I got The North Face Alteo 35 backpack late last year as sort of replacement for my old TNF Jester daypack, which, although still very much in mint condition, wasn’t as comfortable as before. Don’t get me wrong—the TNF Jester is a fantastic bag and it’s still the most comfortable daypack I’ve used. Let’s just say what I pack in just outgrew its carrying capacity.
In came The North Face Alteo 35, a 35-liter rucksack made for multi-day trips and probably one or two-day climbs (although don’t bet on my word for the latter because I am no mountaineer and I haven’t gone trekking a mountain with this yet). For trekking enthusiasts who may have landed on this page looking for a definitive review of the Alteo, I apologize in advance for my limited know-how. To make it a little easier for all of us, I’m reviewing the bag as a multi-day traveling pack. Hope it becomes helpful all the same.
THE NORTH FACE ALTEO 35: WHO IS IT FOR?
The TNF Alteo 35 is great for backpackers on trips no shorter than a week. I daresay it’s ideal for month-long travels too if and only if you know how to pack right—and by packing right, I mean packing light. And if I may add, which I’ll explain a little later, the TNF Alteo 35 is also perfect for people with small frames. Yep, people like me. PAK.
I am all of 5’1″ folks, so its fit is just right, right?
As you can see, apart from it being a huge financial predicament (darnit), it also hasn’t been used (and abused) that much. Others may even argue that’s no proper way to use a backpack at all.
But for all it’s worth, The North Face Alteo 35 has so far been serving my travel needs very well. When Owen and I travel together for short periods (like three days), we simply stuff this with all our things (two sets of DSLRs included, plus tripod at the bottom) and we’re good to go. Owen has been thinking of getting one since I got mine—probably a 50L—but we figured we wouldn’t need one yet until the latter half of this year.
I initially wanted the good ol’ TNF Terra 35, which by the way comes in more colors than the Alteo (so far I’ve only seen a pure black and an orange-gray Alteo at ROX BGC & John Hay). For those who are trying to decide which between the Terra 35 and Alteo 35 is better, here’s a quick comparison. You’ll notice that I’ll also be discussing much of the Alteo’s key features along the way.
These are Alteo 35 models apparently available only at the European market. Left & middle photo from here. Right photo—which shows how a hydration pack & tube are fitted inside—from here.
Both had the usual padded shoulder straps and hipbelt, but Alteo’s hipbelt is a bit wider, hugging the hips better and providing better support, methinks.
The Terra 35 is narrower and longer than the Alteo. When I tried the Terra, it was level with the top of my head while the Alteo was just a bit over my shoulder. The Alteo also looks a bit wider, which is most likely how they compensated for the reduction in height. I think this worked better in distributing weight to the lower part of the body instead of the shoulders. Then again, that may just be me and my wild imagination.
The Alteo is made mostly of nylon so it’s bound to be more resistant against dirt, moisture, and odor than the polyester fabric of the Terra. If any, the Alteo looks way easier to dust off.
The defining feature of the Alteo 35 is the WindTunnel—basically a plate fitted at the back of the pack that’s arcing away from the wearer’s back towards the bottom. This creates a void between the bag itself and the wearer, separated by a mesh sheath designed to ventilate the back portion better than most backpacks do. It’s a genius! I’ve never had a sweatfest while using this, even when I had to walk all around Kalibo during the Ati-Atihan a few months ago because we didn’t have a place to leave our bags to.
A backpack with a built-in electric fan — well, sort of. I love this feature!
The back portion has mesh outer covers, letting air circulate better. There’s also a whistle on the buckle for emergencies. Very nifty.
OTHER ALTEO 35 FEATURES
Aside from the top drawstring opening, its front face access opens two ways so it’s easier to reach to the darkest pits of the bag without unpacking the living hell out of it.
POCKETS, POCKETS EVERYWHERE
It has two big elasticated side pockets for water bottles; another long pocket outside where I usually pack my slippers for easy access (shown below); a zipped mesh pocket on the inside (shown above); and a space for a hydration pack on the opposite side (the orange compartment above).
Climbers will be delighted to find out that it also has a nearly obscure hole at the top right portion through which they can slip hydration tubes. The hipbelt also doubles as a mesh pocket, which I find very handy for holding my passport, pen, notebook, phone, and loose change. A compact camera can also fit inside. There’s also another compartment on top of the flap where you can keep documents and other small stuff you might need in transit. You can also slip in a sleeping bag or tripod at the bottom part.
The plate arcing farther from the back does look like it’s sacrificing a lot of space inside. I carry an 11-inch laptop which I stuff above the area where it arcs since it won’t fit at the bottom. It’s all good for my ends, though I’m not so sure how well that space can carry bigger ones.
Here’s a sample I’m working on for a weeklong trip to Bicol this weekend. Everything you see here is pretty much all I’m carrying with me.
The two biggest cases (clothes + camera) go right at the bottom. You’ll notice that area where the plate arcs, which makes fitting rigid stuff rather difficult.
Stuffed pretty much everything inside. The laptop is just below the drybag and everything else.
As you can see I still have lots of space left.
It’s a big backpack so be prepared to part with it if you’re in cramped buses. Best solution to this is to anticipate your transport means and leave it at the bus compartment if you keep your valuables in a separate (and smaller) bag.
WHAT I LOVE BEST ABOUT THE NORTH FACE ALTEO 35:
I love how well it distributes the weight into the hips and away from the shoulders. I easily get shoulder strains which is why I gave up on the Jester. This is a gap that the Alteo has filled in really well. I could actually stuff the whole bag full and feel the weight disappear as I buckle the hipbelt in place.
I also love that I can simply let the shoulder straps loosely dangle from my shoulders as I walk because the whole pack’s weight is absorbed by my lower body. Walking for longer periods while lugging everything is definitely easier and breezier.
Of course, having to carry that load after a few hours does get to you somehow. After all, the hips and knees are bearing much of the brunt here, but at least it doesn’t strain all the unnecessary parts. Overall I really love my Alteo 35. It’s a bag for keeps, unless I decide to be taller later on and hence carry a 50-liter pack, which isn’t going to happen in maybe a million lifetimes.