First Look: The North Face Casimir 36

I have to admit I never thought I’d own a product from The North Face. Back in the day, they made great, cutting-edge clothing and gear. At some point, someone somewhere realized more money could be made catering to the masses in pursuit of ‘wilderness chic’ instead of making specialized climbing equipment for people actually getting out into the wild. In pursuit of the mass market, the fit, quality, and the brand, got diluted and became the TNF many of us now know – worn by tourists everywhere.

However, and yes, there is a big however: the TNF of the 2010’s appears to be making a bit of a return into the high-end clothing, footwear and equipment market with well-specced new products, appearing primarily in the Summit Series line. I recently bought one of their Summit Series sleeping bags and have been very impressed with the design, detailing and quality. This naturally led to me acquiring more of their products, and none have I been more excited by than the Casimir 36 backpack.

REV_Casimir_26_001The Casimir 36 loaded for a light day of cragging – it swallowed rope, gear, crampons, helmet, belay jacket and all the other random stuff without issue, and remained very comfortable to carry. 

TNF bills this as a backpack for ‘fast-moving multi-day adventures in remote backcountry [demanding] an ultralight pack with an unparalleled level of adjustability.’ Yet curiously it has dual ice-axe loops… I can just fit a day’s worth of climbing gear and clothing into a 35-litre pack, let alone enough for a multi-day overnight trip! Still, the pack’s low-weight (1049g for a M/L), adjustability and multitude of outside pockets had me intrigued.

In line with its lightweight design philosophy, the main pack fabric is so thin as to be see-through. Attention has been paid to all the details, with every strap, buckle, zipper or snap being a lightweight version. The fit, finish and detailing are all excellent.

REV_Casimir_26_008All the buckles, straps, pulls, etc. are of a lightweight design, yet remain functional with gloves on.

The Casimir is exceptionally comfortable, with shoulder straps that adjust for torso length with a quick and simple velcro system. The pack also features a unique hipbelt adjustment that, unfortunately, is the only let down with this pack – the sizing range is not intended for climbers’ hips. Adjusted down to fit my 32-inch waist, the ends of the waistbelt almost stick out from the backpanel, and the buckles at the front are practically out of adjustment range. I honestly don’t think I’ll be able to buckle the waistbelt tight in the summer without all my extra winter layers on.

REV_Casimir_26_005The shoulder strap height and waistbelt are adjustable through a wide range. The lid is of the semi-floating variety: it is permanently attached but is extendable, up to 2″ or so, through a pair of straps.

The design is of the time-tested, straight-forward single compartment variety, topped by a semi-floating lid with a single zippered pocket. The outside of the main packbag has two large stretch pockets on either side, and an additional stretch pocket on the front of the pack. There are loops for bungee cords, and dual compression straps on each side.

The hipbelt also features storage in the form of a zippered pocket on either side: a mesh pocket on the right side, and an enclosed pocket, made from the same material as the rest of the pack, on the left. Both pockets are big enough to fit a small camera or some energy bars.

There are two ice-axe loops, which while not ideal for hammer- or adze- less tools, are made of webbing narrow enough to securely attach tools such as the Nomic or Fusion2 via the twist-and-tighten method. The upper attachment is an elegant solution utilizing thin cord and a pinch-toggle with a built-in hook (this really requires an image for explanation: see image!)

REV_Casimir_26_002The twist-and-tighten method of attaching hammer-less tools works best with narrow ice-axe loops. It’s surprisingly secure.

REV_Casimir_26_009The upper attachment is an elegant solution, integrating the loop-holder into the squeeze-toggle. Again, it works quite well despite looking very minimalist.

 So far, I am very impressed. The Casimir 36 is light, comfortable and more spacious than it appears. The external pockets are great for stashing extra layers, hydration, snacks, etc. I have no illusions that the lightweight fabric would hold up to sharp rocks, but I also have no plans to climb chimneys with this pack – it makes an excellent approach, and ultra-light backpacking pack, but I think that might be it.

