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Dana Design Astralplane Internal Frame Backpacks Review

Dana Design Astralplane


Description
7,000 cubic inches


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Reviews 1 - 5 (26 Reviews Total) | Next 5

Review Date
January 26, 2008

Overall Rating
 5 of 5

Value Rating
 5 of 5

Visitors rate this review
3.00 of 5, 4.00 votes

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Reviewed by: mkmhusr ,  Mountaineer

Summary:
I bought this pack used in 2000. It was made in Bozeman, MT before K2 puchased the company. It fits me perfectly when I utilize all of the "tricks" to snug the load up to my frame. In my opinion, 60lbs feels like 40lbs. It makes the weight of a lot of gear much more bearable than if I used a lesser pack. It is heavy, so I do not use it when I don't need its volume. However, for trips that include the wife carrying the kid and the husband carrying all of the gear, this pack is the ticket. For winter trips that include bulky gear and extra clothing, this pack is a great choice--even if you're on skis. For multi-week excursions, this pack will do all that you need it to. It has many options for carrying gear outside of the packbag if you somehow happen to fill it up. It compresses down well when the packbag is not full. I have never had a problem with sore hips or shoulders after a heavy, long hike--just sore legs which is to be expected. The pack is very durable for bushwhacking through trees and underbrush. I researched this pack for months before my purchase. To find a Bozeman-made pack used in near-perfect condition and in my size was amazing to me. I'm sure it will last me forever and I am grateful to own it. This pack is now made by Marmot, which was also purchased by K2. It has changed significantly and I would not buy a new one today. However, the brand Mystery Ranch was started by Dana Gleason, the man behind Dana Designs. I would highly recommend his big Mystery Ranch-7000ci pack. It is nearly the same pack as the Astralplane, but has some improvements. It's pricey, but worth it if you need it. It is made in Bozeman, MT just like Dana Designs used to be. It would be my pick today if I needed a monster pack. It is equivalent or better.

Customer Service:
Have not needed. Dana Design no longer exists, so I would have to seek out other help if I needed service.

Similar Products Used:
Dana Design Bombpack, Jack Wolfskin Joshua Tree III, Jack Wolfskin Chamonix, Marmot Eiger 36, Granite Gear Vapor Trail


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Review Date
July 11, 2005

Overall Rating
 2 of 5

Value Rating
 2 of 5

Visitors rate this review
3.67 of 5, 3.00 votes

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Reviewed by: Cosmic-tourist ,  Backpacker

Summary:
I was looking for a decent backpack having just come from a cheap backpack hell. My first pack, Wilderness equipment, was fantastic but was a travel pack not suited to trekking, whilst my second Khatmandu brand bent about 4 hours into a 2 week bushwalk. I read around (including the reviews on this site) for a pack that would do it all, including long distance back-country treks as well as carry a little extra for backpack travel, and I selected the Astral plane for what I thought was carrying capacity and quality. I thought a good pack would be worth the extra pennies. Since then Ive taken it for quite a few long trips over 2 years, in Australia, over to Europe as a backpacker and sludging around Yorkshire, as well as twice to India (once to Himalaya) and once to Nepal for Everest trek.
It certainly carries a whole lot, over 120 litres. Doesnt exactly encourage efficient packing, but thats not the packs fault. It was useful when trekking with my wife who is a whole lot lighter than I am and thoughtfully allowed me to carry her stuff. It carries reasonably well, although you do feel the extra weight.Mostly, the extra weight will slow you down even if it isnt torture.
The waist strap could be a lot better, and I never really felt that the belt was entirely doing its job.Due I think to its being so adjustable and removable,compromises the solidity one needs in a waist strap.Could be better designed.
The internal frame is excellent, and does provide a sturdy, predictable platform for your back.
The strapping is advertised as being very adjustable, so much so that it needs its own instruction manual. In fact its a pain in the right royal, because to get it right comes down to luck. Its also unreliable, like most complicated things, and a day or so into everest trek I found the Right strap padding no longer stayed onto the right strap, which made it exceptionally uncomfortable for a thin strap digging into my shoulder. THe velcro which held it in place no longer stuck, and the padding just fell away. Basically poor design, made it impossible to utilise the features of the webbing.
It is very nice to have a detachable top bag. You dont need to detach the hip belt to carry it, because then its a nightmare to replace the belt, adjust everything, get it right again. You can just get an ordinary shoulder strap and hook it up to the top bag and have a decent satchel. This particular feature should be copied by everyone on the planet.
Compression straps would be a whole lot better if they wrapped around the front and pulled the whole lot closer to the back instead of just bringing in the sides. This would make it more useful when carrying smaller loads.
The back pockets are nice, very large.
I think access to the guts of the pack is excellent, with top loading, two side zips and long back pockets. Trade off for all this is extra weight, but in a 120 litre pack a zip isnt going to make a lot of difference.
The fabric seems pretty resilient, although I managed to poke a hole in the (very comfortable) back padding.
In summary, an expensive disappointment. Too complicated to be reliable in a tough situation.Whilst it has a lot of attractive features which seem great in the shop or internet review, its not a pack I will trust for my next mountain trip.

