REI Cruise UL 60 Backpack REVIEW

A well designed and capable lightweight internal frame backpack from REI with a great feature set, and it’s an excellent value!

Recommended

Overall Rating: Recommended

The Cruise UL 60 backpack is the first piece of REI gear to be reviewed by Backpacking Light, and I am impressed. The frame and suspension on this pack is simple and functional. Pack torso length is very easy to adjust and has a 4.5 inch vertical range. Its internal compression system works very smoothly, and its front kanga pocket adds a lot of utility and character to the pack. I also like the abundance of exterior storage, organization, and attachment options. My only complaints are the mesh side pockets are tight when the main compartment is stuffed full, and the hipbelt pockets are on the small side. I found it rather easy to live with both issues, and hopefully REI will make some adjustments in the next production run to make this a perfect pack. The clinching factor on the Cruise UL 60 is that it’s an excellent value at $130. Comparable packs from Osprey, GoLite, Granite Gear, and Mountainsmith cost $175 to $250.

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by Will Rietveld |

REI Cruise UL 60 Backpack REVIEW

Introduction

Serious lightweight backpacking gear from REI? You betcha! New for 2007, the REI Cruise UL 60 is a major overhaul of their previous UL 60 model. This highly refined pack has an easy to adjust and comfortable suspension system, great feature set, some innovative features, minimal weight, and a remarkably low price tag.

What’s Good

  • Easy torso length adjustment
  • "Kangaroo" front pocket
  • Lightweight frame gives complete weight transfer to the hips
  • Internal compression system
  • Excellent fit and very comfortable to carry
  • Lots of options for attaching gear to the outside
  • Outstanding value

What’s Not So Good

  • Hipbelt pockets are small
  • Side mesh pockets are tight when pack is full
  • Pack squeaks when hiking

Specifications

  Year/Model

2007 REI Cruise UL 60

  Style

Internal frame, top loading, fixed top pocket

  Volume

3661 ci (60 L) size M, 3970 (65 L) size L (size L tested)

  Weight

3 lb 3.1 oz (1.45 kg) measured weight, size L; manufacturer’s specification 3 lb 3 oz (1.45 kg), size L

  Sizes Available

M, L

  Torso Fit Range

M fits 17 to 19 inch torsos, L fits 19 to 21 inch torsos

  Fabrics

140d ripstop nylon and 210d double ripstop nylon, polyurethane-coated

  Features

Fixed top cap with water-resistant zippered pocket and underside zippered map pocket , internal compression system, kangaroo front sleeve with water-resistant zippered pocket, two side mesh pockets, two zippered hipbelt pockets, easy torso length adjustment, 3 L internal hydration sleeve with two hangers and two hose ports, frontpanel has four elastic loops and six webbing loops for attaching gear, front daisy chain, haul loop, sternum strap

  Volume To Weight Ratio

77.7 ci/oz size L (based on 3970 ci and a measured weight of 51.1 oz)

  Comfortable Load Carrying Capacity

35 lb estimated comfortable load for an average person carrying the pack all day

  Carry Load to Pack Weight Ratio

11.0 (based on 35 lb and a measured weight of 3.19 lb)

  MSRP

$130 US

Performance

An internal frame pack with a volume of 60 to 65 liters is optimal for lightweight backpacking. Hikers in this category typically keep their base weight (everything except food, water, and fuel) under 20 pounds, and carry a total weight of 25 to 35 pounds. There are quite a number of backpacks to choose from in this size category, and the REI Cruise UL 60 (in my opinion) is one of the top contenders. The following photo gallery will help acquaint you with the pack.

REI Cruise UL 60 Backpack REVIEW - 1
Views of the REI Cruise UL 60. The frontpanel (top left) features a prominent kanga pocket (short for kangaroo) and a total of 14 attachment points. Each side (top right) has a bellowed mesh pocket in addition to the space behind the kanga pocket. The backpanel view (bottom left) shows the pack’s simple but capable suspension and “Rip and Stick” torso adjustment. The top pocket (bottom right) is fixed (not floating) and has a zippered map pocket on the underside.

Frame and Suspension System

REI Cruise UL 60 Backpack REVIEW - 2
The frame consists of two hollow contoured aluminum stays in sleeves on the main compartment (left). Torso length adjustment on the Cruise UL 60 is very easy with its unique “Rip and Stick” design, where the shoulder harness slides up and down on the stays.

