The Terra has an attractive price and is certainly comfortable, but the competition for a great all-around pack at a lower price is pretty stiff. For just an additional $5 you can get ten extra liters and over a pound less in weight with the Osprey Renn. However, this contender is also versatile and will perform well on weekend backpacking trips, as a travel pack, or as an overnight bag. The Terra provides just enough features to help keep your gear organized, without being overly complicated. Also, it's made from extremely durable material, making it not only an inexpensive option but a long-lasting choice as well. While it is not as sleek as the Arc'teryx Bora AR 61 or as revolutionary as the Osprey Renn 65, the Terra meets all the criteria for a great overall backpack for a reasonable price.
The North Face Terra 55 Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Simple, intuitive design, inexpensive
Cons: Design not versatile for pack loads, extra pockets aren’t too useful, heavy
Manufacturer: The North Face
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Our Analysis and Test Results
Terra 55 Updates
In addition to new aesthetics, this newest version of the Terra 55 boasts an updated feature set and materials. It utilizes a new Optifit suspension system with breathable mesh and cushy foam.
Hands-On Review of the Terra 55
This model is ideal for those who are new to backpacking or experienced hikers looking for a simple, no-nonsense pack. It isn't the lightest, the fastest, or the shiniest, but it offers simplicity, versatility, and some useful features.
Comfort and Suspension
Similar in design to the Thule Versant 60, the Terra has narrow shoulder straps and ample padding on the back panel. These features make it especially comfortable for those new to backpacking. Although it isn't as technically advanced as the Osprey Aura AG 65, with its stretch mesh back panel, it does remain comfortable all day. The difference between an Anti-Gravity suspension and the Terra's is the breathability. The Aura is the most ventilated pack we tested, in which no other contender can compare. Most of the other packs have similar designs to the Terra, complete with foam padding, channels for breathability, and a body contouring shape. We did sweat quite a bit with this pack, as compared to others in the lineup. Each is slightly different, and all are similar in comfort.
The curve of your back will ultimately dictate which design is most comfortable. We determined the Terra to possess a novice-friendly level of comfort that could accommodate the demands of a seasoned backpacker. It protrudes slightly at the small of the back to create added support, but not nearly as much as the Gregory Deva 60. The shoulder straps are well padded and are shaped to resist chafing in the underarms or inner shoulders. A rectangular design on the hip belt doesn't curve over the hip bones as other packs do, but this design difference doesn't lend to any discomfort. Customized fitting options further discussed under Adjustability offer personalized comfort in torso length and support with light to mid-weight pack loads.
The OptiFit suspension system is designed to maximize comfort and support with an adjustable torso length. Before getting on the trail, you can vertically adjust the torso length to accommodate your sizing as well as the pack load.
This system allows you to snug the pack against your back for stability and support. Unlike the Osprey Aura AG, which is designed to create space between your body and pack, the Terra is intended to rest against your back comfortably. Similar to the Terra regarding suspension is the Deuter ACT Lite; these are packs that have are supposed to lie directly on your back without space. The Terra has some ventilation on the back panel that allows you to optimize the suspension without compromising the air flow, although we did experience quite a bit of sweating, even on a cold day using this pack. With light to mid loads, the pack maintains stability when fitted correctly and adjusted close to your body.
At just under 4.3 pounds for a size medium, the Terra is heavier in weight considering that you only have 55 liters of volume. The lightest pack in our review is 1.86 pounds, and the heaviest is over five pounds. Weight is a personal choice, however. There are lighter packs for this price point, such as the Renn or REI Co-Op Flash if weight is a concern to you. It is best to base the weight on how it feels versus its scale weight.
With material technology advancing at a rapid pace, we felt that the Terra could have done better in the weight category. Packs are being developed to be lighter, yet still sturdy and durable. This pack missed the mark and is undoubtedly lagging. The Terra felt like a blast from the past compared to the lineup this year.
Total Volume = 53 L
Main Bag = 40 L
Pockets = 7 L
Lid = 6 L
Many new packs aim to incorporate the latest technology in lightweight, sleek exteriors, more pockets, and more features.
Unfortunately, this complicates how user-friendly the pack is. The Terra has a few additional pockets, but it isn't overly complicated with frills and features. However, some of the features weren't too useful, or they could have used better materials. The axe carry is bulky and unnecessary and would get in the way for most users. The sleeping bag compartment is small and ill-suited for a beginner who might have more cumbersome gear.
Like a few packs in this review, it has multiple access points to the main body. This feature is one of the things we liked most about the Terra, along with the Thule Versant 60 and the REI Co-op Traverse 65. However, the compression straps get in the way, so if you need to swing your pack around and grab something from the main body quickly, you have to remove items that are attached to the exterior of the bag.
Like the Traverse, the Terra also has small vertical pockets on the outside, making it easy to store small items like a rain layer. The two zippered front pockets don't offer enough depth to be useful. Also, they appear to be two zippers to the same space but are separate, causing you to remember what you put where which can be difficult when directing a friend to grab your rain layer from your pocket.
All in all, the Terra is a reasonably simple pack with a basic feature set; some are useful, others aren't. Water bottle holders on each side, a hydration sleeve, lid, and a few small outside pockets make this pack comfortable to organize but not over the top regarding features.
Only slightly more complicated than the Arc'teryx Bora AR 61, the Terra has a similar, sleek design. One final downside to the Terra is its ability to carry a bear can. The pack body is a tad too narrow to fit a bear can well, unless it is placed inside vertically, which takes up lots of extra space and leaves room for little else.
This pack gets high marks for its adjustability since it was the easiest of all the packs to adjust. The OptiFit system takes seconds to move around. The pack itself is sleek and can easily be cinched down in a hurry if you find yourself on the move with bad weather.
One downside to the Terra is that the lid is sewn to the main body of the pack, making it less versatile overall. We liked models like the Thule Versant, which allowed the lid to be removed and even used on its own.
The North Face has an entire section of their website dedicated to sustainable practices and initiatives. Some of this reads as mere rhetoric; however, it is obvious that the company has put some thought into the sustainable issues facing gear companies today. They are involved in contributing to environmental issues and organizations. We like the transparency of their brand in this department. They don't offer a robust repair and warranty program the way that REI and Osprey do. We couldn't find any information on a repair program outside of their limited warranty coverage.
We recommend this pack for the novice and experienced backpacker heading out for a single night. Week-long or technical trips would be difficult with this pack unless you have compact, ultra-lightweight gear. Its simple design lacks excessive straps and frills, making it a great pack for traveling on and off the trail. It isn't for the ounce-counting packers or the heavy packer; it falls in the sweet spot between the two and is ideal for light to mid-weight loads.
The Terra is a solid pack at a very attractive price. The pack offers all of the necessary design features for a comfortable and supported outing without charging extra for features that you may not find useful. For a pack that is durable and easy to use, you will get your dollars worth. For $170, a novice will appreciate the low investment and simplicity and the more experienced backpacker will appreciate the durability and lack of adornment.
The North Face Terra 55 offers intelligent features built on a strong foundation. However, this pack is due for a pretty substantial update to compete with newcomers on the market. It is uncomplicated, decorated only with the essential adjustment points. Organization is straightforward with six enclosed compartments/pockets and three access points. Versatility in application spans from single night adventures to extended worldwide travel. The Terra meets the needs of a diverse range of adventuring women and is still a solid choice for those looking to buy a more traditional pack at a budget price.
— Meg Atteberry and Jane Jackson