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The North Face Banchee 65 Review

A sweet pack with lots of well-designed features and user-friendly pockets at a below average weight.
Top Pick Award
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Price:  $239 List | $179.21 at Backcountry
Pros:  Lightweight, comfortable to carry for long periods of time, fantastic suspension, tons of useful pockets, hip belt adjustment
Cons:  Compression straps are just okay when using the pack half-full, external lid pocket isn't as easy to search through as models
Manufacturer:   The North Face
By Ian Nicholson ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Nov 19, 2018
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72
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#6 of 12
  • Comfort - 24% 7
  • Weight - 29% 7
  • Suspension - 22% 6
  • Features and Ease of Use - 18% 9
  • Adjustability - 7% 8

Our Verdict

The North Face Banchee 65 is durable, packed full of features, sports a robust suspension, and is one of the lighter models in our review. This impressive combination results in a pack that works well for both traditional backpacking and traveling. Our testers love this model's overall design, especially the pocket set-up. The two large zippered pockets on the back are very useful, and it's stretchy beaver tail pocket is perfect for oddly shaped items like camp sandals or a Frisbee. The zippered hip belt pockets are easy to unzip while walking and ideal for stashing a few bars. And this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the Banchee's useful features. Still, it manages to weigh less than the average backpack. The Banchee's suspension is surprisingly supportive considering its lightweight construction. It handles heavier loads better than many packs in our review and certainly better than most options in its weight range. We asked this pack to prove itself on 10+ day mountaineering traverse in the North Cascades with more than 50 lbs of weight. It performed better than expected.


Compare to Similar Products

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Banchee sports rock-solid suspension, comfortable padding, and one of our favorite pack designs. It's pretty amazing that this pack is barely over three and a half pounds, lighter than a majority of packs in our review.

Performance Comparison


This model sports a robust suspension and is packed full of features while somehow remaining surprisingly light. This well-rounded pack is extremely versatile and wins one of our Tip Pick Awards.
This model sports a robust suspension and is packed full of features while somehow remaining surprisingly light. This well-rounded pack is extremely versatile and wins one of our Tip Pick Awards.

Comfort


The Banchee offers above average comfort and excellent ergonomics. We love the shoulder straps, which contour nicely and work for a wide variety of body types. The straps are moderately wide, use supportive foam where you need it, and use cozier, softer foam where you don't. We enjoyed this attention to detail on long days.


The exterior fabric is also pleasant. Both the shoulder straps and back panel feel nice, even against bare skin. They rate above average among the packs in our review. Overall the Banchee 65 is surprisingly comfortable, particularly considering it's weight.

This model features one of our review team's favorite all-around shoulder straps. Their ergonomics are excellent and they fit the vast majority of our testing team extremely well. The face fabric also feels nice while wearing light base layers or even against bare skin.
This model features one of our review team's favorite all-around shoulder straps. Their ergonomics are excellent and they fit the vast majority of our testing team extremely well. The face fabric also feels nice while wearing light base layers or even against bare skin.

Weight


At 3 lbs 9 ounces, the Banchee 65 is one of the lighter packs in our review. It's over a pound lighter than a number of our award winners like the Arc'teryx Bora AR 63 (5 pounds), the Osprey Atmos 65 AG (4 lbs 6 ounces), Gregory Baltoro 65 (4 lbs 14 oz), or the Osprey Xenith (5 lbs 2 oz). It isn't quite as light as the Osprey Exos ( 2 lbs 10oz) or the REI Flash 66, but it is significantly more durable and is better at handling large loads.


The 3 lbs 14 oz, Gregory Paragon 68 is one of the Banchee's most direct competitors. The Paragon is slightly more supportive and handles heavier loads marginally better, but we like most of the features on the Banchee better.

For a relatively light pack  it has a pretty robust suspension  which thoroughly surprised and impressed our review team. While not quite a "load hauler " this pack is no slouch either. We went on several trips carrying 45 to 50 pounds  and it proved far more capable of handling that load than many packs in its weight range or even as much as a pound heavier.
For a relatively light pack, it has a pretty robust suspension, which thoroughly surprised and impressed our review team. While not quite a "load hauler," this pack is no slouch either. We went on several trips carrying 45 to 50 pounds, and it proved far more capable of handling that load than many packs in its weight range or even as much as a pound heavier.

Suspension


For a pack that sits on the lighter end of the spectrum, the Banchee 65 offers a surprisingly burly suspension. This is one aspect of its design that nearly all of our testers commented on immediately. We tested this pack on several trips that totaled over three weeks of constant use, including a long mountaineer traverse through Washington's North Cascades. We left the parking lot with around 45 to 50 lbs of gear, and the Banchee 65's performance exceeded our expectations.


The Banchee's suspension performed better than average. But for loads exceeding 50 lbs, the Banchee 65 isn't as comfortable as the Arc'teryx Bora AR 63, Osprey Aether AG 60, or the Gregory Baltoro 65. Bottom line — this pack rocks on trips when your pack weight is around 45 pounds or less.

Our testers loved the large zippered hip belt pockets on the Banchee 65. They can easily fit most smartphones or a camera  along with other snacks or sunscreen.
Our testers loved the large zippered hip belt pockets on the Banchee 65. They can easily fit most smartphones or a camera, along with other snacks or sunscreen.

Features and Ease of Use


The Banchee 65 is very easy to pack and use. In fact, it is one of the easiest packs to organize that we've reviewed.


