Ted--Terra Nova Laser 20L pack FR
- For your editing pleasure
FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
I have used the Terra Nova Laser 20 L pack since November, mostly under winter conditions. At times, these have been quite harsh. I have used it during two sessions of cross-country (x-c) skiing. One session was on a groomed trail system, the other back-country through the woods. I've done several trail hikes, and one serious bushwhack ascent by snowshoe of a trailless peak, involving a certain amount of brush. Temperatures have ranged from comparatively balmy (well over freezing, and consequently with light loads of a few pounds of odds and ends), to pretty darn cold. The bushwhack fell into this category, with lows to about 20 F (-7 C), combined with very nasty windchills (gusts at elevation of 50 mph, 80 km/h), resulting in presumed windchills at about 0 F (-18 C). On this trip, as I will report, I was able to fill the pack with a suitable winter load weighing in at around 17 lb (8 kg), including consumables, mostly fluids. All pack use was in the Catskill and Shawanagunk Mountains of New York, to elevations of about 4000 ft (1220 m). Terrain has ranged from the essentially level to strictly mountainous, with snow cover ranging, trip to trip, from minor to hiking-pole depth (at elevation).
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
I have come to regard this pack very highly, based on my first two months of testing. It carries pleasantly low on my back and it has no discernible slop, i.e. it moves with my body, no more, no less. With light loads of sundries (a parka, some munchies, water) I am not really aware that I am wearing it, it is so comfortable. This comfort, and the low center of gravity (relative to the wearer) make it a real asset for x-c skiing, and by extension I am hoping it will be a good performer in other sports where balance and stability are requisites, such as bicycling.
However, what has really impressed me most is the sheer amount of gear this apparently tiny pack fits. Also, equally important, is the relative comfort with which it carries when full. Winter in the mountains is unforgiving, and I always need to carry enough stuff to ensure both my safety and comfort. This pack is not necessarily designed for such fun and games, and I'd hesitate to use this pack in full-bore winter conditions in the Adirondacks, for example; but it will comfortably carry the prerequisites for a grueling day ascent (including crampons, which I carry housed in a crampon pouch attached by a 'biner to the hang loop at the top of the pack).
I especially like the internal sleeve, which holds a two quart (2 L) Platypus water bladder right against my back. I don't use hydration systems in winter, as they freeze too easily even when insulated, but the combination of the thin fabric and proximity to my warm back keeps the water from icing up very effectively. This is a strategy I often (almost always) use in winter, but it seems to work unusually well with the Laser 20, since it has no padding bar the thin fabric between bladder and back. For other liquid needs there's room to carry a thin thermos (a luxury) in one of the two water-bottle mesh pockets (the other I use for food, most of the time). While some care should probably be taken to secure it, the thermos didn't fall out when I was using solely the tension of the pack's elastic pocket cords to retain it. This was true even when doing butt-glissades (an inelegant but effective way to lose elevation on safe slopes, and a great way to lose gear)!
The main zipper is the waterproof variety, and like most such it can be slightly stiff at low temperatures, but not to an extent where I thought it was a significant problem. Within the pack, when it was pretty much stuffed, I was able to carry a Blizzard Bag (a substantial emergency bivy, highly compressed to about the size of a VCR cassette), a light down parka, a waterproof shell, extra socks (fairly bulky fleece ones with a VBL liner), a balaclava, neck gaiter, and fleece hat, a set of ice creepers (Kahtoola MICROspikes), an extra pair of gloves (in an external pocket), a powerful headlamp, a substantial bag of sundries, a serious first-aid kit in a waterproof bag, and a few other odds and ends (in addition to the water bladder). When carrying all this, I still had enough room to take out the waterproof-windproof jacket and put in the light synthetic-stuffed parka I had worn at the trailhead and during the first few minutes of the hike. And I still had a little room left over... I should mention that most of the gear I use tends to be lightweight and low-bulk, but that's typical for the audience this pack appears to be aimed at. Fully stuffed as above, the seams show some slight stress, but this doesn't appear to be excessive, i.e. at a level likely to damage the pack.
The zipped waistbelt pockets are extremely useful, small though they are. I carry a compass and/or GPS in one, spare batteries for headlamps, along with some munchies, in the other. The thin pocket at top right is just big enough to stuff a neck gaiter, balaclava or hat, providing fast, easy access. In conjunction with the mesh pockets and the waterbottle pockets a lot of gear can be kept easily accessible. I have tied Spectra cord through the spare pair of urethane tabs, securing it with a stopper knot and tucking the rest into the bag. This seems handy for keeping snowshoes from flapping if they are not in use, but I haven't yet field tested this. An extra attachment point is always handy, in any case, and I commend Terra Nova for that small touch.
The Terra Nova Laser 20 L pack, based on my use so far seems to be a very versatile performer. It's absolutely perfect for x-c skiing and moderate on-trails day hikes in winter (and all other seasons), but it can also carry enough gear for more serious winter day trips. My long-term test results will be available in March, and I hope (if we get some milder weather) to report on whether the pack can be used with lightweight gear for an overnight trip in this timeframe.
This concludes my field report. I sincerely thank Terra Nova and Backpackgeartest for the opportunity to test this nifty piece of lightweight gear.