Specs:

Retail Price: $199.99
Height: 28″
Width: 11.75″
Depth: 10.25″
Weight: 3.3 lbs
Colors: Blue, orange, and black

For more info, visit Thule’s website

Pros: 

– Extremely comfortable fit
– Good breathability from the mesh back panel
– Side zippers allow easy access to items deep within the pack’s main chamber
– Attractive design and narrow profile

Cons:

– The pack is not wide enough to hold a bear canister, excluding it from use in certain areas
– This specific size is a bit large for casual dayhiking (although the 32L and 40L sizes solve that problem if you’re just looking to dayhike).
– Sleeve for hydration bladders is too small

Thule’s Capstone 50-liter men’s backpack, along with 22L32L, and 40L sizes within the same line, is a combination day-hiking and minimalist overnight backpack. This lightweight (but not ultra-light) pack fills the gap between smaller day-hiking packs unsuitable for overnight trips and more cumbersome internal frame packs suitable for multi-day backpacking trips.

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Specific features on the pack include: an extremely comfortable, adjustable suspension system; a very breathable mesh back panel; and, most conveniently, a rain cover that stows at the bottom of the backpack. Additionally, the pack opens from both the top and the sides, allowing hikers two different ways to access contents within the pack. A reservoir sleeve inside the main chamber of the pack holds a 2-liter water bladder (and possibly a 2.5-3-liter bladder less comfortably).

 

Review:

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Aesthetically, the pack has a slim profile and features a pleasingly minimalist approach to external decorations. Unfortunately, the pack’s slim profile is both a strength and a weakness as it affects the packs holding capacity in ways that I found somewhat frustrating. I field-tested this backpack on several occasions, including a moderate hike I led through Palomar Mountain State Park, a trip up to Lone Pine Lake in the Inyo National Forest. I loaded the pack to its fullest extent and took it on a local hike to get an idea for its feel with full weight. I had intended to field test the pack during a 4-day trip through Kings Canyon National Park, although I had to scuttle that test since the pack was incapable of holding an approved bear canister.

As mentioned before, the pack’s narrow profile is also its most significant flaw. The inside of the pack, consisting of one deep but narrow chamber, is capable of carrying almost everything you’d expect a 50-liter pack to carry. However, because of its modest width, certain items, including my bear canister, would not fit. Even after removing the bladder, I still could not fit the bear canister.

Of course, I must caveat that not all wilderness areas have the same extensive rules about food storage as Sequoia and Kings Canyon. But given that this is my go-to destination for backpacking 2-3 times per year, the fact that I could not use this particular backpack there constituted a near-fatal flaw. To be fair, I must emphasize that my attempted use of the pack for a 4-day backpacking trip through areas that require bulky bear cans was an attempted misuse of the product. The pack is not designed for that sort of use. The fact that I have yet to find a single, all-encompassing pack that can accommodate my dayhiking, overnight, and multi-day backpacking trips is hardly the Capstone’s fault.

One other mild design issue that I found a bit frustrating was that the storage sleeve for the hydration bladder was too short to effectively hold the bladder. The top half of the bladder extended beyond the edge of the sleeve, causing it to move around whenever the pack wasn’t fully loaded. I’ve had enough water spillages in the past to develop a healthy paranoia about leaks, and the lack of stability for the bladder left me feeling a bit anxious at times.

Additionally, the pack’s weight was initially a bit of an issue to me. My equivalent 46L pack weighs in at about 20 ounces, although it sacrifices comfort for minimal weight. My concerns about the weight were dispelled, however, when I recognized that much of the pack’s weight goes into creating its considerable comfort.This is easily the most comfortable backpack I have used in all of my years of hiking, and even when fully-laden, the weight was far less noticeable than it would have been with another pack. I loaded the pack with about 20 pounds of gear and lugged it nearly 2,000′ to Lone Pine Lake, and it never felt burdensome. This is a terrific accomplishment for a backpack, and this caused me to reconsider my initial ambivalence.

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For many day-hikers, 50-liters is probably too much storage capacity . Even fully-loaded for the most ambitious day hike, the 50L has plenty of room to space. This is, of course, not a flaw of the backpack but rather a reflection of how much space 50L actually contains. However, for much of the day-hiking I often do, which includes cross-country desert and mountain hiking in remote areas over distances greater than 15 miles, the added space is a blessing. I can comfortably include a full first-aid kit, emergency shelter, up to 6 liters of water, multiple layers of clothing, rain gear, food and any electronics I might need to bring along. Sadly, I could not test the pack’s capacity as an overnight pack, although it accommodated everything except for my bear can without me having to resort to strapping a lot of my gear on the outside of the pack.

Consensus:
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Given this pack’s comfort over my existing 46L pack, I will slide this pack into use for long day hikes and overnights. Despite my initial ambivalence, I found myself developing a positive relationship to the bag through use and felt that it was an improvement in most ways over the equivalent bag I had been using. This attitude is in large part due to the pack’s superior comfort. Even with 30 lbs of gear, the pack felt lighter than it should have. The fit and feel of it on my back made me feel comfortable and relatively unburdened. Those feelings are ultimately more valuable to me than whether it can accommodate my bear can on a 5-day hike.

On that basis, I recommend this pack for anybody who is seeking a pack for similar uses: moderate and long day-hikes and one- to two-night backpacking trips. The pack is unsuitable for multiple-day hikes (at least in the Sierra), and this pack in the 50L size is too large for casual day hikes – the 32L size would preferable, and if it wears half as well as the 50L, it will be an extremely comfortable pack option.

Scott is an L.A. native and San Diego transplant who pulls every trick in the book to get out on the trail. His first book, a revision of Afoot and Afield San Diego County, is now out.





8 Comments

Scott Turner

Scott Turner Oct 22, 2017 18:10In reply to: Lauren

I actually haven't used it much since. I did have some good experiences with desert backpacking where the bear can was not necessary. I thought the load lifters worked fine. I was surprised that a pack as heavy as it was felt as light as it did. However, it has taken a backseat to other packs mainly because I can't bring it to bear country.

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Scott Turner

Scott Turner Oct 22, 2017 18:10In reply to: Lauren

Vertically - the pack is not wide enough to contain the can I was attempting to use (Garcia)

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Lauren Oct 22, 2017 17:10

Also, are you not able to fit the bear can both vertically and horizontally? Or is it a matter of fitting the can + all of your gear?

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Lauren Oct 22, 2017 17:10

Hi Scott! I know this is an old post, but I'm interested in this position and your experience with it. Have you continued using it since you originally bought it? Have you had any new issues? I was also curious about the load lifters because they seem to be placed in a way that wouldn't work effectively - do you think they function well or are they attached too low on the pack?

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Scott Turner

Scott Turner Sep 14, 2016 08:09In reply to: Casey Schreiner

Sorry - the tongue was in the cheek on that comment. I reloaded them directly.

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Casey Schreiner Sep 13, 2016 09:09In reply to: Scott Turner

Flickr does this sometimes. This is one of the reasons we're not using that service anymore :)

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Scott Turner

Scott Turner Sep 12, 2016 21:09In reply to: Luca

And just as mysteriously, they have re-appeared.

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Luca Sep 12, 2016 11:09

Pictures have disappeared...

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