LTR - OR Ridge Sack (Curt)
- Here's my LTR on the OR pack. HTML version is at: http://www.backpackgeartest.org/reviews/test/TESTS/LTR%20-%20OR%20Ridge%20Sack%20-%20Curt/
Thanks for the edits!
Long Term Report
The Outdoor Research Ridge Sack has turned out to be one the most-used items I tested in all of 2010. This was a year with many more day trips than overnighters, which meant I was always looking for something quick and light to head out the door with. Despite fewer overnight trips than usual, I definitely spent more time outside. Over 1100 trail miles (1770 km) in total - a good chunk of that this fall with the Ridge Sack on my back. Since the Field Report, the weather has been decidedly wetter and colder. We've had much more snow than normal for this time of year and when it's not snowing it's raining. Temperatures are seemingly always within just a few degrees of freezing. I'm confident the Ridge Sack got a thorough workout during the test period. Here are my final thoughts:
The best part of the OR Ridge Sack - by far in my opinion - is the complete waterproof protection it offers. Actually, it's not so much the waterproofness as it is the peace of mind that it brings. No pack liners. No pack covers. No water sneaking down between my neck and pack. The pack is essentially impervious to water. The only way water will get in is by the user opening the pack to the sky and letting it in. This made gear selection easy for me. Shove a couple things in there and go. I didn't worry about whether it was down or synthetic, whether it was paper or electronic. I had utter confidence that it would stay dry no matter what. I'm convinced I got out the door quicker on hikes because of this worry-free aspect. It has become my grab-and-go pack.
Second only to the waterproofness is the durability. It really is a pretty thick fabric and it has taken everything I've thrown at it and still looks brand new. I haven't done any thorny bushwhacking, but I have tossed it down on rocks at least a dozen times and it's no worse for wear. Even the lightweight mesh outer pocket is in good shape, although admittedly I didn't beat on it very hard.
There are two things that did bother me during testing. One is tough to fix, one would be quite easy.
The first is something I've mentioned previously - the lack of breathability on the back. I've tested the Ridge Sack down into the mid-teens Fahrenheit (about -8 C) and still the lack of breathability or wicking of some sort causes the most back sweat I've encountered on a pack. Even on hikes where I was downright cold and didn't think I was sweating at all I'd find a harsh chill as soon as I removed the pack. Because the back is made of the waterproof sack itself, I'm not sure how this could be solved. Any kind of wicking material or padding would help, but it would undoubtedly add to the weight of the pack which isn't something I'd like to see either. At some point I just decided to deal with it. No matter what temperature or clothing setup I tried, the sweaty back was an issue.
The other concern didn't show up until this last phase of testing. Through most of the first part of testing I was in a t-shirt or very thin fleece or thin wool shirt. I'd don the pack, clip the sternum strap shut, and be on my way. Once the temperatures dropped during the last part of this test I began to wear my windshirt regularly, and then often a rain jacket or an active jacket such as the Marmot DriClime. What all of these jacket or tops have in common is a slippery outer material. The sternum strap is based on a system that involves a stiff rod in each shoulder strap and a slider mechanism that moves up and down that rod (see picture below). With a slippery shell, the friction isn't there to hold it in place and the strap would always slide to the topmost position. This is exactly the opposite of where I wanted it. Because I have a large chest, the high position ends up near my neck and is definitely uncomfortable. I'd fight with it, but ultimately couldn't keep it down and would just go without it. This made it feel like the pack was sagging or pulling backwards. A traditional fixed slider or a stiffer grip on the rod would solve the issue, but as-is it is essentially unusable for me.
Overall the Outdoor Research Ridge Sack has been a great piece of gear to test. It is a great foul-weather grab-and-go pack, which is how I ended up using it the most. While it has a couple small issues that I found annoying, overall the great aspects of the pack far outweigh the concerns. For hikers that are determined to get outside no matter what the weather, this is a great option in my opinion.
My thanks to Outdoor Research and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test the DryComp Ridge Sack!