As an avid hiker and backpacker, having a rugged and comfortable multi-day pack is essential gear. After testing out the North Face Stamina 90 backpack on several multi-day excursions this year, I wanted to provide an in-depth review of its features, pros, and cons for fellow outdoor enthusiasts.
The North Face Stamina 90 is billed as a technical summit and alpine-style backpack suitable for extended trips in rugged terrain. I put it through its paces on hikes in the Appalachians and Rockies to see if it lived up to expectations. After many miles on the trail, here is my hands-on review of the Stamina 90 for 2024.
Stamina 90 Overview
The Stamina 90 is the largest volume pack in North Face’s Stamina series, with a capacity of 90 liters. Here are the key specifications:
- Volume: 90 Liters
- Weight: 5 lbs 4 oz
- Torso Fit Range: 16 – 23 inches
- Fabric: 210D Cordura nylon ripstop
- Frame: Internal aluminum frame sheet
- Suspension: Custom injection-molded shoulder straps
- Load Range: 45 – 55 lbs
- Colors: Vanadis Grey, TNF Black
As a technical alpine pack, it is designed for multi-day backcountry trips and peak bagging where you need to carry substantial gear and supplies. The internal frame and robust fabric provide load-bearing support, while the fitted suspension components like the shoulder straps and foam back panel make for a comfortable carry.
My testing focused on general 4 season use, not specialized winter or alpine environments. But I loaded it up with equivalent weight for multi-day warm weather trips to put it through a solid shakedown.
Here is a table summarizing the key specs and features of the North Face Stamina 90 backpack:
|5 lbs 4 oz
|Torso fit range
|16 – 23 in
|210D Cordura ripstop nylon
|Custom injection-molded shoulder straps
|45 – 55 lbs
|Ice axe loops
|Trekking pole carry
|Front stretch pockets
|Side water bottle pockets
|Sleeping bag compartment
Comfort and Fit
Comfort is critical when you’re counting on a pack to haul loads over miles of difficult terrain. I wore the Stamina 90 fully loaded on trips in the Appalachians, Sierras, and Rockies to evaluate comfort in various conditions.
The Stamina 90 uses North Face’s OPTIFIT suspension system which combines a fixed internal frame sheet with removable, interchangeable components like shoulder straps, hip belt, and lumbar pad. This provides a dialed-in fit.
The OPTIFIT shoulder straps use 3D injection molding to contour to the shoulders, and a multi-layer foam surrounds the straps for cushioning. The result is outstanding load distribution and comfort. Despite heavy loads of 45+ pounds for multi-day trips, I experienced minimal shoulder strain or discomfort with the wide, thickly padded straps. They absorb shock effectively.
Back Panel and Lumbar Support
The foam back panel with a vertical channel promotes ventilation airflow when trekking. It maintained space between my back and the pack load to vent heat buildup. The removable lumbar pad insert also supports the lower back region well when carrying heavier cargo.
For transferring pack weight to the hips, the Stamina 90 has a layered hip belt that’s fairly broad and substantial. I cinch this tightly around my hips when taking on miles with a full load. Combined with the shoulder straps, it channels the load effectively to the hips and core.
North Face rates the Stamina 90 for 45-55 lb loads. I tested it to the limits of the range for multi-day winter and summer trips. With around 50 lbs including gear, food, and water, it still carried relatively comfortably. But I wouldn’t recommend exceeding the 55 lb limit, as the internal frame has some flex beyond that which impacts stability.
Features and Organization
In addition to comfort, I also evaluate packs on their features, storage options, and overall ease of access and usability on the trail. Here’s an overview of the Stamina 90’s core features and organization:
As mentioned, the OPTIFIT harness system lets you dial in the shoulder straps, hip belt, and lumbar pad. The components are easily adjustable and removable. This degree of customization is helpful for multi-day trips.
Inside the pack is a lightweight aluminum frame sheet that adds rigidity for load support, while still allowing some flex and torsional movement. It transfers weight effectively off the shoulders without being overly stiff.
