Exped Thunder 70 review

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Exped Thunder 70 review

Postby Don R » Tue 05 Oct, 2021 9:37 pm

I just thought it might be interesting to provide a review of a pack which is not commonly seen. It is a pack I have been using for about four years. It is the Exped Thunder 70. If you suffer from gear derangement syndrome you will find yourself alternatively drawn and repelled to buying new gear, to be motivated by the unrealistic appeal of new designs, fabrics, features that somehow offer the prospect of being BETTER in some way. The simplest characteristic for a pack to be BETTER is now mostly about weight. The number of pockets, a separate sleeping bag compartment, ice tool attachments etc fade into discretionary items when faced with weight reduction.

When I look into the gear closet of life, into the assembly of throughwalk packs, past the Macpac Traverse, the Macpac Cascade, the Macpac Pursuit, the Lowe, the old Mountain Designs, the Lost Coast Boreas and the Golite Pinnacle the focus keeps coming back to weight. So I came to conclusion lets review the pack which isn't the lightest or the heaviest I have and see it it falls into the "goldilocks zone" (yes I know that is used to describe the habitable region around a star, but move on please).

The Holy Grail for overnight walking packs is a practically unobtainable combination of robustness, features, light weight and weather resistance. The Australian bushwalker has grown more nuanced in their expectations about their packs over the last twenty years. The indestructible canvas Macpacs, rugged Lowes, and hardy Wilderness Equipment models of old are increasingly being displaced or challenged by a generation of lighter foreign made packs with exotic materials and, to a degree, inbuilt obsolescence. My knees will probably expire before my Cascade (NB: an NZ made example, not the built to a price modern version).

At the bottom end of the weight scale are manufacturers such as Zpacks or Hyperlite Mountaingear (“HMG”) who strip out redundant features and commit to using expensive fabrics such as dyneema to reach their weight targets. Paradoxically in the world of bushwalking the lighter the product is generally the more expensive it is. These packs generally have reduced padding, pockets, and strapping than other models, but higher prices ! And as a result of higher prices sometimes people are loath to concede that maybe the extra $ wasn't really worth it .

Unfortunately in Australia, with the exception of cottage manufacturers like Mountain Threadworks, our producers tend to neglect true ultralight packs. The good people at One Planet have come closer than most with the new Tussock pack, at 1.5Kg for 60 kg. Considering the scunge in most of our country there are good reasons for that call.

The majority of ultralight pack designs tend to top out at 60 litre capacities, which is consistent with the weight counter philosophy of taking as few items as possible, striving for multiple uses for what you do take, and getting the lightest version of anything you carry (hello, titanium). Accordingly, the range of ultralight packs reduces as the volume goes up.

In the middle category are packs which are heavier than the ultralights, commonly more affordable, often more feature rich and comfortable but occasionally less robust. These can be considered as “flawed” or “compromised” by the advocates of designs at the other ends of the spectrum.

And at the top end of the weight spectrum are the traditionally designed One Planet, Macpac canvas and Wilderness Equipment models which are the hardiest and heaviest on the market. If you intend to devote your bushwalking career to scunge bashing through tropical vine scrub, or the worst of Tasmania / New Zealand understories these are your go-to weapons. That and a healthy supply of bandages and band aids.

The Exped 70 Thunder falls into the middle category. The material is not outlandish dyneema (formerly known as cuben), it is 210 denier Robic. Robic is also used by Gossamer Gear, Zpacks, etc. It is resilient enough for most uses and can handle moderate scunge bashing. At 1.7KG it falls halfway between the 2.8kg Macpac Cascades and the ethereal Zpacks Arc Hauls. By comparison a Wilderness Equipment 70 litre Breakout is a kilo heavier.

