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Field Report - Fanatic Fringe Thompson Peak Pack [Jim]

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  • colonelcorn76
    For your reading & editing pleasure: Field Report - Fanatic Fringe Thompson Peak Pack July 6, 2004 Reviewer Information: Name: Jim Hatch Age: 44 Gender: Male
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 6, 2004
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      For your reading & editing pleasure:

      Field Report - Fanatic Fringe Thompson Peak Pack
      July 6, 2004

      Reviewer Information:
      Name: Jim Hatch
      Age: 44
      Gender: Male
      Height: 5'9" (1.8 m)
      Weight: 180 lbs (82 kg)
      Torso: 18" (46 cm)
      Chest: 44" (112 cm)
      Waist: 36" (91 cm)
      Hips: 38" (97 cm)
      Email: colonelcorn76@...
      City/State: Simsbury, Connecticut

      Backpacking Background:
      I've been backpacking and camping for 30 years (ever since I was a Boy
      Scout). I'm out once a month for a weekend or more and for 5 nights or
      more, 2 or 3 times during the year. Most of my backpacking is done in
      the mountains of the East Coast (Appalachians, Whites, Berkshires,
      Adirondacks) but I will occasionally camp as far south as the Florida
      Keys or as far west as the Grand Canyon. Having tired of 60 lb (27 kg)
      loads, I caught the lightweight bug about 5 years ago and am currently
      carrying a base pack weight of less than 10 lbs (4.5 kg) before food
      and fuel and rarely venture out with more than 20 lbs (9 kg) anymore.
      I am now trying to develop a low-volume style to go with the
      lightweight nature of my gear.

      Product Information:
      Manufacturer: Fanatic Fringe
      Year of Manufacture: 2004
      URL: http://www.fanaticfringe.com
      Style: Frameless Rucksack with hip belt
      Color: Hunter's Green/Black (1 oz/28 g) less than the Tan/Black version
      Size: Large (17 to 22 in/43 to 58 cm torso)
      Mfg Weight: 9.5 oz (269 g) -- without hip belt, weight with hip belt
      not listed
      Tested Weight: 10.3 oz out of the box (292 g)
      Capacity (pack): 2,400 cu in (39 L)
      Tested Capacity (pack): 2,350 cu in (38.5 L)
      Capacity (with extension collar & pockets): 3,600 cu in (59 L)
      MSRP (pack): U.S. $79

      Pack Features (see my Initial Report for more details):
      Here's what Fanatic Fringe has to say about the pack on their website:
      a.. Weighs in at a scant 10.5 ounces/298 grams! [Note: the Hunter's
      Green model is 9.5 ounces/269 grams -- the hip belt appears to add
      only an ounce (28 g)]
      b.. Compression straps on the upper portion of the pack sides to
      eliminate top flop [Is this cool or what? Look ma, no top flop!]
      c.. Uses a closed cell foam pad as its main support and padding
      [Under 13 lbs/6 kg I don't need any support/padding at all.]
      d.. The body of the pack is 1.9 ounce (54 g) coated Ripstop and the
      back and bottom is 200 denier coated Oxford
      e.. It has one large mesh pocket to dry gear and two smaller ones on
      the sides to carry water and fuel
      f.. The pack is around 2400 cubic inches (39 L) for the main body
      with an extra 400 cu in (6.5 L) in mesh pockets and about 800 cu in
      (13 L) more with the extension collar up
      g.. Sized in Medium for torso lengths 15 to 18 inches (38 cm to 46
      cm) and Large (17 to 22 inches/43 to 56 cm)
      h.. Colors are "UV coated Tan/Black and Hunter's Green/Black" with
      custom colors available
      i.. A hip belt is new in February 2004
      This pack is purpose-designed for the ultralight backpacker. The size
      (volume) and weight push the envelope. All of the straps, be they
      shoulder, compression, or waist belt are all minimalist -- thin in
      both thickness and width. It is definitely not a pack I could have
      made work when I was hauling 60 lb (27 kg) loads.

