Lowe Alpine Nanon 50:60 and Lowe Alpine Zepton ND50 Packs (Italy)

Mini-review for the 2010 State of the Market Report on Internal Frame Backpacks.

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by Roger Caffin | 2010-09-28 00:00:00-06

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

Pack Rating Qualifications
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 and Lowe Alpine Zepton ND50 Packs (Italy) - 1
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

Pack Rating Qualifications
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 Nanon 50:60 and Lowe Alpine Zepton ND50 Packs (Italy) - 2
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.

  • Part 1A covers the very basics and lists all the packs in the survey.
  • Part 1B covers the frame and harness which carry the pack itself.
  • Part 1C covers the main bag and all the other pockets, plus the all-important question of comfort.
  • Part 2 in this series covers the individual packs tested.

Citation

"Lowe Alpine Nanon 50:60 and Lowe Alpine Zepton ND50 Packs (Italy)," by Roger Caffin. BackpackingLight.com (ISSN 1537-0364).
http://backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/lowe_alpine_nanon_lowe_alpine_zepton.html, 2010-09-28 00:00:00-06.

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Lightweight Internal Frame Packs: a State of the Market Report - Part 2: The Packs
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Coin Page
(Page0018) - MLife

Locale: Southeastern USA
External Frame Packs? on 10/18/2010 20:47:02 MDT Print View

Thanks for a nice review Roger.

Perhaps outside the scope of this review, but since the subject of external frame packs has come up: do you have any recommendations for lightweight, commercially available, external frame packs that capture your "H - frame" idea?

Back in the old days, my external frame pack and hip belt could shift almost all the weight onto my iliac crests, or alternatively, onto the greater trochanters.

I find now, with increasing age, a decreased tolerance for prolonged heavy loading of the L5-S1 disk, and the SI joints. Anything much over 20 lbs all day, no matter how it's distributed over the shoulders or the lumbar area, starts to hurt.

Some of the individual pack reviews and comments above suggest some of these packs come close, but it sounds like you think the external frame is better at overall comfort - issues of durability, fragility and standing up to heavy brush aside.

Am I on the right track here? Any advice. How can I get most of the load back on the sides of my hips - the iliac crests - and still go lightweight?

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: External Frame Packs? on 10/20/2010 23:43:42 MDT Print View

Hi Coin

Sorry, but I don't have a simple answer for you. I think I noted somewhere in the review that my hips are rather narrow, such that many hip belts do not work very well on me. For this reason I have always preferred to carry the load on my back. This does *not* mean 'on my shoulders'.

With my design I find the load does go through the mesh on the back of the pack to the full area of my back. Frankly, I am not really sure why this works so well, but it does work for me.

I am sure that it won't work for many other people, and that a solid hip belt will work better for them. In this sense, fitting a pack to a person is very much like fitting a pair of shoes. I sigh (for the same reason) when I see someone ask 'what shoes should I buy' and then read a reply that they should buy SuperDucksMultiWeb shoes.

However ... I will offer the following advice - which is also in the Review somewhere. Try to buy a pack which matches your torso length, but do not buy a pack with a torso length which is too short. Better to have a pack torso length slightly longer than your torso length: that will throw the load onto your hips more effectively.

Even better: pick a pack in the right size with an adjustable torso length. Then fine tune over several trips how it fits you. Yes, I definitely give brownie points to packs with an adjustable torso length.

I also give brownie points to packs with a solid stiff harness or frame. Frameless packs are all very well if my total load is under 6 -8 kg. Over that the weight of the harness is far outweighed by the added comfort it brings. Now, I know this comment will attract numerous responses contradicting me and saying how wonderful a frameless pack is. Well, as with shoes ...

Can an external frame pack (like mine) stand up the 'heavy brush'? Chuckle. Trust me, the scrub in the Australian Blue Mountains (and in SW Tasmania) is definitely world class.

A commercial equivalent? Sorry - at this stage I cannot make a recommendation, because I don't know.

Cheers

Cameron Semple
(camS) - F

Locale: Brisbane, Australia
Shadow on 10/21/2010 06:43:52 MDT Print View

I had a look at a Shadow this evening at a local distributor. I liked the clean, no frills look. Didn't have time to load it up though. You mentioned the thick webbing used on the hip belt. I found it virtually impossible to tighten the belt once fitted. The webbing was so rough that it wouldn't pull through easily. Combined with the older style of pulling the straps out rather than into the middle.

