The North Face Fovero 70
$290, 70L/4,272 c.i., 5 lbs. 7 oz. (men’s S/M)
Sizes: men’s S/M (fits torsos 15-20 ins.) & L/XL (torsos 17-22 ins.), women’s XS/S (torsos 13-18 ins.) & M/L (torsos 15-20 ins.)
Backpacking for three days in Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains with my 15-year-old son and two of his buddies who were taking their first backpacking trip, I hauled up to about 40 pounds, including much of our team gear and food. For that kind of backpacking, I want a pack that’s built for heavy loads and has a high degree of organization. The Fovero 70 rose to the challenge in comfort and has exceptional access for backpackers who like to compartmentalize.
With a 2mm, perforated plastic framesheet, spring steel wire perimeter frame, and two aluminum stays, the proprietary OPTIFIT suspension flexes very little on the vertical axis, for excellent support carrying 40 to 50 pounds, while flexing slightly on the horizontal axis, so that the pack moves somewhat with your torso as you walk. (Note: The North Face describes the Fovero as capable of hauling up to 70 pounds, but I’d suggest that’s well beyond the comfort range for most backpackers.) I found the well-padded shoulder straps, back pad, and hipbelt, made with breathable, perforated EVA foam, adequately comfortable with 40 pounds inside, and certainly capable of carrying more than that. The simple torso adjustment has five inches of range for dialing in a good fit, and the hipbelt’s pads are adjustable (using a lever inside the zippered pocket), with about three inches of play on each side—a nice feature for people with bigger waists. While there’s no cutting-edge technology in this suspension system, it’s built for the maximum weight that most backpackers would carry.
This top loader has better access and organization than many packs in this category, starting with nine well-designed pockets: on each side of the hipbelt; in the lid (including a zippered interior pocket that stores the rain cover); on the sides (mesh bottle pockets); two roomy, zippered front pockets that are supremely convenient; and a voluminous “beaver-tail” (AKA stuff-it) front pocket for a wet jacket or rainfly. A J-shaped, two-way zipper runs down one side and around the bottom, giving quick access to much of the main compartment and the sleeping bag compartment. You can unclip the interior divider if you prefer not having a separate compartment for you bag. (I unclip it to maximize interior space.) With the Fovero, whether I needed a jacket, water filter, snack, bottle, or to pull out my tent before emptying my pack (say, in rain), I could do it quickly and easily. With a big pack, I consider that a critical design element. Lastly, the removable lid converts to a daypack with two unpadded, mesh shoulder straps (but no waistbelt or sternum strap) for light summit trips.
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Wrap-around compression straps on top, sides, and bottom (which held my full-length, foam sleeping pad) create superior load control. It has some nice features like adjustable straps for attaching trekking poles or ice axes and a whistle in the sternum strap. With 420-denier ripstop nylon in the bottom and sides and 210-denier ripstop nylon in the front and lid, the pack’s durability compares with many other models of similar capacity and weight. The Fovero comes with a rain cover stored in a zippered mesh pocket inside the lid—not the most logical place, since you’ll want to make sure the cover is completely dry before returning it to that pocket, where you’re likely to have items you want to keep dry.
For backpackers who routinely carry 40 to 50 pounds and like a high level of organization, the Fovero 70 is a winner. A larger version, the Fovero 85, is $310.
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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 categorized menus of all of my gear reviews at The Big Outside.