It is arguable that around 1.5 / 1.7 Kg is the “goldilocks zone” for packs, light enough to be comfortable but strong enough to take a pounding. Proponents of the high-tech ultralights would probably dispute that and claim that their chosen packs are just as tough, even lighter, etc. but it can’t be argued that the ultralights tend to be more expensive and have lower weight carrying capacities. Weight carrying capacities can be crucial, Zpacks are generally regarded as limited to kgs although HMG claim to carry full expedition loads. When you start to look for a real 70 litre capacity, and not playing games like saying a pack's capacity is really 70 litres because the 48 litre main compartment has two ten litre side pockets and a couple 1 litre hip belt pockets, there aren't that many examples to be found under 1.8kg. If anyone has used one of the Montbell 80 litre or expedition packs it would be great to have a review of them.

I’ve used the Exped 70 for week plus walks in Tasmania in rain, snow and fleeting sunlight, walks in South East Queensland through rainforest and track walking. I can summarise its performance as comfortable, good load carrying, with a generous capacity. The maximum weight I have carried in it for a protracted period would be approximately 22 kgs. I flew into the South Coast track with an Exped at 19.8Kgs and it was comfortable throughout the trip. Depending on conditions I would assess its maximum comfort load at around 25kgs.

The pack has the usual tubular shape, and a strong aluminium frame which allows substantial loading. There are the usual pockets in the lid, a pocket on each hip belt with a tight zipper, daisy chains on the outside for hanging stuff and a couple of large side pockets from which only a contortionist can remove a water bottle and replace it without dislocating an arm.It seems that the Osprey Aether Pro 70 litre wins that contest by a KM. The fabric is water resistant but not water proof, pretty much standard for the territory. The hip belts are supportive but not as well padded as some competitors. There is a profusion of strapping on the outside of the pack which I find generally of minimal use. One feature added to make the pack a bit of a "crossover" with international backpackers is a zippable main compartment. Most of the pack can be unzipped from the front, and packed the same way. The edges of the panel are velcroed so there is extra security beyond reliance on a zip and the strapping on the pack provides some additional redundancy. This is a feature I don't find as useful as the designers might think, because i generally use a pack liner. If you like individual dry bags instead of pack liners that feature makes more sense. The arm straps are reasonably padded. There is a nice and practical middle pocket which is great for shoving ground sheets or wet jackets in.

Have a look, you might like an Exped Thunder. The pack can be purchased at various outlets, I got mine on sale from https://www.ultralightoutdoorgear.co.uk ... ack-p13570 but you can also get them from Bogong Equipment, or Webtogs.

PROs :
• A reasonable volume (70 litres);
• Acceptable weight at 1.7 Kgs;
• Tough fabric, albeit not as tough as heavy-duty canvas or possibly dyneema;
• Useful pockets in the body of the pack (incl. two in the lid) and good hip belts, albeit the side pockets are not very deep;
. Packs flat compared to other packs;
. Internal water bladder pocket sufficient for two litre bladder with dedicated hydration opening
. Easily adjustable rail harness;
• Solid load carrying frame which transfers weight effectively to the hips;
• Comfortable to wear;
• For those who don’t use pack liners, the packs unzips in the middle section so you can easily store in the main compartment stuff sacs. You
can also extract a full size pack liner from the compartment that way;
• The hip belt adjusters at the front are really good, and make tightening or loosening very easy;
• The pack generally stands upright well.

CONS:
• Some minimally useful features such as external daisy chains (I know if you are using ice tools these can be helpful but no so much for
anything else !);
• The pack has a variety of Velcro tabs which really aren’t that useful and can require some fiddling around with to make a precise fit;
• The frame needs a little work to fine tune it to your particular shape, it is an aluminum stay which has to be bent to fit. After that its is fine;
• Depending on your personal preferences the arms of the hip belt may feel too stiff, they are not very flexible;
• The hip belt pockets are not as robust as the rest of the pack, they are also not as capacious as some other models. They could have larger
zips to make it easier to store bulkier objects. The zippers are not at the top of the pocket so it is a little cumbersome to extricate or store
larger items in the pocket.The hip belt fabric is a little less robust than the rest of the pack;
• As with so many packs the side pockets require a contortionist’s physique to extract water bottles and replace them;
. Some may find the lumbar pad and shoulder padding on the back of the pack to be hard and uncomfortable.
• Some might not like the substitution of buckles with hook clips on the front of the pack.Instead of using buckles to secure the lid, the straps
have a clip on their end which is pulled down to connect to one of a series of pre-stitched loops on. the front of the pack.

