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Arc'teryx Altra 65 Review

   
Editors' Choice Award

Backpacking Backpacks

  • Currently 5.0/5
Overall avg rating 5.0 of 5 based on 5 reviews. Most recent review: October 6, 2014
Street Price:   Varies from $449 - $450 | Compare prices at 6 resellers
Pros:  Super comfortable, awesome suspension, easy to pack.
Cons:  Expensive, doesn't come with ice axe loops.
Best Uses:  Backpacking, mountaineering, extended trips.
User Rating:     
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 (5.0 of 5) based on 4 reviews
Recommendations:  100% of reviewers (4/4) recommend this product
Manufacturer:   Arc'teryx
Review by: Ian Nicholson ⋅ Review Editor, OutdoorGearLab ⋅ November 5, 2012  
Overview
This is our Editors' Choice backpack because it is supremely comfortable, light, has great organizational ability and it is easy to pack and retrieve deeply buried items. That said, it is by far the most expensive pack we tested and is $100-200 more expensive than other packs in this review. Yes, the Altra 65 is the best, but other packs are great as well. If you want the most bang for your buck, check out our Best Buy winner, the Osprey Aether 60. Or we recommend the Gregory Baltoro 65, which was the second highest scoring backpack, just as comfortable as the Altra, and $100 cheaper. Finally, if you are looking for a lighter pack more suitable for mountaineering and ski mountaineering, we recommend the Gregory Z 65.

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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review

Likes
All our testers loved the pivoting waist belt that carries heavy loads more efficiently than the competition, especially on uneven or steep terrain. The Altra has the perfect blend of convenience and access without being too heavy. It has two pockets on the top of the lid and one underneath as well as a large kangaroo pocket on the front and two water bottle/snow picket/whatever stretch pockets on the sides. We were pleasantly surprised how durable this pack was despite being made of lightweight material.

This is the most comfortable pack in the review along with the Gregory Baltoro 65 and 75. The Altra just edged out the Osprey Aether 65 and 75 and the Deuter Aircontact. The Altra's pivoting hip seems may seem gimmicky at first, but even our most skeptical testers where impressed by how effectively this feature transmits weight and helped the pack to "flow" with you. We love the foam used in the hip belt that is much denser than that in the shoulder straps. While the Altra had the nicest hip belt, the Gregory Baltoro edged it our for shoulder strap comfort. The foam in the Altra's shoulder straps was a little soft, but not too soft. The Altra also had the second best lumbar support after the Gregory Baltoro. The frame in the Altra isn't heavy but was super effective.

For organization and ease of packing it was a close call between the Baltoro and the Altra. Both models were our top choices in this category but with its sheer volume of pockets the Gregory Baltoro just edged out the Altra. With the Altra one of our favorite features was its dual-top pocketed lid it was our favorite lid in this review. The twin zipped pockets are great for helping to find easily lost items that you want handy, like sun glasses, sun block, camera etc. Not only were there two pockets to use but because the zipper was on top you could more easily rout through them. We also found ourselves using the back, large zippered Kangaroo pocket all the time. The Altra also had a unique U-shaped zipper that ran down the front of the pack to allow for easy access of deeply buried items. I am not someone who needs water bottle pockets but having at least one is nice and I did find myself using them. The water bottle pocket on the other side was nice, too. We found ourselves using it to help secure tent poles, pickets and other items. While it is small, we liked the piece of plastic that makes space for your head and allows you to look up more comfortably while wearing the pack.

When we first got the Altra we liked how light it was but thought the material wouldn't be that tough. However, after 15 days of guiding and bush-whacking Washington's North Cascades, the pack didn't even look slightly worn. Unbelievable.

Dislikes
There were only a few small things we didn't like about this pack. It doesn't come with ice axe loops or one of Arc'teryx's specialized products like the "Axe keeper with Dongle" (yes that is the product name). Sure, you can buy it separately for $15 but when you are spending $375 on a pack, you would like stuff like that to be included. The pivoting hip belt does come off if the straps aren't tightened all the way when the pack gets knocked over on the ground. Snow makes it slightly more challenging to get the hip belt re-attached but not super difficult.