Any ideas when the 2011 line of packs will be available? The Umbra looks interesting.

Edited by camS on 10/21/2010 06:45:49 MDT.

Alan Bradley
(ahbradley)
small manufacturers / osprey atmos on 10/21/2010 15:46:43 MDT Print View

Roger (Caffin):
Would any of the ultralight small manufacturers be interested in making your external frame sacks.

The osprey atmos 50/65 has a kind of all back mesh (for ventilation) but I think the gap between back and pack is bigger. I didnt like the shooulder straps.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: small manufacturers / osprey atmos on 10/21/2010 20:58:46 MDT Print View

> Would any of the ultralight small manufacturers be interested in
> making your external frame sacks.

I would be delighted if someone did want to.

Cheers

Alan Bradley
(ahbradley)
osprey exos possible equiv to Roger (Caffins) MYOG external frame on 10/22/2010 04:55:27 MDT Print View

Roger (Caffin):

Actually, from reviews, the osprey exos 46/58 looks better than the atmos, as still has kind of all back mesh (for ventilation) but the gap between back and pack seems smaller, and the rucsac storage looks less curved.

Perhaps you could borrow one and compare it (not using waist belt) against your external frame pack.

Coin Page
(Page0018) - MLife

Locale: Southeastern USA
External Frame Packs? on 10/24/2010 09:12:13 MDT Print View

Thanks Roger.

Yes, like finding well fitting shoes. But I did find those (wider), so I keep my optimism for finding the perfect pack for heavier loads. Thanks for the reminder/emphasis on torso length (longer for me).

The Aarn packs, and LuxerLite pack seem hopeful. Discussions of these packs over the last 5 years give lots of opinions both ways. I would love to hear from owners/users of these packs what they still think of them now.

Any other packs in this general class - lightweight with enough frame to transfer all the weight to my hips if I want to - that anyone thinks I should also consider? Any packs in the review above come close for a long torso?

Thanks.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: osprey exos possible equiv to Roger (Caffins) MYOG external frame on 10/24/2010 15:35:08 MDT Print View

Hi Alan

The survey covered both the Exos 46 and the Exos 58. Nice packs.

Cheers

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: External Frame Packs? on 10/24/2010 15:38:09 MDT Print View

Hi Coin

The survey lists the available pack sizes. I was testing Medium in just about everything, but many of them have a Large model available.

Which one to choose? Ahhh... Very personal. 'Every body is subtly different ...' as they say on the planes.

Cheers

Lynn Tramper
(retropump) - F

Locale: The Antipodes of La Coruna
Re: External Frame Packs? on 10/25/2010 12:46:16 MDT Print View

"The Aarn packs, and LuxerLite pack seem hopeful. Discussions of these packs over the last 5 years give lots of opinions both ways. I would love to hear from owners/users of these packs what they still think of them now."

I have used both of these, and in both cases they are nice packs, but I ended up using them without the front pockets. They just didn't work for me. however, if you like front pockets, I find the LuxuryLite pocket (and frame) to be more functional and cooler. I also ditched the LuxuryLite cylinders and modifies a GoLite Gust to attach to the frame. Excellent volume and comfortable carrying. Note: the LuxuryLite pocket restricts you vision more than the Aarn. Also note, I have both of these for sale. If you are interested, shoot me a PM and we can negotiate a price.

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
frogs ... on 10/26/2010 06:24:59 MDT Print View

just a note for others that the french site i-trekkings has done a similar test with packs in roughly the same weight and volume range

note how the Decathlon Forclaz 50 Ultralight scored very high in comfort and on score/price while being the cheapest and lightest pack

just shows you what can be done ..

just use google translater on the links below



http://www.i-trekkings.net/bibliotheque/articles/tests/sacados/Test-sacados_comparatif.pdf


http://www.i-trekkings.net/Xdossiers/dossiers.php?val=29_comparatif+sac+dos+30++50+litres

Edited by bearbreeder on 10/26/2010 06:28:48 MDT.

Alan Bradley
(ahbradley)
exos 58 usage with no load thru hip belt on 10/27/2010 15:08:48 MDT Print View

Roger (Caffin):

I checked the articles 1A-C,2 butt did not find a mention of testing the exos 58 with no load bearing via the hip belt i.e. a comparison against the way your your external frame myog pack is used.

