REI Traverse 70
$239, 4 lbs. 13 oz. (men’s medium, including rain cover)
Sizes: men’s S (66L/4,028 c.i., fits torsos 17-19 ins.), M (70L/4,272 c.i., fits torsos 18-20 ins.), L (74L/4,516 c.i., fits torsos 19-21 ins.)
Much as I really prefer carrying a light backpack, I have many times hoisted a pack weighing 50 pounds or more, because sometimes that’s the price of a worthy adventure. With no water available along the route of my family’s late-March, overnight backpacking trip into the canyon of Utah’s Dirty Devil River—except the heavily silted river, which would strangle any filter—we had to carry all we’d need for two days. And guess who’s the family porter? As I loaded 15 liters of agua into the Traverse 70, I did some quick math: the liquid weight alone reached just about 32 pounds. With gear, food, and clothes, my pack tipped the scales at nearly 50 pounds. That’s a pretty good test for a pack that weighs under five pounds empty.
After I’d been hiking with the pack for a while, including descending a trail of steep scree, sand, and slickrock, and traversing a broad bench of undulating slickrock, I realized that the only thing on my mind was the panorama of sandstone domes and cliffs above the meandering Dirty Devil—I wasn’t thinking about my pack. And that’s what a backpack should do: Carry comfortably enough to let you focus on the scenery.
On my return hike uphill, without most of that water and food, the pack weighed under 30 pounds—roughly the same as when I carried it on a four-day family ski trip in February to a backcountry yurt in Idaho’s Boise Mountains. But given the Traverse 70’s empty weight of under five pounds—and well-designed compression, with angled side straps that pull smaller loads toward the middle of your back, where you want most of a pack’s weight—it transforms smoothly into a mid-size pack.
The Traverse 70’s comfort begins with a harness capable of supporting 40 or more pounds. It comes in the three sizes, and the harness has three inches of adjustability, with overlap between sizes, fitting torsos ranging from 17 to 21 inches. Most men will get a good fit. Plus, REI offers an interchangeable hipbelt and shoulder straps to dial in the fit, an option offered only by a handful of high-end pack manufacturers. The aluminum peripheral hoop frame, with one crossing stay, has virtually no flex to it, which helps stabilize heavier loads: To my relief, the Traverse 70 hardly shifted, even with all of that water sloshing around inside.
The thickly padded, contoured hipbelt, with plastic reinforcements inside, did not fold or buckle under a heavy load; and its perforated mesh (also used in the padded shoulder straps) enhances breathability. The hipbelt pivots slightly (although not as much as other packs I’ve used), which helps minimize a pack’s natural tendency to rock side to side as you hike. The suspended mesh back panel lets air circulate across my back.
The top-loading Traverse 70 has the higher degree of organization that many of us expect in a big pack, with a large mouth; a big, two-way, J-shaped front zipper for gaining quick access to the main compartment; stretchy side pockets big enough for a liter bottle; twin, deep zippered front pockets for snacks, water filter, and such; a large, front stuff-it pocket for a wet rainfly or jacket; and two zippered hipbelt pockets big enough for snacks, a map, or a small camera.
The removable lid pocket converts to a small daypack using one strap with two clips that secures it around your torso—a vast improvement over traditional lids that convert to a not-very-comfortable fanny pack. The Traverse 70 comes with a rain cover. Lastly, the ripstop nylon fabric looks fairly durable; but be careful about not tearing the delicate stretch fabric in the side pockets.
For backpackers who typically carry 30 to 45 pounds, the Traverse 70 is a good value in a midweight pack. The women’s Traverse 65 ($239) comes in three sizes, XS to M.
NOTE: I tested gear for Backpacker Magazine for 20 years. At The Big Outside, I review only what I consider the best outdoor gear and apparel. See a menu of all of my Gear Reviews.
BUY IT NOW You can support my work on this blog by clicking this link to purchase an REI Traverse 70 or women’s Traverse 65 at rei.com.
See also my stories:
“The Simple Equation of Ultralight Backpacking: Less Weight = More Fun”
“Buying Gear? Read This First”
“5 Tips For Spending Less on Hiking and Backpacking Gear”
“5 Tip For Buying the Right Backpack”
“Ask Me: How Do We Begin Lightening Up Our Backpacking Gear?”
Do you like The Big Outside? I’m Michael Lanza, the creator of The Big Outside, recognized as a top outdoors blog by a USA Today Readers Choice poll and others. Subscribe for updates about new stories and free gear giveaways by entering your email address in the box at the bottom of this story, at the top of the left sidebar, or on my About page, and follow my adventures on Facebook and Twitter.
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