Here is the text version of my revised IR on the Lowe Alpine Cerro Torre. The revisions are based on the information I received from Lowe Alpine in response to my email about the differences in the pack I received and the pack shown on the web site. The revised version can be found in the test folder at http://www.backpackgeartest.org/reviews/test/TESTS/IR%20Lowe%20Alpine%20Cerro%20Torre%20Pack%20Revised--Wheiler/
. I also left the original report in the test folder but will delete it as soon as you tell me to. Thank you in advance for the edits.
LOWE ALPINE TFX CERRO TORRE 65:85 BACKPACK
By Michael Wheiler
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
Click Here To Go To The Initial Report: October 24, 2009
Click Here To Go To The Field Report: Not Yet Available
Click Here To Go To The Long Term Report: Not Yet Available
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 41 years experience hiking, camping, and backpacking. I have been active in the Boy Scout program as a youth and as an adult leader. In the past five years, I have also done quite a bit of mountaineering with summits on peaks such as Mt. Rainier and the Grand Teton. I consider myself a mid-weight backpacker working toward carrying a lighter pack to accommodate my aging body but I do carry considerably more weight during winter months.
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.
Item: TFX Cerro Torre 65:85
Manufacturer's Web Site: http://www.lowealpine.com
Model Year Product: 2010
Date Of Manufacture: 2009
Color: Terracotta/Grey (also available in Crock Green/Slate Grey)
Manufacturer Suggested Retail Price: U.S. $279.95
This product is so new that information is not available on the general company web site. It is the new design for model year 2010. Because I was having trouble finding information on the Lowe Alpine web site that matched the pack I received, I contacted the company by email and received a prompt response which directed me to the 2010 Lowe Alpine on-line catalog.
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
5 lb. 4 oz. (2.38 kg)
As measured by tester at the US Post Office: 6 lb. 6 oz. (2.9 kg)
Extendable, removable and converts into a belt pack; 1 internal and 2 external zippered pockets
TFX 10 adjustable from small (17"/43 cm) to large (22"/56 cm)
Radial side compression straps to control the load and create stability
Body shaped with removable GPS/camera/cell phone pocket attachable to either shoulder strap; sternum strap
Internal Frame; Trekking/Expedition
55-70 lb/25-32 kg
"Noggin Notch" created by a removable metal stay for added head space
Extendable spin drift collar provides an additional 1 ft/30 cm of packable space
Front and top loader; two compartments in main bag with zip out divider
AdaptiveFit hip belt
Two ice axe/trekking pole attachments
Additional lash points
Supportive AirChannel back system
Rain cover stowed in its own zippered exterior pocket; located on the lid
Two exterior water bottle pockets; one on each side
Hydration system compatible
Mitt-friendly zipper pulls
SOS panel in removable lid
Key clip inside removable lid
Rear haul/grasp loop
As measured by tester: approximately 26 in (66 cm) from the bottom of the bag to the top of the lid without using the extension collar and approximately 38 in (97 cm) from the bottom of the bag to the top of the extension collar.
According to Collin Fletcher, a 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 regard, Lowe Alpine touts itself as "comfort engineers." Lowe Alpine claims that the redesigned Cerro Torre is intended for "carrying heavy loads over multiple days" and that the Cerro Torre has "gained its reputation by serving people in extreme situations all over the world. This year's model is lighter but with increased functioinality." The objectives of the redesign, according to the company, was to "lighten the weight with no loss in durability, to focus on function and to offer a variety of feature options that cater to the differing desires of a broad spectrum of end users."
The only information supplied with the Cerro Torre 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."
In its 2010 product catalog, Lowe Alpine states: "TFX back systems offer superb carrying comfort because they can be tailored precisely to each individual user and have been built to the highest quality. The pack designs are driven by function, designed by enthusiasts, and only have features that bring benefits to the end users. The quality of materials/components and construction methods are the very best and have been tried and tested in the world's harshest environments--these are packs you can trust."
The Lowe Alpine TFX Cerro Torre 65:85 (hereinafter the "CT" or "Cerro Torre"), arrived in perfect condition. After reviewing the 2010 Lowe Alpine on-line catalog, the CT I received looked like what was shown and described in the company catalog.
My initial examination of the Cerro Torre was very enjoyable. The Cerro Torre is designed with so many cool features. I will attempt, in this initial report, to describe in word and photographs some of the major features of the CT.
The Frame: Lowe uses two 6061-T6 aircraft grade aluminum stays in the Cerro Torre 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 CT also uses the new TFX 10 system which Lowe claims will provide the user with perfect comfort and load control." There are no instructions with the CT describing how to use the TFX 10 system. However, according to the company catalog, Lowe Alpine wanted to design the system to be more user friendly and simpler to use. Because I own and have extensively used another Lowe Alpine pack with the TFX systems, I am very familiar with this system. Part of the color coded torso sizing for the TFX 10 system is visible above the lumbar pad. The lumbar pad is secured to the frame by way of a hook and loop closure. When the lumbar pad is pulled away from the frame, the sizing chart on the TFX 10 system is fully visible (see photograph to right). The TFX 10 system is color coded and covers a range of torso sizes from small (17"/43 cm) to extra large (22"/56 cm).
Behind the color coded sizing chart is a nylon strap with an adjustable buckle. By loosening the strap to the desired length, the lumbar pad can be pulled down and then reattached to the hook and loop closure at the appropriate torso size on the color coded chart. However, to determine which color coded stripe matches with the user's torso size, requires a visit to the company web site.
