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The North Face Overhaul 40 Review

The North Face Overhaul 40
Editors' Choice Award
Price:   $159 List | $159.00 at REI
Compare prices at 1 resellers
Pros:  Versatile, durable, comfortable, intuitive
Cons:  Small hip belt, not best for long distances with heavy loads
Bottom line:  The Overhaul is an excellent, versatile, and intuitive travel backpack with well balanced features.
Editors' Rating:     
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Manufacturer:   The North Face
By Lyra Pierotti ⋅ Review Editor
Thursday

Our Verdict

The North Face Overhaul is a top-notch travel backpack. It balances all of our favorite features, earning its spot as our Editor's Choice travel backpack. It looks a lot like a backpack students would carry around campus, and it does very well in that application. However, it has several features woven seamlessly into the bag, making it versatile without adding complication. This award winner has enough compartments to keep clean separate from dirty, fragile separate from squishable. It is easy to pack and unpack, and remains comfortable when heavy and overstuffed. This is an excellent companion for your next trip, especially if you plan to carry a laptop, hiking shoes, snacks, a notebook, clothing, and a few more items for the adventure of your choice.


RELATED REVIEW: The Best Travel Backpacks Review

up to 5 products
Score Product Price Our Take
86
The North Face Overhaul 40 $159
Editors' Choice Award
The Overhaul is an excellent, versatile, and intuitive travel backpack with well balanced features.
84
Osprey Farpoint 55 $180
Top Pick Award
This is a great travel backpack with a lean toward outdoor-centered international trips.
82
Osprey Porter 46 $130
Best Buy Award
This is an easy to pack, well padded, durable travel backpack that is useful on a broad range of adventures.
80
Patagonia Headway MLC $189
Top Pick Award
The Headway is another stellar product from Patagonia: thoughtfully designed, rugged, easy to use, and fortified by the Ironclad guarantee and cutting edge company ethics.
79
Minaal Carry-on 2.0 $299
If business travel is your gig, this is an excellent travel backpack.
71
Cotopaxi Nazca $140
This is a very well designed travel backpack for short and light weight trips, best suited to urban adventures with travel by foot, bike, car, or airplane.
70
Kelty Redwing 44 $125
This contender is an excellent travel backpack for the casual, recreational domestic or overseas adventurer focused on outdoor activities.
69
Tortuga Travel $249
The Tortuga is a master of comfort, great for those apprehensive about traveling due to the inherent discomfort of navigating airports with luggage.
69
Mountain Hardwear Splitter 40 $170
The Splitter is a go-to bag for anyone heading out on an extended rock climbing trip; it's versatile enough to be a good travel pack for a dedicated climber.
61
Arc'teryx Covert Case C/O $189
The Covert is best thought of as a small duffel with a backpack option, easy to pack and go, and sturdy enough to keep luggage safe and neat, but not designed for airline travel or carrying comfort.
58
Gregory Compass 30 $99
Great and versatile travel backpack for use as a carry on; not the most intuitive or user friendly organization scheme.

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Overhaul is an intuitive and hyper functional travel backpack. Boasting a well-balanced performance across all of our review metrics, this was our obvious overall winner.

Performance Comparison



Comfort


This award winner is a very comfortable travel pack. It looks like the backpack you had for school, but it can comfortably carry as much as 25-30 pounds of books, gear, luggage, whatever you might be traveling with. We were skeptical when we first saw the minimal waist belt, but in our tests, we found that it does surprisingly well for how tiny it is. When cinched down around your waist, the padding engages just enough to take some weight. That said, it is not the best bag for carrying heavy loads for extended periods of time. For a truly-comfortable-for-long-distances-travel-backpack, check out the Osprey Farpoint 55.


This pack's back panel is firm and well padded, with load lifter straps on the shoulders that we were particularly fond of. The hip belt is minimal and not very well padded, but the fit and placement is good enough that it combines well with the load lifters on the shoulder straps to center the weight of the pack. Overall, the suspension system provided good load transfer, helping to bring the weight closer to our body centers without straining our shoulders. It's excellent design resulted in excellent comfort, especially for the size of this pack.

The North Face Overhaul travel backpack.
The North Face Overhaul travel backpack.

The shape of the backpack also tapers at the bottom, similar to some technical climbing packs. This design improves the balance of the bag and helps it move with you.

Features


This award winner really stood out in this review for its excellent features. No matter what activity we decided to take up with this pack, we found it easy to use and quite intuitive.


It has a well padded and easy to access laptop compartment, which is great for taking your laptop out at the office or for screening at airport security. We also really liked that there was a space below the laptop sleeve to tuck our charging cords securely out of the way--very thoughtfully designed.

In the front of the pack, there is a pocket with an assortment of office supply storage compartments, which are also useful for keeping travel items such as toiletries handy and organized, or small items you might take hiking, like a headlamp or chapstick. The closest rival for thoughtful features was the Patagonia Headway MLC, but the Overhaul won overall because of its outstanding backpack comfort.

The North Face Overhaul travel backpack.
The North Face Overhaul travel backpack.

There is a separate shoe pouch, which is very useful for carrying dirty shoes, workout clothes, or for stashing stinky rock shoes and chalky chalk bags away from other office supplies for the day.

The water bottle holders on the outside of the pack expand easily to hold a liter water bottle; some packs in this review had water bottle holders which were too small or tight to fit a liter sized bottle, which is a standard size many outdoor enthusiasts regularly carry, so this is a pretty important feature.

