Having a comfortable and supportive pack allows you to concentrate on the environment and great views. A painful and poorly fitting pack is distracting and annoying. Let us focus on on this Arcteryx Altra 50 review.
I’m looking for something supportive and lightweight for summer trekking but that can still take a mild thrashing out on the hills, deep in the forest or thrown into a canoe. Before we begin a lightweight pack goes hand in hand with lightweight gear, so the end user may likely be bivvying with a tarp, hiking with lightweight tents or technical bushcraft where you are using minimal equipment.
The Arcteryx Altra 50 is a very sleek no nonsense pack with technical siliconised nylon fabrics. A well thought out harness system and overall pack shape that strives to keep the weight closest to your own centre of gravity.
First thing that I noticed is how little fuss is put into the bag. Present are one large internal pocket which is undivided. My personal favourite a floating lid. Also an external kangaroo pocket which comes in super handy. Two compression straps either side all in all a very simple pack with the technical stuff hiding beneath the surface instead of in your face gimmicky stuff.
The Arcteryx Altra 50 is 1.53Kg for the tall back length version. When filling the pack not having any internal dividers really helps as nothing gets in your way. Two little pockets either side of the hip harness shape to your back, as long as you put rather soft items in these it assists with the comfort of the pack as well as providing some handy extra storage.
The Altra 50 is hydration compatible and can take up to 2litres.
Once the main internal area is full with your gear there is this super handy kangaroo pouch on the outside of the pack. It sits out from the main body and is cut with the same material but its left a little baggy so anything you stuff into it doesn’t take away from the internal space. Arcteryx have really nailed it here and their packs are the only ones that I know to offer an external pouch in this design. I use mine to store snacks, waterproofs or rope but the possibilities are down to you and just behind the kangaroo pouch is a little zipped pocket which is large enough to fit a map and compass easily.
There are two side zips to gain entry into the main compartment but I seldom use these, however they are there if you need them.
The lid has two pockets with a key chain attachment, not much to say here but it all works well. For bushcraft my main knife is stored in one of these top pockets so it’s to hand quickly when it’s not on my belt.
How a load is transferred onto you is the most important feature one could say of any rucksack. The Arcteryx Altra 50 has a hard foam back panel that feels solid and is shaped to fit your back. It’s polyethylene which has a high density hence its solid feel. Alongside this rigid foam are the aluminium stays. As a result allows you to carry heavier items but it transfers the load through the pack to your person better. Above all it mitigates sideways movement in the load once you are walking. It really works on the Arcteryx Altra 50 and the hard back panel helps secure the load really well.
In terms of the hip harness specifically it’s rather basic. I prefer the weight saving properties of this pack and so having a rather basic hip harness doesn’t bother me, especially as the Altra 50’s one works so well. If indeed you are looking for a pack for longer trips then the Altra 65 has the full hip belt designed for heavier loads but the pack itself ceases to be lightweight.
It’s harder to actually feel the benefits of fabric technology. Yes the pack is lighter than if it were made out of canvas for example.
Pretty much all the fabric used on the Arcteryx Altra 50 is coated with silicone which has a wide range of benefits. It has low surface adhesion so dirt and water bounce off. Resulting in the rain not soaking into the face fabric for example. As for its dirt resistance the smooth silicon coating really helps stains settling into the pack. Also really useful for when you place your pack in a canoe, again the fabric stands up well. Hiking all day in the sun, silicon helps prolong the life of the fabric against UV rays too.
The side compression straps you can use to attach poles but it’s not the most elegant solution on the market.
Overall the Arcteryx Altra 50 is a great pack. Subtle features that go unnoticed which is a sign they are working well.
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