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North Face Back Magic

in Backpacks - External Frame

Average Rating
4.88 / 5 (8 reviews)

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Kevin Sawchuk
( ksawchuk - M )

Northern California
North Face Back Magic on 08/12/2005 13:36:36 MDT Report Post Print

Rating: 5 / 5

I have had this (now discontinued) pack for over 20 years. It has a hipbelt that is attached to the main body of the pack by a flexible nylon truss that flexes when you move. This allows you to hike quickly with long strides and not feel restricted by your pack. It's light for what it carries. The main pack does shift around if you're on rough terrain and some may not like this feeling. For carrying heavy and bulky loads on trail, this is my pack. [This happens only when the whole family goes on the trip or if I'm schlepping in climbing gear for a big one.] There's nothing out there like this now--I wish there were.

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Tim Garner
( slowhike )

South East U.S.
proven load hauler on 08/13/2005 21:11:28 MDT Report Post Print

Rating: 5 / 5

i too have used one for about 20 years. i recently upgraded to a lighter pack,but if i need to carry more (winter,group,photography)i know i can trust back magic to carry it well. i`m ashamed to tell how much i carried in this pack in my eary years,but i will. i regularly hauled 70+ lbs. i`m still looking at trying the frame w/o the pack...just stuff sacks. ...slowhike

Peter Ricci
( riccipc )
Great pack, I'm sorry I sold it. on 07/25/2006 14:06:22 MDT Report Post Print

Rating: 5 / 5

The pack bag was a great configuration, Side pockets can be used full length like storing a tent or can store a water bottle in the upper fold away compartment. Neat idea.
A sleeve in the main compartment for tent poles. At 5300 cu. in. plenty large for winter outings (compression stuff sack for sleeping bag needed.) Front pocket plenty big and the bag not really narrow but was pretty flat which carried the weight closer to the center of gravity. The pack carried really well and the hips moved independently from the pack thanks to the xytel that connected the hip belt to the frame. It was a bit squirrely on uneven terrain but carried like a dream on well established trails. I often wished North Face would make this pack again because if they did. I'D BUY IT TODAY.

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Jim Luschen
( jimhikes )
Going strong since 1984 on 02/16/2009 13:05:32 MST Report Post Print

Rating: 5 / 5

This is my first and only backpack; I've had it 25 years now. It has been so good that I've never had a serious desire to try anything else. And while I can't fairly compare it to anything except a very rigid external-frame Kelty rental, I can't imagine a better pack. It's the hip belt and suspension that makes it sweet.

The reviews above are somewhat critical of the stability; I disagree. It's true that it will sway a little when you don't cinch it on tightly, but that's the beauty of the design and source of all the comfort. And by just yanking the sternum and shoulder straps tight, it becomes solidly affixed and you can trust your balance while crossing a stream or similar endeavor.

My only complaint is minor: the bottom tubing is curved, and thus the pack can't be leaned against things without trying to topple over to one side.

I'm planning to build a duplicate tubular carbon fiber frame for it, and drop the weight some. And if I get some spare time, I'd like to sew up a second bag assembly from lighter packcloth as an experiment for light trips.

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Daryl Evans
( ddevans )
20+ years and still hauling on 09/09/2009 16:18:06 MDT Report Post Print

Rating: 5 / 5

Like most the other posters, I too have had my pack since the late 70's. I've tried internal framed packs, (I use a Madden balistic cloth climbing pack), but I always go back to the North Face. It is, for me, the most comfortable pack for 3+ day trips. Now my son-in-law has used it, and wants to take it from me! (not gonna happen) If anyone can get one of these in good shape, I highly recommend doing so.

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Russ Asson
( seriousfun3 )
Versatile, strong and comfortable on 01/16/2010 06:32:16 MST Report Post Print

Rating: 5 / 5

I got my Back Magic on sale, and I think it was because the pack was being discontinued. The one-of-a-kind nylon truss that connects the hip belt to the frame intrigued me. I've never regreted the purchase and I've not replaced the pack with anything more modern in the ensuing 20+ years.

I've carried ungodly 70+ lb loads with the thing on several multi-day trips into the Wind River Range, encluding an 8 day summit of Gannett Peak. The pack was good for such work, and unbelievably never called attention to itself. Get that - no discomfort with a 70 lb load.

It comes from a time when shoulder straps were straight (replaced), and water bladders hadn't been invented (a little needle and thread work solves that). It doesn't compress for smaller loads as well as more modern packs, and the aluminum frame makes it a bit heavier than modern internal frame packs. But the aluminum frame makes gives unparelled ventilation between your back and the pack, and the ability to carry heavy loads is without peer.

I've got an Osprey Stratos 24 for the kind of day assaults you get with Colorado 14ers, so I understand the advantages of modern packs well. But for the long or heavy trip, my old Back Magic dinosaur is the best tool going.

Price comparison from GearBuyer: Osprey Stratos 24 - Men's priced at: $74.95 - $99.99
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Guy Johnson
( kiwi77 )
Northface Back Magic on 10/17/2010 09:28:23 MDT Report Post Print

Rating: 5 / 5

I have a Northface Back Magic. It was without a doubt the best frame pack made. Carried heavy loads. I do not use it anymore-- it is in great condition and would sell it to a person who needs one. If interested call Guy Johnson at 949.637.3007

Met the Tester on 07/19/2013 20:03:28 MDT Report Post Print

Rating: 4 / 5

I haven't used this backpack, but back in the late 70's, while backpacking to one of the Young's Lakes in upper Yosemite, I met a guy who worked for North Face, and he was testing this backpack before it came on the market. I had a chance to try it on.

I thought that the swivel feature would be squirrely on any hike where you would be shifting your weight, that it could potentially unbalance you at an inopportune time. Has that been anyone's experience?

I've always wondered if this backpack went into I know, and I'm glad that it worked out for you all. Happy Trails!

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