Friday, February 25, 2011

REI Saturn 70L Pack Review

Simply a tank, infinitely durable and versatile but heavy as well.

The Stats:
Price: No Longer Available
Capacity: 70L
Weight: 5 Lbs.
Load Type: Top & Pannel
Compartments: 5 + Main

Pros: Highly Adjustable, Innovative Pouches behind the Hip Belt, Huge Capacity, Highly Durable, Easy Attachment Points for Extra Gear

Cons: Heavy, Lightly Padded, Not Weather Resistant, Some Glaring Design Oversights.

The Full Story:

My relationship with the REI Saturn is well past that honeymoon phase I often have with new gear. We’re entering those bitter years now where we slowly learn to hate each other the more time we spend together. My purchase of the Saturn was impulsive, discount driven, and it simply does not meet my needs and truthfully never did. None of that is the backpack’s fault at all.

The Pockets behind the hip belt are
great for storing lenses, first aid kits,
headlamps and flashlights.
The Saturn does have plenty of flaws though, mostly, it’s heavy (over 5 lbs), not well padded or ventilated, the compartments are not especially well designed and its not even slightly waterproof. The side zipper is heavy duty and seam taped but the top isn’t which makes no sense to me. The water bladder pouch inside is poorly designed and eats up so much pack space so as to be useless but it can’t be removed so it’s just dead ounces.

On the other hand the pack is rugged and even after 5 years together and hundreds of trail miles it still looks like new. The floating top is a nice feature and the stash pockets near the water bottles are amazing for storing small lenses and camera gear I need in grab in a hurry. In fact that feature alone is what’s keeping this pack from being replaced right now. Even though the somewhat spartan padding is a bit uncomfortable the pack has yet to cause any shoulder chafing or skin rashes for me.

The truth is an entry level 70L pack just does not make sense philosophically. Entry level backpacking gear is heavy and likes to take up pack space but you won’t need as much of it. As more gear for greater adventures becomes needed backpackers are also typically replacing the old bulky gear with lighter and smaller stuff so a pack size between 50L-65L continues to make sense. Only once we start talking about extended trips do packs like the 70L Saturn make sense. These packs work for vets planning on being in the field for awhile, perhaps ferrying heavy loads between expedition camps. An entry level 70L really only makes sense for someone who is intentionally bringing too much gear, or making a mistake by bringing too much (which most entry level backpackers do).

Despite some strong design features it’s easy to see why REI discontinued this pack.

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