The North Face Terra 55 Review
Our Analysis and Test Results
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
The Terra has narrow shoulder straps and ample padding on the back panel. These features make it especially comfortable for those new to backpacking. The ventilation is minimal in this basic design 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.
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 models we tested. 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. The Terra has some ventilation on the back panel that allows you to optimize the suspension without compromising the airflow, 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 under two pounds, and the heaviest is over five pounds. Weight is a personal choice, however. There are lighter packs for this price point, but comfort and features are often sacrificed.
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 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. 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.
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.
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.
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 dollar's worth. 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. The 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.
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