The pack also has a zipper which expands its' volume. This is an excellent feature, allowing you to have a bigger pack when you want it, but also be able to close the pack back down to a "normal" backpack size. It is important to note, however, that when you expand the pack and stuff it full, it is no longer technically carry on size.

The North Face Overhaul travel backpack.
The North Face Overhaul travel backpack.

There are sturdy handles on the top and one side of the pack, which make the pack easy to load into the trunk of a car, extract from the airplane's overhead bin, or otherwise move and stash this bag wherever your travels might take you. We also found that the handles were easier to locate than those of other packs. This is in part due to the size of the handles, and also because the design of the pack is sleek, smooth, and boxy enough to make them easy to find.

Packing & Accessibility


The main compartment is panel loading; it opens wide to pack your business clothing and other items you want to stay folded or organized. The shape and design of that main pocket also remains useful for school or office use, unlike the Minaal Carry On 2.0. The Minaal's main compartment is well suited to packing clothing, shoes, and socks, but not for sliding any folders or documents because the siding is too floppy and the angle is curved. This made the Overhaul much more versatile than the Minaal.


The accessory pouch also opens wide and is big and cavernous to carry a hooded sweatshirt or other items, thus contributing to the total amount of luggage you can cram into this pack.

The capacity of The North Face Overhaul 40  travel backpack: all in! A stunning packing performance. (The standard set of gear  top  was packed into each bag to compare capacities with an actual load rather than relying on the company's reported volume numbers.)
The capacity of The North Face Overhaul 40 travel backpack: all in! A stunning packing performance. (The standard set of gear, top, was packed into each bag to compare capacities with an actual load rather than relying on the company's reported volume numbers.)

The separate zippered pouch in the bottom of the pack is excelllent for keeping workout clothes, rock climbing gear for your trip to the rock gym after work, etc. Note, however, that this takes up volume in the main compartment. We found that even when we maxed out that bottom compartment, we were still able to fit a lot into the main compartment. The pocket tapers just enough to allow you to pack flat things and clothing easily around the protruding pouch.

The North Face Overhaul travel backpack
The North Face Overhaul travel backpack

The North Face Overhaul travel backpack.
The North Face Overhaul travel backpack.

Durability


This travel pack is made of relatively durable materials, though not the toughest in this review. This is not designed as a rugged outdoor backpack, though it will stand up to a lot of outdoor use, and is just as tough as a lot of climbing packs we've owned. For a much more durable pack that crosses over to more rigorous outdoor use, check out the Mountain Hardwear Splitter.


The quality of the manufacturing and attention to detail, however, make it a long-lasting pack. It has strong zippers and a design that minimizes strain on seams and zippers. The pack handled overstuffing better than most in this review.

The suspension system stows into the back panel, so this will not be the best pack to check in at the airport, but it will survive a few trips through the conveyor belts and baggage carousels of the airport.

The North Face Overhaul travel backpack
The North Face Overhaul travel backpack

The North Face Overhaul travel backpack.
The North Face Overhaul travel backpack.

Weight & Capacity


The Overhaul holds an astonishing amount of gear in what looks like a regular school backpack. We were stunned by the amount of gear we could fit into this bag, and how easy it was to pack. The Osprey Porter 46 and the Patagonia Headway MLC are similar in size to the Overhaul, and also seemed to absorb a surprising amount of gear while remaining carry on size.


The expansion zipper on the Overhaul makes it even easier to overstuff this backpack, but remember that this makes it larger than legal carry on size. We did have to expand this backpack to fit all of the gear in our "test load," but we were able to get everything inside this pack.

Best Applications


This pack is one of the most versatile in this review. It is stylish, and looks like a backpack that we would take to school/university, or to the office. But it works easily for international business travel, and looks professional enough for it as well.

Sussing out the travel backpack scene on a recent trip to Moscow  Russia. The North Face Overhaul does well for urban adventures: it is subtle  stylish  and carries a wide variety of items for award-winning versatility.
Sussing out the travel backpack scene on a recent trip to Moscow, Russia. The North Face Overhaul does well for urban adventures: it is subtle, stylish, and carries a wide variety of items for award-winning versatility.

The pack is also durable enough for outdoor use, such as hiking; however, it is not as specifically designed for rock climbing or backpacking use--it is more of an urban backpack.

Value


The Overhaul is a moderately priced travel backpack. For the versatility and quality of workmanship, this backpack is a great value at $159.

Conclusion


This award winner is a travel pack that does it all! Pack your laptop for the work day, gym clothes for your afternoon workout, entertainment devices like tablet, and there's still room for other odds and ends. Plus, it is comfortable to carry with anything you can cram into it. And so long as you didn't unzip the expansion panel, it will still be legal carry on size, and an easy-to-manage size and shape to get in and out of the airplane's overhead bin.

Other Versions


The North Face Refractor Duffel Pack
The North Face Refractor Duffel Pack
  • Cost - $155
  • Weight - 3.69 lbs.
  • Neoprene laptop pocket sized to fit 15" laptops
  • Stowable backpack straps for transitioning between pack and briefcase

The North Face Router Transit Backpack
The North Face Router Transit Backpack
  • Cost - $159
  • Weight - 3.5 lbs.
  • At 41 liters, this is the largest backpack from North Face
  • Fleece-lined laptop compartment fitting 17" laptops

The North Face Resistor Charged Backpack
The North Face Resistor Charged Backpack
  • Cost - $249
  • Weight - 3.53 lbs.
  • Loaded with features, including removable battery pack for charging essential gadgets
  • 17" laptop compartment

Lyra Pierotti
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