REI Co-op Traverse 70 Review
Cons: Heavy, lumbar padding sometimes hard to situate, unsatisfying ventilation
Manufacturer: REI Co-op
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Our Analysis and Test Results
Our testers love the features that this pack has to offer. It is a product for the outdoor enthusiast who loves to stay organized, even in the backcountry. We think that its suspension and comfort are satisfactory, but still have room for improvement.
This pack pays a weight penalty for all of its additional features but otherwise scores solidly, keeping it nestled amongst the pack.
Suspension and Comfort
The design elements of this pack that increase its comfort are good ideas; they just need a little refinement. The waist belt has two types of padding on the inside face: softer and form-fitting on the top and bottom and firmer in the middle. This middle section is also recessed, we think so that the whole belt can "cradle" the iliac crest (the protruding part of your pelvis). It's a nice design, but our testers found that the firmer foam and rougher mesh of the middle strip were both somewhat abrasive after a few miles.
Similarly, the lumbar foam support is helpful, but it also reduces the margin for error in terms of pack adjustment. Too high or too low and it's just uncomfortable in the long run. The shoulder straps sit well and have a thicker-than-average amount of padding.
The suspension of this pack is reliable but could be a little bit more robust. The trampoline back panel is capable of conforming to your back, but it doesn't sit nearly as far off of the pack body as some others which means that extra-heavy loads may dig in and ventilation decreases.
The waist belt also slightly rotates as you step, shifting pack weight accordingly. It's not nearly as effective as a true active suspension, but our testers did notice that this pack provided more balance than one with a static waist belt. It may make for a sweatier experience, but we do like the width of the belt as well.
The Traverse 70 also comes with a couple of extra side compression straps toward the bottom that tighten to draw weight in closer to the body, thus reducing the amount of torque that the pack is exerting and increasing balance.
Features and Ease of Use
The additional features and pockets are where this pack shines. Its top lid is accessible from both a traditional exterior zip as well as from underneath. It is also detachable from the main pack and comes with straps that convert it into a nifty (if not totally stylish) day pack. There is a second mesh compartment on the underside that stores the included rain cover but if you know it's going to be a dry trip, you can leave the cover behind, save some weight and increase storage space.
There is good access to the main compartment as well. The pack is a standard top loader but has a large U-shaped zipper that opens up the entire front of the unit. Two zippered waistbelt pockets, one mesh, one fully enclosed, make for excellent snack storage. The water bottle compartments have side access so you can grab a bottle on the move.
The additional storage pocket on the front can comfortably accommodate a rain jacket or an article of clothing that needs to dry out. Also attached to this panel are two side zip pockets that can hold additional fuel or water bottles. There are also a variety of straps, ice ax loops, and cinch cords to easily attach trekking poles, axes, or any other item that doesn't fit in the main compartment.
At just about 4 3/4 pounds, the Traverse 70 is no lightweight. It's one of the heaviest packs in the review. It's understandable that this would be the case with all of its extra features but if you are considering this pack because of the number of its eighth pocket, now is a good time to ask yourself whether or not you truly need all of them.
Adjustability and Fit
The REI Traverse 70 comes in three sizes. Each one accommodates three inches of torso length (overlapping a bit with adjacent sizes) as well as 8-10 inches in waist size. The smallest waist size you can get to on a small is 32", so keep that in mind if you are starting with a slim waist and think you could drop some more circumference throughout your trip. To adjust, you have to unclip the mesh back and fiddle with some flaps and velcro to change the torso length.
We think that the REI Traverse 70 offers fair value. You get what you pay for, and what you pay for is a solid pack with a ton of organizational features. It is a sturdy design that we think carries regular and above-average loads well enough that it could be the do-it-all pack for most folks.
This pack is a durable companion. It offers tons of features, perhaps more than it needs to. In any case, if you are in the market for a model that will keep you organized while you cover miles, the REI Traverse 70 is worth a strong look.
— Ben Applebaum-Bauch