Some time back I was given the North Face Angstrom 28 daysack, and was asked to put my opinion of it down in writing. Having had a lot of trouble with my back and knee I’ve been unable to do much more than take it with me to work. I’ve now had a chance to get it out on the hills and see how it performs.
When I go to buy a new rucksack I’ve generally got certain features in mind, and will usually hone in on those that fit my general list of ideals. One of the things about being given an item to test is that the usual shop selection process is bypassed and it may be something you normally wouldn’t buy that you find on your back…
My first impressions of this were mixed. Yes, it’s North Face, so materials and quality of construction are assured, but it didn’t appear to be an out and out hill bag, in fact it seems like a bit of a mix up. With two zipped compartments it seemed more suitable for urban use, ideal for students who need to get A4 folders and laptops in. The smaller zipped section reinforces this, with a variety of pockets suitable for holding pens and other accessories. I’m no great fan of zips. One hand they give greater access, on the other they introduce weight to the design, as well as a mechanism for failure. I’ve seen zips jammed with snow, and this should always be borne in mind when buying a bag which can be used in winter as well as summer. Other features are certainly of more use to the hillwalker. It has an inner sleeve for a water bladder, and this feeds out through the top, with elasticated fastening on either shoulder strap to secure the tube. There are two attachment loops for strapping on walking poles, which is handy. The only problem is they are both together! Rather than have one on the left and one on the right they are stitched at the same point. There seems no logical reason for this. If the individual loop was thought to be too weak (and one appears up to the job) it should have been replaced with one strong one. Instead weight is increased unnecessarily, a trait that repeats itself with this particular bag. The upper walking pole fastening is an interesting variation on the elasticated loop, having a small hook fitted. Once you get used to this it’s a quick and reliable method of securing poles to the bag.
There are three stretchy outer pockets on the main part of the bag, two at the sides and a main one which is secured with a quick release clip. To this pocket is fitted a reflective elasticated cord which can be used to tension the bag or to attach items which cannot fit in the main sections. There are two compression straps on the outside so the bag can be pulled in tighter for stability when not fully loaded. A final feature is a clip for attaching an LED light, handy for cyclists.
The last part of the main sack is a small pouch on the base which contains a rain cover. I’m no great fan of rain covers, but for the sake of testing fitted it anyway. Due to the position of the top of the shoulder straps the rain cover cannot be fitted securely, and it’s likely that because of this it will quickly become detached. If you are intent on using it, it may be worth finding a means of permanently attaching it, or you risk permanently losing it.
The back system is a stiffened material with ventilation channels. I found it oddly stiff at first, but after a few uses found it perfectly comfortable. The ventilation channels are of limited use, as I found the base of my back very damp after going uphill. This is not unusual though, and one could only really guess whether there is any advantage in having them as opposed to a plain flat back.
The shoulder straps have the two elasticated loops on each side, and a chest strap which can be adjusted for height on a stiffened runner. It has of course the now obligatory built in whistle, which comes in handy if you have fallen and are unable to get your main emergency whistle.
The waist belt is one area which really lets the bag down. The belt itself can be adjusted for some considerable length. I’m no stick insect, but even I had a cascade of loose material left over after adjusting the belt. A simpler design could use less material and thereby cut weight. Having said that it is comfortable. It has two hip pockets as well, and these are a major disappointment. Once the bag is on I found that I was unable to get anything of any volume in them- not even a smartphone! Hip pockets are ideal for gloves, GPS, snacks, but these can hold none of this which is a real shame, as they are otherwise well designed with good finger loops and rear towards front opening zips.
Overall I feel this is a reasonably comfortable bag with a decent enough capacity for day walks, let down by poor attention to functional detail. I’m surprised that the hip pockets made it past initial testing, likewise the rain cover. For the retail price there are no doubt better dedicated bags available. If you are on a budget and want a long lasting hybrid urban/outdoor bag rather than two separate bags this is a reasonable compromise.
Materials: Ripstop Nylon/ Stretch woven nylon
Weight: Claimed 907g, Tested 860g (810g without rain cover)
Pro’s: Comfortable to wear. Good zipper pull loops. Reflective cords
Cons: Zipped compartments, low capacity hip belt pockets, ill fitting rain cover. Not suitable for winter use.