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The North Face Banchee 65 Review

Price:   $239 List | $238.95 at Backcountry
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Pros:  Lightweight, comfortable to carry for long periods of time, fantastic suspension, tons of useful and thought out 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
Bottom line:  A sweet pack with lots of well-designed features and user-friendly pockets - all at a below average weight.
Editors' Rating:   
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Manufacturer:   The North Face

Our Verdict

Remaining one of the lighter packs in our review, The North Face Banchee 65 utilizes our main tester's favorite pack design in regards to the pocket use and location, as well as general organizational features. Our testers loved its two back zippered pockets and stretchy "beaver tail pocket" that we thought was perfect for oddly shaped items like camp sandals or… a Frisbee. The zippered hip belt pockets also proved to be above average and could easily fit a few bars or most point-and-shoot cameras. The Banchee, despite its light weight, was extremely supportive and could handle heavier loads more comfortably than most of the other packs we tested and proved itself on 10+ day mountaineering traverse in the North Cascades with more than 50 lbs of weight, fantastically.

New Version Update - 2017
The North Face has updated this backpack and it is now hydration compatible. In addition, the new model has revised style lines and updated stretch-mesh. Scroll down for a more detailed comparison of the new Banchee 65 vs. the older version.


To see all of the packs we reviewed check out our Best Backpacking Backpack review.


RELATED REVIEW: The Best Backpacking Packs of 2017


Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results

Review by:
Ian Nicholson
Review Editor
OutdoorGearLab

Last Updated:
Wednesday
May 17, 2017

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The New Banchee 65 vs. The Older Version


The Banchee 65 has been updated. The new model is equipped with revised style lines and updated stretch-mesh aimed at improving durability. The pack is also newly hydration compatible.

Check out the side-by-side comparison below, with the latest version of the Banchee 65 in navy and blue pictured on the left and the older version shown on the right.
The North Face Banchee 65
 

Here's a summary of the key differences between the new North Face Banchee 65 and the previous version:
  • Revised Design — the North Face has updated the style lines of this pack and state to have improved the durability of the stretch-mesh.
  • Hydration Compatible — The Banchee 65 is now hydration compatible.
  • New Colors — The North Face has added two new colors to the Banchee 65 line up.

We have not yet tested the newest version of the Banchee 65. The text and ratings in this review still reflect the older version.

Performance Comparison of the 2016 Banchee 65



Comfort


The Banchee 65 is surprisingly comfortable considering its a pound or more lighter than most other packs in our review. Our testers also found the Banchee to be much more comfortable than other framed lightweight packs like the Osprey Exos 58 and pretty comparable to the Osprey Volt 60. Our testers found the shoulder straps and back panel are pleasant feeling (even against bare skin) and rated them above average among packs in our review.

Our testers carried 40-45 lbs for days on end and loved how nicely the Banchee 65 handled the weight. We found it performed better than average among packs we reviewed, an impressive feature particularly when considering this pack's weight. For loads generally exceeding 45-50 lbs, we didn't think the Banchee 65 was as comfortable as the Arc'teryx Bora AR 63, Osprey Aether AG 60, or the Gregory Baltoro 65, but it was better than the Osprey Volt and similar to the Osprey Atmos AG 65 .

The Banchee 65 lower zippered sleeping bag access point. It has an optional compartment divider that most of our testers didn't use but found it a nice option. We really liked the dual lower straps for closed cell foam pads or other funky items.
The Banchee 65 lower zippered sleeping bag access point. It has an optional compartment divider that most of our testers didn't use but found it a nice option. We really liked the dual lower straps for closed cell foam pads or other funky items.

Weight


At 3 lbs 10 ounces, the Banchee 65 is one of the lighter packs in our review yet still has over half a dozen zippered well-designed pockets and a very comfortable and supportive frame. The Banchee 65 is over a pound lighter than our Editors' Choice the Arc'teryx Bora AR 63 and a half pound lighter than the Osprey Atmos 65 AG which weighed in at 4 lbs 6 ounces. It isn't as light as the Osprey Exos or the REI Flash 62, but it was significantly more durable and better for handling heavier laden trips. Compared to the Gregory Paragon 68 (3 lbs 14 oz), the Paragon is slightly more supportive and handled heavier loads better, but we like most of the features on the Banchee better.