There’s a dedicated hydration pouch and port at the top of the open-loading main compartment. It positions a water reservoir high for sipping access and allows hanging it from the internal hook at the top. Easy to hydrate from without removing the pack.
Ice Axe Loops
For alpine-focused packs, the ability to securely stow mountaineering tools is mandatory. The Stamina 90 has a pair of bottom loops with bungee tie-offs to carry ice axes, walking poles, or trekking poles securely.
Top Lid Pocket
The fully removable floating top lid has an external zippered pocket for small gear. It also has an internal pocket for maps, guides, or essentials you need quick access to. Helpful for items like maps, headlamps, bars, etc.
Front Stretch Mesh Pockets
Dual stretch mesh pockets on the front provide side access to items like jackets, gear, or water bottles. They can expand to accommodate bulky items exterior to the main pack bag.
Side Water Bottle Pockets
In addition to the front panel pouches, there are also two side pockets with cinch cords specifically designed for water bottles or Nalgenes. Lots of exterior access without opening the main compartment.
Drawstring Top Closure
The top of the main pack compartment cinches closed via a durable adjustable drawstring rather than a lid. This prevents water intrusion while allowing quick top access.
Trekking Pole/Ice Axe Carry
On the front are 3 tiers of adjustable bungee cords that allow carrying trekking poles or a second ice axe. Helpful to have poles accessible when you don’t need both hands free for scrambling.
The Stamina 90 comes with a built-in rain cover that deploys from the bottom stash pocket to cover the pack and keep contents dry. A handy feature for sudden storms or wet conditions.
Sleeping Bag Compartment
At the bottom of the pack is a dedicated sleeping bag compartment with external access. You can store a bag here separately without disturbing the rest of the pack’s contents.
Internal Compression Straps
Inside the main compartment are adjustable compression straps to stabilize the load. You can remove these if not needed. They help keep items contained.
Removable Waist Belt Pockets
The hip belt has zippered stash pockets that detach from the belt. You can choose whether to use these for added storage or remove them to save weight.
The well-designed features make the Stamina 90 very usable and allow accessing gear without digging through the pack constantly. Small details like the ice axe loops show its technical hiking pedigree.
With an empty weight of 5 lbs 4 oz for a size medium, the Stamina 90 is reasonably lightweight for alpine-class packs with an internal frame, but appreciably heavier than an ultralight pack. The robust design does add some weight.
I don’t find the pack excessively heavy, especially for longer trips where you want durability over gram shaving. But it is a tradeoff against hyper-light packs. The North Face likely optimized for stability and load hauling over the minimum weight. This is reasonable for a 90-liter summiting pack.
Durability and Construction
Given the intended usage in rugged mountain environments, I evaluated the durability of the Stamina 90 materials and construction. After multiple test runs, I found no issues with the materials, stitching, or components.
Key attributes contributing to durability:
- Tough 210D Cordura ripstop nylon fabric that resists abrasion
- Reinforced stitching throughout at stress points
- Beefy hip belt and harness straps suitable for heavy loads
- Durable, stiff aluminum frame sheet as a pack spine
- Water-resistant coatings on external fabric
- Large YKK zippers designed for consistent function even in alpine environments
North Face built this pack to handle repeated hardcore usage – the materials aren’t babied or handled gently. I put it through its paces and never sensed any undue wear or damage, even brushing against rocks and trees regularly. It seems designed for the long haul.
For wet environments, the rain cover and water-resistant fabric provide substantial protection from moisture ingress. Attaching crampons could start to degrade the material over time, but the pack put up with general outdoor abuse in stride.
The Stamina 90 should withstand years of adventures based on my experience as long as you don’t excessively overload it.
Volume and Capacity
With 90 liters of capacity, the Stamina 90 provides ample volume for cargo and gear for extended backcountry trips. The voluminous main compartment holds a sleeping bag, tent, clothing and cooking equipment with space left over. The extendable lid and numerous stretchy outer pockets allow really stuffing this full if needed.