Tested: The North Face Griffin 75
A backpack is a key essential for any multi-day trekking adventure and while it’s vitally important to ensure you’ve got a pack with the right capacity to carry all your kit, it’s just as important to ensure it has a harness system that will provide the best fit and comfort when lugging loads over uneven terrain and for long periods of time. A harness system that is not able to support the load (and offer the wearer the required comfort) increases the risk of a back/shoulder/neck injury and can end a trekking adventure before the first day is done.
The North Face Griffin 75 is the US adventure icon’s latest pack, designed to carry loads on long-distance treks or mountaineering expeditions. The TNF Griffin is available in two sizes: the 75L (as tested here) and a 65L, with the option of a women’s-specific harness as well. The Griffin is loaded with the latest in pack tech, including lightweight and tough outer fabrics (the pack body uses IronLite 210-denier nylon; the base, IronLite 420D) that keep weight down to a svelte 2.3kg for the 75L Large, tested here. That weight is impressive, not the least because the Griffin also includes a full aluminium frame plus a PE frame sheet, both of which assist in the carrying of heavier loads, along with a detachable summit pack that The North Face dubs the “flying squirrel”. (Yeah, we know, cool name.)
A lightweight pack is great, but it still needs to be able carry a heavy load comfortably and this is where the Griffin’s patent-pending Dyno Carry System comes to the fore. The Dyno Carry System is designed to be highly adjustable for a comfortable fit – and for those adjustments to be easy to make, whether you’re pre-trek or out in the field. The high adjustability comes courtesy of some unique features, such as the self-equalising load lifters that can be adjusted while you’re walking. Basically, you adjust one side and it levels out the opposing side’s load lifter.
Often, during a longer trek, and as your load gets lighter (or heavier), you may need to adjust the back panel height. This has been simplified by The North Face designers who have ensured you can do this while wearing the pack. It’s actually a great time-saver as it allows you to tweak the FlashDry back panel fit while you wear it, saving the hassle of removing the pack, trying to estimate how much you need to change the panel’s position, putting the pack back on and repeating this procedure until the fit is correct. Being able to adjust it while it is attached to you means you can fine-tune the fit quickly and more effectively. The FlashDry panel lives up to its promise; it’s a relatively breathable back panel that dries quickly after becoming damp from sweat.
The last part of the Dyno Carry System is the swivelling hip belt. Although these are not new, the way this has been integrated into the rest of the Dyno Carry System means it works exceptionally well, offering another separate adjustment point, or one that can be tweaked to match the adjustment done to the back panel and/or load lifters.
Other handy features of the Griffin include the big J-zip that opens the pack up completely for you to grab that beanie that has made its way to the bottom, rather than having to rifle through with your hands, trying to find it by feel. The zip is covered to protect against water ingress and has large pull-strings for easy access, even when wearing gloves.
As you’d expect from a TNF pack straddling demands of (mainly) trekking and climbing, there are a number of tie-down points for attaching gear you need to reach quickly, including two tool keepers (for ice axes/trek poles), two zipped pockets on the hip-belt, and storage in the flip-forward lid. The sternum strap includes a whistle buckle and there’s the ubiquitous hydration sleeve inside, as well as two stretch-material side bottle pockets. The pack also features reflective webbing – always handy if trekking in a group under torchlight.
The North Face Griffin 75 reflects the company’s adventure heritage in its robust construction and innovative design; it makes a mockery of the “a backpack, is a backpack” argument through its versatility and effective Dyno Carry System, the combination of toughness and smart design, and reasonable asking price. My old and battered TNF Prophet 65 must be feeling a bit nervous right now…