      Field Information:

      Overall Impression-I have used the Thompson Peak on several day hikes
      as well as a couple of more extended backpacking trips; including 3
      weekends and a 3 day whitewater trip. These "shakedown cruises" have
      proven the pack sufficiently that I am ready to take it on a trek this
      summer running the Presidentials in New Hampshire's White Mountains.
      The trips to date have been primarily on well maintained trails
      (although calling the car-sized boulders that form the "path" up --
      straight up -- Mt. Monadnock a well maintained trail is an insult to
      real trails everywhere). Although the rafting trip introduced the pack
      to incidental water, it's not been subject to any real rain or water
      immersion. I'll be looking for that opportunity during the long term
      testing period.

      So far I've had no pack feature/function failures of any kind (the
      tendency for the plastic grommet at the pack's top drawstring to pop
      off isn't really a "failure" in my mind -- I just make sure I hold it
      with one hand while pulling the drawstring with the other -- this
      results in a tighter top cinch as well). The seams, fabric, straps,
      and pocket mesh are all still as good as new. Nothing has torn or
      leaked (not that I've gotten too wet myself--although the seams are
      not sealed and can be expected to leak something). My maximum load so
      far has been 18 lbs (8 kg) and that took some doing. Typically I've
      been running between 13 and 15 lbs (6 - 7 kg). It's amazing what I
      can do without when I just don't have the room. On the other hand,
      it's also pretty amazing how much I can stuff in a 2400 ci (39 L) pack.

      Field Uses:

      Day Hikes-I've used the pack on several short day hikes on maintained
      trails (no bramble bashing) in nice weather with temps in the high 60s
      to low 80s F (19 to 28 C), dry, and pleasant. My pack weight for these
      has been between 10 and 12 lbs (4.5 to 5,4 kg). I'm using these as
      training hikes in preparation for the Presidential hike coming up this
      summer. I can pack a weekend's gear in 12 lbs (5.4 kg) and fit
      everything well within the main body of the pack. Wearing my normal
      wicking shirt and nylon shorts (sometimes including long-sleeved silk
      top or a fleece vest when temps drop at elevation). I haven't noticed
      any significant sweat build up between my back and the pack body (my
      shirt gets damp, but it's getting damp all over from my sweat and
      dries quickly). In this mode the pack is unremarkable -- it just does
      its thing holding my stuff. I have noticed that at these weights the
      hip belt is superfluous and Jardine's "slung over one shoulder" method
      of carry is actually useful. I often just toss it over one shoulder
      and carry it that way for some distance before either swapping to the
      other shoulder or slipping both straps on. In any case, the load at
      this weight simply isn't very much. Even at these weights though I
      haven't found much use for the compression straps (at least in terms
      of compressing the pack). I've used them to hold my walking stick
      (3-section Pole Cat) with one end in a pocket and the other tucked
      under a compression strap or to hang a bandana or other piece of
      clothing to dry--just not for squishing things.

      Backpacking-A weekend trip adds a few pounds (kg) to my pack load but
      doesn't impact the usability of this pack. Clearly even loads of 15
      lbs (7 kg) are well within the pack's design parameters. Whereas 10
      lbs (4.5 kg) is almost not noticeable, a 15 lb (7 kg) load is
      definitely there. But, it's comfortably there. My gear gets packed
      with my pad circling the interior, food on the bottom, followed
      (upwards) by my spare clothes (in a space saver vacuum bag), sleeping
      bag, hammock (Hennessey in its SnakeSkins), and water bladder up
      against my back. The rest of my gear goes in the pockets -- this
      includes my stove & fuel (in the metal cup I use to boil water) on the
      left side, first aid kit & headlamp (on the right side) and my rain
      jacket, fleece & watch cap in the center pocket. Each day's lunch or
      snacks are carried in the pockets of my shorts. GPS, radio, or phone
      gets clipped to the shoulder straps or hip belt. When traveling far
      off road I carry a satellite phone (to make sure some Scout's parents
      don't find us returning without their son in the event of an
      emergency). [See photo of pack contents below]

