Hiking / Comfort
In order to test how comfortable the Terraplane was while loaded up, I over-loaded the pack with 88 pounds worth of gear and began hiking down a very steep, winding trail, which descended 4,000 feet in just 3.6 miles. In addition to the gear I described above, I also have to carry a 5 pound double bit axe, two cross-cut saw handles, and the 10 pounds or so of trash I usually find. On top of a 60 pound load, once I add my tools, it’s not uncommon for my pack to weight close to 80 pounds.
Once the Terraplane was well adjusted, I never needed to stop to take the pack off or fiddle with the straps – it felt absolutely secure and comfortable on my back, despite the incredibly heavy weight. For heavy loads, the Terraplane is the most comfortable pack I’ve ever worn.
The main frame evenly distributed the load on my body, while the Futura Yoke fit snugly around the shoulders to carry the weight comfortably. I also appreciated how well the pads on the waistbelt wrapped around my hip bones. Compared to my Arc’teryx Bora 80, I experienced considerably less shoulder fatigue while carrying the Terraplane with loads greater than 60 pounds.
The Terraplane’s hip belt actually moves independently from the yoke, allowing the body to move in a more natural motion while hiking. I’ve used a number of packs where the hip belt is locked to the frame, preventing the pack from rotating with the body. Over time, this feels restricting and requires constant adjusting so the pack doesn’t just stay in one place, which can lead to lower back fatigue.
This design was especially helpful when I hiked through a burned area and had to climb over downed trees that were blocking the trail for two miles. While scrambling over branches and stumps, the Terraplane allowed for an impressive range of motion and I could easily jump over low lying trees.
The only issue I had with the Terraplane was its height. Occasionally, when wearing a hard hat and gazing up, I noticed my hat would bump into the top of my pack, which would push the hat down over my eyes. While most backpackers probably won’t be wearing hard hats with the Terraplane, it may be something to take into consideration if you are a ranger.
The Terraplane has a simple design, and doesn’t come with a lot of extra filler features. Every buckle, zipper, and cut of fabric has been carefully thought-out to make sure the pack will last for decades.
Zippers / Buckles
As someone who opens and closes the pockets on my pack constantly, zippers are a big deal to me. Over the years, I have blown countless zippers on packs I’ve found in REI, so I absolutely appreciate big zippers that won’t jam or fail.
All of the Terraplane’s zippers are burly. Each of the two long pockets on the front of the pack has two zipper pulls so that the pockets can be opened from either direction. This was great when I needed to grab something from the bottom of the pocket and didn’t want to take out everything above it in order to access the bottom.
While I had no issues with the beefy zippers on the front pockets or on the brain, I especially appreciated the larger, more durable zippers on the speed-zip bottom compartment and on the side zipper on the main compartment. These zippers never jammed, and I do not foresee them blowing out.
Strong buckles are also extremely important to me; breaking a buckle could mean that I would have to carry two heavy tools in my hands rather than one, something that is not particularly comfortable. The buckles on the Terraplane are solid and snap into place with a reassuring “click”.
Buckles that slip are quite annoying, but also unsafe – you simply can’t have an axe come loose on your pack. All of the buckles have done a great job holding the webbing in place after adjusted. Mystery Ranch builds their packs with long webbing, which I really like. The two main straps that clip the front of the brain to the body of the pack are long enough to be loosened enough to allow access to the main compartment without un-clipping the buckles.
Adequate water storage is critical for multi-day adventures, particularly in dry areas. The Terraplane has two deep side pockets to accommodate classic 1L water bottles, and an internal reservoir sleeve to hold a bladder, which was plenty of storage for long days.
I usually carry a tall, 1.5 L Nalgene bottle, and really appreciated the deep side pockets on the Terraplane. Most other side pockets I’ve used in the past are too short, and don’t hold the taller bottles in place.
Durability and Weight
The body of the Terraplane is constructed from 500-denier Cordura, and I have experienced no issues with durability. Even after carrying my unsheathed axe next to the pack’s fabric, I couldn’t find any signs of damage.
Additionally, the Terraplane’s bottom is built with a double layer of Cordura for increased durability. The inner layer is cut 1/2″ smaller than the outer layer, which allows the majority of load’s weight to rest on the inner layer. This leaves the outer layer unstressed to maximize the material’s water and abrasion-resistant abilities.
The Terraplane is not waterproof, but Mystery Ranch calls it “weather resistant.” During short, summer showers, the pack repelled water well enough that my puffy jacket in the top of my pack didn’t get wet. I even escaped one fairly long downpour without any water leaking through. I imagine that in places that experience all day storms or in humid environments, more water would find its way into the pack, and I would recommend carrying a pack cover.
Although Cordura is quite durable, it’s not the lightest fabric available. At 7 lbs 7 oz, the Terraplane weighs about two-and-a-half pounds more than the Osprey Aether 85 (5.0 lbs, size Medium), and is over a pound heavier than the Gregory Palisade 80 (6.3 lbs, size Medium).
Personally, I’m not too concerned over a difference of a few pounds of the pack’s empty weight, and care more about how comfortably the pack can carry loads over 60 pounds for many days over many seasons. However, if weight is a concern, the Mystery Ranch offers smaller, lighter packs, which might be a better option.
The Terraplane is not cheap; at $485, it can be up to two times the price of other packs in its category. Although the Terraplane is a significant investment, it is extremely well constructed and built to last for a very long time. I think the price is worth it given the pack’s high quality and I know that it will hold up a lot longer than other, less expensive options.
The Terraplane is a serious pack that is built to carry heavy loads. In my line of work, I need a pack that I can trust not to fail miles into the wilderness while carrying more than 70 pounds. Not only was I extremely impressed with the Terraplane’s durability and strength, but it was also incredibly comfortable.
In my opinion, the higher price is well worth the investment for an excellent expedition pack. While it may be too big for weekend backpack trips, if you plan to spend a significant amount of time in the backcountry carrying a heavy load, the Terraplane is a great option.