Although size Large is specified to have 3 inches of torso adjustment (19 to 21 inches), I measured it at 4.5 inches (17 to 21.5 inches). REI’s “Rip and Stick” design makes it very easy to adjust the pack torso length: simply loosen the load lifters, rip the Velcro attachment loose, slide the shoulder harness to the desired torso length, and re-fasten the Velcro and load lifters. The stays are anchored to a delrin sheet on the back of the hipbelt (right) and a contoured aluminum headrail at the top of the load lifters (not shown). The design is simple, lightweight, and effective. Note that the stays can be custom bent to better fit the user’s back, but the pack cannot be used without the stays because the shoulder harness is mounted to them. I found the fit with the existing curvature to be just fine.

REI Cruise UL 60 Backpack REVIEW - 3
The Cruise UL 60’s suspension system is Spartan but effective. The shoulder straps (left) taper from 3 inches at the load lifters to 2.5 inches at the sternum strap. The shoulder straps, backpanel (middle), and hipbelt (right) are a firm foam faced with spacer mesh to distribute weight and moisture.

Features and Utility

A unique and prominent feature of the Cruise UL 60 is its kanga pocket on the front. It’s actually two pockets in one: there is a large dry storage pocket on the front of it with a vertical water-resistant zipper, and a large space behind it that wraps around the sides. The cradle behind the kanga pocket is very handy for stuffing a jacket or for carrying a wet tent or wet rainwear. A strap at the top of the kanga pocket connects to the pack’s top pocket.

REI Cruise UL 60 Backpack REVIEW - 4
The Cruise UL 60’s front kanga pocket (top left) is a prominent feature that adds a lot of utility and character. It’s actually two pockets: a large flat pocket on the front with a water-resistant zipper, and a cradle behind it (top right) to stuff more gear. The side mesh pockets (bottom left) overlay the kanga pocket’s mesh attachment, and are a bit tight when the main compartment is packed full. Inside the main compartment there is a 3 liter hanging hydration sleeve (bottom right) with two hangers and two hose ports.

REI Cruise UL 60 Backpack REVIEW - 5
Hipbelt pockets (left) are small but not tiny. The fixed top pocket (right) has a map pocket on the underside with a key clip. There are two drawcords, one for the internal compression system and one for the top closure.

If you count the cradle behind the kanga pocket, there are a total of 8 pockets on the outside of the pack. Each side has an additional mesh pocket attached to the kanga pocket, the top cap has a storage pocket on top with a water-resistant zipper and a map pocket on the underside, and there are two hipbelt pockets. Overall, the abundance of outside storage makes most everything needed on the trail easy to get to without digging into the pack’s interior.

A unique feature of the Cruise UL 60 is its internal compression system. There is a second drawcord at the top of the main compartment that will collapse the volume down to a third of its extended size. It consists of a network of double seams with cords between them that tighten with a single pull at the top. It’s an elegant design that works smoothly, and probably doesn’t add any extra weight to the pack compared to a set of external compression straps that frequently get in the way of pocket access. However, the extra seams may be more prone to leakage in the rain.

REI Cruise UL 60 Backpack REVIEW - 6
The REI Cruise UL 60 has some drawcord wizardry. The top drawcord closure (green line in right photo) is a figure eight design to pull the extension collar down, and the internal compression system (purple line) snugs the main compartment and its contents into a tight unit.

For attaching bulky gear to the front of the pack, the UL 60 has four tool attachments and a daisy chain on the front of the kanga pocket. There are also six webbing loops that could be used for lashing straps or to add a bungee system.

Field Testing

I used the REI Cruise UL 60 on a number of winter snow camping trips and spring backpacks. The pack is nicely contoured to fit my back and easily adjusted to fit my torso and place the load lifters just above my shoulders where they belong. I found the pack very comfortable carrying loads up to 35 pounds (even heavier if you are a strong person), and it will transfer all the weight to my hips. The firmly padded suspension system is surprisingly comfortable.

REI Cruise UL 60 Backpack REVIEW - 7
The Cruise UL 60 has adequate attachment options to attach bulky items to the front. I easily carried 30 inch long snowshoes or a tent cradled behind the kanga pocket. The side mesh pockets are a tight fit for a water bottle.

