After a couple of months of waiting, researching, looking all over the internet and comparing packs side by side, picture by picture and review to review, I finally managed to grab the courage to spend my birthday money (with the approval of my Laddie of Finances, my lovely wife), and buckle up the $200 to purchase a new backpack to replace my old Chinese replica Eagle A-III MOLLE
Pack. So, even though it is not my birthday yet, I decided to get the new backpack so I can give it a couple of test runs before taking out for a long hike during my birthday trip, because I did not wanted to find out what was wrong with what ever backpack I decided to get, while I was on the trail or after using it so much that I couldn't return it anymore.
To begging my search, I looked at what I didn't liked about the Eagle A-III design: it has no real framing to speak off. So the pack will sag down on your back, even with a tight fit. You can purchase a plastic frame for it, which I had, but it wasn't that much of a improvement. On long, 15 mile hikes, the shoulder straps would become just too painful to bear, with anything heavier than 10 lbs. The straps themselves had no real padding to speak of. And the hydration pocket wasn't really effective, because what ever water bladder you used, it would sag down over time, sometimes even laying horizontal as there was nothing to hold it straight. And if you wanted to carry papers, maps, pens, or small tool, there was no organization for such things.
But the pack did have features I liked. It is tough, with material that withstood some heavy treatment. Even if the sewing gave in over time and just failed to hold after a year, I knew the pack was above your average day-pack. Also it was my first introduction to the MOLLE system, which I came to love and made me purchase many pouches for it.
But again, it was time for something better. 45270_427741736603_714201603_5502705_5125851_n
, on Flickr(picture of me with my old Eagle A-III replica)
Also, I know the Eagle A-III's design was conceived on the late 70's, and it has gone through some changes over the years, but over all it still the same pack. And the aging shows.
With so many options out there, I had come down to two choices: Camelbak's Motherlode 500
(updated version of their beloved Motherlode model) or the Trizip
( a combination project with Mystery Ranch)
At first, i decided to purchase the Motherlode 500. I told my self that it was a design I was more familiar with, because panel loader packs are what I have been used to since I can remember. And it seemed to have all the features the Eagle A-III was missing. Organization, dedicated water bladder compartment, actual back padding, and best of all, a true waist belt. So i went ahead and ordered it. I waited a whole week for it to arrive. Once it did, I was exited to start playing with.
It seemed at first that it was meeting all my expectations, and that I could throw anything at it and it wold hold.
But the problem came once I filled the water bladder, and loaded it to the pack's maximum capacity. The water bladder, added with the internal pressure cause by all the gear, made the backpack bubble up, and feel a bit unbalanced. Which it wouldn't be a problem, was it not because the back frame it self would bubble up, making all the padding in it not tough my back, because it was been pushed AWAY from my back, going all to waste. To make matters worst, it had the same basic problem the Eagle A-III did: it will sag down. No weight would be well distributed to my hips, and all the pressure will remain on your shoulders, which i knew I didn't wanted to deal with.
The Camelbak Motherlode is a great day-pack, but nothing more in my opinion. I know it was design for that purpose, so soldiers can carry their daily gear. But with all that space and framing design I though it could take more.
So I returned it.IMG_6464
, on Flickr(Camelbak Motherlode 500 fully loded)
I kept looking around a bit more for other backpacks, that had the same panel loading design, maybe one of them might not have the sagging problem. But it seemed that the only packs with a frame that could meet my needs would be Mystery Ranch's designed packs. I had to admit, the triple-zipper-design was what I was the most skeptical about. So, after debating it again with my self and my girl, I decided to purchase Camelbak's Trizip. And I buckled up the $200 again, while waiting to get a refund on the Motherlode.
I guess it would be good to mention at this point that the reason I have become do picky with the design on my backpack's framing system and padding, is because I have a bit of an odd body. I know that I have scoliosis, which makes my pack have an extra odd that makes almost no regular measures for torso length work well for me. On top of that I am big chest and naturally thick (not fat), so even though I am a "Medium" size on most things, I am "Extra Small" on packs height. I am bellow the average male height (but who is average this days), at 5'9'', but I am not a small person by any means as you might see on some photos later on. I mention this because this would give you an idea as of how the packs might affect you (or not).
