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Macpac 35 Amp Backpack REVIEW

Light materials with rugged durability, convenient gear access, and comfort for fastpacking.

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by Stuart Bilby | 2005-06-28 03:00:00-06

Overview

Macpac 35Amp Internal Frame Backpack - 1
Macpac 35 Amp.

Macpac 35Amp Internal Frame Backpack - 2
Macpac 35 Amp in use.

The Macpac 35 Amp pack is aimed at adventure racers. It carries well and has lots of great features: two mesh water bottle pockets, mesh stuff-it pocket, top lid, and two very convenient 'puku' pouches in front. The removable hipbelt, frame, and puku pouches allow adventure racers and fast packers to adjust the Amp 35 to suit their needs. The rugged construction makes it great for rough treatment and off trail work but pushes it towards the heavier end of lightweight packs. As is typical with Macpac packs it is beautifully detailed and well thought out. The 35 Amp is a wonderfully versatile pack that carries loads up to 33 pounds (15 kg) really well.

In Brief

  • This pack has more innovative features than I have ever seen in a pack
  • Practical mesh 'puku' pouches mounted over the stomach on a bungee system provide quick access to trail essentials
  • Removable three-piece composite foam/PE frame sheet that can be used as a minimalist sleeping mat
  • Whistle built into the sternum strap clip
  • Nine pockets compliment the main pack bag to organize gear and make it quickly accessible
  • Drain holes in base and rear pockets
  • Harness and hipbelt provide adequate comfort for extending the carrying capacity beyond the frame's ability
  • Water options include two side-panel, mesh water bottle pockets, hydration bladder pocket (inside), and four bungee drink bottle holders on the shoulder straps and front panel

Specifications

• Backpack Style

Removable framesheet, top loading with top pocket

• Fabric Description

Combination of 210d ripstop and 420d 6.6 fiber nylon. Waterproofed with a polyurethane coating. The heavier fabric is used on the high wear base, front, lid, and straps while the lighter ripstop is used on the sides. The pockets on the lid, sides, rear, and front are made of a tough nylon mesh. Comfortable open-weave, high-friction wicking material against the wearer's back and on the straps.

• Sizes
two sizes, size 2 tested

SizesTorso Length* (in)Torso Length (cm)
212-1731-42
315-1937-48
*Torso length is measured from the shoulder attachment points to the center of the hipbelt.

• Volume

nominally 2140 ci (35 L)

• Weight
size 2 tested

SizeBackpacking Light measured oz (g)Manufacturer Specification oz (g)
243.7 (1240)37 (1050)
3-37 (1050)

• Weight of Components
size 2 tested

Backpacking Light measuredozg
Main pack31.1882
Removable frame pad4.9140
Hip belt5.4152
Puku pouches2.366
Total Weight43.71240

• Volume To Weight Ratio

69 ci/oz size L (Based on 2140 ci, and Backpacking Light measured weight of 43.7 oz)

• Load Carrying Capacity

33 lb (15 kg) as determined by Backpacking Light although there is no sharp cut-off in comfort; none listed by manufacturer

• Carry Load To Pack Weight Performance Ratio

12 (Based on Backpacking Light measured carrying capacity of 33 lbs, and measured weight of 43.7 oz)

• Model Year

2004

• MSRP

$203 USD , $299 NZD

• Manufacturer Contact Information

www.macpac.co.nz

Frame, Suspension, and Pack Load Carrying Performance

Macpac 35Amp Internal Frame Backpack - 3 Macpac 35Amp Internal Frame Backpack - 4

Removable framesheet.

Macpac 35Amp Internal Frame Backpack - 5
Macpac 35 Amp: three sections of framesheet and S-shaped shoulder straps.

The framesheet is an innovative three-panel design. There is a large central panel and two narrower side panels. The framesheets consist of 0.2-inch (5 mm) thick closed cell foam glued to a 0.04-inch (1 mm) thick sheet of stiff plastic. The three panels run the full length of the user's back. These three pieces fit into tight vertical pockets to form a three-panel frame. When loaded with a small volume, the side panels hinge forward to form a box frame. When the pack is fully loaded, they flatten out to allow the pack to take more volume.

The framesheet provides very good protection against badly packed objects poking into your back. The large middle section of the frame can be removed to save weight. It also forms a useful minimalist sleeping pad; although at 21 inches (53 cm) long and 13 inches (33 cm) wide it is only for hard-core lightweight or emergency use. It does however make a practical foot pad for use with a short sleeping pad.

