The North Face Griffin 65 is a great pack that is loaded with unique features like a removable flying-squirrel summit pack, zippered main compartment access, and hip belt pockets. It carries a moderate load surprisingly well, with its high-tech harness, and moves well with the body. While the packs' suspension evenly distributes the load extremely well, the pack itself is one of the heaviest in our test. If you need something to carry loads up to 45 pounds, this is one to take a long hard look at, but if you tend to carry lightweight items or want a simple design, this pack may be overkill.
The North Face Griffin 65 Review
Cons: Complex layers of features, heavy
Manufacturer: The North Face
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The North Face is no stranger to making backpacks. This pack has some unique features that set it apart from the rest of the field.
Suspension and Comfort
We were pleasantly surprised by how well this suspension worked. The hip belt swivels freely to support the weight while allowing natural movement.
The shoulder harness can adjust on-the-go to fit different sized torsos, and the load lifters are self equalizing, allowing them to transfer weight freely regardless of body position.
We found the back panel and hip belt to be breathable and comfortable for all but the heaviest loads, and we loved how the weight always felt completely distributed.
While this pack has a lot going for it, it also has a few drawbacks. First and foremost, the pack is downright heavy. Weighing in at just over five pounds, a pack of this weight should be able to carry super heavy loads, but instead, this one maxes out around forty-five pounds before the suspension starts to lose support.
Features and Ease of Use
The Griffin seems to have it all: A removable flying squirrel summit pack for quick trips from camp to bag a peak, a zippered top lid that is easy to use, stretchy side pockets that work well for most types of water bottles, a power-mesh stuff-it pocket for when you don't use the detachable summit pack, and zippered hip belt pockets to keep small items handy.
The hip belt pockets are made with a stretchy mesh for storing small items like snacks, but the contoured shape and internal structure made it an uninviting location for a phone or other larger items. This pack also sports a long top town access zipper making it quick and easy to unzip and get something out of the bottom. Zipping a full backpack back up doesn't work so well. The cinching main compartment access is great and has two easy-to-find handles to pull it open.
While this pack has features out the wazoo, getting used to the system takes some time. The removable flying squirrel pack was handy for hauling water bottles to and from the spring, but its location covers the super useful mesh stuff pocket and interfered with the top lids' straps. We eventually removed the extra pack and left it home because we found we preferred to maintain access to the huge stretchy stuff-it pocket.
The Griffin comes in two sizes (sm/med and LG/xl), and each one has a good amount of adjustability. The torso, waist belt, and the load lift adjustments are all made to be adjusted on-the-fly. We enjoyed this feature because it let you fine-tune adjustments without losing the memory of how the previous adjustment felt. Everything is done in real-time. This pack is not the most adjustable, however, the way it executes making the adjustments is truly unique.
This pack has tons of good features, and with its high-tech weight distributing suspension, it carries loads admirably. There is no disputing this is one capable and awesome pack. If you are a gear-junkie who likes techy innovation, this pack may just be perfect and have a high value. No other pack has the same weight distributing feel, however, there are quite a few full-featured, lighter-weight packs that carry loads just as well, for a fraction of the price.
The Griffin is a techy pack that hosts a slew of great features, most notably, the suspension, which perfectly equalizes the load regardless of body position, for a great carrying experience. The pack is quite "busy", with straps, buckles, and compartments that are somewhat confusing at first. We found that, by eliminating a modular feature or two, we were able to make this a user-friendly pack with a usable feature set and great ergonomics.
— Adam Paashaus