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Hands-on Gear Review

The North Face Banchee 65 Review

Price:   $240 List | $238.95 at Backcountry
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Lightweight, comfortable to carry for long periods of time, fantastic suspension, tons of useful and thought out pockets, sweet hip belt adjustment
Cons:  Compression straps are just okay when using the pack half-full, external lid pocket isn't as easy to search through as models
Editors' Rating:     
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Manufacturer:   The North Face

Our Verdict

The North Face Banchee 65 is our OutdoorGearLab Top Pick award winner because it features one of our tester's favorite pack design for pocket use/location, and straight-up general organization, while still remaining one of the lighter packs in our review. Our testers loved its two back zippered pockets and stretchy "beaver tail pocket" that we thought was perfect for oddly shaped items like camp sandals or… a Frisbee. The zippered hip belt pockets also proved to be above average and could easily fit a few bars or most point-and-shoot cameras. The Banchee also, despite its light weight, was extremely supportive and could handle heavier loads more comfortably than most of the other packs we tested and proved it self on 10+ day mountaineering traverse in the North Cascades with more than 50 lbs of weight, fantastically.

New Version Update - 2016
The North Face has updated this backpack and it is now hydration compatible. In addition, the new model has revised style lines and updated stretch-mesh.

Scroll down for a more detailed comparison of the new Banchee 65 Vs. the older version.


To see all of the packs we reviewed check out our Best Backpacking Backpack review.


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Score Product Price Measured Weight Volume Access
94
$475
Editors' Choice Award
4.94 lbs. 65L/3966in Top & Front
92
$260
Top Pick Award
4.38 lbs. 65L/3966in Top & Front
90
$330
Top Pick Award
5.13 lbs. 75L/4577in Top & Sides
88
$300
Top Pick Award
5.19 lbs. 65L/3966in Top, Front & Bottom
87
$240
3.63 lbs. 65L/3967in Top & Bottom
85
$290
5 lbs. 70L/4200in Top & Front
85
$290
4.81 lbs. 60L/3700in Top & Front
82
$200
Best Buy Award
3.75 lbs. 75L/4577in Top & Bottom
80
$199
3.63 lbs. 65L/3966in Top
77
$220
Top Pick Award
2.5 lbs. 58L/3539in Top
76
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5.56 lbs. 78L/4750in Top & Front
76
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6.19 lbs. 65+20L Top & Bottom

Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results

Review by:
Ian Nicholson
Review Editor
OutdoorGearLab

Last Updated:
Friday
November 4, 2016

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The New Banchee 65 vs. The Older Version


The North Face Banchee 65 has been updated. The new model is equipped with revised style lines and updated stretch-mesh aimed at improving durability. The pack is also newly hydration compatible. The Banchee 65 no longer comes in the blue color that we previously tested, but currently has two new color options; Silver Grey and Macaw Green.

Check out the side-by-side comparison below, with the latest version of the Banchee 65 in Macaw Green pictured on the left and the older version shown on the right.
The North Face Banchee 65 New
The North Face Banchee 65
 

Here's a summary of the key differences between the new North Face Banchee 65 and the previous version:
  • Revised Design — the North Face has updated the style lines of this pack and state to have improved the durability of the stretch-mesh.
  • Hydration Compatible — The Banchee 65 is now hydration compatible.
  • New Colors — The North Face has added two new colors to the Banchee 65 line up.

We have not yet tested the newest version of the Banchee 65. The text and ratings in this review still reflect the older version.

Hands-On Review


Performance Comparison



The North Face Banchee 65
The North Face Banchee 65

Comfort


The Banchee 65 is surprisingly comfortable considering its a pound or more lighter than most other packs in or review. Our testers also found the Banchee much more comfortable than other framed lightweight packs like the now discontinued REI Flash 62 or the Osprey Exos 58. Our testers found the shoulder straps and back panel very pleasant, even against bare skin and rated them above average among packs in our review. Our testers carried 45-50 lbs for days on end and loved how nicely the Banchee 65 handled the weight and found it performed better than average among packs we reviewed. For the heavies loads generally exceeding 55-60 lbs we didn't think the Banchee 65 was as comfortable as the Arc'teryx Altra 65 or the Gregory Baltoro 65, but it was better than the Osprey Volt or the Osprey Aether 70.