I took the pack for an eight-day lightweight trip without needing to strap anything but my crampons to the outside. I left the central framesheet at home to save weight because I felt the fully loaded pack would be stiff enough; I regretted that. Starting the trip with 33 pounds (15 kg), without the frame, I found the pack uncomfortable on my back. This appeared to be because the pack was pulling away from my back, especially with a full load and a tarp and crampons loaded well to the rear of the pack. Repacking on subsequent trips, and including the central framesheet, I found the pack could comfortably carry 33 pounds (15 kg), but not much beyond that. Frame collapse causes discomfort beyond 33 pounds, and while the harness remains comfortable upwards of 51 pounds, nearly all the weight is carried by the shoulders at this point. Those who don't mind carrying weight on their shoulders will find they can extend the carrying capacity of this pack.

Like most Macpacs, the hipbelt pivots on a single point at the base of the back. This allows the hips to swing independently of the load and the back to stretch a little. The framesheet directs the load to this pivot point, which makes the pack comfortable with larger loads. With the framesheet removed, the hipbelt supports very little weight. Because of this, I found that if I remove the framesheet I should also remove the hipbelt and just use the simple webbing waist strap that is provided.

The pack can be compressed very nicely for small loads using the compression straps, three-piece frame, and shock cords on the side and back pockets. However, the small lid and short collars make it difficult to extend much beyond the nominal 35 liter (2140 ci) volume, although the large side and rear mesh pockets do allow for some extra gear to be strapped on the outside. It would be nice if the Macpac 35 Amp were a little taller and thinner for packing and carrying larger loads.

The Macpac 35 Amp has wide, comfortable S-shaped shoulder straps with a solid sternum strap.

Usable Features and Ease of Use

Macpac 35Amp Internal Frame Backpack - 6
Mesh 'puku' pouches are great for easy access while on the move.

The pack has two great little 'puku' pouches that attach by bungees across the front. (Puku is the Maori word for belly.) They provide ideal access on-the-move to food, GPS, compass, knife, tape, and sunblock. They have a cool little central hook that joins the two bungees together. The pukus are at just the right height for easy access and unlike pouches hung from the hip belt, they don't interfere with my thighs when stepping up. They are quick to unclip when taking the pack off but they are difficult to remove from the pack completely.

This pack has pockets everywhere - the main compartment, two lid mesh pockets, a zippered rear pocket, three mesh rear pockets, and a bladder pocket inside, in addition to the two puku pockets. This is wonderful for organizing gear and having a pocket for everything. The downside is that it adds considerably to the weight of the pack.

The pack has a rear pocket with a waterproof zipper. I have found this pocket wonderful for holding a wet or icy tarp or small tent. The tarp can be left as the last item to pack in the morning. Once inside the pocket the tarp is protected from damage. The pocket even has a drain hole in the base to let out water that accumulates.

There are bungee bottle holders mounted on each of the shoulder straps and on the rear of the pack.

The pack carries two ice axes nicely. Crampons can be strapped to the bungees on the outside, though there is not a high-wear crampon patch to protect pack fabric.

Durability

The pack uses an intelligent mix of 420 denier nylon on the exposed areas and 210 denier nylon elsewhere. While these materials push the weight of the 35 Amp up above that of earlier Macpac adventure racing packs, they have improved the durability significantly. Over nine months of hard use the only damage to the test pack is one small hole in the lighter weight material.

The mesh is surprisingly tough, and despite many hours pushing through rough scrub and carrying crampons on the bungees outside, no damage has occurred to the rear mesh pockets.

Overall, the 35 Amp is solidly built with great detailing to reduce wear and damage.

Value

With its myriad of features and practical design the Macpac 35 Amp is good value.

Recommendations for Improvement

While all the cool features of the 35 Amp make for a really fun pack, I would really like to see a stripped down version that is significantly lighter.

The puku pockets are extremely convenient to use, but they are very difficult to remove from the pack. Macpac should consider improving the attachment system for these pockets.


Citation

"Macpac 35 Amp Backpack REVIEW," by Stuart Bilby. BackpackingLight.com (ISSN 1537-0364).
http://backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/macpac_35_amp_backpack_review.html, 2005-06-28 03:00:00-06.

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