Extendable spindrift collar
Reinforced top panel with lash points
Front and rear haul/grasp loops
Ice axe/trekking pole attachment placed to allow access to lower compartment
Additional lash points
Reinforced wand pockets
Rain cover stowed in its own hook and loop closed exterior pocket
Tuck-away mesh water bottle pocket
Hydration system compatible
Mitt-friendly zipper pulls
SOS panel in removable lid
Key clip inside removable lid
Compression extends across the base of the pack
As measured by tester: approxmiately 29 in (74 cm) from the bottom of the bag to the top of the lid without using the extension collar and approximately 35 in (89 cm) from the bottom of the bag to the top of the extension collar.
According to Colin Fletcher, your backpack is more than just the house for the rest of your gear, it is the "crucial interface between you and your load" and is second only to your boots in its ability to "mar your walking."¹ In that context, Lowe Alpine generally describes the TFX Summit 65+15 pack on its web page as "Built for the long haul, the TFX Summit carries expedition loads with ease no matter how intense the pace or terrain. The TFX 9 back with Micro Adjust gives perfect comfort and load control."
The Lowe Alpine TFX Summit 65+15 (hereinafter the "Summit"), arrived via Fed Ex in perfect condition. The only information supplied with the Summit was contained on a hang tag. The information on the hang tag was only the product name, color of the product, country of origin (Vietnam), a bar code and warranty information as follows: "Lowe Alpine guarantees all of its products against defects in materials and workmanship for the life of the product. If you are not satisfied with your Lowe Alpine product, return it to the store where it was purchased. If it is defective, you have certain statutory rights with the store who sold the product to you. In addition to those rights, if there is a defect in manufacture we will repair or replace the product at our option. Your statutory rights are not affected by this warranty. The warranty does not cover damage caused by accidents or misuse, nor does it cover the natural breakdown of materials which occurs over extended use and time (e.g. zipper failure or fabric abrasion). Repairs due to accident, improper care, negligence or wear and tear, where Lowe Alpine is not at fault, will be made for a reasonable charge. Fabric guarantees are covered separately, see fabric tag for details."
After removing the Summit from the box, it looked like what I was expecting after viewing Lowe Alpine's web page. My initial examination of the Summit was very enjoyable. The Summit is designed with so many cool features. In this initial report, I will try to describe in word and photographs some of the major features of the Summit. Because of space limitations in the Initial Report, I will not try to cover all of the features of the Summit.
The Frame: Lowe uses two 6061-T6 aircraft grade aluminum stays in the Summit to direct load transfer onto the hips while, at the same time, "providing a light weight, strong frame which has the ability to be customized by hand without losing the load-transfer properties." The stays are pre-bent and the user will want to check the stays to determine if the shape works with the shape of his or her back. The Summit also uses the "TFX 9 back with Micro Adjust" system which Lowe claims will provide the user with "perfect comfort and load control." There are no instructions with the Summit or, that I could find, on the web page describing how to find or use the TFX 9 and Micro Adjust system. However, during my examination of any pack, I like to take it apart to see how the frame is assembled and how the hip belt is attached to the frame. While examining the Summit, I found that the lumbar pad was secured to the frame by way of a hook and loop closure. When I pulled the lumbar pad away from the frame, I found the TFX 9 adjustment system (see photographs below). The TFX 9 system is color coded and covers a range of torso sizes from extra small to extra large.
As can be seen in the photographs, the Summit was adjusted to a size medium (the yellow stripe) when I received it. I needed a size large frame. By simply pulling on the buckle and loosening the strap which is attached to the bottom of a pad (the gray colored pad you can see just under the strap with the color coded stripes) which is also connected to the upper shoulder straps, I was easily able to change to the orange stripe thereby extending the torso length of the pack. By pulling upward on the strap, I was easily able to decrease the torso length of the pack to a small. I then readjusted the torso length to a size large, folded the lumbar pad back into place, tucked the thinner upper portion of the lumbar pad under the exterior fabric, and resecured the lumbar pad to the hook and loop closure located just under the green colored fabric with the yellow triangle/arrow. I then tried on the empty pack and the fit seemed perfect, though I will want to add some weight before determining if this is the best fit. Adjusting the torso length of the Summit is simple and easy. I was impressed with this feature.
Lumbar Padding and Back Panel: Lowe uses both closed-cell and open-cell foam in its packs. High quality closed-cell foam is used in the shoulder harness, back panel and lumbar pad. Lowe claims that the closed-cell foam is used because it is "highly resistant to stretch and compression damage and will not be affected by the cold." Another unique and cool feature of the Summit is the Micro Adjust system. This system consists of a tear-drop shaped, gray rubber finger or hand pump attached to the right side of the hip belt with a small tube running to the lumbar pad (see photographs below and above). In the picture immediately above this section, you can just see the tube where it enters the lumbar pad near the left corner of the TFX instructions. The photograph below shows the pump. I found the pump was difficult to use with just one finger but using two fingers or the palm of my hand I was able to actually feel the lumbar pad pumping up. To release air from the pad, simply push in on the little red button on the pump. The pump is sewn onto the hip pad at the top (near the red button), is attached to the pad by hook and loop in the center (right behind the center of the pump) and is attached at the bottom by a metal snap attached to a piece of webbing material. By detaching the lower portion of the pump, the user has access to the tube where it exits the pump.
