Fanatic Fringe Alpine Trail Backpack REVIEW

A durable small volume pack for SuperUltraLight backpacking or day hiking that would benefit from load control features.

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by Doug Johnson | 2005-11-22 03:00:00-07

Fanatic Fringe Alpine Trail Backpack REVIEW

Introduction

New for 2005, the Fanatic Fringe Alpine Trail pack offers a simple, durable option for SuperUltraLight (SUL) backpacking. The Alpine Trail is available in two versions - the Alpine Trail 6 oz. and Alpine Trail 7 oz. If you are interested in a no-frills SUL backpack that is durable, the Fanatic Fringe Alpine Trail deserves your attention.

What’s Good

  • Much more durable than silnylon or spinnaker SUL packs
  • Choice of lighter weight (6 oz) or more durable (7 oz) versions
  • Right sized for SUL
  • Outside pockets are low on the pack for lower center of gravity
  • Narrow, simple, streamlined design
  • Flawless construction

What’s Not So Good

  • No top or side compression straps make it impossible to compress small loads
  • Shoulder straps are too narrow
  • Edges of shoulder straps have seams that can rub bare skin
  • Non roll-top closure doesn’t seal well
  • No provision for attaching gear to the outside

Specifications

  Manufacturer

Fanatic Fringe

  Year/Model

2005 Alpine Trail

  Style

Frameless, top loading, drawcord closure

  Volume

2400 ci (39.3 L) all sizes

  Weight

Size L tested.

Alpine Trail 6 oz. is 5.9 oz (168 g) measured weight, manufacturer’s specification 6 oz (170 g); Alpine Trail 7 oz. is 7.0 oz (198 g) measured weight, manufacturer’s specification 7 oz (198 g)

  Fabrics

Main body (both packs) is coated 1.9 oz/yd2 nylon ripstop with coated 200d nylon oxford back and bottom; Alpine Trail 6 oz. has no-see-um mesh outer pockets and silnylon top closure; Alpine Trail 7 oz. has nylon mesh outer pockets and coated 1.9 oz/yd2 nylon ripstop top closure

  Features

Three outside mesh pockets, padded shoulder straps, top drawcord, haul loop

  Volume To Weight Ratio

Alpine Trail 6 oz. is 407 ci/oz; Alpine Trail 7 oz. is 343 ci/oz

  Comfortable Load Carrying Capacity

12 lb (5.5 kg) estimated maximum comfortable load an average person can carry all day in this pack

  Carry Load to Pack Weight Ratio

Alpine Trail 6 oz. is 32.5; Alpine Trail 7 oz. is 27.4

  MSRP

Alpine Trail 6 oz. is $89; Alpine Trail 7 oz. is $99

Performance

Three Backpacking Light editors tested the Fanatic Fringe Alpine Trail packs on SuperUltraLight trips in different regions of the US. Our impressions are combined in this review.

The Fanatic Fringe Alpine Trail packs are a simple design. They are both the same size and have identical features. They are simple narrow pack bags with shoulder straps and no hipbelt. They are constructed of coated 1.9 oz/yd2 nylon ripstop on the pack bag with coated 200 denier nylon oxford on the backpanel and bottom for extra durability and waterproofness. The difference between the two versions is in the fabrics used in other places. The 7 oz. version uses 200 denier nylon oxford on the top closure and nylon mesh on the outer pockets; the 6 oz. backpack uses silnylon in the top closure and no-see-um netting in the outer pockets. We had no durability or wear issues with either model. In fact, both are SUL pack options that are more durable than silnylon packs and far more durable than spinnaker packs such as the Gossamer Gear Whisper Uberlight (3.7 ounces) or Mountain Laurel Designs Prophet 25 (4.4 ounces).

Fanatic Fringe Alpine Trail Backpack REVIEW - 1
The Fanatic Fringe Alpine Trail is a simple, streamlined, and durable pack. The pockets are placed low for better balance.

Where the Alpine Trail packs save weight is in their simplicity. They consist of a pack bag, padded shoulder straps, three outer pockets, a haul loop, and a drawstring closure - just a simple, tough, well-designed bag.

However, there is some utility lost in what isn’t in these packs. These are frameless packs, depending on a “virtual frame” to create pack stiffness. A virtual frame can be created by putting a pad inside the pack, either rolled or flat against the back, and by compressing the load (or filling the pack). This makes a solid pack. However, the Fanatic Fringe packs do not have a top strap or any type of compression system to adjust for smaller loads. This makes it very difficult to achieve a virtual frame when the pack is under filled. Further, not having any compression straps means that you don’t have any places to carry a pad, poles, or other items besides the low outside pockets.

Fanatic Fringe Alpine Trail Backpack REVIEW - 2
The Alpine Trail’s backpanel is 200 denier Oxford fabric. The top closure is a simple drawcord. There is no top compression strap, so it cannot be rolled down and secured.

The outside pockets are very well designed. There is plenty of room in the side pockets for larger Platypus bottles and the pockets are low on the pack, improving the center of gravity. Having side pockets is a serious bonus on a pack this light.

The Alpine Trail packs have well-constructed, padded shoulder straps. They have Cordura nylon on the outside and a softer mesh on the inside that is very comfortable against the skin. However, there is a hard seam where these two fabrics attach that occasionally rubs bare skin. The narrow straps were fine for loads below about 12 pounds, but became uncomfortable for loads above that. For SUL trips, where total pack weight rarely goes over 12 pounds, the Fanatic Fringe Alpine Trail packs were quite comfortable.

Fanatic Fringe Alpine Trail Backpack REVIEW - 3
The narrow shoulder straps are durable and well-padded. They are comfortable with loads up to about 12 pounds for the average user.

Fanatic Fringe Alpine Trail Backpack REVIEW - 4
The shoulder straps have a stiff seam that can rub bare skin. A different seam design could fix that.

At $89 for the Alpine Trail 7 oz. and $99 for the Alpine Trail 6 oz., the Fanatic Fringe Alpine Trail packs are an excellent value. Both versions are strongly constructed of durable fabrics and will definitely outlast comparable spinnaker or silnylon packs.

What’s Unique

The Alpine Trail packs weigh 1-3 ounces more than comparable spinnaker fabric packs, but they are much more durable. If you’re looking for a simple, durable, no-frills SUL pack, the Alpine Trail is a good choice.

Recommendations for Improvement

The simplicity of the Fanatic Fringe Alpine Trail is one of its selling points. However, it needs certain essential features to make it more functional. The first is adding a top strap so the top can be rolled down to help compress the pack when carrying small loads and to better seal the top. It also needs a side compression system, like loops for a bungee system that could be used for adjusting pack volume and attaching gear to the outside. Finally, the shoulder straps are too narrow and the side seams on the straps are abrasive. Slightly wider straps with smoother edges would be more comfortable and distribute weight more evenly.


Citation

"Fanatic Fringe Alpine Trail Backpack REVIEW," by Doug Johnson. BackpackingLight.com (ISSN 1537-0364).
http://backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/fanatic_fringe_alpine_trail_backpack_review.html, 2005-11-22 03:00:00-07.

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