Few wilderness backpacks have gained the notoriety of the Arc’teryx Altra 65. Now discontinued and a “unicorn” to hunt down, the Altra 65 has near mythological performance on the trail.

Check out our complete review of this backpack, including pros and cons, features and performance. If you’re lucky enough to snag one of these packs, make sure that you hang onto it!

Pros and Cons of the Altra 65 

One of the major cons of the Altra 65 that users are first to complain about is the retail price. When available on the open market, this pack retailed for a whopping $475, although you can most likely find it for less now secondhand or from independent sellers.

Overwhelmingly users have balked at the price tag, but once they dive in and purchase the consensus is the price tag is well worth it. The extended use and convenience backpackers get out of the bag is a primary reason why.

Another curious con that drove some users to distraction and the point of ultimate return was a persistent squeaking coming from either the disc on the hip belt or the rubberized lugs holding the shoulder straps into place.

Arc’teryx provides lubricant with each pack to combat this, but many said it was not enough and returned the bag. Interestingly enough, users that stuck with the pack and powered through the annoyance found that it disappeared after a few miles of hiking, never to return. We assume this is somewhat similar to breaking in hiking boots or gear, and again users that were able to ride out this minor annoyance found the pack worth it in the end. 

The list of pros for the Altra 65 is miles longer than its list of cons. The pack features several thoughtfully engineered pockets, durable zippers, daisy chains and straps to easily attach non-packable items

Nicknamed the “packrats pack”, this backpack stores tons of equipment and personal items while keeping the weight distributed evenly through it’s shoulder fittings and hip belt.

Fit and Weight

REI described this pack as a heavy weight even though it’s main claim to fame was the lightweight qualities when the weight distributing system was in use. The pack itself weighs about 5 pounds, but the pack can easily boast up to 50 pounds of weight while still remaining easy to carry  for the wearer.

As mentioned, the reason for this is the weight distribution through the adjustable shoulder straps and hip belt. The shoulder straps use a grid of slots that are plugged into with lugs to get a close-to-exact fit on wearers. Since the straps are customizable, the pack can be passed easily to other travelers to have a turn at different points of your journey.

The disc on the hip belt also helps distribute the weight of the pack, and many users felt this afforded them real, unhampered movement and convenience. After trying this pack with its hip belt, you’ll never want another without the accessory!

The Altra 65 is designed as a mens backpack, but women can use it as long as they fit within the torso/hip frame. It comes in a Short/ Regular size and a Regular/ Tall Size, with the following dimensions:

  • Short/ Regular:  Torso- 16-20 inches and Hip Belt Fit- 32-37 inches
  • Regular/ Tall: Torso- 19-22.5 inches and Hip Belt Fit 31-36 inches

The Altra 62 is the female counterpart to this pack, which has a slightly smaller shoulder spread, shorter torso and a more tailored fit to a woman’s physique.

Appearance and Function

The Altra 65 is available in two colors- the Iron Oxide, a rich burnt red-orange color, or the charcoal grey and black Carbon Copy. The material of the pack is smooth, lightweight and durable. A major plus of this pack is even when carrying it for a long period of time, your back won’t be drenched with sweat as the pack design and material encourages airflow.

The pack also features thoughtfully constructed pockets that open at a slight angle to keep contents from tumbling out. The zippers are durable and heavy, and the main body of the pack features a large U-shaped zipper that allows you to open the pack from top to bottom like a suitcase.

No more having to dig for an item that you packed first, as everything is within easy reach once you lay it flat.  The outside of the pack also features designated loops for ice picks as well as numerous daisy chains to fix poles and other irregular shaped items to the back for easy carrying.

A small hood covers the top of the pack and will dispel mild amounts of rain, but if you’re hiking in more serious conditions you’ll want to purchase a rain cover.

If you don’t want to stop to open the pack, the top does feature a one-handed drawcord that allows you to tighten or loosen with ease. This is perfect to reach in for things you’ve packed at the top of the bag without slowing your stride.

There are two roomy pouches on either side of the pack to store even the beefiest of HydroFlasks, although there is an insulated pouch in the pack for hydration systems as well that is easily accessible from the outside. These external pouches are perfect for storing lunch, snacks or other food items.

Most any 3-Liter  water bladder will fit in the insulated pouch, and there’s a strap included to hold it into place if needed.  Overall, the design of this pack emphasizes maximum convenience and comfort on the trail, and it seems Arc’teryx really thought of everything when crafting the design!

The only drawback on storage is the tiny pockets on the hip belts. It would be worth investing in attachable pouch systems if you like to carry things in front of you such as cell phone, sunscreen, chapstick and other items that should be easily accessible.

Overall, Arc’teryx knocked it out of the park with this backpack design, and it’s truly a shame that the Altra line has been discontinued. So far none of the resulting lines feature every convenience offered by the Altra which makes it highly sought-after, even today.

If you happen across this incredible pack in a second hand store or even on eBay, we recommend you snag it before someone else does!