Hi, here is my field report for the Axiom. The HTML is at http://tinyurl.com/6r25l98
This backpack has been on a lot of excursions with me, a few of the trips are explained below.
I wore the Axiom during a 3-day 2-night trip in Coconino National Forest in northern Arizona. The elevation ranged from 8,400 ft to 12,637 ft (2,560 m to 3,866 m) and temperatures ranged from 32 F to 65 F (0 C to 18.3 C).
I also carried the pack for a 3-day 2-night trip in the Rincon Mountain district of Saguaro National Park. The elevation ranged from 4,240 ft to 8,482 ft (1,292 m to 2,585 m) and the temperature ranged from 32 F to 80 F (0 C to 26.7 C)
The Axiom came with me on a 2-day 1-night trip in the Santa Rita Mountains south of Tucson, Arizona. The elevation ranged from 5,400 ft to 9,453 ft (1,646 m to 2,909 m) and the temperatures ranged from the low 50s F to the mid 70s F (low 10s C to mid 20s C).
Performance in the Field:
The Axiom pack has been through a lot these past two months. I have loaded it to its weight capacity of around 40 lb (18 kg) for multiple day trips in the arid Sonoran desert. My water weight alone stood near 25 lb (11 kg). I am impressed by how well the pack handles heavy weight while hiking. This is the first backpack I have used that has a suspension system and it is exceptionally good at handling and distributing the weight while I'm off balance. I have also used the pack as a summit/day pack on Mt. Humphreys, Mt. Wrightson, Rincon Peak, Cathedral Rock and a number of other named and unnamed peaks. As a summit pack my weight was around 6 lb (3 kg), and as a day pack it was at 10 to 15 lb (5 to 7 kg). For hikes where there were cool temperatures of 32 to 65 F (0 to 18.3 C) and the chance to find running water, my weight was around 18 to 22 lb (8 to 10 kg). As a summit pack, the Axiom is a bit overkill, but the pack is light enough that the size doesn't bother me at all.
I climbed over 4,000 ft (1,219 m) in just 6 miles (10 kg) carrying about 40 lb (18 kg) in the Rincon Mountains. I had expected my back and shoulders to be sore and tight but when I got to base camp other than jello legs, I was surprisingly fresh. The reActive suspension moved with my every step throughout the steep climb. The pack stayed tight to my back, it didn't shift off center or slide around on my shoulders regardless of how off balance I was. This was an impressive feat in my opinion. Most packs I have worn carry weight well while standing up straight, but become difficult to manage when leaning off balance. I sometimes feel like I'm about to lose the load off to my side. The Axiom seems to recognize that I am off balance and it compensates accordingly. The hip belt rests right on the top of my hips, not too high or too low, allowing for great weight distribution and comfort.
The roll top design of the main compartment is great! It allows me to store many different sized loads without feeling like I'm overloaded or like I have a large empty space at the top. I am not a fan of hanging items off my pack, and the roll top allows for lots of space in a deceivingly small package. I also like how when rolled down tightly, the top adds strength to stabilize the load. I have filled the pack to the rim of the roll top as well as far below the rim and been happy and comfortable each time on the trail.
The removable pocket on the top of the pack has become the place where I store all my small items such as a compass, matches, fire starter, snacks etc. I have found this is the best pocket for the small stuff since it is the only pocket with a zipper. This can also be a negative feature because if I want to take the lid off to decrease my weight, I lose the only pocket on the pack that can safely hold onto my small and important items. The placement of the zipper makes for easy access to the pocket for others while I am wearing the pack. My hiking partner was able to fumble around in this large pocket throughout our excursions with ease. However if the top is flipped down at the time it is opened, everything will fall to the ground. Not too big of a deal, but worth mentioning.
As far as the large stretchy pocket on the front of the pack goes, I love it and hate it all at the same time. I feel that it is near impossible to get anything into the bottom portion of the pocket if the pack is loaded. Although two compression straps allow for greater access to the top portion of the pocket, the bottom doesn't expand near as much if at all. I can barely even get my fingers into the bottom of the pocket if the pack is loaded. That being said, I love how much space the top portion of the pocket has. I generally stow my map, a space blanket and whatever other essentials in this pocket that aren't so small that they need to be placed in the top zippered pocket. I also use this pocket for stuffing different layers of clothes as I shed them throughout the day. The compression straps and the stretchy material give the top portion of this pocket the ability to hold a lot of stuff. I feel that my things are always very secure due to the compression straps cinching down tight. However, I don't feel comfortable putting anything small into this pocket incase things were to slip out when I toss the pack on the ground during breaks.
I generally use the side pockets to store my two 2 L collapsible water bottles. I also occasionally use them to store a beanie and gloves for easy access while in cool weather and wind. I have had no trouble with any of these items falling out due to the compression straps near the top portion of the side pockets that hold things in tight. I did have a little difficulty accessing the water bottles while wearing the pack, but it wasn't much of a concern because I only carry them to refill my hydration bladder.
My main complaint about the pack was also a concern that I mentioned in my initial report. Unlike most of my packs that have a separate compartment for the bladder, the Axiom stores it in the large main compartment. There is a hook-and-loop strap that connects to the plastic hook on the top of my bladder, and an elastic strap that fits loosely around the body towards the bottom of the bladder. This is not a problem when the pack is full and the bladder is secured by other items, but when I used the Axiom as a summit pack, or for day hikes the strap fails to properly secure my bladder in place. My initial thought that the bladder could potentially get damaged or burst has thankfully not occurred. In ten years of using hydration bladders, I have never managed to break the plastic hook that the bladder hangs from, but due to the rigorous shaking and swinging about (perhaps doing acrobatics while in the pack), the hook broke off. Now my hydration bladder is basically useless in this pack. Without the ability to hang and with only a loose strap to secure it, the bladder gets all bunched up at the bottom of the compartment and the water becomes very hard to get to. Due to this I have started carrying only a couple of water bottles and leaving the bladder at camp, or at home. I am very disappointed in this occurrence, now I need to buy a new bladder, and I am leery of ever putting it into the Axiom pack. Maybe this will turn out for the best, and I will cut the weight of the bladder all together and just go with water bottles, but the convenience of a bladder while hiking is hard to beat. It doesn't seem like an incredibly difficult thing to build a pack with a compartment for the bladder, especially since there are entire product lines of packs that contain them. Maybe I just happened to be the unlucky person that this happened to, but since it did happen I feel the need to mention it in my report.
The Axiom Pack has been fun to test so far. I love the versatility of the roll top in that it gives me lots of room to pack many different sized loads. I love the suspension system, it makes this the most comfortable backpack I own. I also like that the pack is lightweight and comfortable for short day hikes and as a summit pack. I have been impressed by how much stuff I can fit into it. The Axiom doesn't look like a very large pack, but it is basically bottomless when I get to loading it. My main complaint is the floating hydration bladder set up that aided my bladder in breaking, but it hasn't slowed me down too much. I look forward to continuing to use the pack extensively during the next two months.
Things I like:
1. Versatility of roll top.
2. Suspension system makes for a comfortable ride.
3. Big enough for multiple nights out yet light enough for short hikes.
Things I don't like:
1. Floating hydration set up.
2. Difficult to get into the bottom of large stretchy pocket
Thanks to Black Diamond Equipment and BackpackGearTest.org for the change to test this pack!