Monday, October 29, 2012

Gear Closet: Sierra Designs Rohn 15 Backpack

Sierra Designs is one of those outdoor companies that makes so many great products that you sometimes lose track of everything in their catalog. For more than 40 years they have been producing tents, sleeping bags, clothing and much more. They also make a line of backpacks that are versatile enough for a variety of outdoor activities but also have features that make them the perfect choice for specific sports such as mountain biking or climbing. In the case of their  Rohn 15 pack, we have a bag that definitely fits into the "jack-of-all-trades" category. This is small, yet comfortable pack that will serve outdoor enthusiasts well no matter where their day take them.

As the name implies, the Rohn 15 is a 15-liter pack, but don't let that size fool you. This bag feels like it is much larger than that number implies, at least when you're putting all of your gear inside. Part of the reason the Rohn feels bigger is due to all of the pockets, compartments and other storage options that have been integrated into the design. It's spacious internal pocket has plenty of space, but also provides access to the hydration sleeve and a specially designed pocket that is specifically for a GPS or two-way radio. Two mesh organizational pockets, complete with velcro seals, line the wall of the internal pocket, giving you a great place to store small items that you don't ever want to search for. Externally the pack has a nicely sized security pocket that contains a key clip and provides even more storage space. Two stretch side pockets and two additional zippered pockets on the hip belt round out the choices.

Storage capacity aside, the first thing I noticed about the Rohn pack was the ventilation system that Sierra Designs has engineered to keep us cool while wearing it. The backpanel is made out of durable and rigid plastic with a series of thick pads running along its length. The system allows for ample air flow, which was more then welcome while using this pack in the Texas summer heat. While no ventilation system is perfect, this is one of the best I've come across in such a small pack and Sierra Designs should be commended for how well it works. Those back pads also help to make this pack comfortable to wear, even while carrying a heavy load, which gives this daypack a an overall level of comfort that you'll find tough to be beat.


Made from 100D Cordura fabrics, the pack is light weight yet feels very solid and durable. During my testing I didn't encounter any tearing or scuffing at all, which bodes well for the longterm lifespan of the pack. Similarly, the belts, straps, zippers and buckles – one of which contains a built-in safety whistle – all have a very solid feel to them, although I did find the top zipper would occasionally work its way open while hiking. It never opened up enough that I was concerned about losing contents, but a sudden rains storm could have caused problems for the items I had stored inside.

At the beginning of this review I mentioned that Sierra Design packs are known for being versatile and the Rohn is no exception. While I put it through its paces on several day hikes, I also found that it worked well for mountain biking too. It is larger than a lot of mountain biking specific packs, but I appreciated that it could carry more water and gear. The fact that it also has an attachment point for a safety light was also a much appreciated addition.

My only real complaint with the Rohn 15 is that while it is hydration ready, it doesn't come with a water bladder. While I happen to have a number of bladders sitting around my place, I imagine many typical consumers don't. Not including it with the pack adds an extra expense, but I suspect that Sierra Designs made the choice in order to get the price of the Rohn as affordable as possible. I'd say they succeeded in that regard, as this pack costs just $99.95, which is a pretty great price for a bag of this quality and features.

If you're in the market for a versatile and comfortable new pack for all of your outdoor needs, and you don't want to kill your wallet in the process, then I think you'll find the Sierra Designs Rohn 15 is a fantastic option.


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