Lowe Alpine was started by some American climbers: Jeff, Mike, and Greg Lowe in 1967, but it has since been bought by the Italian boot company Asolo and migrated to Nervesa della Battaglia, Treviso in Italy. Production has (as might be expected) migrated to China. The packs tested come from their Hyperlite range: in this case Hyperlite means Dyneema. That's a very tough fabric. Interestingly, the instructions which come with the packs do explain the different styles of packing: mass high for endurance when walking but mass low for stability when climbing.
A brief note about Men's and Women's packs. Lowe Alpine make both in many models. If the model name has ND in it, it is a Women's model; otherwise it is a Men's model.
Lowe Alpine Nanon 50:60 Pack
|Nanon 50:60||Average||Fairly classical|
This is a Men's pack from the Hyperlite series (there is a Women's version). The bag has a back pocket on a curious almost-floating (well, very expandable) back panel. Gear can go inside the back pocket and between the main bag and the back panel: two layers of storage. Gear won't fall out of the latter space as there is some semi-stretch fabric up the sides. A somewhat strange arrangement, although a small wet tent or tarp could fit there: they have put a drain hole at the bottom. Sit mats do also fit nicely. However, I doubt you could get much into both pockets at once.
Lowe Alpine Nanon 50:60, 1.42 kg (3.12 lb), 53 L (3200 cuin).
The side pockets are tall with elastic at the top edge, although the elastic does not do very much. There is one waterproof zip down the side allowing access into the bottom of the main bag. This is covered by a compression strap - fortunately. There were plenty of webbing loops scattered across the pack body as well, and two ice axe attachments.
While most pack manufacturers have gone with 20 mm webbing, Lowe Alpine is one of the few who have chosen to use narrower webbing, with special narrow buckles to match. Given the solid thickness of the webbing, I don't think there are any strength concerns at all for the it, although the narrowness could place a little more load on the sewing at the anchor points. However, they have added reinforcing patches where needed, so that worry does not apply. Is there any difference in weight between this narrow but thicker webbing and a wider, light webbing made of grosgrain tape? I doubt it. I have used grosgrain tape on my packs for years with no problems. I guess it is a 'distinction' for marketing. But they work OK.
The throat is of a reasonable length. The lid is floating but does cover the throat adequately, provide you adjust it correctly (easy enough). It has nice elastic sides which are quite adaptable. The pocket on the lid has a fair bit of volume, a key clip inside and a security pocket under it. The base of the pack is unfortunately tilted, so that the pack cannot sit upright.
The internal frame is a non-removable sheet of hard plastic and a U-shaped bit of high-tensile steel wire to give the curved back. This wire appears to be removable, but only with some difficulty. Altering the curvature can be done with the wire in place. As delivered, and visible in the right hand photo, the top of the stiffening wires seemed a little too straight. A bit more curvature forwards at the top might be useful - and possible.
The hip belt is attached only at the bottom edge: the top edge is held by webbing. This allows a variable curvature to the hip belt, but that curvature can't be locked. Adjusting the tightness of the hip belt via the front buckle will alter the tilt of the hip belt as well - you have to study the design to see how it works. The hip belt worked fine but the performance did not seem much different from most other packs. Sue found the height of the hip belt a bit large: the top edge came close to her ribs. Note however that this is a Men's medium size: there is a different hip belt for the Women's version of this pack (Nanon ND50:60).
The lumbar pad can actually be pulled out at the top, giving access to a strap and buckle which adjusts the length of the shoulder straps. Lowe Alpine claim this adjusts the back length, but I have to disagree. It does not allow you to adjust the real length of the torso on the pack: the shoulder straps still come out of the same place just above the padding. There is a tough mesh panel as back padding which has a second layer of stiff plastic inside it. Actually, this mesh layer is a double layer, with tiny plastic 'springs' in between the two layers. A bit like an inner-spring mattress. Trying to focus on the mesh can be tricky: my eyes got very confused! Whether this actually contributes anything is not clear: we didn't notice any real difference. Yes, all these features do make the pack fairly heavy.
Lowe Alpine Zepton ND50 Pack
|Zepton ND50||Recommended||Very light, women's fit|
Gotta love the colour - crushed blackberries. This pack looks moderately similar to the Nanon 50:60, at least on the surface, so we will only cover the differences. And there are quite a few differences, all in the direction of a simpler and lighter design. As mentioned, the ND in the model name means it is designed for women (there is also a Men's version). The side pockets are shorter and the shoulder straps are narrower. One assumes the latter is an ND feature and is to avoid damage to female breasts. There is no back pocket and there is no zip down one side - a nice clean design. The throat is very short - too short I think, but the lid does cover it.
Lowe Alpine Zepton ND50, 1.08 kg (2.38 lb), 49 L (3000 cuin)
The lumbar pad is fixed in place and so are the shoulder straps. There is no side zip access into the bottom of the pack - it won't be missed. The double layer of inner-spring mesh on the harness is still there however. The back of the pack and the lumbar pad are noticeably more curved (for a female fit). Sue found it suited her quite well, while it was too curved for me. That figures: this is a Women's model. Sue said she could just feel the bottom edge of the plastic sheet if she tried, but added that it did not worry her.
A major difference between the Zepton and the Nanon is that the throat on the Zepton is much shorter than on the Nanon, to the point of almost being non-existent. It is only 11 cm (4.3 in) long, on the Zepton it is 25 cm (10 in) long. I find the idea of making the throat this short rather strange. I am led to believe this was done to prevent people from overloading the pack. Yes, the lid can cover the throat adequately, but I would prefer it longer all the same.
The sternum strap uses a rather novel mechanism for the attachment to the shoulder strap. A fitting copied from yachting is used: a sort of sliding C-clip holding onto a bit of solid cord inside a fold of fabric. It seems to work fine, and is smaller than some other fittings I have seen.
This is a mini-review in the 2010 Lightweight Internal Frame Pack State of the Market Report. The articles in this series are as follows (mini-reviews can be found in Part 2), and a subscription to our site is needed to read them.