I'm looking for the perfect pack, I obsess over every detail, every thread, every stitch, I also look at design utility and fabric durability. This pack checked all.....well sorta.
durability: hmmmm, maybe not
stitching: hmmmm, maybe not
^Here's the deal. Lowe built a damn near perfect pack but then took a dramatic shortcut in the stitching of the shoulder straps. This thing has bar tack stitching every where, even places that aren't even weight bearing, but when it came to sewing the shoulder straps they epically failed. Not only are there no bar tack stitches there but they went so far as to stitch the very edge of the shoulder strap to the pack so it's sewn on only one row of thread. It's such a small amount that you can even see a piece of the end of the strap pull out in the corner where it's stitched.
Now this is stuff some people may not ever notice and "may" never fail but for a person like me who will use this pack away from civilization for extended periods, I can't put faith in a product that has questionable engineering in such a high use, major weight bearing area. The carry handle is sewn into the same stitching as the shoulder straps and thus subject to the same fault.
I will be returning the pack for a new one to see if I just had a bad apple or this to the millimeter ounce saving by the gram weenies transfers into a design issue. I don't have time to pick another pack so if the next one is the same I'll give it a shot and see how it handles the wild. If it shows signs of failure, sorry BC but you can blame Lowe for this one.
Overall this pack is solid. It doesnt have external pockets and such but what you get is a very attractive and super light pack. It weighs nothing, really roomy, the suspension is surprisingly real comfy considering that the frame stabilizer is literally something that looks like an old 70's wire hanger. The back padding is minimal but feels real good against your back.
This 2012 version has a new peice of webbing for attaching the upper compression strap metal adjuster, very neat. The shoulder straps are really comfy and well padded with very trick cushhioning, thin at the base, thick over the shoulder and thin where they end. The top flap covers the pack well even when full even though there's just the single strap.
The water bladder pocket has a bight of hook/pile tape(velcro) for securing the bladder, cheap gram saving measure but cuts down durability.
Didn't try out the ax attaching system. The side pockets are not really pockets, there really storage space for the waist belt if removed. They're open at the top and open at the side where the waist belt is. A skinny water bottle w/ a caribiner to the bottom strap may work but nogo on a nalgene 1 liter.
That's all I can think of. Lata folks.