The Cerro Torre was adjusted to a size medium (the yellow stripe) when I received it. According to the sizing chart on the company web site, I needed a size between the medium and large. By simply pulling on the buckle and loosening the strap which is attached to the bottom of a pad (the gray colored pad 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 unmarked orange stripe between the medium and large 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 my size, folded the lumbar pad back into place, tucked the thinner upper portion of the lumbar pad under the AirCooled back pad in the center of the pack, and resecured the lumbar pad to the hook and loop closure. 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 CT is simple and easy but slightly different than the TFX 9 system on my Summit pack. To me, the TFX 10 system seems a bit less secure than the TFX 9 system in that the TFX 10 adjustable color coded chart is more easily removed from the mechanisms securing it to the pack. However, it is also much easier to use and see than the TFX 9 system which was the stated intent of creating the new system.
Lumbar Padding and Back Panel: Lowe Alpine used rebound foam in the TFX 10 system. Rebound foam "is a very resilient foam designed to return to its original shape after being constantly deformed over long periods. It is perfect for extended carrying with heavy weights and offers great support and comfort. Another unique and cool feature of the Cerro Torre is the Supportive AirChannel back pad which is a white colored padding consisting of several ridges and covered with mesh. It is positioned in the center of back pad. See above photograph. The rest of the back panel appears to be a soft covered foam.
Shoulder Straps: The shoulder straps are formed to fit the body. I found a removable zippered GPS/camera/cell phone pocket in the detachable lid. This pocket can be attached to either shoulder strap (see photograph above). My Garmin Vista GPS, or cell phone or Olympus digital camera each fit easily into the pocket. A handheld radio made by Motorola fit snuggly into the pocket but couldn't be zipped closed all the way because the antenna was too long. The shoulder straps are approximately 1/2 inch (1 cm) thick. 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 Removable GPS/Cell Phone/Camera Pocket.
The Hip Belt: Lowe uses a stiffer closed-cell foam laminated to a softer open-cell foam in the waist belt on the CT. The TorsoMotion hip belt is designed to "ensure comfort and stability when moving through tricky terrain." It is part of the TorsoMotion system which allows the torso to twist and the hip belt to rotate and thereby accomodating the body's natural movement. The belt is approximately 12 inches (30 cm) long on each side and tapers from approximately 4 3/4 inches (12 cm) in width at the hip to approximately 3 inches (8 cm) at the end (near where it buckles). The thickness of the padding varies but is generally between 1/2 inch (1 cm) to 1 inch (2.5 cm). There are right and left hand hip belt stabilizer straps. There is a second set of straps on each side to pull the lower portion of the pack bag close to the pad or allow it to pull away from the hip belt by several inches. This is a new feature for me and I will need to play with it some before commenting on its usefulness.
Head Comfort: The CT uses Lowe Alpine's "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 which is stabilized by a removable metal stay. This feature provides the user's head with additional space so as to avoid banging the user's head on the back of the pack and to relieve neck strain.
Load Control: The Cerro Torre is designed with "radial side compression" straps and load lifter straps to assist with load control and stability.
Pack Bag Material and Webbing: The pack bag is made of NHC330/N630 material. It looks like the base of the bag is reinforced with a double layer of fabric 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 CT, has a 4,000 + 900 cubic inch (65:85 L) pack bag with lid and collar extension. The name on the pack is Cerro Torre 65:85. The first figure refers to the volume of the pack with the lid in its normal position, i.e., 65 litres. The second figure references the volume of the pack when the lid is extended allowing additional volume, i.e., 85 litres. It also has an internal hydration sleeve. The CT does have two compartments with a zip-out divider and top, front, and bottom loading capacities for easier access to gear (see photographs 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.
The Cerro Torre With Collar Open and Extended
The Cerro Torre's Front Load Pocket With Side Compression Straps.
Removable Lid: The Cerro Torre comes with a lid which is removable. The lid has 1 internal and 2 external zippered pockets. One of the external zippered pockets holds the rain cover. 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). The lid also contains a key clip and SOS instructions in case of an emergency.
The Underside of the Removable Lid with the Interior Pocket Shown.
Tuck Away Pockets: There are open stretch pockets on both sides of the pack bag just above where the hip belt attaches to the frame. The user can insert a 32 ounce (1,000 ml) Nalgene water bottle into each pocket.
Zippers and Zipper Pulls: The zippers on the Cerro Torre open and close easily. To me, the zipper pulls (both the thin nylon cord and the attached plastic pull) look and feel a bit flimsy. I will keep an eye on the zipper pulls and report any problems. See the photograph of the removable GPS pocket for an example.
Trekking Pole/Ice Axe Loops and Attachment: The Cerro Torre has trekking pole/ice axe loops with pole holder attachments consisting of a plastic piece attached to the nylon webbing loop with an x-shaped slot cut into the center for the tip of the trekking pole. The pole holder attachment is shown in the photograph below.
The Lower Portion of the Hiking Pole/Ice Axe Attachment.
Initial Impressions: The Cerro Torre 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. I am looking forward to testing this pack.
I would like to thank Lowe Alpine and BackpackGearTest for giving me the opportunity to test the TFX Cerro Torre 65:85 backpack. Check back in two months to read about my experiences in the field with the Cerro Torre. My Field Report will be appended to this report at that time.
¹ The Complete Walker IV, Colin Fletcher and Chip Rawlins, page 125 (2003).
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