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IR: Terra Nova Laser 20 pack--Rick D.

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  • redbike64
    Trick or Treat. Below is my Laser 20 IR. Test htm file is posted here:
    Message 1 of 3 , Oct 31, 2009
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      Trick or Treat. Below is my Laser 20 IR. Test htm file is posted here:





      Terra Nova Laser 20 Backpack
      <<IMAGE1>>Test Series by Rick Dreher
      October 24, 2009


      NAME: Rick Dreher
      EMAIL: redbike64(at)hotmail(dot)com
      AGE: 55
      LOCATION: Northern California
      GENDER: M
      HEIGHT: 6' 0" (2.10 m)
      WEIGHT: 175 lb (79.40 kg)
      TORSO LENGTH 20 inches (50 cm)

      I enjoy going high and light, and frequently take shorter "fast- packing" trips. My longest trips are a week or so. I've lightened my pack load because I enjoy hiking more when toting less, I can go farther and over tougher terrain, and I have cranky ankles. I use trekking poles and generally hike solo or tandem. I've backpacked all over the U.S. West and now primarily hike California's Sierra Nevada. My favorite trips are alpine and include off-trail travel and sleeping in high places. When winter arrives, I head back for snowshoe outings in the white stuff.


      Product Information and Specifications

      Model: Laser 20L Backpack
      Manufacturer: Terra Nova
      Year of Manufacture: 2009
      Manufacturer's Website: <<HYPERLINK GOES HERE - "http://www.terra-nova.co.uk/" LINK TEXT = "Terra Nova UK Website">>
      MSRP: US $70
      Listed Weight: 328 g (11.6 oz)
      Measured Weight: 323 g (11.4 oz)
      Listed Capacity: 20 L (1,220 cu.in.)
      Other details: Frameless, single main compartment, seven pockets, hydration sleeve and hose ports, load control bungees, waterproof zippers, sternum strap with whistle

      <<IMAGE GOES HERE. ALT TEXT = "IMAGE 2" IMAGE CAPTION = "Small pack, many pockets.">>

      Initial Impressions

      Product Description

      The Terra Nova Laser 20L is a frameless, midsized day pack aimed at lightweight alpinists, hikers, adventure racers and the like. It has a teardrop shape single main compartment accessed via a vertical zipper centered in back and several pockets, as follows:

      * Two zippered waist belt pockets
      * Two open-top waist belt bottle pockets
      * Two side mesh "stow" pockets
      * One zippered "change" pocket in the main compartment
      * Inside hydration sleeve

      Other features include twin back load control bungees, a top load-lifter strap (webbing handle), two hydration tube ports, a reflective back tab and a removable sternum strap with whistle buckle.

      Materials and Construction

      The Laser 20 is made primarily of thin ripstop sil nylon. Certain high-wear areas are heavier urethane-coated nylon and part of the back panel, the shoulder straps and the waist belt wings are foam-backed mesh for padding and breatheability. The side and water bottle pockets are non-stretch nylon mesh. All zippers are waterproof and have easy-pull tabs.

      Assembly appears flawless, with neat, even stitching and most exposed seams taped. The few exposed fabric edges are clean and appear heat-cut. Most stress points appear to be stoutly stitched, including bar-tacking. Not all are directly visible, however.


      The Laser 20L straddles the line between lightweight but stripped and heavy and feature-rich. True, it's a single-compartment lightweight rucksack but it has a functional hip belt (not a simple waist band) and lots of pockets and small features. Terra Nova's goal is a pack that serves lightweight adventurers reliably while staying out of the way. It will be interesting to discover whether this featherweight is up to the task. How light? Terra Nova's weight spec overstated the measured weight by a whopping five grams (less than a fifth of an ounce). The whole pack is 323 grams (11.4 oz). Nice going, folks!

      A good many of the Laser 20L features revolve around quick access to water, snacks and small items on the go. Rather than limiting me to an internal hydration reservoir and drink tube it also holds a bottle on each side of the padded waist belt. In front of each bottle holster is a zippered pocket and additional mesh pockets are on each side of the main compartment. Hopefully, all six will prove both easy to get at on the go as well as prove to secure their contents.