Suspension


For such a light pack, the Banchee 65 has a surprising burly suspension. In fact, this is one feature nearly all of our testers commented on when they first put it on. We tested this pack on several trips for over three weeks of use including a long mountaineering oriented cross country traverse through Washington North Cascades. We left the parking lot with over 45-50 lbs of gear and the Banchee 65 exceeded our expectations.

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 and is above average in its ability of being dialed in to fit a wide range of users. Similar to Osprey's Aether packs, the Banchee 65 features shoulder straps that are held in place by Velcro and can be fine tuned for torso length. While the Banchee 65 is only available in two sizes, it offers an above average amount of height adjustment. This not only lets you dial in the yoke length to your specified height, but it also makes the Banchee 65 a great option for growing children. A feature that is less common that our review team liked is the Banchee's adjustable hip pads, which adapt to different sizes of users. Our testers feel that this feature is most useful for folks that are above or below average in weight.

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

Ease of Use


Ease of use and packing is where the Banchee 65 really shines. In fact, it is one of the best, if not the best pack for keeping organized among all of the packs in our review. The Banchee features eight pockets which is about 2-3 more than average, though it's not just the number of pockets that matters. We also took into account their location, design, and access, which essentially indicates their useability. For example, our testers loved the two vertical zippered pockets, using them constantly. Even when the pack is full, these pockets are easy to get into. The large "beaver tail" pocket below the twin pockets was particularly useful for oddly shaped and hard to pack items like camp flip flops, fuel bottles, or tripods.

The North Face Banchee 65
The North Face Banchee 65

The Banchee's lid pocket is large and features a pleasant zipper, which extends across the entire side of the lid. There is an additional zippered pocket within the main lid pocket that is perfect for items you really don't want to lose - like wallet, keys, cell phone, etc. Our testers found that the lid pocket was decent, though it could use improvements. At times, it was hard to search for smaller items that had drifted towards the rear of the pocket. The larger than average, dual zippered hip belt pockets were also among our testers' favorites and easily fit most point-and-shoot cameras, bars, sunscreen, or other items that you would want to be easily accessible. It's worth noting that unlike many backpacking packs, the ice axe attachment system is solid and doesn't leave your axe swinging wildly while trotting down the trail.

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

Best Applications


Our testers found the Banchee 65 to be an exceptionally versatile pack, as well as an excellent option for backpacking, trekking, travel, or mountaineering applications. The Banchee 65 is an excellent balance of weight, pockets, ease of use, and comfort that will be appreciated by nearly any user. The folks who will dig the Banchee will be users who want larger (and more) pockets than most backpacking packs have to offer. It's our bet that you will appreciate one of our favorite pack designs out there.

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.

Value


At $240, Banchee 65 is a good value. It's not the least expensive pack in our review, with the REI Flash 65 at $199 and the Osprey Volt 60, our Best Buy winner, at $180, but it's priced less than average and around $125 less than several other models like the Arc'teryx Bora AR. While the Banchee is a little less expensive than average, we found that it brings an above average amount of features and support for a respectable weight.

One of the three stretchy mesh pockets on the Banchee 65 pack. The two side pockets are big enough for one-liter water bottles  while the middle one is even larger.
One of the three stretchy mesh pockets on the Banchee 65 pack. The two side pockets are big enough for one-liter water bottles, while the middle one is even larger.

Conclusion


The bottom line is that The North Face Banchee 65 is a surprisingly light and super versatile backpacking pack that is supportive enough for heavier loads. It's packed full of features that our testers liked enough to consider it for the Editors' Choice award and was only narrowly edged out by the Arc'teryx Bora AR and Osprey Atmos 65, two packs at the top of the totem pole. We still think for folks who like a lot of organization and an above average amount of user-friendly features, at only 3 lbs 10 oz, the Banchee 65 remains a top contender.
Ian Nicholson

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Most recent review: May 17, 2017
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:   
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