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Featured Alps Freighter Frame + Pack Bag (Review)

Discussion in 'Backpacks & Pouches' started by James Meadowlark, Feb 15, 2017.

  1. James Meadowlark

    James Meadowlark Hungry for Knowledge
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    So I’m going to talk about the ALPS OutdoorZ Commander freighter frame here. I searched, but didn’t find an existing thread, so please feel free to delete, mods, if one exists.

    I got this sucker a little while ago, and thought I’d share a few of the pros and cons, after a five day trip into the woods.. Again- I’m not a traveler, mostly a primitive camping enthusiast that stumbled upon this great STP website and am very appreciative for all of the great info I’ve found here (although I AWAYS kick-down to travelers and always pick up hitch-hikers when I can, having done my share of thumbing when I was a young man). Thought I’d share again. I will say for the record that STP is one of the most underrated camping resources on the interwebz.

    I’ve been looking into an endurance pack that, as an ultra-light camping enthusiast, would allow me to carry (at optimum configuration) weeks and weeks of equipment and supplies, and I came across the ALPS Commander Z.

    So first of all, it’s important to understand this backpack is designed for hunters, and is composed of two pieces- An external frame with some webbing, and a pack that is attached to the aforementioned external frame by way of a collection of pretty awkward (as received in the mail) pins. That’s why it’s a “freighter” frame- you can carry very heavy loads with it, be it the bag or your game.. I’ve read that the theory behind the bag is that you pack everything you need for a long stretch of wilderness survival and camping in with you in the attached pack, then detach your bag, bedroll, tent, cookset and anything else you’ve clipped on- at your campsite, and take the frame alone with you when you go kill a deer or elk or whatever else proves your manhood, the external frame being the transportation for the very heavy slabs o’ meat you butcher in the field. Not personally into this, but based on my first adventure with this pack I’d say if that’s your intention, it works. If it’s not your intention, it also works- There’s a built in rifle-sling that I didn’t use for carrying a rifle, but put to great use otherwise, so that piece shouldn’t deter you.

    Pros:

    • The bag that’s attached is HUGE- Holds 88 liters of gear or 5200+ cubic inches not including what you lash to the top, sides or store on the “shelf” that folds down presumably to hold the carcass of whatever beast you managed to kill- In my case held a tent (thanks to Matt D. for the Eureka Solitaire rec) & drop-cloth (I scavenged Tyvex housewrap I got for free- Thank you again STP for the protip!). This is a pretty big effing bag. Sleeping bag was lashed to the top, and I attached other items with zip ties and caribiners on the loops on the sides.

    • Actually really light itself/unloaded- Even with the frame (height adjustable) and the really nice waist/belt thing that’s padded very nicely, and you can cinch everything down just right so it feels comfy for walking.. The chest-strap is also great and adjustable. Even loaded, the ergonomics were pretty nice.

    • The “guns and ammo” pouches actually worked out really well even though I carried neither. Compass, tinder, airplane booze-bottles, and small things like the hotel soaps I save, and tiny bottles of cooking oil, spices etc. fit like a glove. I shoved a few extra batteries in, and the slim but deep “spotting scope” pouch was great for a lamp I carry sometimes plus a friction-powered radio and a couple of other longer items. Again- This rig was designed for hunters who trek to the hinterlands, so if that’s not you, you’ll have to get a little creative with the packing of your gear.

    • There’s a smaller pouch/bag near the base of the backpack where you can keep things you need to have handy close.. The coolest thing about this is that there’s a pass-through when you reach in deep enough that takes you to the bottom of the larger backpack. I’m a big first-aid believer, and probably have an excessive kit, but this is where I keep my medical gear. 838872. 814XJ7Yuw2L._AC_UL320_SR188,320_.

    Cons:

    • Price: Over $100. Maybe $130. It costs a lot, no question, but maybe there might be a good used example on ebay that’s cheaper.

    • External frame- From what I’ve learned here, external frames are great for walking with heavy loads over distance and carrying lots of accessories- At the same time, it seems they are very bad news for getting on and off of trains, and can sometimes be cumbersome for hitching. I can’t imagine trying to throw this thing (loaded) up into a grainer, and so if you are always on the go and minimalist, this bag is not for you. It’s just not- It is very large.

    • There’s a pocket for a water bladder like a camel-back, etc. I own a platypus two liter rig, but generally don’t use it for serious camping and honestly that pocket in this bag frustrates me- I’ve been using it to hold trail maps I’ve printed from the internet, atlases, or any other paper-thin things I’m carrying like journals etc. It’s a pain in the azz to access.. If you use a water bladder with a drinking tube, this could work for you tho.

    • The pins that hold the pack to the frame are a huge pain in the azz with these little keychain loops of steel holding them in, but they work when you get them right.. Since I’m not using this pack for the intended purpose (hunting and carrying 300 pounds of freshly killed beast back to camp), I had to reset them just once, and if they hold I should be set, but the factory set up was less than ideal, and I had to fix it, and added a zip-tie here and there for good measure, and it seems solid. I also think if you were to lose a pin or two in the field, you might be in trouble with this bag, and they are pretty small, so don’t attempt to change the configuration of this bag in anything other than total daylight..
    I’m hoping I can log a ton more days camping with this rig this year, and perhaps will post a follow-up. I know it’s not cheap gear, but if you happen to have an opportunity, just thought it might be something the site members could check out. Of course I’m not on any kind of promotional deal, just always look for good gear, and since I joined this site thought I should share.

