The North Face Banchee 65 is durable, packed full of features and is one of the lighter models in our review. Our testers love this model's overall design, especially the pocket set-up. The two large zippered pockets on the back are handy, and its stretchy beavertail 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 protein bars. With all that, it still manages to weigh in under four pounds. This pack to prove itself on a 10-day mountaineering traverse in the North Cascades with more than 50 lbs of weight. It performed better than expected.
The North Face Banchee 65 Review
Cons: Compression straps not effective if pack isn't full, external lid pocket isn't easy to search through
Manufacturer: The North Face
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Banchee features comfortable padding and is one of our favorite pack designs. It's a little funny looking at the outset but don't let that fool you. This pack comes to play.
Excellent features, adjustability, and decent comfort keep this pack in the middle of the pack.
Suspension and Comfort
The Banchee 65 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 this model is surprisingly comfortable, particularly considering its weight.
For a pack that sits below four pounds, the Banchee 65 offers a decent suspension. We tested this pack on several trips that totaled over three weeks of regular 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 its performance exceeded our expectations. It does get dicey for loads exceeding 50 pounds; it's just not nearly as comfortable as the Arc'teryx Bora AR 63, Osprey Aether AG 60, or the Gregory Baltoro 65. Bottom line — this pack does well when the load stays below 45 pounds.
At 3 pounds, 9 ounces, the Banchee 65 is in the middle of the pack for weight. It's lighter than a number of our award winners like the Arc'teryx Bora AR 63 or Osprey Atmos 65 AG. It isn't nearly as light as the Osprey Exos 58 or Granite Gear Crown2 60, but it is significantly more durable and is better at handling large loads.
The 3 pound 14 ounce Gregory Paragon 68 is one of this pack's most direct competitors. The Paragon 68 is slightly more supportive and handles heavier loads marginally better, but we like most of the features on the Banchee 65 more.
Features and Ease of Use
The Banchee 65 is very easy to pack and use. It is one of the most natural packs to organize that we've reviewed. It features eight total pockets, but it's not just the number that matters. We also care about their location, design, and ease of access. We love the dual vertical zippered pockets and used them regularly. Even when the pack is full, these dual pockets are super easy to access. The large beavertail pocket behind 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 pocket is spacious, and its long zipper helps you find items quickly, but it could be better. Smaller stuff drifts towards the rear of the pocket. We liked the lids on the Gregory Baltoro 65 and Arc'teryx Bora AR 63 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.
The large, dual zippered hip belt pockets are also among our testers' favorites. They easily fit most point-and-shoot cameras, smartphones, a few protein bars, sunscreen, or other items that you would want easily accessible.
Adjustability and Fit
The Banchee 65 is available in two sizes — S/M and 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 on the torso. This range not only lets you dial in the yoke to your specified height, but it also makes this pack 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 modifying the shoulder strap height. 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 adjustable hip pads on the Banchee 65 are a less common feature. They allow you to position padding over the boniest part of your hips. Our review team likes this feature.
This pack is exceptionally versatile and is 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.
It's also one of the best models for traveling. It works best for trips where a traditional suitcase or duffel bag is less convenient or completely impractical. For us, the sweet pocket design and superior organization are the cherries on top.
At $240, this pack is an excellent value. Its great features and usability make it a solid investment for anyone who regularly carries their life on their back on the trail or across the world.
Perfect for traveling or traditional backpacking, the The North Face Banchee 65 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, which makes it a favorite for globetrotting.
— Ian Nicholson