The rest of the back panel appears to be a closed cell foam with a waffle shapped texture (see above right photograph).
Shoulder Straps: The shoulder straps are reported to be made of "space mesh with Brock foam padding." In the photograph above (on the right) you can see the shoulder straps and the GPS pocket attached to the left shoulder strap. My Garmin Vista fit tightly into the pocket. I was also able to squeeze in a handheld radio made by Motorola. The shoulder straps are approximately 3/4 inch (2 cm) thick. Shoulder harness lift-straps (load stabilizer straps) are attached near the top of each shoulder strap. Shoulder harness adjustment straps are also located at the bottom of each strap. All of these straps, upon initial examination without a loaded pack, pull and release easily for quick adjustment.
The Hip Belt: Lowe uses a stiffer closed-cell foam laminated to a softer open-cell foam in the waistbelt on the Summit to "provide shape and firm support while ensuring body-contact comfort." The hip belt is designed with two "bellowed mesh pockets with zippers." The belt is approximately 12 inches (30 cm) long on each side and tapers from approximately 6 inches (15 cm) in width at the hip to approximately 4 inches (10 cm) at the end (near where it buckles). The thickness of the padding varies but is generally between 3/4 inch (2 cm) to 1 inch (2.5 cm). There are right and left hand hip belt stabilizer straps.
Head Comfort: The Summit uses Lowe Alpine's new "molded Noggin Notch" to provide more head space. This appears to be simply a "u-shaped" cut-out in the plastic frame near the top of the pack (under the removable lid and the rear haul loop) to provide the user's head with additional space (see photograph below). According to Lowe Alpine, by adjusting the tension between the front and rear lid straps on the extendable lid, the user can angle the extension such that it won't impede head movement.
Load Control: The Summit is designed with "radial side compression" straps and load lifter straps (see above photograph and photographs just above the zipper section of this report) to assist with load control and stability.
Pack Bag Material and Webbing: The pack bag is made of NHC330/N630/Ballistic material. Lowe Alpine reports that the base of the bag is reinforced with a double layer of fabric so as to reduce long term wear and tear. Lowe Alpine also reports that it double stitches the major seams and provides the "best quality webbing" and "buckles that perform best in tandem with the webbing." Lowe Alpine apparently tests it buckles by freezing them in dry ice and then subjecting them to load testing.
Pack Bag Capacity and Accessibility: According to Lowe, the Summit, in size large, has a 4,000 + 900 cubic inch (65 + 15 L) pack bag with lid. It also has an internal hydration sleeve. The Summit does have two compartments with a zip-out divider (see photograph below). However, the zipper for the divider shelf can only be used from inside the lower compartment as the pull only hangs down into the lower compartment.
In the photograph above, you are looking down into the Summit past the "Noggin Notch" to the interior shelf which is outlined by the orange colored zipper. Measuring across the extension collar, the opening of the pack bag is approximately 12 inches (30.5 cm) in diameter. The exterior of the pack bag also has a rope compressor and an ice-axe/trekking pole attachment.
Removable Lid: The Summit comes with a lid which is extendable and removable. The lid has 2 internal and 1 external zippered pockets. The lid can be detached from the pack bag and used as a belt pack. However, there are no instructions for detaching the lid or attaching it to the user's belt. Removal essentially requires the user to completely undo the three rear straps (the center strap detaches by sliding an oval shaped plastic piece through the plastic tab attached to the lid). I have yet to figure out how to attach the lid to my belt but will keep playing with this feature. The lid also contains a key clip and SOS instructions in case of an emergency (see photographs below).
Tuck Away Pockets: There are open pockets on both sides of the pack bag just above where the hip belt attaches to the frame. Inside these open pockets are pockets that are closed by way of hook and loop. Inside closed pocket on the right is a mesh pocket with an elastic cord and pull tab closure into which the user can insert a 32 ounce (1,000 ml) Nalgene water bottle (see photograph below). A thinner bottle can be stowed in the mesh pocket and secured by pulling the elastic closure tight around the top of the bottle. This pocket makes accessing the water bottle easy without removing the Summit. The closed pocket on the left hand side of the Summit contains the waterproof pack cover (see photograph below). These are very nice features.
Zippers: Lowe Alpine claims that the Summit has "mitt-friendly zipper pulls." See photograph below. You can also see the trekking pole/ice axe loop on the right hand side of the pack in this photograph.
Initial Impressions: The Summit appears to be well constructed and designed. The pack has many very cool features and lots of room to carry gear. Adjusting for torso length is quick and easy. The next step is to get this pack loaded and into the field to see just how comfortable it is to wear and how well all of these cool features actually work.
¹ The Complete Walker IV, Colin Fletcher and Chip Rawlins, page 125 (2003).
This concludes my Initial Report. The Field Report about my experiences with the Summit TFX 65+15 in the field will be appended to this report in approximately two months. Please check back then for further information. I would like to thank Lowe Alpine and BGT for giving me the opportunity to test the Summit TFX 65+15 backpack.
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