Pros: lightweight, comfortable, plenty of storage options & lash points

Cons: ultralight fabric will not last forever, hipbelt sizing isn’t meant for athletic builds

Overall: A very comfortable, customizable pack that carries exceptionally, provides a lot of storage options and feels like it weighs next to nothing even when heavily loaded, however I cannot recommend this as a (rock) climbing pack due to its lightweight construction. An excellent backpacking, or ice climbing, pack provided it doesn’t come into too much contact with sharp rocks.

Waistbelt Details:

REV_Casimir_26_010The waistbelt cinched around my waist – with a bigger load, all the buckles practically touch each other.

REV_Casimir_26_013The waistbelt adjusted for my size – notice the end sticking out from under the lumbar pad.

REV_Casimir_26_011The lumbar pad lifted up – there is a velcro strip that secures it under the “OptiFit” label.

REV_Casimir_26_012The left-side of the waistbelt lifted up. There is a lot of adjustment range here – just not for someone with a 32″ waist or smaller.

14 thoughts on “First Look: The North Face Casimir 36

  1. sg-1 says:

    actually i’ve got the casimir 36 in my hands and i compare it with a FjällRäven Friluft 35.

    In my opinion, the casimir is much smaller than the Friluft. Can you tell us your opinion about the volume?

    The waist belt is not optimal – the velcro strip could be larger. actually i dont know, if i should take this bag. 😐

    • Raf says:

      I know what you mean – every 35-litre bag I have is a different size!

      I think this is close to 35 litres; it seems to be about average of the bags I’ve looked at (Arcteryx NoZone 35, Black Diamond Speed 35, MEC Alpinelite 35).

      As far as the waist belt, if you can make it work, this is a great backpack. I’ve been using mine for climbing since I got it, and really enjoy the supportive and load-bearing harness while not adding a lot of weight over less well-featured packs.

    • Raf says:

      The Casimir has been in constant rotation as a cragging / everyday pack, and has been holding up well. Because the fabric is so thin, I haven’t been taking it when there’s a chance it would get hauled, or climbed against sharp rock. But, so far, no complaints in terms of durability!

  2. Quintin Lake says:

    Thanks for the review. Can you tell us something about the back frame & suspension system. Are there aluminium rods hidden in the back panel ie can the back be bent to the curve of one’s back?

    • Raf says:

      The frame is a wire frame around the perimeter, encased in a foam backpanel – stay tuned for a long-term review (comind soon!) that will detail some more features of the pack and have some more pictures to show what this looks like.

      I think you could bend the wires to conform to your back better, however I haven’t tried yet.

  3. Oscar says:

    Thanks for the comprehensive review. I am looking at this pack and the N Face Summit Series Prophet 40 for a 40 day trekking trip through the north of Spain this next May. Any comments on how they compare? This year I took a 50L Kielty pack on the same trip and I found it bulky and heavy, and too tempting to fill it up with stuff I did not need. I am a bit concerned with the lack of padding on the N Face packs, compared to the heavier Kielty… thanks in advance. Oscar

    • Raf says:

      Unfortunately, I have no experience with the TNF Prophet packs.

      TNF does have a cool new pack coming out this spring called the Banchee, which might suit your needs better – check back here for my exclusive review!

    • Jenniper says:

      Oscar, Did you end up with this pack for your trip? I assume you were referencing walking the Camino when you talked about 40 days in Northern Spain? I am looking at this pack for the same trip and wonder how the pack fared? Thanks!

        • Oscar Lombardi says:

          Thanks Kim for the question. No, in the end I purchased-carried an Osprey Hornet 46. I chose it because it is extremely light weight, the lightest I could find that was well built and inexpensive. It did the job very well, a capacity of 40 liters which was perfect. Top loading, not many pockets. The straps look very thin and the padding not as robust as I’ve seen in other packs, but it was not a problem, and again, just around one pounds and a half in weight. I wish you the best on your Camino, you will see spectacular views. Ultreya!

  4. Kaan says:

    Hey. I was wondering if it is a good idea to use the smaller version of this backpack (the 27l version) for just day to day use in a city. Would it be able to stand the conditions of the city? Do you recommend hiking/climbing bags like these to be used in cities?

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