With eight outside pockets (counting the cradle behind the kanga pocket), the pack has plenty of places to organize and stow gear frequently used on the trail. However, the side mesh pockets are tight when the pack is stuffed full, so a water bottle is a tight fit. They are best used for smaller, stuffable items. The hipbelt pockets are also on the small side, and will hold about three energy bars or other small essentials in each one.

The pack’s internal compression system essentially makes it unnecessary to carry a summit pack. It collapses the pack down to a much smaller volume and secures items inside.

I also found the pack to be quite durable for its lightness. The 140 denier ripstop nylon is a good balance of durability and lightweight. The pack, including the mesh side pockets, should easily endure off-trail backpacking in timbered terrain with no damage (assuming reasonable care is taken).

Assessment

I’m very impressed with the REI Cruise UL 60. It’s a remarkable balance of features, fit, comfort, adjustability, organization, and lightweight. The pack fit me well, easily carried 25 to 30 pound loads, and transferred all of the weight to my hips. It also has plenty of storage and attachment options. My only complaints are its tight mesh side pockets and small hipbelt pockets, which hopefully will get remedied in the next production run. The pack is also a screaming deal at $130, and if you are an REI member you get part of that back at the end of the year in your membership dividend. Other packs in this category typically cost $175 to $250.

The Cruise UL 60 is one of the lighter packs in its category (internal frame, 60-65 liters, top-loading) at 3 pounds 3.1 ounces (size L). The GoLite Quest pack weighs the same, has a large zippered front pocket and costs $175, but has little torso length adjustment. The Granite Gear Nimbus Ozone (3800 cubic inches, 3 pounds, $215) is fairly spartan on the outside with only two side pockets and a top pocket, but its Nimbus framesheet and suspension are highly adjustable for torso length and shoulder width, and multiple shoulder strap and hipbelt sizes are available. The foam padding of the Nimbus suspension is also very soft and comfortable, compared to the Cruise UL 60’s thinner and firmer padding.

Although they are not a direct comparison, “convertible” internal frame packs from Six Moon Designs and Gossamer Gear are an ultralight internal frame backpack alternative. The Six Moon Designs Comet and Starlite packs, and the Gossamer Gear Mariposa Plus pack have removable stays and weigh 30, 29, and 20 ounces, respectively. All are capable of carrying loads in the 25 to 30 pound range, but not as comfortably as the REI Cruise UL 60. They are also less durable than the Cruise UL 60 and lack the range or ease of torso length adjustment.

What’s Unique

The Cruise UL 60’s internal compression system works very smoothly to reduce pack volume for day hikes from camp summiting a peak. The pack torso length is easily adjusted within a 4.5 inch range with its “Rip and Stick” feature. And its front kanga pocket is very useful and adds a lot of utility and character to the pack.

Recommendations for Improvement

  • Bellow the side mesh pockets more to give them more capacity with the main compartment is stuffed full
  • Make the hipbelt pockets larger

Citation

"REI Cruise UL 60 Backpack REVIEW," by Will Rietveld. BackpackingLight.com (ISSN 1537-0364).
http://backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/rei_cruise_ul_60_backpack_review.html, 2007-09-19 02:00:00-06.

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REI Cruise UL 60 Backpack REVIEW
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Lynn Tramper
(retropump) - F

Locale: The Antipodes of La Coruna
Compare to Quest? on 10/08/2007 13:22:37 MDT Print View

Hi Will, if you're following this thread at all, how would you compare the Cruise UL60 to the GoLite Quest you reviewed earlier? I'm especially interested in a volume comparison as the Cruise appears to be at least as big as the Quest, but on paper it has a smaller volume. Which do you think has the largest capacity?

I'm only asking because my partner has stolen my Quest. We both like it, but I'm tempted to get something else similar but not the same as we are already pretty close to looking like twins backpacking deaprtment.

Jared Cook
(rooinater) - F

Locale: Northwet
UL60 on 06/17/2008 11:44:11 MDT Print View

I have the older UL60 that I got several years ago. It may not be "ultralight" but light and comfortable. My base weight is usually around 12 pounds, fully loaded with food and 3L of water I've carried a max of 27lbs with this pack. But I'm lugging around a a 5 pound tent... as money permits i've been upgrading. this year i'll be upgrading to a tarptent, which will easily put my base weight around 9 pounds. The UL60 stays as my pack for now, as for the fact that it's comfortable, fairly light, and hauls anything I could need.