So, after so much waiting I finally got my Trizip.
And I am keeping this pack for ever!IMG_6522
, on Flickr(Front View)
The first thing you would notice on the pack is the odd zipper design. if you are familiar with Mystery Ranch's packs it might not seem surprising to you. But to anyone who I have shown the pack to, it seems as something out of the ordinary. It is a Y zipper design, consisting of 3 different zippers, all meeting in one point on the higher end of the pack. It is design so you can use it as a "top loader" pack, and also as a "easy to reach" pack. Because all you need to do is unzip the middle zipper, and you have access to your gear in the middle, without having to dig through what ever you have in there. With such a design it is very important to have strong zippers, because there is a possibility that you might burst them open. But Camelbak has used YKK zippers, that are strong, and they can hold their own. Reinforced with the help of two outside straps that can take some pressure away from the zippers themselves, you can lode this backpack pretty much with anything, and it will hold.
On the top part, as with many "top loader" designs, you will find a top pocket, which is meant to hold easy to access gear, such as gloves, cap, first aid, or cellphone and GPS. It works well, but because of the triangular shape it has it might create some odd areas of unused space, that unless you don't notice, you might never get to use. But is not a big deal. Also at the top, right underneath the top pocket's zipper, you will find a second zipper to the water bladder compartment. It is a neatly hidden away compartment that does not compromises on the framing system by bending the frame creating that bubble effect on you back. It fits right behind the Mystery Ranch's frame, which is solid enough to make you forget about the bladder. And as always with Camelback, it has a simple lashing hook so you can keep the water bladder straight even after it is empty, so it won't bulk up. On top of that, it does come with Camelbak's Hydration System (the water bladder it self), which is by far, the best bladder I have ever own. Tough as nails, with a very convenient drinking valve system. IMG_6513
, on Flickr(To Pocket with: Shemagh, glove, fleece cap and a pair of wool socks)IMG_6514
, on Flickr(Water bladder compartment)
On the front of the pack you will find a very simple, semi-flat surface that has 5 rows of MOLLE webbing. Even though it is convenient, I find that with the zipper down the middle it is a bit of a unnecessary extra weight, as they could have done with only 2, maybe 3 rows of MOLLE. Like Mystery Ranch did with their 3-day Assault Pack. You can't use all the MOLLE properly without blocking the middle zipper, or throwing off the balance of the pack a bit. And I personally don't like attaching heavy items to the front of packs, as it generates drag that goes against the natural balance of your body. But, adding some straps you can attach odd shaped or bulky items not problem (which is what I am planning on doing). IMG_6548
, on Flickr(Attached: Condor's H2O Pouch, Gadget Pouch, Utility Pouch)
Once you go to the sides of the Trizip, you can right away see the two side pockets they have included, which both seem to have their very own specific purpose. The pocket on the left, by Camelbak's own description, is design to hold their 27oz bottles (any other 27oz bottle will work fine), and they work great for this purpose. You can definitely put other kind of gear here, like gloves, snacks, or headlamp. On the right side of the backpack, it is the organization pocket. Which is obvious once you see it, as it has mesh webbing, pen and paper holders, and even a key hook. It woks great for this as well, as it hold maps, multi-tools, pens, markers, lighter, flints and even some tissues perfectly. Neat and organized. This pockets do have the problem that they go inwards, instead of outwards, and they will take some of the space you have inside if fully stuffed, or the other way around, if your main pocket is stuffed, you might not be able to use the pockets to their fullest. Plus, they also have some more MOLLE webbing on them, which I also think it is a waste. Once full, the pockets take a bit of an ovular shape, making the MOLLE webbing useless, and too tight to utilize. Most MOLLE pouches are flat on the back, and they wouldn't fit or work well on the outside of the]is pockets. I personally think that Mystery Ranch's original design, making the accessory pockets, mesh pockets, was a better idea, as they don't take internal space, are lighter and more flexible. It seemed Camelbak's idea behing the pocket design was to pake the Trizip seem more sleek, and more "low-profile" than Mystery Ranch's.IMG_6507
, on Flickr(Right side, organizational pocket)IMG_6508
, on Flickr(Left side, bottle pocket)
At the bottom of the pack you will find a more simple, and I guess more tradition design. With only two rows of MOLLE webbing, it is meant to hold some more of your oddly shaped or heavy gear. Again, by my own preference, I don't like having gear flopping around bouncing on my butt when i am out hiking. But it is there for me to use if i ever need to. Also, the bottom of the pack is made out of 1000D Cordura, unlike the rest of the pack which is made out of 500D Cordura. This is to give the bottom extra strength to withstand all the throwing around it might take. And, as with most packs this style, it has a drain hole.IMG_6531
, on Flickr(Bottom of the pack)
And for those of you whole using Velcro patches, it has a nice and big area on the top front that allows for a variety of patches to be fitted. Although it ain't that big. My Mil-Spec-Monkey "Do no harm. Do know harm" medics patch won't fight all the way.