Customer Service:
Havent tried, other side of the planet, you know?

Similar Products Used:
Wilderness equipment. Very good, clever design, extremely robust.Expensive.
Khatmandu make some great stuff, which gets stupidly cheap several times a year, but their backpacks are a disaster.


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Review Date
March 24, 2004

Overall Rating
 5 of 5

Value Rating
 4 of 5

Visitors rate this review
5.00 of 5, 4.00 votes

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Reviewed by: michaelgabriel ,  Backpacker

Summary:
My review and rating of this pack are independent of one another. My intent in REVIEWING the pack was to create a “perfect” pack as far as my preferences are concerned. I have RATED the pack relative to other expedition packs on the market. My value rating is based on a retail cost of $470I hope to shed more light on a pack that has almost become cliché as a result of its name.

I will not go into comfort or abrasion resistance or quality as my predecessors have fulfilled that wish of yours many times over. If you are concerned about Mexican workmanship (or soon-to-be Indonesian workmanship), please consider that so many of these 5 out of 5 reviews have been post Mexican manufacture, including mine. Dana still offers its lifetime warranty, which I must add I have yet to utilize.

Cons:

1) The complaint about weight is only partially justified. This is both the crux and beauty of the pack. Those that complain about the 7.75 pound weight will tell you in their next breath that the pack is comfortable as all get out carrying ridiculous loads and they would be comfortable with a rabid bear TRYING to eat their pack bag for brunch. When you mess around with 7000 cubic inches and two weeks of load hauling capabilities (notwithstanding D2 fabric), you mess around with more weight. The weight is a necessary evil. For those who want to cut ounces, look elsewhere. For those who do not want to worry about their hips, shoulders and back 11 days down the road with a 55 lb pack, keep reading.

2) Subjectively, I must say that the side access zippers, while functional in a perfect world, do not suit me. From my point of view, a properly compressed pack will need to be both uncompressed and recompressed after using side entry, thus defeating the ease of the side access zippers. Circumventing compression straps in front of the zippers further adds a bottleneck to the process. Pack readily needed items at the top of the main compartment, I say. When buying this pack, I will admit the side access zippers were a large selling point, but have used them oh-so sparingly over my last several trips that I would dare claim obsolescence (in my book).

3) The hydration pocket is located on the underside of the lid. Saddled up with a 70 oz. bag, this makes for clumsy entry into the top loader. I would prefer a hydration pocket on the reverse of the back panel so as not to have to hinge four additional pounds of water weight when I want to quickly access a fleece at the top of the main compartment. The lid is already a massive 1000 cubic inches and can be heavy in and of itself.

4) The side water bottle/wand pockets do not have elastic to hold Nalgene-type one liter bottles. While I think I know why Dana decided to nix the elastic (one fewer point of potential failure if caught on an errant branch or rock), I have had my water bottles fall out of these pockets on numerous occasions. My solution was to buy a Dana Design Wet Rib, and use one Nalgene (held at my abdomen), a hydration pack and an optional Nalgene Cantene (considering a second MSR hydromedary bag). While a small gripe in the larger scheme of things, I would prefer elastic wand pockets for increased hydration versatility. Conversely, the Wet Rib is so functional, I swap it onto other packs from other manufacturers if my trek is less than expedition-length.. It will fit any pack with ¾” or 1” shoulder straps.

