The first time you put the pack on, it’s a bit odd, as the shoulder pads sit out extremely wide and high. I have started to get used to the feeling, but it is still a bit disconcerting. The next odd feeling is that the shoulder harness wiggles so freely around, while the pack and frame stay isolated, and offers an unrestricted range of motion. It feels like the ball joint is on ice, and moving your shoulders around doesn’t cause undue pack movement. When you cinch down the hip belt (it does need to be kept tight), the pack disappears underneath you, and the weight along with it, since it drops it directly onto your hips. Riding along with this pack on (especially when full) is pretty amazing, since you don’t notice any weight, nor does the pack flop around, no matter how rough the terrain becomes, it floats along like it’s not there. I really appreciated it in technical terrain, especially going down, since the pack didn’t come flopping up off your back towards your head, it just stayed solidly planted. Like most of the frame mounted systems, it keeps most of the pack off your back, so you don’t get large perspiration spots, except for the hip belt area and oddly enough the outer pectorals.
Nitpicks: When doing hike a bike, I found that the hip section of the frame and the side pocket would keep bumping into and catching on my saddle, which I found annoying? When taking the pack off, the shoulder harness was a pain, especially when wearing body armor, since the wide and high setup would catch on things and require some wild body contortions to get out. The snaps for the webbing that holds the frame into the hip belt, would come undone on rare occasions, and the frame’s forks would pop out. Sometimes the entire hip belt would rotate or move and the pack along with it, but it was easily remedied by yanking it back into position, and I am not sure if it was due to the belt loosening up or not?
The entire system is pretty innovative and brilliant, and makes everything ride in a very centered manner, and keep the weight on your hips and off your shoulders, and offer a lower center of gravity, with little swaying.
The pack had a lot of useful pockets and compartments. The main compartment was vast, and had a five non zippered pouches on the back side, though I wish there were some zippered ones on the inner front. The main had a nice long zipper that opened almost 2/3 of the circumference of the pack, making it easy to extract and organize items, clothes and gear. The two compression straps worked quite well, and not only compressed the pack properly, but allowed any number of items to be easily attached as required, and a really nice feature was that the straps stayed out of the way of the main’s zipper when unclipped. The hydration compartment was useful, but it was difficult to squeeze in a full reservoir, especially when the pack was already loaded. The front zippered pocket was long and flat, and although it could hold lots of smaller items, it was hard to organize anything, since it lacked any subsections. The side pocket was a handy, and was large enough for a cell phone and point and shoot camera, and could easily be opened by reaching to your hip. On the inside rear by the each hip, were two zippered entrances to the same mini compartment, which were great for carrying small tools, headgear, and other sundry items. The optional hydration reservoir, is available in two sizes, the BH200 (2L) and BH300 (3L), and Ergon partnered with Hydrapak for the unit.
Nitpicks: Although the main compartment was vast, and the front pocket was useful, they both need some additional organizational subdivision (pockets, zippered sections, etc.), since it made for a poor layout. The lack of a hydration reservoir seems a bit odd in such a tricked out pack, although it does lessen the sticker shock.
Another oddity, is that it can be difficult to set the pack down in the field (or anywhere), since the hard form frame doesn’t sit very well on surfaces that aren’t flat.