The simple look of The North Face Summit Alpine 50 Pack is indeed it’s best feature. Using The North Face’s FuseForm technology, varying denier threads are blended together to maximize strength and abrasion resistance in high wear zones while minimizing weight in less abrasive areas. This configuration makes the pack especially ideal for mountaineering pursuits, where durability, functionality, and weight all play important factors.
But this thoughtful attention to design doesn’t end with the Alpine 50’s method of construction. The pack also features reinforced pockets to cover the picks of two ice tools and elastic draw cords to secure them to the pack. The flip top easily accommodates a coil of rope and compression straps cinch the whole thing down to a minimal size. The back frame is even removable, converting the pack into a super lightweight option for the summit push. All of those features were put to the test during an ice climbing trip to the Ouray Ice Park this winter, where the bag was put through its paces.
The 50 Liter pack only weighs 2 pounds 9 ounces, which is light enough to give any regular backpacker or mountaineer pause for concern regarding its durability. But part of that lightness comes from hyper efficient use of fabrics with a minimal amount of seams and high quality lightweight hardware. This is the beauty of The North Face’s FuseForm fabrics which have until now only been used on jackets.
The shape of the pack is pretty straight up and down with minimal tapering. It only has one side pouch at the base – which is prime for snow marker bamboo wands, snow pickets or the like – and one hip belt pocket. The other side of the hip belt has a gear loop similar to those found on a climbing harness.
Another unique aspect of the pack is the reverse style flip top. Instead of flipping towards the shoulder straps as is traditional with most packs, it goes the other way. This eliminates the need for a buckle to be placed in the exact spot where the snow tool handles come to rest, which could have potentially caused interference. The buckle that the TNF designers chose is a simple hook and eye style with a cinching strap and two different eyelet attachment points, with either being used depending on how much or how little is in the pack. The top of the main compartment also has a drawstring closure to provide a bit more security for its contents.
On the top back of the pack, just beyond the furthest eyelet for the closure, is a medium sized zippered pocket with a small mesh zippered pocket – complete with key clip – located inside. The only other pocket in the Alpine 50 is the internal sleeve that accommodates a hydration bladder, complete with a small portal on the right side to sneak out the drinking hose.
The harness of the pack includes 2.75” wide foam shoulder straps with adjustable load lifters that do a great job of dispersing weight even when full of up to 50 pounds of hardware. A robust sternum strap is vertically adjustable and the internal frame does well to transfer weight to the hipbelt. Both the frame and belt are also removable, allowing users to shave off a few extra ounces should they choose.
Without a rear pocket to make avalanche rescue gear easily accessible, this pack does not lend itself towards ski touring, but the side straps will easily accommodate an A-frame style ski carry. The back panel doesn’t offer much in the way of breathability, but then this pack is focused on being used in colder conditions where the user is probably looking to conserve heat rather than shed it. $240 | thenorthface.com