Overall, The North Face Banchee impressed our testers as being a surprisingly comfortable pack, despite its lightweight design. We especially liked the feature set of the Banchee, with the large external pouch-style pocket that can hold extra layers or camp shoes. The pockets on the outside of this pouch were also well designed to fit smaller objects that would normally be kept in the lid. The Banchee is perfect for lightweight missions into the mountains or long duration backpacking trips where ounces matter.
The North Face has updated their Banchee packs with a new suspension system that is able to be adjusted without removing the pack from your back. It's also over half a pound lighter than the previous version and has some updates to the pockets and back panel. Though we link to the updated pack above, we haven't actually tested that version, so the review to follow tells our account of the previous Banchee 65.
Our Analysis and Test Results
For a pack that focuses on being lightweight and straightforward, The North Face Banchee provides a surprising level of comfort and stability. The suspension system is the highlight of this pack and is reminiscent of the incredible breathability of the Osprey Aura AG 65 but designed for smaller loads. As a lightweight pack meant for fast and light trips into the backcountry, the Banchee excels.
In most cases, the Banchee was an incredibly comfortable pack. Utilizing an aluminum frame that is slightly curved and frames a mesh panel, the back is breathable and comfortable, especially on hot days under the California sun. This mesh backing made the pack especially comfortable, whereas the hip belt took away a bit of comfort to some of our testers. The lower back area where the hip belt connects to the main body of the pack had a large bulge, much like the design of the REI Co-op Traverse 65. For some, this back support may be comfortable, but to us, it felt like it was a bit much and took away from the overall comfort of the pack.
The Banchee stole the show as the most lightweight pack in our testing fleet. We were amazed by how much support this pack can provide with so little added weight. When compared to packs like the Osprey Ariel 65 AG or the Gregory Deva 60, The North Face Banchee is as light as a feather. Even though it is way lighter than most packs in this review, the Banchee still provides tons of features and storage options.
OGL Measured Volume Bottom Line: Total Volume = 62 L Main Bag = 38 L Pockets = 16 L Lid = 8 L
It seems like you'll either love the suspension system of the Banchee or hate it. The aluminum frame and Optifit suspension system provide airflow and support, which we loved. The downside to the Banchee is its hip belt and lower back support, which we found to be bulky and uncomfortable. The way the lower back bulged out makes the pack especially uncomfortable when carrying light loads. For some testers, this wasn't as big of an issue; they liked the ventilation provided by the frame and the support that the hip belt and shoulder straps provided. The North Face Terra 55 has a simpler suspension system that works better with light and heavy loads.
Ease of Use
For organization and ease of access, the Banchee is top notch. This pack has over eight pockets, which initially seems like a lot, but, with the Banchee the pockets are well placed and help with the overall organization rather than add to the confusion. We loved the two vertical pockets on the outside that are large enough for water bottles, snacks, cameras, and headlamps.
The large pouch or "beaver tail pocket" on the outside of the pack is sweet for carrying camp shoes, extra clothes, or other cumbersome items. Along with the Thule Versant 60 and the Osprey Ariel 65, the Banchee provides just enough pockets to help with organization, without being confusing and complicated to use.
Since it scored highly in ease of use for its easy access and well-designed pockets, the Banchee also scored highly in the features category. The pack not only provides great pockets, but it comes with well-designed water bottle holders; they aren't too small so that the bottle falls out and aren't too big that you can't grab the bottle out when the pack is on. You'll also find a removable lid, and straps on the bottom that can be used to attach a tent or sleeping pad. One of our favorite features of the Banchee is the breathable air-mesh back panel that kept our backs cool, even on hot summer days in California. This design is similar to the Osprey Ariel 65 and the Osprey Aura 65, but the Banchee is a much lighter pack.
As a pack that is on the verge of being considered "ultralight" yet still providing a frame, suspension system, and feature set of a traditional backpacking pack, the Banchee is great for those looking for a long-distance pack. This pack can carry heavy loads but doesn't add weight by being excessively heavy. The large external pocket is also reminiscent of an ultralight pack in that it provides storage for clothes and other items outside the main pack.
At $250, the Banchee is an average-priced pack. Similar in price to the REI Co-op Traverse 65 and the Lowe Alpine Manaslu, the Banchee is a good deal for what the pack provides. It is durable, lightweight, and well-designed, making it an overall great option for a long-distance backpacking pack.
This pack is the closest model to an ultralight backpacking pack in this review. With its lightweight frame and large external pocket, The North Face Banchee is an excellent pack for those who like to travel light. Its capacity is smaller than most, but the feature set will still keep your gear organized. While it can carry heavy loads, the Banchee really shines when carrying light to medium sized loads.
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