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Backpacks

Arc'teryx LEAF Khyber 50

Arc’teryx LEAF Khyber 50 :: Road Test

by , April 11, 2017
8.5
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Piotr Ma tackles snow, mountains and more to find out whether the Arc'teryx LEAF Khyber 50 is tough and adaptable enough to handle the challenge...

For years military packs were considered heavy, bulky, and uncomfortable. But this period of military packs is over and now it's all about real performance in demanding environments, including mountaineering, climbing, and other activities. So when a top-tier alpine company decided to jump on the mil-spec bandwagon with the LEAF line it was revolutionary. Say hello to the Arc'teryx LEAF Khyber 50 - a fast and light top-loading patrol pack which closes the gap between no-compromise military specs and alpine climbing performance.

Arc'teryx LEAF Khyber 50


Specifications

  • Name: Khyber 50
  • Brand: Arcteryx LEAF
  • Format: Patrol pack
  • Measurement: 28 x 12 x 10 inches (70 x 30 x 25cm)
  • Capacity: 3000 cu-in (50L)
  • Weight: 3.9 lbs (1.8 kg)
  • Zippers:
  • Material: 500D nylon Cordura® 6,6 balanced weave with silicon
  • PriceUS$199.99 (close out price, normally $499)

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Who It Suits

Mountaineers and climbers who prefer military styling. Adventurers. People not obsessed with organization and multi-compartment packing approaches. And of course all elite scouting troops operating in alpine terrain. It’s a real deal operator’s pack.

Who It Doesn't

If you're an organization addict, you can't imagine ditching your side-pocket bottle and switching to a hydration system, or you prefer a combination of 50 shades of pink and orange instead of just one shade of gray (or olive) I suggest you look elsewhere.


Design

Looks

The Khyber 50 looks all business. Modern ascetic alpine styling combined with military colors results in an 'athletic' look. And it’s a LEAF product, which stands for Law Enforcement & Armed Forces so you can get it through any tough and rough adventure…it’s not your average sporting store pack.

Arc'teryx LEAF Khyber 50

Construction

It might look simple but the devil is in the details. The back panel of the Khyber is a laminated pre-shaped C² (Composite Construction) plate combined with internal aluminum stays and padded mesh in the lumbar area. It's an integrated design, which adds rigidity and saves weight at the same time.

The padded shoulder straps are built in a multi-layer fashion and offer ‘dual density’ with more padding in the weight bearing top section. Quarter-inch daisy chains and loops make good lashing points for a hydration tube and other equipment like a small pouch, sunglasses or a compact rescue knife. Since QD straps are mandatory on a mil-spec pack, the Arc’teryx Khyber is equipped with quick toggle-release buckles protected by elastic sleeves. The sternum strap comes as standard and it's fully adjustable.

"The back panel of the Khyber is a laminated pre-shaped C² (Composite Construction) plate combined with internal aluminum stays and padded mesh in the lumbar area. It's an integrated design, which adds rigidity and saves weight at the same time."

Arc'teryx LEAF Khyber 50

The waist belt is a pretty standard affair, 2-inch webbing with anatomically shaped hip-pads (removable). It's an industry standard on alpine/climbing packs today and with a typical 50-liter load such a belt offers enough support.

"Quarter-inch daisy chains and loops make good lashing points for a hydration tube and other equipment like a small pouch, sunglasses or a compact rescue knife."

Materials and Hardware

It’s Arcteryx LEAF so the materials are top-notch. It's made of 500D nylon Cordura with a very dense weave and silicon protection so it's both strong and resistant to abrasion. I've used it in rocky environments for a couple of weeks and it looks untouched including the bottom. The hardware is strong and working well, and the webbing is soft and meaty.

"It’s Arcteryx LEAF so the materials are top-notch. It's made of 500D nylon Cordura with a very dense weave and silicon protection so it's both strong and resistant to abrasion."

Arc'teryx LEAF Khyber 50


Features

The Khyber inside is just a big sack, but it's full of features on the outside. First of all the side straps, which can be used not only for compression but also to attach climbing tools, walking poles or an assault rifle. Add to that a bungee-cord lacing system, micro daisy chains, internal daisy chains and bottom cord slots - all of that creates a lot of attachment points.

"The Khyber inside is just a big sack, but it's full of features on the outside."

Arc'teryx LEAF Khyber 50

Another ingenious feature is a docking/cargo shelf. It's been designed as helmet storage for military use but will handle a climbing helmet equally well. But I used it also for a medium drysack with extra items, snow shoes, and even an additional 28-liter backpack in a piggy-back mode - no problem at all...except the additional load on my shoulders of course.

"Another ingenious feature is a docking/cargo shelf. It's been designed as helmet storage for military use but will handle a climbing helmet equally well."

Arc'teryx LEAF Khyber 50

I really like the features on the top lid, which can be used for much more than just on-hand storage. First of all it can be lifted up to keep a climbing rope or rolled hardshell underneath (or even both). The lid can also be completely removed to save weight if you'd like to use the Khyber as a lightweight summit pack (yes, it can be tightly closed without the lid). And last but not least you can use a piece of shockcord and lace it through the daisy chains on top to keep additional small items on the lid.

"The lid can also be completely removed to save weight if you'd like to use the Khyber as a lightweight summit pack."

Arc'teryx LEAF Khyber 50

Being a modern pack the Khyber is fully compatible with hydration systems and includes a hanger, multiple tube ports and tube keepers on the shoulder straps (depending on the mission that could also be used for comm/wiring). I checked using a mil-spec Source 3L hydration unit with an insulated tube and it worked great.

"Being a modern pack the Khyber is fully compatible with hydration systems and includes a hanger, multiple tube ports and tube keepers on the shoulder straps."