The inside of the pack is some what simple as well. It is, on a basic level, a large pocket. But it has some organizational features, like the two mesh pocket on the higher area. They are great to keep some of that loose gear in place, such as flashlight, socks, cans, wallet. Those pockets aren't fully attached to the pack though, they leave a nice gap on the back, so you can keep long tools, like axes, poles, machete, all in place, without it moving around. And by the "top loading" design, what ever long object you put there is very accessible. Right in the middle of the internal compartment is also a deep pocket, with a elastic cord to help keep things down. I have seen some people use this pocket to carry another water bladder with them. I have find it to be useful to hold some shirts, maybe thermal shirts for the winter, but for the most part, I have no need for it, even though I don't doubt many of you can find use for it. And to keep things even more secure, there are 2 nylon straps that run across from both sides of the pack, at the bottom, and the middle. I have found them great to keep heavy jackets, pouches, and stuff sacks nice and tight, to prevent them from moving around and also for keeping the weight of the pack closer and tighter to my body.IMG_6505
, on Flickr(Pack with my winter hike lode out)IMG_6518
, on Flickr(Inside of the pack)IMG_6519
, on Flickr(I place my 7 inch Ka-Bar across the back of the mesh pocket to demonstrate how they aren't fully attached)IMG_6545
, on Flickr(Trizip holding the main body of my 4 person tent ((poles would be on the outside)) and my Kelty 20 degree sleeping bag)
But by far, in my opinion, the very best feature of this pack it's the framing system.
Mystery Ranch's design, a very flexible in sizing, yet sturdy and comfortable back frame, makes this backpack a luxury item. After loading it with so much gear (as you can see on some of the pictures) and even attaching more gear to the outside, it is still the most comfortable backpack I have ever own. And I am not speaking out of my ass here. I have used many different framing systems before, including the R.E.I. Flash 50, the Gregory Baltoro 70, Camelbak Motherlode, and Motherlode 500, and as said before, the Eagle A-III replica. And even then, just as my day-pack, this beats them all. IMG_6526
, on Flickr(Solid framing system)IMG_6537
, on Flickr(The adjustable panel)IMG_6538
, on Flickr(You can make it fit any torso length)IMG_6539
, on Flickr(Here it is adjusted to my right size)
I mentioned before, that in the past i have had problems finding the right fit on a backpack. On my Gregory Baltor, I had to ask at R.E.I. to replace the shoulder straps and waist belts, as in torso I am a extra small, or small, but on shoulder and waist, I am medium, or large. On top of that, I also have what is considered a muscular chest and shoulder (not bragging). Which means that regular, or even worst, thing straps will just bury themselves on my shoulders over time. This is why an R.E.I. employee (who happened to be a body-builder) recommended me the Gregory Baltoro 70, because it has thicker and wider shoulder straps that work best for guys like me. This is why, when I was looking at pictures of the Trizip, I was happy to see how thick and wide the shoulder straps were, which seems a regular feature on all Mystery Ranch packs. Lucky for me, when soldiers wear body armor they need wider and thicker shoulder straps on their packs, and seen this pack was design for our boys in uniform, it worked great for me. The shoulder straps are even wider than the Motherlode and other standard Camelbaks. Even when fully loaded, the pack is comfortable. With no drag at all, and all the weight concentrated on my hips. To make things even better, the torso fit is adjustable to any size (I have mine adjusted to the very lowest it can go, which is perfect for my torso). It has some mesh fabric on top of the framing and shoulder padding, to make you ventilate better, and sweat dry away faster. But I do see this irritating your skin if it's on direct contact. The pack does have load stabilizers on top of the shoulders, which is odd for a pack this size (at 37 litters it is still considered a day pack) but it helps when you are carrying heavy gear.IMG_6528
, on Flickr(Some of the most comfortable shoulder straps I have experienced)
The belt is a classic Camelbak belt, with what I believe it to be 3/4 inch padding. Not the best belt out there, but enough to help you feel comfortable. And there are also load stabilizers at the bottom, which keep the pack secure and tight to your liking.