CONCLUSION
This is not a minimalist pack, it has too many features some of which I generally don’t use or regard as particularly useful. The weight is good, the suspension supportive, it can take a hit, and has a capacity larger than many packs of the same weight. If I need to carry an over 15Kg loadout, or anticipate going through some very scratchy terrain, this is my choice. For loads below that weight and which are through relatively clear country like graded tracks, my Osprey Levity 60 or Exped Torrent 40 are the preferred choices. And at the other end of the spectrum if I need to carry 25kgs plus or through very tough vegetation its back to the Macpac Cascade / Traverse / Pursuits.
Attachments
Exped - Rear.jpg
Rear of pack with harness
Exped- Hip belt pocket.jpg
Hip belt with small suncream
Exped - Interior compartment.jpg
Exped - Interior compartment with zip and velcro edges
Exped - interior 2.jpg
Exped Interior (with water bladder pocket)
Exped - Front Photo.jpg
Front of pack (upside down) showing large external pocket
Exped Pack - Granite Beach - 3.jpg
Exped ay Granite Beach, South Coast track
Last edited by Don R on Wed 06 Oct, 2021 10:14 pm, edited 4 times in total.
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Re: Exped Thunder 70 review

Postby Tortoise » Wed 06 Oct, 2021 4:28 pm

Hey Don,

Thanks for taking the time for such a thorough review, and comparisons general and specific. I might need to check this out instead of just going for the Osprey Renn 65.
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Re: Exped Thunder 70 review

Postby EGM » Wed 06 Oct, 2021 5:18 pm

Great review. I've seen a lot of great things about exped packs so I think I'll have to try one out.
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Re: Exped Thunder 70 review

Postby Don R » Wed 06 Oct, 2021 5:41 pm

Thanks for the kind comments. I’ve discovered that my photos are too large for uploading so I will tweak them and add to the review. As regards Exped quality I have to say that their waterproof Exped Torrent 40 is a really good day walk pack for loads under 15kgs (a bit of camera gear in that !). It’s good for canyoning as well, but I double bag just in case. You can get these packs from Bogong Equipment in Melbourne. Prolite Gear and Webtogs sell them as well.
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Re: Exped Thunder 70 review

Postby dcaspira » Tue 04 Oct, 2022 9:14 am

Hi Don,

Great review, I've been tossing up between the Thunder and the Exped Lightening 60L for winter hauls.

Both with the same suspension, and similar materials (the thunder has a new secondary coating). I've been a little doubtful, as you mention about all the addons - which directs me to the Lightening (simplicity). Wondering if you looked at the Lightening as well or in retrospect ?

Thanks - Dave
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Re: Exped Thunder 70 review

Postby peregrinator » Tue 04 Oct, 2022 10:28 am

dcaspira wrote:Hi Don,

Great review, I've been tossing up between the Thunder and the Exped Lightening 60L for winter hauls.

Both with the same suspension, and similar materials (the thunder has a new secondary coating). I've been a little doubtful, as you mention about all the addons - which directs me to the Lightening (simplicity). Wondering if you looked at the Lightening as well or in retrospect ?

Thanks - Dave


I love this miraculous concept of a lightening pack. What? Does its weight automatically decrease while you're carrying it?
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Re: Exped Thunder 70 review

Postby dcaspira » Wed 05 Oct, 2022 6:02 am

I love this miraculous concept of a lightening pack. What? Does its weight automatically decrease while you're carrying it?


:lol: :lol: Oops, My mistake, Exped Lightning, although @peregrinator I far prefer your type of Lightening pack !
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Re: Exped Thunder 70 review

Postby Erniec2 » Wed 05 Oct, 2022 10:47 am

Running a 50L Thunder.
Have now got a 60L Lightning as well.
Very happy with the Thunder.
Have had Lightning fitted and will see how it goes in Nov trip.
I like them but it is personal preference and how they fit you like most gear.


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