      <<IMAGE GOES HERE. ALT TEXT = "IMAGE 3" IMAGE CAPTION = "Three pockets on each side.">>

      The main compartment is accessed via a vertical center back zipper-a somewhat unusual arrangement but one that minimizes weight and complexity. Inside, the compartment is unadorned except for the sewn in reservoir pocket that holds a container against the back panel. This pocket is open at the bottom on either side, so won't double as a way to separate small items from the rest of the interior. A clothing item or two could go in there, as could a foam pad to increase back protection from the contents.

      Mesh and foam padding on the waist belt wings, either side of the back panel and shoulder straps is thin and quite flexible. It provides no stiffening or mechanical load control. Load control instead will rely on packing carefully so the Laser 20 maintains its shape, and then fitting the waist belt and shoulder straps correctly. The back panel bungees are intended to aid load control by compressing the pack volume. Time will tell whether this strategy has merit.

      The waist belt connecting the "wings" is narrow 20 mm (3/4 inch) nylon webbing with a simple plastic buckle. Shoulder strap ends use the same webbing. The waist belt strap ends are folded over and sewn to keep them from slipping out of the buckle but the shoulder straps are not, leaving them free to slide completely through—something to keep in mind if using the one-shoulder carry (I've had shoulder straps slidp out unexpectedly).

      Reading the Instructions

      The pack's hangtag is brief and sales-oriented, describing some but not all of the features. There are no use instructions, but the Terra Nova Web address and phone number are included. My largest surprise on receiving the pack is that it has a hydration sleeve and hose ports, which are not mentioned anywhere in the literature and are seemingly supplanted by the bottle pockets. I consider the hydration pocket a significant addition.

      At the time of writing, there are no further online hints or literature on the Terra Nova Web site, just the basic pack features and specifications. Given that the Laser 20 is a simple rucksack I don't consider this lack of instructions to be a hindrance, particularly since there's one size and back length isn't adjustable.

      Trying It Out


      As noted previously, the Laser 20L back length is not adjustable and comes in one size. On my 19-20-inch (49-50 cm) torso the pack rides low on my back, with the shoulder straps wrapping well over my shoulders and the yoke falling somewhere between the shoulder blades. I must set the sternum strap at its lowest position to get it anywhere near my sternum, otherwise it's a clavicle strap. The strap has an elastic link to provide some give on the go and the buckle includes a whistle—a nice safety feature. The waist belt wings wrap around my hip bones, which should protect them on the go. There's plenty of strap adjustment capacity for both the shoulder straps and waist belt. Small elastic straps keep the waist belt straps from flapping in the breeze.


      The single teardrop shape compartment is wide at the bottom and narrow on top. I've tested a couple different loads--a 7 lb (3 kg) walkaround combo of clothes and water and a 10+ lb (5 kg) bike commute load of clothing, work stuff and bike stuff, including lock and cable. The walkaround load felt fine and I hardly noticed it, other than a sweaty back on a warm fall day. My bike commuting load jabbed me in the morning because I didn't isolate hard items from by back. My return ride was more comfortable because I placed a notepad in the reservoir sleeve.

      <<IMAGE GOES HERE. ALT TEXT = "IMAGE 4" IMAGE CAPTION = "Back panel features some padding, lots of nylon.">>

      Certain large non-outdoorsy items like three-ring binders are a very tight fit in the small pack, but I suspect Terra Nova didn't have those in mind when designing the Laser 20. Packing technique is critical, but properly done the little pack is comfy enough.

      The bottle pockets handle disposable half-liter bottles. The only glitch with the pack so far was pulling first the pull tab, then the entire bungee cord from one of the water bottle pockets. The little overhand knots tied in the thin cord are so small they pull through the holes. I've replaced those knots with figure-eights. If that doesn't hold, I'll think of something else.

      Testing Srategy

      I'll give the Laser 20L plenty of use the next four months for day hiking, commuting and bicycling. This will provide a variety of loads and propulsion modes. I'll evaluate load flexibility and control, comfort, ease of gear access and wear and tear. I expect to expose it to all sorts of fall and winter weather.