Pros:

1) While they do not make the pack as slim as others (notably Osprey Crescent), the two large vertical pockets have made my packing capabilities so much easier and varying that I would not do without them. When I backpack, I want relatively easy access to small items. Most lids will fulfill this wish to a certain degree, but one will likely end up going in and out of a pack during intermittent rain storms or to simply retrieve a fresh pair of socks. I can use one pocket for all of my rain gear including my pack fly, and the other for practically all of my clothes (in the summer). I cannot stress enough the versatility these two large pockets has afforded me with respect to the compartmentalization of my pack.

2) The most important aspect I can say about this pack is the suspension. You can get a better hip belt from the Gregory Pro series of packs, a more rigid suspension from Arc’teryx Boras (4 vertical stays in total), or a more intriguing “recurve” suspension from Osprey Crescents, but in my humble opinion, the Arcflex design, as a whole, has not been trumped. While counterintuitive at first, the Astralplane uses just one vertical aluminum stay coupled with two flexible carbon fiber stays, allowing more comfort at greater weights. Because of a reduction in rigidity and more “flex” when loaded with enormous amounts of weight, the pack more tightly hugs one’s torso the more weight the individual wants to carry (hence, “Arcflex”). This flex is most apparent when carrying loads of greater than, say, 30 lbs. If you intend to carry weights under or around this unscientific cutoff, I don’t see a noteworthy difference amongst any of the beefier suspensions.

Please email me at mgabriel@umich.edu with any questions. Buy this pack at a discount--you can find last year’s model heavily discounted if you do your homework. Good luck. And Go Blue!

Customer Service:
N/A

Similar Products Used:
Gregory Robson Pro, Arc'teryx Bora line, Dana Design Swiftcurrent, Gregory Reality


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Review Date
May 22, 2003

Overall Rating
 5 of 5

Value Rating
 5 of 5

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Reviewed by: motiga ,  Backpacker , from Ann Arbor, MI

Summary:
While recently in Atlanta I visited the local REI to browse. Imagine my surprise when I looked at the classifieds board and saw a Bozeman Montana made Astralplane in my size (M frame harness and belt) for $175! I crossed my fingers and called my future new best friend to see if it was still available. It was, but the owner lived in Warner Robbins, Ga, which is about 2 hours south of Atlanta. Luckily I was going to FL in a couple of days and would pass right through WR. I showed up, money was exchanged and I ended up with a brand new Dana Designs bakpack and rainfly for $175. It was bigger than I thought it would be, but I figured with the compression system I could shrink a big pack down to fit my stuff. I put all of my backpacking gear, plus an inflatable kayak, paddles and PFD (60 lbs total) inside and starting playing with the suspension. Over the course of the next 4 days I traveled to Ocala National Forest, Osceola State Park and Anclote State Rec. area constantly adjusting the pack. I must have bent the stay a total of 20-25 times trying to get it just right. After much adjusting of the stay and the hipbelt I got a good fit. The key for me was that the hipbelt had to go at the very bottom of the pack and then ride relatively high on my hip-bones. I don't know why but with this arrangement and the stay bent to trace the curve of my strangely shaped back it fits very nicely. The pockets on the front are great and the top lid (HUGE!) with the hip-belt makes one of the most comfortable lumbar systems I have ever worn. I was absolutely stunned at how comfortably this thing carried a heavy load. Interestingly, I have owned several Dana's previously (most recently an Alpine LTW from Northern Mountain Supply) and ended up getting rid of each one b/c of fit issues (hurt my back). I guess my stubborness with this one finally paid off. I was determined to make it work because of the great price. This coupled with my recent purchase of a Jack Wolfskin Mistral 2 tent ($100) are the best gear purchases I have made. I think I might be set for life.

Customer Service:
Requested clips and they showed up in less than a week.

Similar Products Used:
Osprey Xenith, Lowe Contour IV, Mountainsmith Frostfire III and various other models


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Review Date
May 17, 2003

Overall Rating
 5 of 5

Value Rating
 5 of 5

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Reviewed by: Clanner ,  Backpacker

Summary:
Best pack I have ever seen. Easily outperforms similar packs in the loadmaster category. This pack fits like a dream. The top opening is a black hole. No matter how much you put in it, it can allways carry more.

Customer Service:
Who needs customer service with a bombproof pack like the Astraplane.


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Reviews 1 - 5 (26 Reviews Total) | Next 5

Review Options:  Sorted by Latest Review | Sort by Best Rating  | View All