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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.
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Price:  $250 List
Pros:  Lighter weight, comfortable to carry for long periods of time, tons of useful pockets, good hip belt adjustability
Cons:  Compression straps not effective if pack isn't full, external lid pocket isn't easy to search through
Manufacturer:   The North Face
By Ian Nicholson ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Nov 5, 2019
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76
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Suspension and Comfort - 45% 7
  • Weight - 20% 7
  • Features and Ease of Use - 20% 9
  • Adjustability - 15% 8

Our Verdict

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 works well for backpacking, trekking, travel, or general mountaineering. We used this pack on a 10-day mountaineering traverse in the North Cascades with more than 50 lbs of weight. It performed better than expected.

Product Updates
The North Face released a new Banchee 65, which you can read about below.


Our Analysis and Test Results

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.
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.
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. 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.
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.

Weight


At 3 pounds, 9 ounces, the Banchee 65 is on the lighter end of the spectrum. Overall, we are pleased with how well this pack caries weight for how much it weighs. There are better packs for carrying 45 pounds or more, but this holds its own with more moderate loads.

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.

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 and fuel bottles.

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 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. Some of our favorite top-lid designs have zippers that are located on the 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, 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.
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.
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.

Value


For the price, 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.

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, 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