    I will say, if the zombie apocalypse ever happens, I’m stuffing this mother full! I

    Kind regards,

    JM

    Amazon Link:
     

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    #1 James Meadowlark, Feb 15, 2017
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 18, 2017
  2. cantcureherpes

    cantcureherpes Completely Addicted
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    holy shit 88 liters plus the top and shelf at the bottom you could haul a fucking vw bug on that thing! 130 bucks is actually a really decent price for a nice pack my only gripe with it(and i dont have one im just going by my past experience with packs) is that i dont carry around enough gear to fill out 88 liters of space and i find it uncomfortable to have a empty floppy pack it usually ends up making me walk weird to adjust and i end up with a soar back because of it. as for the external frame i have a old 80's pack that iv used for day/weekend camping trips and i love it, but for long term always on the move im 100% for a internal frame just for the convience of being able to toss it around easier and make it fit into tighter spaces then i could with a big bulky frame getting in the way.

    all that said though i do like having side pockets on my pack for easy access to small items and what not without having to dig around in the main compartment. i agree with you on not being a big fan of the water bladder area as i use nalgenes/water jugs attached with a carabiner. ive just found water bladders a pain to keep clean/not moldy and grody as fuck.

    but for around 130 ide say thats a steal for this pack.
     
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  3. Kim Chee

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    Nice pack, a little big for me when I was traveling but for some they like to haul around everything so it would probably work for them well.

    What has been said about external frame packs and trains is true:
    They don't mix.
     
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  4. Grubblin

    Grubblin Celebrated Poster

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    I think the 130 is just for the frame part w/ straps, at least it was when I bought one. The soft pack part of the set up is an additional cost. Someone correct me if I'm wrong.
     
  5. OP
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    James Meadowlark

    James Meadowlark Hungry for Knowledge
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    I got the whole shebang for $130 on amazon.. Maybe I scored a sweet deal?
     
  6. FrumpyWatkins

    FrumpyWatkins Sir Posts a Lot

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    Why is the price of this so low compared to other brands bags?

    Obviously you pay for a name brand pack, but were talking 3 or 4 times more for something so massive. A 65 liter Osprey is like 400ish.
     
  7. Grubblin

    Grubblin Celebrated Poster

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    You definitely scored a deal. I bought mine retail about three years ago and just the frame was somewhere from 110 to 130. It's a good frame but it's not name brand so the yuppie hiking crowd can't impress their friends with their new$500 Arc Teryx. That's the price difference I think.
     
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  8. Kuchi Kopi

    Kuchi Kopi Hungry for Knowledge

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    Sweet post, really well written. Looked that bad boy up on amazon, that's super cheap. It's massive, but but it was intriguing on the whole "camping for weeks" idea. It's 7.3 lbs apparently, kinda trying to wrap my head around that. Seems like an okay weight for someone closer to 6ft. For the money and purpose that would be perfect IMO. Being 5 foot 5 I could just ride in it. like, a master blaster situation.
     
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  9. OP
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    James Meadowlark

    James Meadowlark Hungry for Knowledge
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    Maybe that's it... I have some price sensitivity, so never really looked at bags that run $4-500 range, since I do camp a fair amount, I'm not spending half the year on the road/trail or trying to climb K2 - so I like to try to find things that seem to be a good deal and are sub-$200. So I'm not sure maybe there's a difference in durability? I've not tried one of the high end bags, so I have no basis upon which to compare this bag. I have to say that this one seems pretty well put together, but I've only really put it out there for five days- To me the quality seems pretty good.
     
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  10. Matt Derrick

    Matt Derrick StP Founder, Admin, and travel addict
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    Just for reference, I got my Osprey Farpoint 70 for $130 (70 liter bag, opens like a suitcase, it's great) although on amazon right now it's $170-200.

    @James Meadowlark awesome review man, i'm adding this to our featured threads page, and I edited the title just slightly and added a link to the item on amazon.

    I'm thinking of creating a reviews section of the site for stuff like this, so that might happen in the nearish future. i think this would be a great addition to that section.
     
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    #10 Matt Derrick, Feb 18, 2017
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  11. pewpew

    pewpew Appreciated Participator

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    That would be awesome considering the reviews on Amazon would be mostly of people who only use these type of packs a few times a year when they go camping. Would be nice to see more reviews on how durable they are when outdoors basically 24/7 using it. I can send ya a review on my Teton Fox 5200 I've been using for 3 years now.

    But yeah nice pack and you definitely got a steal, check Amazon and seen you can buy the frame for 130 but you can get the whole thing for around 300 which still is a good deal considering it's an external frame. How much weight do you usually carry in it?
     
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  12. FrumpyWatkins

    FrumpyWatkins Sir Posts a Lot

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    Yeah you are right the atmos is down to 260 online...their instore price is def higher.
     
  13. tacopirate

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    I hear you on the packs varying in price. I had a sweet Osprey that I boosted from REI in PDX but someone stole it (karma, eh). I think it retailed for around $450 but honestly, it was a piece of shit. I really like this pack, and I'm 6'2" 200lbs so I could easily carry it. Could I find enough crap to fill it? Not likely....
    Nice write-up though!! Still one hell of a deal...
     
  14. FrumpyWatkins

    FrumpyWatkins Sir Posts a Lot

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    The only selling point on ospreys is you can send them in to be repaired you just have to pay shipping. The zippers break all the time which pisses me off.