Best Application
This pack is best for backpacking trips and trekking, it will work great for general mountaineering but is a little wide if you are planning to do a lot of routes where you have to climb technical terrain with it on and fully loaded. It is also a descent option for extended ski touring trips but won't move with you as well as packs the the Gregory Z pack.

Other Versions
Arc'teryx makes the Altra in sizes ranging from Altra 35 to Altra 85. Whatever size that you need or prefer is dependent upon if you're looking for a daypack or a pack that will accommodate your weekend backpacking adventure.

This pack is also available in the Arc'teryx Altra 62, which is a highly customizable women's specific backpack. The Altra has great organizational options in pockets, the most diverse fitting options, and is also the most expensive. It has exceptional padding and also a highly technical design.

Accessories
The Pack Shelter retails for $45 and is a lightweight pack cover that will shield your pack from the elements. The pack shelter fits packs up to 75 liters.

Tangential Note: Dream Backpacking Gear List
The Altra pack is one of many items featured in our Dream Backpacking Gear List. Check it out to see other top-tier "dream" backpacking items.

Ian Nicholson and Chris McNamara

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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews


Most recent review: October 6, 2014
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:   
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 (5.0)
Average Customer Rating:   
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 (5.0)

100% of 4 reviewers recommend it
Rating Distribution
5 Total Ratings
5 star: 100%  (5)
4 star: 0%  (0)
3 star: 0%  (0)
2 star: 0%  (0)
1 star: 0%  (0)
Sort 4 member reviews by: Most Recent | Most Helpful
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
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   Apr 24, 2013 - 05:19pm
Rich · Backpacker · Austintown, Ohio
I bought the Altra 75 after some heavy-duty research. I even spoke to reps at Arc'teryx to make sure of the sizing (indeed, I needed the small waist belt as my waist is 30") I got it for $325 at OMCgear and they swapped the waist belt for free.

About the belt slipping: it doesn't. At least for me. They hold fast. Shoulder straps too.

This pack is big. I swear I pack everything into it that I pack into my Kelty Redcloud…110. No lie.

The Kangeroo pocket on the front is huge, I put my tent in it plus knives, tripod, etc.

The bottom of the bag is wide enough for a 5lbs, 0 degree synthetic bag, compressed of course.

The top compartment is also very big, you can get a ton of stuff in there too!

On comfort:

Well, that's the reason I shelled out the extra dough and it didn't disappoint. The swiveling waist belt is awesome although it does feel odd at first. They give you some lubricant in case it squeaks. And it will, haha. But that is so minor compared to the comfort this luxury pack affords. Gone are the Kelty hot spots on my tail bone.

I pack in 50 lbs at least, sometimes more and this pack handles it no problem.

Thanks to Outdoor Gearlab for their review and to Arc'teryx for great customer service.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
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   Sep 2, 2013 - 08:24pm
ilvbp · Backpacker · phx, az
This pack is brilliant, I have the Altra 75. Before the good news first the two flaws: slipping belt buckle and off center internal hydration pouch. Both of these design flaws are easily fixable. Change out the buckle or do what I did and add two belts guides and rethread the belt so it operates as the cross compression system (I.e osprey) verses the straight standard buckle clasp. Regarding the hydration location….it is simply weird to locate it on the side…also the zippered pouch is to small. This pouch is best used as an internal pocket for smaller items…not water. I suspended a very very light weight osprey hydration day pouch in the center that I pulled from by crescent 110 osprey pack. It works great and keeps the weight in the center where it should be. I would love to know why it was designed on the side and designed too small…it would be interesting to hear the contrived logic. :).

Here is the good news…this pack kicks butt. The kangaroo pouch is awesome, the top access pockets are perfect and located straight up so you can have easy access. The pack is designed for multiple day backpacking and it has plenty of capacity to meet the need. The rotating hip belt is simply the best. It really reduces hip fatigue as well as allow for full mobility when scrambling over boulders, etc. In addition, the suspension system makes the weight vanish. My pack weighs 30 to 33 at the trailhead with food and water and my comforts like my butterfly chair, etc. My base weight is 20 to 22 pounds. The weight is so well distributed to the hips that you forget about the pack. It is very comfortable. The side zipper access and the compression straps make this pack very easy to access and pack. The adjustable shoulder straps are also very cool…you can, on the fly, adjust wider or narrower, higher or lower…very easy, very quick. If you are getting a sore spot after many miles…adjust the strap away from the spot and you are good to go..