The Banchee features eight total pockets, which is 2 or 3 above average. But it's not just the number of pockets that matters. We also took into account their location, design, and ease of access. These factors affect their usability. For example, we love the dual vertical zippered pockets, using them regularly. Even when the pack is full, these dual pockets are super easy to access. The large beaver tail pocket below the dual pockets is particularly useful for oddly shaped and hard to pack items like camp flip flops, fuel bottles, or a tripod.

The lid on this model is decent  its zipper wraps around both ends slightly  allowing you to lift the topmost piece of fabric  making it easier to search for items inside. While it's fine  we prefer models with zippers on top of the lid  which make them even easier to access.
The lid on this model is decent, its zipper wraps around both ends slightly, allowing you to lift the topmost piece of fabric, making it easier to search for items inside. While it's fine, we prefer models with zippers on top of the lid, which make them even easier to access.

The Banchee's lid pocket is large, and its long zipper helps you find items quickly, but it could use improvements. Smaller stuff drifts towards the rear of the pocket. We liked the lids on the Gregory Baltoro and Arc'teryx Bora better because their zippers are on top and are easier to search through. It has a zippered pocket within the lid that is perfect for items you don't want to lose — like your wallet, keys, or cell phone.

This is the lower sleeping bag access point. It has an optional compartment divider that most of our testers didn't use  but it's a nice option. We really like the dual lower straps  which are longer than most and pretty nice for closed cell foam pads or other funky items.
This is the lower sleeping bag access point. It has an optional compartment divider that most of our testers didn't use, but it's a nice option. We really like the dual lower straps, which are longer than most and pretty nice for closed cell foam pads or other funky items.

The large, dual zippered hip belt pockets are also among our testers' favorites. They easily fit most point-and-shoot cameras, most cell phones, a few bars, sunscreen, or other items that you would want easily accessible. Unlike many backpacking packs, the ice axe attachment system is robust. It doesn't leave your axe swinging wildly while trotting down the trail.

The Banchee 65 is easily adjustable to help dial-in an optimal fit with a large Velcro covered back-panel.
The Banchee 65 is easily adjustable to help dial-in an optimal fit with a large Velcro covered back-panel.

Adjustability


The Banchee 65 is available in two sizes — a S/M and an L/XL. It also offers a host of adjustments to help dial in the fit for a wide range of users. While it is only available in two sizes, it offers around 5 inches of vertical height adjustment via the shoulder strap position. This not only lets you dial in the yoke to your specified height, but it also makes the Banchee 65 a great option for growing teens.


You adjust the pack's torso length by pulling off a large Velcro patch in the back panel and adjusting the shoulder strap height. This system is similar to the one Osprey uses on their Aether packs. While Velcro doesn't sound very secure, we have never experienced a problem with a pack using this design, and we've spent hundreds of days with them strapped to our backs.

While many packs include torso adjustments, the Banchee's adjustable hip pads are a less common feature. They allow you to position padding over the boniest part of your hips. Our review team really like this feature.

The rad twin pocketed design is among of our favorites for ease of use and organization on the Banchee 65. These are great for water bottles  water filters  snacks  a light jacket  or anything else we want easily accessible.
The rad twin pocketed design is among of our favorites for ease of use and organization on the Banchee 65. These are great for water bottles, water filters, snacks, a light jacket, or anything else we want easily accessible.

Best Applications


This is an exceptionally versatile pack and an excellent option for backpacking, trekking, travel, or general mountaineering. Keep in mind that it isn't cut out for technical mountaineering or multi-day backcountry ski tours. It strikes an excellent balance of weight, pockets, ease of use, comfort, and durability. It especially appeals to users that love pockets but don't want the usually associated weight penalty.

The central stretchy mesh pocket on the Banchee 65 that sits between the back dual zippered pockets and the main compartment. Our testers really liked this pocket and used it for oddly shaped items like camp shoes  fuel bottles  and a Frisbee.
The central stretchy mesh pocket on the Banchee 65 that sits between the back dual zippered pockets and the main compartment. Our testers really liked this pocket and used it for oddly shaped items like camp shoes, fuel bottles, and a Frisbee.

It's also one of the best models for traveling, along with the Thule Versant. It works best for trips where a traditional suitcase or duffel bag is less convenient or completely impractical. Deciding between these two models for travel is a close call. The Versant has better access with a huge U-shaped zipper. But for us, the Banchee's sweet pocket design and superior organization win out, and we gave it our Top Pick for Travel award.

The North Face opted to stitch a divider to make the stretchy side water bottle pockets separate from the "beavertail" pocket. We liked this design because it not only helps with organization  providing three places to store items  it also keeps them upright and from falling down and all piling up.
The North Face opted to stitch a divider to make the stretchy side water bottle pockets separate from the "beavertail" pocket. We liked this design because it not only helps with organization, providing three places to store items, it also keeps them upright and from falling down and all piling up.

Value


At $240, Banchee 65 is an excellent value and is $50 to $125 less than most other models in our review. While the Banchee is less expensive and lighter weight than average, it has an above average number of features and offers above-average support.

The Banchee is a lightweight and versatile model that still has one of the better overall pocket designs we tested. It's tough enough for travel applications with a robust enough suspension for a week or more out on the trail.
The Banchee is a lightweight and versatile model that still has one of the better overall pocket designs we tested. It's tough enough for travel applications with a robust enough suspension for a week or more out on the trail.

Conclusion


Perfect for traveling or traditional backpacking, this is a surprisingly light and versatile backpacking pack that is supportive enough for heavier loads but light enough that you don't mind bringing it on an overnight trip. It's packed full of our favorite features and is one of the highest ranked packs in the review.


Ian Nicholson