The pack's shape it self is meant to move towards the sides of your back, instead of away from it like on classic backpack models. If seen from above, you will notice how it has a bit an oval shape that embraces your back. This works great to distribute the weight all over and around your back, instead of it pulling down and dragging down, or away, throwing off your center of balance. IMG_6527
, on Flickr(even when fully loaded, the back frame remains flat and sturdy, to avoid making the backpack feel unbalanced)
Some of the other details that make this such a great pack are the Velcro loops that are at the end of every strap, that keep them from flopping around (standard on all military Camelbaks). The amazing valve system that has a water shut-off lock, to keep the pressure on the pack from making all the water gush out of the bladder. Also the valve has a big-mouth-drinking piece, that makes a gulp of water come out when you drink from it, unlike some other valves in which you have to suck from the tube quite a bit to feel satisfied.
There are some small problems I can see with the design though. I have previously mention, some of the MOLLE webbing seems a bit useless, and unorthodox. And by design, even though it helps keep balance and distributes weight, some corners are likely to be empty space that wont be fulfilled unless you notice. Also, if you are a light hiker, or backpacker, this pack is mostlikely not for you. By it self, the backpack weights 6 lbs. (my wife's R.E.I.'s Flash 50 is a 50 litter pack, that weights only 2.5 lbs. and my Gregory Baltoro, which is a 70 litter pack is only 5.5 lbs) so weight reduction is not really possible, because of the materials that it was designed with. It is a pack designed to withstand the harsh treatment of a war zone or a battlefield. But if you aren't concerned with weight (which it should still be considered) the framing design on the Camelbak Trizip will make you think you are carrying half your gear, with how comfortable it is.
I did some small alterations my self though. I cut out the zipper pulls it came with. They were damn crappy, (they weren't even real 500 cord) so i switched them for some Paracord, and added some ITW Tac-Toggle, to make it easier to grab once wearying gloves, or when the pack is tight because of over packing. You can only do this with the 3 front sippers, and the one for the top pocket, because the zippers are big enough. The zippers used for the side pockets and the water bladder pocket are too small for the Paracord to pass through them (I learned this the hard way). I also am planing on adding some nylon straps to the outside, on a vertical manner, as the pack has no vertical straps to speak of (again, another idea I think they should have kept from Mystery Ranch). I will be posting pictures once I have done so. IMG_6533
, on Flickr(I replaced the zipper pulls with my own coyote brown paracord and ITW's Tac-toggle)
Here are some shots of me wearying the pack. I noticed that of all the pictures I found out there in the interwebs, the ones I found the least of, were pictures of people wearying the Trizip. Hope this gives you an even better idea of what the pack looks like and how big or small you think it is for you. Remember, I am 5 feet 9 inches. Not tall, but not short either.
The best way I can describe the looks of the pack once been worn is "wide, but not fat". As you can see, the pack expands to the side, and not on the opposite direction of your body. It is tough, and more heavy duty than a regular day-pack. For quick and light day hikes, or trips to town, I have my ILBE Assault pack (24 litters). But the Trizip will be my winter and long-heavy hikes. And maybe (If I ca fin the right pouches) my overnight backpack.IMG_6554
, on Flickr(Perfect for big-chested guys )IMG_6556
, on FlickrIMG_6557
, on FlickrIMG_6559
, on Flickr(Wider than what it seems. But it feels great)
I will be taking the Trizip for some winter hikes next month, and the months after. With any luck, I can put it through some snow as well, to see how much more it can take. And don't worry, i will be posting pictures to go along with it.
Hope you all liked the review, even though it's quite long, but I know out of experience, that when you are looking for opinions on gear, details and above all, pictures, are the most helpful.
Hope I have been of some help to you all.