Gear Review: The North Face Phantom 50 pack

Selecting A Crampon
By Mike Hawkins

“Man, this is a really great pack…” I said it over and over for months until my wife had finally had enough of it.

She had to get one for herself. 

While 50 liters is a little small for most multi-day mountaineering and winter ski tours, the small size is plenty versatile for weekend trips of 1-2 days. I found the Phantom 50 excelled during a surprisingly wide range of three-season objectives, including: 1-2 day mountaineering, alpine ice, and alpine rock climbs; 1-2 day spring skiing and ski mountaineering trips; 3-4 day fast and light technical traverses; 5-7 day ultra-light backpacking; and multi-week hut trekking. 

There is something so pleasant about equipment working exactly as it should work, and the Phantom 50 really delivers. Need to secure a rope? No problem. How about stashing a pad on the side of your pack? Easy. Want to take your pack apart for an ultra light trip? It won’t take any time at all. Do you need to carry skis for some reason? You can do that too. While any decent pack should include all of the above, the finer details of the Phantom 50 really stand out and prove it was designed and tested by outdoor professionals. 

phantom 50

The pack is lightweight and durable. It has pockets exactly where you need them, and none where you don’t. The main pack opens and closes easily, even with big gloves on. Attaching ice axes and tools is quick and secure, yet they can be easily removed with one hand without taking off your pack (this feature is super convenient during long traverses). A single hipbelt gear loop allows for stashing of an ice axe during short scrambles or for clipping in essential climbing gear during glacier travel. To allow for customization, TNF provided small loops on top of the brain and on the main body of the pack; these could be used to stow crampons, helmets, and other items by adding accessory bungee cord.

So, yes, my wife and I are now that goofy couple with matching backpacks, but we know something others don’t – “Man, these are really great packs…”

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