I have given it 5 stars. Even though the two flaws I mentioned may warrant a star, the fact is the pack is awesome and the flaws minor and fixable…so 5 it is. I have used many packs over the years and my two favorites are the osprey crescent 110, which I recently retired because of weight, and the arcteryx altra 75. Ater many miles, I highly recommend this pack.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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   Oct 6, 2014 - 04:21pm
Ten0fSwords · Hiker · Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
I'd been using a Bergen Scorpion Cyclops II since the late 1980s when I got it while serving on secondment in the UK with the British Army. Great backpack, loved it, and it went round the world with me, but unfortunately it didn't survive the GR11 last year, but even then it only broke on the last day: outstanding pack. Once it broke I tried out three packs over multiday bush hikes: a newer bergen, an aarn, and an osprey. None made the cut.

I had read about the Altra on Outdoorgear.com, but no one really stocks them in Australia and I held off, reluctant to buy a pack that expensive sight unseen. However, September 2014 I was all set to do 230klicks through the Cevennes and I did not have an appropriate pack. I looked at the osprey again but it looked as cheap and nasty as the one i had tried through the Blue Mountains. Thus, when I got to france, I ordered the pack from the UK and I have been very happy and impressed with what I received and how it worked out over my trek.

The quality of materials and build is excellent. The design if full of little extras that show you they put real thought into what they were designing. The waist belt, which I thought might be a week point or at least a gimmick, has proven to be the most comfortable i have ever used. The wet pouch (what non-Australians are calling the kangaroo pouch) was a great addition, as was the big zip: easily the most efficient pack i have used in terms of getting in and out of it. And I could go on about a dozen other features that impressed me. I suspect it will be a year of trekking before I have entirely worked out all the nice added features the pack has and different configurations for different loads.

From my perspective no real drawbacks. The bladder pouch worked fine. The Hipbelt sqeaked a bit the first few days, but once it had done 60+ klicks it settled down no problems and it was certainly uber-comfortable the whole trip. The shoulder straps were more comfortable looser than i would usually have had them, but with the massive support of the hipbelt this worked even better than my old bergen (high praise!).

Overall i could not be happier and am planning to pick up the 85l for long distance treks.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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   Aug 15, 2013 - 03:03pm
Ike · Backpacker · Vermont
I bought the Arc'teryx Altra 65 not too long ago, and with some help from Outdoor Gear Lab's stellar write-up. I did a lot of reading about other folk's experiences with it before picking it up, and was a bit apprehensive about whether it would live up to the generally huge acclaim that the Altra series has earned. So far, it's been incredible.

Really comfortable, ergonomic, and frankly, a work of art. I've used a few or Arc'teryx's products and have always been impressed, but you can tell that the folks behind the Altra know what is important while on the trail. Durability is top-notch. I like the Osprey and Gregory packs I've owned, but this one feels reinforced beyond the other top brands. All straps and seams are really well done. The pockets are well placed, with two wing pockets, a double pocketed brain, and a really nice kangaroo pocket on the back of the pack that can take anything from a jacket to a reasonably sized tent. Amazing.

I have a review on Backpacker.com that claims my pack's hip belt does not squeak. Well after some more extended use, mine began to. But I used the grease supplied with the pack for the disc connection specifically, and I have not heard a peep since. Some folks claim this small problem is enough for them to want to return it, or to write a thumbs-down review. If you are interested in an Altra, I say do it. Lubing the load transfer disc is a good idea anyway as I suspect it reduces wear/friction, and the trouble is well worth having the swiveling belt.

A really nice pack. Materials will last you many years of use in the backcountry. Also know that the version picture and reviewed on OGL's site (here) is the older version, and the 2013 is a much improved pack that misses NONE of the great features listed in OGL's review.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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Altra 65
Credit: Arc'teryx.com
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