Banchee 65 Updates
The North Face redesigned the Banchee, updating its suspension, back panel, and aesthetics. They've implemented a new technology called the Dyno Lite System, which allows the wearer to adjust the back panel without having to take the pack off. This new system features self-equalizing, adjustable load lifters. There is a full trampoline back panel, designed to provide breathability and comfort. There are now mesh pockets on the straps to store some trail snacks, which we think is a thoughtful and neat feature. The North Face also shaved 6 ounces off the Banchee's weight, making an already lightweight expedition pack even lighter! Compare the new Banchee 65 (left) to the version we tested previously (right).
The price increased from $239 to $250. We link to the updated pack above, but be aware that as we haven't tested the updated Banchee, the review that follows is for the previous version.
Hands-On Review of the Banchee 65
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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 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.
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, smartphones, a few protein bars, sunscreen, or other items that you would want easily accessible.
The Banchee 65 is easily adjustable to help dial-in an optimal fit with a large Velcro covered back-panel.
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.
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.
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.
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. 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.
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.
For the price, his 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.
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.
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.