If you're reading this The North Face Trail Lite Backpack review because you need a comfortable hiking backpack that can hold a bunch of gear without weighing you down, I have good news for you: you came to the right place. I've been using this backpack for a variety of excursions in the last few weeks, and not once have I thought, "Man, I wish I bought a different bag on this trip!"
Launched as part of the new The North Face Technical Hike Collection, the Trail Lite Backpack is one of the best hiking backpacks, not just from The North Face but also in general. Considering the storage space it provides, it's super lightweight and is equipped with what feels like thousands of pockets and crevices to organise your gear and others.
On a recent trip, I went to Cheddar Gorge, and I sank a backpacking tent, a lightweight sleeping bag, a camping mat, snacks, a hiking water bottle and my accessories in the bag without an issue. Not just that, but I also managed to access all my stuff easily – no small feat! Read on to explore why The North Face Trail Lite Backpack should be on top of your gear wishlist.
(First reviewed May 2023)
The North Face Trail Lite Backpack review: price and availability
The North Face Trail Lite 65 Backpack was launched in April 2023 and is available to buy now directly from The North Face UK and The North Face US for a recommended retail price of £240/$240. It's available in two sizes (Small/Medium and Large/Extra Large) and two colours, Deep Grass Green-Asphalt Grey and TNF Black-Asphalt Grey.
I tested the Large/Extra Large version in the Deep Grass Green-Asphalt Grey colourway; however, there is a smaller, 50-litre version of the bag, too, which is slightly cheaper. It comes in only one colour, but it's the same fro a features point of view.
The North Face Trail Lite Backpack review: specs
- Capacity: 50L/65L
- Waterproof: 210D recycled nylon Ripstop with non-PFC Durable Water-Repellent (Non-PFC DWR) finish
- Weight (65L, L/XL): 1,800g/63.5oz
- Dimensions (65L): 65 x 33.5 x 30 cm/25.5 x 13 x 11.8 in
- Stays: Aluminium
- Hip belt and sternum strap
- Daisy chain webbing
- Removable top lid
The North Face Trail Lite Backpack review: features and ergonomics
The North Face Trail Lite Backpack features a large, well-padded hip belt with dual-density foam for added comfort. It has two zip pockets, one on each side, which I found immensely useful for storing snacks and small accessories I needed immediate access. These are big enough to house a smartphone and other bits in each pocket.
The shoulder straps are equally as comfortable, and thanks to the OPTIFIT height-adjuting system, they are always at the right angle, no matter how tall you are. The back panel has massive vents/crevices to allow airflow between the bag and your back.
On the outside of the bag, you'll find multiple pockets on the pack as well as daisy chain webbing, compression straps, trekking-pole carry, and more. Two oversized stretch side pockets on the side easily fit larger water bottles, and another external stuff-it pocket at the front of the bag that fits large items. The detachable top lid has zipped pockets both at the top and under the lid, too.
The main compartment of The North Face Trail Lite Backpack can be accessed through the cinch-top opening and the zipped bottom pocket. This latter opening is also the dedicated sleeping bag compartment; however, the divider can be unclipped inside the bag, allowing you to use the main space uninterrupted.
The North Face Trail Lite Backpack review: performance
I took the bag on multiple hikes with my partner, carrying most of our gear in The North Face Trail Lite Backpack. I'm yet to take it on a multi-day hike, but my initial impressions, based on a few trips that took us a few hours each, I'm happy with the comfort and ergonomics of the bag.
I travel light and carry only the essentials with me. Even so, I prefer to organise my kit well, so I can access everything easily (I published an article about this on our sister site Advnture), which was more than possible using the many compartments of the Trail Lite Backpack.
I like to carry loads of water with me when I hike, just in case, and I like that water to be chilly, so I use the 1-litre CamelBak Chute Mag Insulated Bottle (external link), which isn't small, yet I was able to hide it almost completely in one of the side pockets of the bag.
I appreciate that designers need to place so many straps on hiking backpacks, especially on technical gear such as The North Face Trail Lite Backpack, but I don't like them dangling around when I hike. Initially, I found the hip belt fasteners annoying for this reason, until I realised you can tuck them away in the invisible pockets behind the zipped pockets.
Speaking of these pockets: I just loved them. They are the perfect size and right where you want them. I hid my phone, snacks and other little bits in them, knowing they'd be ready when I needed them. Better still, since the bag has a DWR finish, I didn't need to stash the rain cover in these pockets on a just-in-case basis, allowing me to fill them with other essentials.
Considering the size of the bag, I was surprised at how light it felt on my shoulder. We hiked some seriously muddy trails, having to bend over to keep my balance, but the Trail Lite Backpack stayed put on my back, no matter how twisted I got. As a matter of fact, it helped me better balance myself, which is impressive for such a sizeable backpack.
The North Face Trail Lite Backpack review: verdict
My only regret about The North Face Trail Lite Backpack is that I didn't get to use it sooner. It's the ideal size for an overnight hike for two people (if they're happy to travel light) or one person who likes to take everything with them when they're out and about.
Thanks to the many pockets and compartments, you can keep all your trail equipment organised regardless of their size. Large bits can go in the main compartment and the stuff pockets on the outside, while smaller items can be hidden away in the zipped pockets found on the top lid and the hip belt.
You won't have to worry about the bag getting wet, either, thanks to the DWR finish that can withstand light showers and some rain (I had the 'pleasure' of testing this feature on my hikes).
And while you might expect a large hiking backpack with so many pockets to feel uncomfortable the more you wear it, I experienced no discomfort at all while using The North Face Trail Lite Backpack. The adjustable back panel, the dual-density foam around the hip belt and the soft and supportive shoulder straps ensure you'll never want to put the bag down ever again.
The North Face Trail Lite Backpack review: also consider
The Osprey Talon 55 is a lightweight, supportive and very comfortable bag. It’s an excellent choice for multi-day hiking and camping trips. It packs down relatively well, too, thanks to the detachable lid and multi-point compression straps, making it a good option for weekend exertions. However, it's not quite as versatile or sleek as the Trail Lite Backpack. Read Andy's full Osprey Talon 55 review.
If you're looking for something smaller, try the Vaude Brenta 24. It's a day pack that boasts features you'd usually only find on bigger backpacks, like the innovative back design that delivers great ventilation. The fit is comfortable and adjustable, and there are plenty of useful pockets for organisation. It's overkill for casual use but excellent for hiking. Read Ruth's full Vaude Brenta hiking backpack review.