View Full Version : Another pack question

12-25-2006, 15:38
I asked this in another thread, but it got buried before any responses. So I'll try again. I am eyeing the North Face Skarab 55. Its size is what I'm looking for, weight aint bad. It also has the right amount of outside pockets for the way I like to pack things. Only problem is I don't know anyone who has actually used one and can give educated opinions on its performance. So any first hand knowledge out there?

01-05-2007, 15:35
(bump) try again

01-05-2007, 16:01
I hope someone is able to help answer this for you...but what I have sadly learned is this.

Even if the pack type is highly prized by lots of posters here on the WB or on other web sites...it does not mean it will work out for you.
If you are able to try the backpack on or better yet try it on with all the gear you expect to carry in it..that's the best way!

I too am not in that postion....so I am on my way to the post office to yet return another pack!!
Every pack I have returned was excellent as far as construction and features they just did not feel right, or was too small in the shoulders, or too large in the torso etc...Yet a few of them I loved but just did not work out for me. :(

Anyways I am sure being since it is a North Face it is a well made pack...and most reviews on web sites have been good.n :) Here Mark Verber mentioned it as well at this link:

01-05-2007, 16:53
Not sure if this will help,but I bought the pack cause it is the size I want,and it felt good on me.I like the way the airflow is on it.Think wearing it in the warm weather will be a delight over the people with big packs!

01-05-2007, 17:11
Hanna......thats probably what I will have to do. I've read all the manufacturers blurbs and BackPackers reviews,thats what peaked my interest in the 55. I plan on using my REI 20% coupon for it, Hate to waste it if a return is needed. Not sure if I can get the 20% of again. Really trying to find out about durability issues. I have tried on a medium and found I need a large, so that is one question answered.

Phil...... what kind of weights were you carrying?

Jack Tarlin
01-05-2007, 18:26
In recent years I've seen VERY few long-distance backpackers with North Face backpacks.

Without going into a long involved post, all that needs be said is the general perception in the long-distance hiker community is that comparable, or better packs are available for less money.

There are companies whom you'll consistently see represented on the A.T. : Granite Gear and Osprey come immediately to mind; so do Gregory, Mountainsmith, and a few years ago, Dana Design. The one pack from a major gear manufacturer that you rarely saw on the A.T. was The North Face.

One would very frequently see North Face outerwear, accessories, etc., which people seemed quite happy with. But backpacks? Very few.

Something to think about? Maybe.

Johnny Swank
01-05-2007, 19:58
Good point Jack. I still work PT at an outfitter, and we don't even carry North Face backpacks anymore (other than bookbags). TNF quality took a hit during financial turmoil leading to the Vanity Fair buyout, and at this point most of their stuff is no better if not worse than Granite Gear, Osprey, etc. Also, good luck dealing with their customer service if something goes wrong. They are horrible to deal with, IMO.

01-05-2007, 20:01
just curious, how do Go-Lite packs hold up on thru hikes. I have the Trek and it has done well for 8 day hikes. It is rated at 30 lbs but I have had 35 lbs in it with no problems so far.

Johnny Swank
01-05-2007, 20:10
Don't overload them and they'll do fine. Alot of the early Breezes crapped out from having too much weight crammed in them.

Regardless, dental floss and a needle can cure most any of the lightweight packs on the market now.

01-06-2007, 09:10
that was pretty much my concern Jack, the pack lookes good but....
TNF customer service... another reason to buy thru REI, they will back it up.
thanks guys this is what I excpected I would hear.

01-08-2007, 14:02
that was pretty much my concern Jack, the pack lookes good but....
TNF customer service... another reason to buy thru REI, they will back it up.
thanks guys this is what I excpected I would hear.
Still evalutaing the Skareb? I own it and can provide some insight...

01-08-2007, 15:01
Yep, any insight is appreciated. I will make my decision when REI rebate comes. thanks.

01-08-2007, 17:10
Here's some excerpts I've edited from previous posts here, regarding the Skareb 55:
As a follow up, I went ahead with this pack. I wanted a pack under 3 pounds (at 2 pounds 15 ounces, the Skareb 55 just fits this) that was more durable than the average silnylon ultralight pack. Addtionally, I needed the flexibility to carry up to 40 pounds on occasion without overwhelming the pack's weight capacity. I'm using the medium size; I'm on the margin between medium and large (20 inch torso length).

