Tuesday, May 6, 2014

REI Yosemite 75

I stopped by the grand opening of my now closest REI store this last weekend and took the opportunity to put my hands on a few packs I hadn't had the chance to look at in person (they didn't have the Exped Lightening so I couldn't take a second gander at it).

The first new pack I noticed was right next to the very excellent REI XT-85 (I have the older version and I was checking to see what they had changed). I was about to walk on by it when I noticed something fishy about the bottom sleeping bag access.

the observant will notice a more-or-less direct copy of the Mystery Ranch bottom access system, where the buckle opens up the two wings that have a zipper running the whole length which allows the opening to expand much larger then if the zipper was only the width of the bag. This also takes some stress off the zipper, protects it from external damage, and means you don't have to have the zipper running 3/4 of the circumference of the pack bag, limiting a potential failure point. Even if the zipper completely fails you can buckle it up and make due.

Side by side the similarities are unmistakable. In fact, I pointed the pack out to two separate friends from across the store (maybe 75 yards) and they both immediately recognized the Mystery Ranch DNA. This is an extremely elegant solution and I don't think it is something you can patent, I'm honestly surprised you don't see more people ripping off that particular feature. While I have mixed feelings about the whole thing it's just such a darn good way to do it and Mystery Ranch simply does not make a mid weight backpacking bag so I'd be inclined to let it slide.

Beyond this feature the Yosemite has a lot going for it in my book, 2 simple quick-release compression straps per side (as it should be), a pretty beefy ruggedized bottom (without being silly about it, it's quite a bit lighter then some of Gregory's over the top pack bottoms), spacious stretch front pocket, no silly side zipper access,  and 2 water bottle pockets low on the sides. The bottle pockets are the new-fangled front entry type that I have yet to try, but I don't see any problems with them.

When you get to the suspension side there are quite a few unique features that deserve mention. The frame is a traditional two-stay arrangement and the shoulder harness (the darker colored section of the back panel) slides up and down on said stays and velcros in place. There is not a huge amount of adjustment but the system is much simpler then most. The only frame sheet is in shoulder harness, but the foam adds a bit of rigidity as well. The stays themselves are quite flexible but seem up to the task.
The shoulder straps have a unique feature, in that the top fabric recedes around the neck area and the soft under fabric wraps around to meet it, I'm assuming this is to alleviate neck chafing.

The lumbar pad fits into the backpanel with a stiff plastic sheet holding it in place rather then velcro much like the older Osprey packs do (I heartily approve), but underneath the lumbar pad is the most unique feature of all. I cannot find a picture online yet and the product video on the REI website glosses over it entirely, but he hipbelt is built as two completely separate halves that attach to their respective stay independently. Each half has two stay pockets so the hipbelt can expand and shrink to mimic a medium or large hipbelt. unfortunately on the smaller setting the halves overlap in the middle and I noticed some pressure through the lumbar pad, I didn't have time to load it up and walk around with it so I can't say if that is a big deal or not. As soon as someone posts a picture up I will put it up here because to my knowledge this is the first time something like that has been done.

REI continues to impress me with their designs, I think they are really giving the major gear companies some competition.

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