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.
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.
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.
The 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!)
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.