Do you still have one for a hip-beltless comparison against your external frame pack.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: exos 58 usage with no load thru hip belt on 12/16/2010 20:22:34 MST Print View

Hi Alan

Sorry, this dropped off the radar for a while.
Unfortunately no: the Exos packs were farmed out to Australian readers.

Cheers

Eric Botshon
(Ebotshon) - F
Exos 46 on 07/12/2011 10:36:03 MDT Print View

The review mentioned that the osprey pack was closer to 40 than 46 liters.

Any chance this test was done with a size small pack instead of the medium? The smal torso length pack is smaller than the stated 46.

Willem knopper
(willem65) - MLife
Exos Frame on 09/08/2011 15:41:10 MDT Print View

I have tried the Exos and I find them to be to very ridged, the pack does not move with you (back) at all. I personally think they are really just a fancy external frame pack. I did like the idea of the air flow but was just very disappointed how it restricted your movement especially if you were to use it doing any walking other than on the flat.

Regards

Phillip Damiano
(Phillipsart)

Locale: Australia
Jansport Big Bear on 03/22/2012 21:42:44 MDT Print View

Roger mentioned in one of his comments here:
(Yes, we kept a few, for specific functions. The rest have been passed on to Australian & NZ BPL members (kept the postage down) for further field testing. I expect that they will provide some Reader Reviews in due course).

I'm one of those Australian BPL member, I've recently acquired one of the Jansport Big Bear 63 prototype packs of Roger.
The pack has only been in my possession for a few weeks now, tested on day hikes including some rock climbing.
The Harness is very comfortable and the material is very durable. I've tested this on a Off-track hike recently with very thick vegetation. I got scratches over me, the pack survived with no scratches.

I'm yet to test it out as a Overnight hike, but I can't see it causing any problems there. It's a nice pack. I do like the colour that the prototype pack was supplied in with the orange trims.

This is an on going review, I will keep you's updated on my findings on my next overnight hike, which is not for another 3 weeks from today. In a couple days, I've got a day hike I'm planning on, I will pack all my overnight hiking gear into the pack for a test to see how the pack feels with some weight in it. My base weight is just under the 8Kg. I'll add a few litres of water to that, making a total weight of 11kg.

So far, I like the pack. It's not exactly on the ultra light weight at just under 1.5kg but it does have a good frame and harness.Jansport Big Bear Prototype Pack

Edited by Phillipsart on 03/22/2012 21:51:42 MDT.

Phillip Damiano
(Phillipsart)

Locale: Australia
Re: Jansport Big Bear on 03/24/2012 19:33:34 MDT Print View

Packed my hiking gear into the Jansport Big Bear pack yesterday and went for a walk around the block with apx 12kg load. Pack is comfortable, enough room for 5 or 6 days of food. No complaints.

Will be continuing wearing the pack with my gear on daily hikes for the next couple of weeks as training for an upcoming 3 day overnight hike in some steep terrain.

Eric Blumensaadt
(Danepacker) - MLife

Locale: Mojave Desert
"Pocket Man" on 06/14/2012 21:41:39 MDT Print View

I own an older - and IMHO better - version of the REI Flash 60. It's the REI Cruise UL 60 (2nd model). That pack absolutely NEEDED side pockets. Fortunately REI had "aftermarket" pockets at that time, but no longer.

I like side pockets because they store stuff I may need quickly like 1st aid kit, water treatment kit, toilet kit, potty kit, and things I don't want inside my pack
Like stove stuff including fuel. (For ex., ESBIT tabs smell fishy -like two other things I know of. ;O)

My REI pockets add 400 cu. in. each and make the pack "complete" in my dinosaur mind. Yeah, I'm a geezer and like exterior pockets. As another poster said of the Ospey EXOS that front "shovel" pocket is nice and can hold that wet tent, etc. Same goes for my Cruise UL 60 - which should really be called the "UL 50" - sorta like many post-recession 401-K funds should really be called "201-K" funds.

SPIRIDON Papapetroy
(spotlight) - F
Osprey Exos on 09/09/2012 21:15:47 MDT Print View

Has anyone had pain in the part of the body where the lower part of the frame touches it. I am a bit worried because it doesn't have any padding.