The pack fits me well, especially considering I have fairly broad shoulders and often have problems with pack straps fitting uncomfortably around the sides of my chest. I didn't notice this with the Skareb. The waist belt seems sufficient for loads in the mid- 30-lb. range. The pack is stable and snug uphill and downhill and seems to stay put well during limited the scrambling I had a chance to undertake. With its streamlined shape and load control, I think the Skareb would work well for skiing and climbing alike. The capacity is decent enough for the weight (if you're not an ultralighter, that is). The pack rolls shut like a drybag and I don't miss a floating lid style closure. The pack has a zippered compartment on top large enough for powerbars, a compass, headlamp, and other small items, but not rain gear.

After a few hikes, I've found the framesheet and tubular stays do a very solid job of distributing weight. The pack rides very well and the straps really allow for fine-tuning the framsheet and stays' support. The framesheet also does a great job of keeping my back cool, living up to The North Face's claims of moisture control and ventilation. The materials look more than durable enough for trail use. The pack, when new, had a few loose threads on the shoulder pad stitching but otherwise, the pack has solid fit and finish.

I've sprayed the pack down with a garden hose, both with and without the included pack cover. The pack's seams will leak, as does the cover's seams, particularly the seam running along the bottom portion of the cover. The pack and cover were subjected to fairly high water pressure during this test. I would estimate that the pack and cover would hold up to average rain shower activity, but if I expected to be in a deluge, I'd probably supplement with a pack liner.

Supposedly 'minimalist', the Skareb still has a few more bells and whistles than I feel is neccessary. I'd rather that the side pockets be constructed of mesh as I wouldn't trust the zippered compartments to hold anything that you wouldn't put in a mesh pocket, since the zippers are water repellant, not waterproof. I get the feeling the pouch-style pockets are designed more for aesthetics than functionality. The right pocket does a good job of holding a liter water bottle, secured by a small adjustable shock-cord. This is relatively easy to access while wearing the pack, even if the shock cord requires some fidgeting. The zippers on these pockets are difficult to close while wearing the pack. The large mesh pocket on the rear of the pack is a welcome addition. Overlaying this mesh is a shock cord compression system that does a decent job of cinching down a smaller volume internal load but probably not a good enough job to allow the 3,200 c.i. pack to double as a daypack. The whole system seems like overkill though, as there are side compression straps. A simpler, lighter system could be designed for cinching down the mesh back panel.

I can see redesigns that could easily drop probably 6-8 oz without compromising any of the pack's duarbility or functionality. The side zip pockets should be replaced with mesh, as should the entire back stuff-it pocket (its nylon w/some mesh at the sides).

The pack is very adjustable, sometimes to a fault. I find it hard to dial in that 'perfect comfort zone', particularilty with the waistbelt. Most annoying is the shoulder strap adjustments, which I think slip. I have to cinch them back up every few hours.
I've used this pack for about a half-dozen trips now, mostly overnighters with a few 3-4 day trips thrown in. My intial comments compare fairly well with my current opinion of the pack. The pack has too many bells and whistles for an 'ultralight' pack. If I were shopping again, I'd expect to get about 1000 c.i. more for this weight, or drop a pound off of the base weight. I've mentioned before that I wish the pack had traditional mesh pockets on the sides of the pack instead of the enclosed, zippered pouches. I feel TNF designed them this way more for looks than functionality. The large back stuff-pocket should also be composed entirely of mesh.

The materials are very durable and I've noticed no wear to the pack after logging maybe 300 miles on it. All of the buckles, straps, and attachments are fairing well. The included pack cover fits well and does a good job of shedding rain. It does leak through its seams but when coupled with the pack's relatively water-repellant design, I had no moisture penetrate the interior of the pack over a day-long heavy downpour. Any items in the back pocket did get a little wet. One could probably seam-seal the pack cover.

My biggest complaint beisides the volume-to-weight ratio is the repeated slippage of the shoulder straps and waistbelt. The straps slip periodically, causing me to retighten them throughout the day. The plastic buckles simply don't do a good enough job gripping the fabric of the straps. I like my straps cinched tighter than most, so maybe this was a factor.

Though overall I am pleased with the Skareb, I wouldn't buy it again, only because I feel there may be better options out there for the money. I paid full retail (around $170 at the time of purchase) and for that amount, I would likely consider Osprey, Granite Gear, or ULA Equipment. I remain convinced that whoever designed this pack for TNF owned one of Brian Frankle's ULA packs (perhaps the P-2) and, in large part, copied his designs.

01-08-2007, 17:54
thanks, good things to think about.