The North Face Banchee 65 lower zippered sleeping bag access point. The Banchee 65 has an optional compartment divider that most of our testers didn't use but think the options nice. We really liked the dual lower straps for closed cell foam pads or other funky items
The North Face Banchee 65 lower zippered sleeping bag access point. The Banchee 65 has an optional compartment divider that most of our testers didn't use but think the options nice. We really liked the dual lower straps for closed cell foam pads or other funky items

Weight


At 3 lbs 10 ounces, the Banchee 65 is one of the lighter packs in our review yet still has over half a dozen zippered pockets and a very comfortable and supportive frame. The Banchee 65 is over half a pound lighter than our Editors' Choice the, Osprey Atmos 65 AG which weighted in at 4 lbs 6 ounces and is over a pound lighter than our former Editors' Choice and Top Pick, the Arc'teryx Altra 65 which tips the scales at 4 lbs 13 ounces. It isn't as light as the Osprey Exos or the REI Flash 62, but it was significantly more durable and better for handling heavier laden trips.

Suspension


For such a light pack the Banchee 65 has a surprising burly suspension. In fact, this is one feature nearly each one of our testers commented on when they first put it on. We tested this pack on several trips for over three weeks of use including a long mountaineering oriented cross country traverse through Washington North Cascades were we left the parking lot with over 50 lbs of gear and the Banchee 65 exceeded our expectations.
The North Face Banchee 65 is easily adjustable to help dial-in an optimal fit with a large Velcro covered back-panel.
The North Face Banchee 65 is easily adjustable to help dial-in an optimal fit with a large Velcro covered back-panel.

Adjustability


The Banchee 65 is available in two sizes and is above average in its ability to by dialed in to fit a wide range of users. Similar to Osprey's Aether packs, the Banchee 65 features shoulder straps that are held in place by Velcro and can be fine tuned for torso length. While the Banchee 65 is only available in two sizes, it offers an above average amount of height adjustment. This not only lets you dial in the yoke length to your specified height but it also makes the Banchee 65 a great option for growing children. A feature less common that our review team liked is the Banchee's adjustable hip pads that further adapt to different sizes of users. Our testers feel that this feature is most useful for folks who are a little on the bigger side or extra skinny.
Our testers loved the large zippered hip belt pockets on the The North Face Banchee 65. We found they could easily fit most smart phones or a camera along with other snacks or sunscreen.
Our testers loved the large zippered hip belt pockets on the The North Face Banchee 65. We found they could easily fit most smart phones or a camera along with other snacks or sunscreen.

Ease of Use


Ease of use and packing is where the Banchee 65 really shines and is one of the best, if not the best pack for keeping organized among all of the packs in our review. The Banchee features eight pockets which is about 2-3 more than average, but it's not just the number of pockets that matters. Its their location, design, and access that makes them so useable. For example; our testers loved the two vertical zippered pockets and used them constantly. Even when the pack is full these pockets are easy to get into. The large "Beaver tail" pocket below the twin pockets was particularly useful for oddly shaped and hard to pack items like camp flip flops, fuel bottles, or tri-pods.
The North Face Banchee 65
The North Face Banchee 65
The Banchee's lid pocket is very large and features a pleasant zipper that extends across the entire side of the lid. There is an additional zippered pocket within the main lid pocket that is perfect for items you really don't want to lose - like wallet, keys, cell phone etc. Our testers did think the lid pocket was good, but not prefect. At times it was hard to search for smaller items that had drifted towards the rear of the pocket, but this wasn't a super big deal. The larger than average, dual zippered hip belt pockets were also among our testers favorites and easily fit most point-and-shoot cameras, bars, sun screen or other wanted easily accessible items. It's worth noting that unlike many backpacking packs the ice axe attachment system is solid and doesn't leave your axe swinging wildly while trotting down the trail.
Likely our favorite overall feature for use-ability of The North Face Banchee 65 was its oversized dual-zippered pockets. These were great for water bottles  water filters  snacks  a light jacket  or simply anything else we wanted easily accessible.
Likely our favorite overall feature for use-ability of The North Face Banchee 65 was its oversized dual-zippered pockets. These were great for water bottles, water filters, snacks, a light jacket, or simply anything else we wanted easily accessible.

