The North Face Chimera 18: Tested

By Justin Walker 5 October 2020
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Light weight, robust and versatile, The North Face Chimera 18 could be the ultimate daypack for exploring the outdoors.

The daypack is ubiquitous with adventure and the outdoors, and an essential in any gear shed. Daypacks are the go-to load-lugger for everything from trail running and cycling, to bushwalking or a fast and light overnight escape. It is this search for ultimate versatility that makes finding the ‘best’ daypack difficult, often leading to some type of compromise in the final purchase. The North Face Chimera 18, a new daypack from the iconic outdoor brand, aims to remove any thoughts of compromise. 


The North Face Chimera 18 combines a – you guessed it – load volume of 18 litres, with very light and tough fabrics and construction. Plus, it features The North Face’s Dyno Cinch technology. It is available in Womens and Unisex style and is part of the brand’s technical pack series. We tested the Womens variant.

That light weight (510g) is achieved using ‘IronLite’ fabric in a 75-denier (D) weight. IronLite is constructed using a hollow-core yarn. This reduces the weight of this pack by a claimed 20 per cent over equivalent packs on the market. That’s a significant difference.

For those days of exploring in the outdoors, the Chimera 18’s versatility and comfortable harness system mean it is one of the first pack’s grabbed by the Aus Geo ADVENTURE team.

Unique features

The Chimera 18’s pack-adjustment tech – Dyno Cinch – is one of TNF’s Dynamic Carry Systems (others include Dyno Carry, as detailed in our review of The North Face Griffin 75, Dyno Lift and Dyno Lite). The system is based around simplifying pack adjustments by allowing them to be done with the pack remaining on your back. This saves the time-wasting task of having to take the pack on and off multiple times to adjust it. The Dyno Cinch on the Chimera 18 works to cinch the pack (and its load) in tight to your torso/back, via adjustment of the ‘load lifters’. This keeps the pack stable when worn. 

The Dyno Cinch load lifters – the red cord and push-down tab seen here on the shoulder harness The North Face Chimera 18 – assist in adjusting the pack fit when being worn, saving time by not having to remove it from your back for adjustment.

The Chimera’s self-equalising ‘load lifters’ appear as red cord located on each side toward the lower-third of the pack. These run internally, allowing for the elimination of external side compression straps. There is an additional longer cord on the top right-side shoulder strap to ensure equal load/pack adjustment. The Dynamic Carry System sounds like a gimmick but it works; in its Dyno Cinch form, it is one of the Chimera 18’s standout features. This amount of load/comfort-assist technology is not that common on daypacks, but is very welcome.

The pack includes a perforated nylon back panel to ensure rigidity and airflow when worn. The wide shoulder straps include nifty storage compartments for stowing snacks. A hydration sleeve is also included. There are three larger stretch-nylon storage compartments on the Chimera 18: one on each side for a water bottle and an even larger one at the back. This is affixed via a hook/eyelet and is ideal for storing an extra layer. 

Final word: The North Face Chimera 18 

The North Face Chimera 18 impressed during testing; you just throw it on, adjust the fit using the Dyno Cinch system, and you’re off. The light weight, comfortable harness system, and 14kg maximum load capacity are highlights. We stuffed a surprising amount of gear in it and used the Dyno Cinch system to adjust the load/fit as needed. Suffice to say, the pack has become a favourite of the Aus Geo ADVENTURE team for day-long adventures.

The North Face Chimera 18’s variety of features are impressive, with numerous storage compartments – such as these shoulder harness ones, ideal for snacks – along with an internal hydration sleeve and two side sleeves for water bottles.

The North Face Chimera 18 is not the cheapest daypack on the market, but it does offset the slightly hefty asking price by providing hikers with a lightweight, durable and spacious pack that includes new load-carrying tech that actually works. This combination makes The North Face Chimera 18 an appealing do-it-all daypack option.

RRP: $200 Available at The North Face