      <<IMAGE GOES HERE. ALT TEXT = "IMAGE 5" IMAGE CAPTION = "Single center zip access main compartment.">>


      The Laser 20L is a very simple small and light frameless rucksack that nevertheless has a lot of useful features. It's made of very thin waterproof fabrics that are reinforced in key areas. It's hard to overstate how compact this pack is. It arrived in a small shipping box that I mistook for software that I had been expecting. It wads up into a very small bundle when not in use.


      Many thanks to Terra Nova and Backpackgeartest.org for the opportunity to test this backpack!

      Please come back in two months for the field report.

      This report was created with the BGT Report Generator.
      Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
    • gdm320
      Hey Rick, I like your pictures. Nice job here, only a handful of edits for you. See you in a couple of months! Greg M ___________________________ [EDIT] Must
      Message 2 of 3 , Nov 6, 2009
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        Hey Rick,

        I like your pictures. Nice job here, only a handful of edits for you. See you in
        a couple of months!

        Greg M


        [EDIT] Must change
        [Edit] Recommend you change
        [Comment] You know!

        Listed Capacity: 20 L (1,220 cu.in.)
        [EDIT] No periods are necessary after the abbreviations cu in

        The Terra Nova Laser 20L is a frameless, midsized day pack aimed at lightweight
        [Edit] I think that "midsize" would read better here.

        (I've had shoulder straps slidp out unexpectedly).
        [EDIT] Just a typo here… did you mean "slip out" or "slide out"?

        The single teardrop shape compartment is wide at the bottom and narrow on top.
        I've tested a couple different loads--a 7 lb (3 kg)
        [EDIT] Missing space here: "… loads – a 7 lb…"

        walkaround combo of clothes
        [Edit] Is walkaround a word? I'm asking because I honestly don't know… and
        Google didn't help much. I'd suggest making it two words.

        The walkaround load felt fine and I hardly
        [Edit] Whatever you decide to do with walkaround, just be consistent here.

        Testing Srategy
        [EDIT] Strategy
      • Hollis Easter
        Just a few comments to muddy the waters a bit further: ... True, but I would say that s a Comment or maybe an Edit. I don t think the periods detract from
        Message 3 of 3 , Nov 6, 2009
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          Just a few comments to muddy the waters a bit further:

          On Fri, Nov 06, 2009 at 03:48:50PM -0000, gdm320 wrote:
          > Listed Capacity: 20 L (1,220 cu.in.)
          > [EDIT] No periods are necessary after the abbreviations cu in

          True, but I would say that's a Comment or maybe an Edit. I don't think
          the periods detract from reader comprehension here, and they *are*
          standard English constructs for indicating abbreviation.

          > The single teardrop shape compartment is wide at the bottom and narrow on
          > top.
          > I've tested a couple different loads--a 7 lb (3 kg)
          > [EDIT] Missing space here: "* loads * a 7 lb*"

          The doubled hyphen has a long history of standing in where the noble em
          dash would typographically tread. When many of us were taught to
          type--those of us who were taught to type--it was considered poor form
          to put spaces around the doubled hyphen, since that changed the function
          of the punctuation by making the whole thing a rather more drastic
          interruption of sentence flow.

          In any case, I've always used doubled hyphens (and proper em dashes) without
          the interlarding of additional whitespace, and people still manage to

          To answer the later questions (Roger) about why we don't just require
          unit conversion in every case: because we're fickle.

          It is always correct to convert each measurement. However, in the
          interest of flowing prose, we've chosen to allow a few measurements to
          stand without conversion.

          I certainly know how much volume a quart is, and I have a sense of how
          long it takes me to drink through a liter of water. Until quite
          recently, though, I was a bit shaky on how many liters of water would
          fit in my old faithful pack. However, I knew that it was a 5,500 in^3

          Part of the concern comes from the interpretive difference between ONE
          of something and MANY of something. It feels ridiculous to write that my
          one quart (1 liter) water bottle will hold 0.97 quarts (0.97 liters) of
          water at standard temperature and pressure... and maybe if we were
          accustomed to measuring packs in quarts, I would feel good about
          eschewing the conversion.

          But it does me little to know that the front pocket of my pack will hold
          8.65 quarts or 2.16 gallons, but my brain knows what 500 in^3 means.

          Maybe my brain is the only stupid one. Hm.
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