Best Applications


Our testers found The North Face Banchee 65 to be a very versatile pack and an excellent option for backpacking, trekking, travel, or mountaineering applications. The Banchee 65 is just a excellent balance of weight, pockets, ease of use, and comfort that will appreciated by nearly any user. The folks who will dig the Banchee will be users who want more, and larger pockets than most backpacking packs have to offer and will appreciate one of our favorite back designs out there.
The central stretchy mesh pocket on The North Face Banchee 65 that sits between the back dual zippered pockets and the main compartment. Our testers really liked this pocket and used it for oddly shaped items like camp shoes  fuel bottles and a Frisbee.
The central stretchy mesh pocket on The North Face Banchee 65 that sits between the back dual zippered pockets and the main compartment. Our testers really liked this pocket and used it for oddly shaped items like camp shoes, fuel bottles and a Frisbee.

Value


At $240 The North Face Banchee 65 is an pretty good value. It's not the least expensive pack in our review with the REI Flash 62 at $190 and the Osprey Volt at $200 but it's priced less than average and around $125 less than several other models like the Arc'teryx Ultra 65. While the Banchee is a little less expensive than average we feel it brings an above average amount of features and support for a very respectable weight.
One of the three stretchy mesh pockets on The North Face Banchee 65 pack. The two side pockets are big enough for one liter water bottles  while the middle one is even larger.
One of the three stretchy mesh pockets on The North Face Banchee 65 pack. The two side pockets are big enough for one liter water bottles, while the middle one is even larger.

Conclusion and the Bottom Line


The bottom line is that The North Face Banchee 65 is a surprisingly light and super versatile backpacking pack that is supportive enough for heavier loads and packed full of features that our testers liked enough that it was a contender for our Editors' Choice award that was only narrowly edged out by the Osprey Atmos 65 AG. We still think for folks who like a lot of organization and an above average amount of very user friendly features, at only 3lbs 10 oz the Banchee 65 remains a top contender.

Other Versions


Banchee 65 - Women's
Banchee 65 womens
  • Cost - $239
  • Weight - 3 lbs 9.6 oz
  • Women's version of the Banchee 65
  • Women-specific harness and hip belt

Banchee 50
Banchee 50
  • Cost - $199
  • Weight - 3 lbs 5.6 oz
  • 50 liter version

Banchee 35
  • Cost - $169
    Banchee 35
  • Weight - 2 lbs 12.8 oz
  • 35 liter capacity
  • Smaller version that still has over 8 pockets
Ian Nicholson

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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews


Most recent review: November 4, 2016
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:   
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 (5.0)
Average Customer Rating:   
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 (5.0)

100% of 1 reviewers recommend it
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2 Total Ratings
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   May 24, 2016 - 09:22pm
Sentient · Camper · San Francisco
The Men's Banchee 65 can carry a Bearvault BV500 horizontally. It slides in through the bottom easily and with the compartment divider detached the can will even go up far enough to allow room for a sleeping bag to go in after it. (I fit a Marmot Pinnacle stuffed in a "small" bag in.)
I also tested to see if the bearcan could be inserted vertically from the top and tipped sideways inside the bag so to be carried horizontally on top of the attached compartment divider. It was a hassle, but it fit. However, it was an even bigger pain to get it out.
This all was done with a brand new bag, so I'm guessing that it may stretch a bit in time.
For gram counters, snipping out the compartment divider and its toggles will garner 22 grams and the hydration sleeve, (while maintaining the velcro clip so you can still hang a bag), 12 grams; a total of 1.2 ounces.
The review covers it pretty well: really great bag.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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