I love the thrill, the adventure and the rawness of living out of a 3,000-cubic-inch pack for days on end. However, the romanticism of a backcountry backpack sojourn quickly becomes a nightmare when that box on your back feels cumbersome or simply doesn’t perform.

Recently, I put my Alps OutdoorZ Traverse X to the test to see whether it would truly heed the backcountry call. I’m planning a bear hunt at the end of May, and the pack seemed perfect for the venture. But it would have to prove itself first.

Traverse X Coyote Brown

First Impression

The Traverse X is an attractive pack (I love the Coyote Brown color). Besides that, I appreciated the easy functionality the pack provides. Waist-belt and shoulder adjustments were quick and quiet, and I really liked the rubber-lined zipper loops. These loops save time and wear, and, when you’re hoofing it all day in the backcountry, the easy access to all pockets is a serious bonus. I also liked the two padded wing compartments. The padding was perfect for protecting my spotting scope and tripod. I also appreciated the expandable web pockets located inside the wings. I carry lots of gear, and these added pockets were ideal for stashing my rain gear, toiletries and first-aid kit. The pair of waist-belt pockets was also a nice feature. There is certain gear (camo face paint, headlamp, ChapStick, wind-detector powder, etc.) that I like to access quickly when I’m hiking. These pockets provide ample room for those items.

The simplicity of the pack’s pockets jumped out at me. I’m a fan of pockets, but only if those pockets are purposeful. Besides the waist-belt duo and the wing pockets, the pack boasts a single front pocket and a single main compartment. This is sure to make storing and accessing gear easy. Yes, there is a rain-cover pocket and a bow/rifle-holder pocket (more on these later), but these are not for storage.

How It Rides

I loaded the 6.2-pound pack down with all my bear-hunting essentials. The finished pack weight was 36.8 pounds. After adjusting the load to my liking on my shoulders and hips, I went for a five-mile walk in the hills. The pack’s molded-foam suspension proved comfortable, and I found I wasn’t having to constantly make adjustments to my straps to keep the ride comfortable. The pack rode quietly, and after five miles, I didn’t have a single spot on my body that was screaming in discomfort. I appreciated the dual aluminum stays — they offered great support. The bow/rifle pocket was also a bonus, and I was pleased that the pocket actually fit today’s modern-day (large) bottom cams. In addition, the included strap gave me the ability to cinch the pocket down tightly around my bottom cam. The riser slid nicely between the wings, and the compression straps kept it secure. The fact that the bow is further protected by the wings is a great design feature. And though I didn’t have to use it, the pack does include a rain cover, which can be your saving grace in the backcountry. Oh, and of course, the pack is water-compatible. The main compartment features a reservoir compartment, and the hose slips right out the top of the pack. The port is clearly marked.

Durability

I know, you can’t test the durability of a pack in a day. That’s why every day for a week I took my Alps Traverse X, loaded it with 25 pounds of rocks (I wasn’t doing this with my bear gear) and rolled it 50 feet down a hillside. Over the course of five days, I rolled the pack a total of 25 times. You’d never know I did it. In addition, I used my garden hose to make mud — lots of mud — and caked every zipper I could find. I let the mud dry and then used the zippers. It took a few runs to get the caked mud off, but not one zipper failed.

Yep, this pack is going bear hunting!