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The North Face Skareb 50 Backpack

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The Skareb 50 backpack from The North Face is touted as the “ultimate pack for fast-packing.” As it sounds, “fast-packing” is a term for backpacking fast with lighter loads and often covering distances of 15 or more miles in a day.

I tested the unique and lightweight Skareb 50 on a recent three-day “fast-packing” backpacking trip in the Catskill Mountains of New York. We trekked more than 17 miles one day, including the ascent of four major peaks.

Loaded with about 25 pounds of gear, food, and water, the Skareb carried well and proved to be almost perfect for the weekend.

The North Face Skareb 50 Backpack

Made of a light and durable white “parachute fabric,” the Skareb weighs about three pounds when empty. It has 50 liters of interior capacity — enough for multi-day trips if you go light.

An injection-molded EVA foam back panel has channels to let air flow between your back and the pack’s load, increasing comfort. A tubular aluminum interior frame supports loads up to 45 pounds.

The hip belt and lumbar panel are molded to be ergonomic. Mesh fabric over a soft corrugated foam makes these parts comfortable and not overly warm while on the go.

It rained throughout my weekend in New York. But with its water-resistant fabric and a “weather-resistant” hood-compartment zipper, my supplies stayed dry inside the Skareb. (I keep essentials at all times in lightweight waterproof bags inside any pack, just in case.)

The Skareb has the requisite hydration-bladder pocket and a pouch on the hip belt for quick access to energy snacks and small items like lip balm or a compass. A large front pocket on the main compartment is made of a stretchy fabric, letting you drop items in without having to deal with a zipper or clips. I stuffed a water bottle and rain gear in that area for easy access on the hike.

The company includes trekking pole loops on back as well as a trekking pole attachment point on the hip belt. Instead of the attachment point, I would have preferred another hip-belt pocket for an added easy-to-access area on the pack.

One potential point of concern: After just one trip, the Skareb’s bright white fabric was dirty and stained. Some of the markings came off with the scrub of a wet towel, through the pack is marred in a few places with light smudges where dirt or sap still clings.

The North Face (www.thenorthface.com) sells the Skareb 50 for $219, which is an average price for this type of pack. Overall, the Skareb proved a worthy companion for me on the trail. It was comfortable with a load and simple to organize for my “fast-packing” adventure in the Catskill Mountains.

—Stephen Regenold writes about outdoors gear at www.gearjunkie.com.

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