      This does require that I leave the steaks & merlot at home but there
      is certainly enough room and carrying capacity in this pack for a week
      on the trail -- as long as I have the ability to camel up daily and
      can live on flat food. This isn't as difficult as it might first seem.
      Pita bread for a week's sandwiches are less than 1.5 inches (3.8 cm)
      thick. Tuna fish now comes in thin (1/2 inch/1.3 cm) foil packages.
      Combined with a packet or two of mayonnaise and relish in a half a
      pita, it's a filling meal that takes almost no room in my pack. The
      same is true for breakfast (a half-dozen packages of instant oatmeal,
      some dried eggs, and dehydrated mashed potatoes provide variety &
      calories in a small space). Dinners of course tend to require more
      room, but dehydrated foods (both home dehydrated & commercial
      freeze-dried meals) are generally good...and thin. The only place I
      won't compromise is in the area of snacks but gorp in vacuum packed
      bags and Zone bars taste great and don't require lots of water to
      rehydrate or space in my pack. Altogether, a week's worth of food can
      be fit in a 3.5 inch (9 cm) layer across the bottom of my pack.
      Everyday, as I repack my sleep gear, I pull out that day's snacks &
      lunch and am on my way.

      The biggest downside to this pack are the pockets. When the pack is
      full I can't push a water bottle in a side pocket because I can't pull
      it out. Without cinching tops, these pockets are good to hold things
      but not to give them up easily (which can be a plus in some
      situations). If I had my druthers I'd make the side pocket tops bigger
      and string them with a drawcord & cordlock. Then I could loosen or
      tighten the pocket top as needed for whatever I'm carrying. Instead I
      have to carry my water in a hydration bladder in the pack. This is
      fine when I'm cruising but when I overwork and use more water than
      originally estimated, it's hard to know when it's empty until I'm
      sucking plastic. Then it's tough to refill as sliding it back into a
      full pack requires that I lay it on its back (the part facing the
      world when I'm hiking), sit on the pack to squeeze it some, and then
      pull the fabric upwards to open enough space to slide the bladder back
      in. Not awful, but not terribly convenient. Fortunately I haven't had
      to do this in the rain.

      One thing that I'm happy I chose is the hip belt. Although it doesn't
      really transfer much weight to my hips (there's just not that much to
      transfer), I find it convenient to shift the pack "carry" when it's
      loaded with 15 lbs (6.8 kg). Using the shoulder straps is comfortable
      enough but being able to fasten the hip belt allows me to loosen the
      shoulder straps and have the upper pack "float" away from my back a
      bit. This isn't like a flopping overloaded top-heavy pack but simply a
      little air between my back and the pack. It changes where weight is
      carried and gives my (aging) body parts a rest without needing to take
      a break. In fact, there's no need to drop the pack when taking a rest.
      I haven't used the pack with loads heavier than 18 lbs (8 kg) so I'm
      not sure if the straps and belt become more necessary when the pack's
      limits are reached, but so far, it's a comfortable and sturdy bag.

      The biggest concern I had when I began this test was the potential for
      having too much stuff (within the pack's weight limit) to fit in the
      volume capacity of the bag. In fact, I've found that it really isn't
      an issue. I've not noticed a need to leave stuff behind. Of course
      this is fair weather (aka not winter) camping, but I've been
      pleasantly surprised to find that everything I need I have room
      for...and in fact, an occasional thing I don't really need if I so choose.

      Current Conclusions:
      I find that the Thompson Peak is a sturdy and durable pack well suited
      to the needs of an ultralight backpacker. The only changes I would
      make are minimal (pocket drawstrings & sealing the seams). Its
      minimalist weight and workmanlike design & construction make it a good
      choice for the light/ultralight low-volume backpacking style I've

      Long-term testing:
      My travels this summer will include a week long trip hiking the
      Presidential in temps that should range from hot (probably reaching 95
      F/53 C or more) and humid to cold (32 F/0 C on Mt. Washington)
      traveling on a well maintained section of the AT in the White
      Mountains (elevations to 6,299 ft/1,917 m). Other possible ventures
      include Katahdin in October and some early winter camping that should
      allow me to stretch the pack's volume capacity with cold weather gear
      before the long term testing phase is complete.

      I'd like to thank BGT and Fanatic Fringe for the opportunity to test
      this pack.
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