Happy spring! The coming of spring in Colorado means a little bit more sunshine, a little bit more snow — but it also means summer is a few mere months away! And with summer comes camping, hiking, and backpacking. I got a chance to review one of LL Bean’s women’s specific packs called the White Mountain Pack. This multi-day pack is adjustable for your height and has many well made features including custom sternum straps designed specifically for women.
Materials and Construction
The pack is a 60L pack (3,661 cu. in) and weighs in at 4 lb. 14 oz. It has an internal frame made with a HDPE frame-sheet that works to distribute the weight of the pack. The hip belt is wide, adjustable, and EVA foam cushioned. The main pack body is made with tough double-ripstop nylon. All of the zippers are waterproof and are constructed with high quality. To help the strain on the zippers there are also compression straps on the sides and front of the pack. The pack is adjustable for your height which (in my opinion) is a necessity to get the correct fit and therefore comfort out of a multi-day pack.
The layout of this pack is similar to a traditional backpack with one large main section to store the bulk of your gear and clothes. One feature that differs on this pack though, is the main compartment can be divided into two compartments via a drawstring cinch about a third of the way up from the bottom. This creates a nice separate compartment for (possibly dirty) gear you want to separate from your clothes in the upper compartment. To add to the convenience of the dual compartments, the bottom and top each have their own zipper openings, but I’ll get into more on this feature later. The next largest compartment is the top that straps over the upper opening of the pack and buckles the whole pack closed. You would think that strapping this pocket over the top of the pack would hinder the size of the compartment, but it is deceivably large and held much more than I expected it to. I found that this was a good compartment to store belongings or food in that you either don’t want squashed or want fast access to. Note: The top compartment can also be removed for day use as a fanny pack!
In addition to the larger compartments on the pack, the pack has many other smaller pockets (external and internal) for your different storage needs. External pockets include two on the front face of the pack good for small, non bulky belongings (tissues, batteries, notes or paper, small bars or snacks), two large water bottle pockets on the sides (fits a liter Nalgene or even other gear — I used one for my double nest Eno hammock, a camping necessity), and two mesh zipper pockets on the hip belt (great accessibility while hiking for a cell phone, headlamp, camera, etc). The internal pockets include an internal mesh pocket on the inside of the middle zipper opening, as well as a hydration bladder pocket.
Hands down, my favorite feature of this pack is the ability to access the inside of the pack from the bottom, middle, and top. Backpacks are often packed with the heavier gear sitting near the bottom as you want to try and avoid a top heavy pack. The heavy gear is often times the same equipment you’d want to unpack first (sleeping bag, tent, etc). Without the White Mountain pack’s innovative triple access, you would need to unload your whole (top loading) pack to get to the bottom where your sleeping bag is. The three openings allowed me to be organized and thoughtful when packing and made it a breeze to find and access what I was looking for (so long as I remembered where I packed it!). My friends with other packs even remarked on how they wish they could unzip their packs in the middle too!
Fit and Wear
As I mentioned, this pack is adjustable in the torso as well as through the hip and sternum straps. While the adjustable torso length is a necessary feature to have, I found that the process of adjusting was difficult and cumbersome. In order to adjust the pack, a velcro tab needs to be inserted into slats (at different levels depending on how large or small you want the torso length). Even without anything in the pack, inserting the velcro tab through the slat was impossible for me to do with just my hands. You can get the job done using a tool (pliers or similar) to grasp and pull the tab through, but let’s just say it’s not the most user-friendly method I’ve seen.
The frame distributed the pack weight well with more of the weight in my hip straps than my shoulder straps (the correct way!). The shoulder straps have a nice women’s specific cut and are padded for extra comfort. I have a fairly small waist and the hip straps did cinch tight enough for me, but just barely. To those with a waist circumference smaller than 24/25in, you might want to make sure the pack tightens up enough for you. Lastly, the sternum strap can be adjusted at many different levels depending if you want it sitting high or low across your chest.
I felt the 60L capacity was a perfect size for an overnight trip to a multi-day trip. It was large enough to fit all my gear and clothes, but not too large that I felt unstable or over packed. I was thoroughly impressed with the innovative pocket design as well as the feel and fit while wearing it (after the inconvenient torso adjustment process). This pack has gone with me on summer backpacking trips as well as winter backcountry trips, and I have been extremely happy with it’s performance through everything. Even the price is impressive on this pack: $199 is a great price, especially when you compare it to what other 60L packs are going for.View More: backpack, bag, camp & hike, hike, L.L. Bean, travel