For yet another year, The North Face delivers with the best pack for the lowest price, earning The North Face Terra 55 our Best Buy Award once again. The Terra has the lowest price of any model we tested while remaining a strong contender in all of our testing metrics. This contender is also versatile and will perform well on weekend backpacking trips, as a travel pack, or as an overnight bag. This award winner 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 Aura AG 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, limited adjustment options
Manufacturer: The North Face
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Our Analysis and Test Results
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 is the Best Buy for simplicity, versatility, and uncomplicated, useful features.
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, unique channels for breathability, and a body contouring shape. 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's design to be a novice-friendly level of comfort that could accommodate the comfort 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 a light to mid-weight pack load.
At just under 4.3 pounds for a size medium, the Terra is mid-range in weight. The lightest pack in our review is 3.81 pounds, and the heaviest is over five pounds. For the ounce-counting backpackers, this differential is significant, but for the rest of us, this is a relatively insignificant consideration. It is best to base the weight on how it feels versus its scale weight. The Terra is similar in weight to the REI Co-op Traverse 65 but feels more like the Mountain Hardwear Ozonic 60 which weighs much less. Both the Ozonic and the Terra carry similarly and are ideal for the same range of pack loads, in which light to mid-weight are ideal.
Total Volume = 53 L
Main Bag = 40 L
Pockets = 7 L
Lid = 6 L
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 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 your pack, the Terra is designed to rest against your back comfortably. Similar to the Terra regarding suspension is the Deuter ACT Lite and the Mountain Hardwear Ozonic; these are packs that have are supposed to lie directly on your back without space. The Terra has ventilation on the back panel that allows you to optimize the suspension without compromising the air flow. With light to mid weights, the pack maintains stability when fitted correctly and adjusted close to your body.
Ease of Use
Many new packs aim to incorporate the latest technology in lightweight, streamlined exteriors, more pockets, and more features.
Unfortunately, this complicates how user-friendly the pack is. The Terra is one of the top three easiest contenders to use. It isn't overly complicated with frills and features. It offers stability in its suspension, overall comfort, and the ideal amount of organization. Like many packs in this review, it has multiple access points to the main body of the pack. 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.
Like the Traverse, the Terra also has small vertical pockets on the outside, making it easy to store small items like cameras and snacks. The Optifit suspension system makes adjusting the torso length natural and intuitive when the pack is off. The shoulder straps are also straightforward to fit when wearing the Terra. Because the suspension system is simple in its design, it is also straightforward to use, much like the Thule Versant 60, which we loved for its simplicity.
All in all, the Terra is a fairly simple pack with a basic feature set. Water bottle holders on each side, a hydration sleeve, lid, and a few small outside pockets make this pack easy 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 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. That said, the outer pockets on the Terra were some of our favorites regarding design. Unlike the vertical pockets on the REI Co-op Traverse 65, the pockets on the Terra are sleek and don't stick out from the main body of the pack. 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.
We recommend this pack for the novice and experienced backpacker heading out for a single night or a weeklong trip. 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.
As our Best Buy awarded women's pack, the Terra is an exceptional value. 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 intelligible features built on a durable foundation. 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 lengthy worldwide travel. Covering all of the bases for a functional and simple backpack, the Terra meets the needs of a diverse range of adventuring women, and is the Best Buy out of 11 women's specific packs.
— Jane Jackson