Frost River Grand Portage Pack - Gear Review

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

When you are looking for gear that will stand the test of time, it often pays to look around and see what has survived from "the good ole days".  Wooden paddles, cast iron cookware and canvas canoe packs have all been around for a LONG time, and odds are they will be in the future.  If you want a pack your grand kids will use one day, Frost River makes some of the best.  Based in Duluth Minnesota, Frost River is quickly capturing market share and a very loyal following in a highly competative market with a ton of history.  Increased popularity and sales have inspired a move, factory upgrade and the addition of new staff.  Check out the local news story covering the big move HERE...

For our recent venture into the Boundary Waters I had the privilege of testing out the Grand Portage Canoe Pack.  This cavernous pack looks and feels every bit the part of a turn of the century craftsmanship, until you put it on.  Once loaded and strapped to your back, you know just how well thought out this pack is.  A perfect blend of vintage materials with modern pack features.  The incredibly comfortable padded shoulder straps, which come standard on all Frost River Canoe Packs, make the simple leather straps of their competitor's bags seem like a torture device.  Add in a tumpline, waist belt, shock-cord and D-rings and you can secure and carry even the most ridiculous loads.(by-the-way, those all come standard as well!)

Admittedly, I can't speak on the longevity of this bag having only half a season to judge, but I am not gentle on my gear and this bag doesn't have a scratch.  Once home and unpacked, I was unable to find a broken stitch or a loose rivet anywhere.  At some point on our journey out of the BWCA the sheath on my hatchet came off and the blade was in direct contact with the canvas; no holes, no tears.  You can't get that kind of durability in most modern materials.  The four-way fold over design of the top flaps create a barrier against the elements and make the pack easy to load with a wide range of gear volume potential.  

I love the classic design and unrivaled ruggedness of this bag.  It may not have 50 little pockets for each chap stick and spork on your list, but in my opinion that's a good thing.  Less is more in the back-country.  My one request would be for a pad on the attachment point of the shoulder straps at the top of the pack.  Once I had the pack seated the way I wanted it I had an unavoidable rub, not terrible but annoying.

Taking advantage of the fashion world's current obsession with Americana, Frost River and Woolrich have teamed up to create a line of amazing wool packs.  Check out coverage of this project by

Size:  21" x 22" x 9" box design... or about 68 Liters, but you can push it closer to 75 if overloaded....

MSRP: $260

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