Arc'teryx LEAF Khyber 50

But what I really love in Arcteryx LEAF packs is that legendary attention to detail. All the stitches, buckles, nicely tailored corners, small logos on zipper pulls and buckles, grab handles on the top and sides...everything is just so perfect. Plus there is just enough contrast between shades of material, cords, webbing and buckles to be noticed from up close, but without being shiny or eye-catching - they just nailed it!

"But what I really love in Arcteryx LEAF packs is that legendary attention to detail. All the stitches, buckles, nicely tailored corners, small logos on zipper pulls and buckles, grab handles on the top and sides...everything is just so perfect."


Performance

Space and Access

A 50-liter pack is usually a jack-of-all-trades - it can do many jobs (one-day or multi-day) but none perfectly. The Khyber is actually a bit different due to its scalability and adaptation possibilities. You can considerably overstuff it thanks to the generous top opening and expandable storm collar with drawstring – just move the lid up and use two webbing straps to secure the content, that way you can add easily 7-8 liters in the main cavity. And in lid-less mode it becomes considerably smaller and lighter, more like a 40-liter daypack when closed and tightened down. The top-loading design makes quick access to bottom items a bit compromised so you should keep packing discipline under control at all times. Of course this is offset with strength and overall integrity - there are no zippers, which are always the weak point on a panel-loading pack. It’s a good compromise, especially for a military-rated product.

"You can considerably overstuff it thanks to the generous top opening and expandable storm collar with drawstring – just move the lid up and use two webbing straps to secure the content, that way you can add easily 7-8 liters in the main cavity."

Arc'teryx LEAF Khyber 50

The lid is a different story - surprisingly generous in size, especially compared to other LEAF packs (like the Khard). It provides easy and quick access to stuff like energy bars, a headlamp, pocket knife, maps or a small camera (the Fuji X100 fits easily). Lack of internal admin organization (except a key clip) keeps the weight down and doesn't eat up internal volume. There is also a flat zipper pocket hidden under the lid, perfect for documents and a wallet. Accessibility to the lid's storage I'd rate as A+.

"The top-loading design makes quick access to bottom items a bit compromised so you should keep packing discipline under control at all times."

Arc'teryx LEAF Khyber 50

Pockets and Organizing

Let me say again: the Khyber is just one big cavity. Like it or not there is not much organization inside. But sometimes less is more as it allows you to put even big and bulky items into the Khyber, without too many shape restrictions. However, you will find some webbing daisy chains inside, so you can attach an admin panel or a pouch if you can't live without internal organization.

"Let me say again: the Khyber is just one big cavity. Like it or not there is not much organization inside. But sometimes less is more as it allows you to put even big and bulky items into the Khyber, without too many shape restrictions."

Actually, there are just two gear organizing features I'm missing on the Khyber. Number one is a lack of open side pockets, which could be used for 0,7L Nalgene-style bottles or to nest ski or pole ends. It's not the end of the world (especially if you use a hydration system) but it would be a handy feature sometimes. And number two is a lack of dedicated ice-tool loops. Of course it's not a deal-breaker and I made my own out of paracord (bottom loop) and  shock-cord with toggle (handle keeper) but still it'd be good to see a dedicated ice-tool storage system in future Khyber generations.

"Actually, there are just two gear organizing features I'm missing on the Khyber. Number one is a lack of open side pockets, which could be used for 0,7L Nalgene-style bottles or to nest ski or pole ends...And number two is a lack of dedicated ice-tool loops."

Arc'teryx LEAF Khyber 50

Comfort

The Khyber's straps are well padded and anatomically shaped, which combined with load-lifters on top and a padded waist area gives enough support to lug up to 40-45 pounds for a whole day with really good comfort. Internal stays distribute weight well, while the laminated back plate separates pointy/edgy loads from the body. I tried my Khyber in September with a heavier load than recommended (well over 60 lbs. including another pack piggy-backed) and I was able to walk a couple of hours up the mountain valley in sunny weather without major complaints.

"The Khyber's straps are well padded and anatomically shaped, which combined with load-lifters on top and a padded waist area gives enough support to lug up to 40-45 pounds for a whole day with really good comfort."

Arc'teryx LEAF Khyber 50

In daypack mode it works really well as a summit/approach backpack. Last February I used it a couple of times on serious mountaineering outings (with 20-30 lbs of gear), including rock and snow climbing with crampons on my boots and an ice axe in my hand. Due to its lightweight alpine-style design the total load is distributed roughly 50/50 between waist and shoulders, which is optimized for technical climbing rather than for heavy hauling. So it might not be the most comfortable pack under a heavy load but in the end I have no complaints – it’s a 50-liter carrier and it does very well what it was designed for. Needless to say it rides well also on thick winter clothes as it was designed for military applications, which includes multi-layer uniforms and body armor compliance.

"Due to its lightweight alpine-style design the total load is distributed roughly 50/50 between waist and shoulders, which is optimized for technical climbing rather than for heavy hauling. So it might not be the most comfortable pack under a heavy load but in the end I have no complaints – it’s a 50-liter carrier and it does very well what it was designed for."

Arc'teryx LEAF Khyber 50

Weatherability

The very dense weave of Cordura protects surprisingly well from occasional rain and snow. I treat all my packs with DWR nano-spray for added protection, so that helps too. Of course a heavy downpour could result in some moisture inside the pack as it is not rated as fully waterproof (if you need a watertight pack there are such in the Arc’teryx LEAF line as well). However, in my experience the Khyber stands so well against the elements that I don’t really care about a rain cover.

"The very dense weave of Cordura protects surprisingly well from occasional rain and snow."

Arc'teryx LEAF Khyber 50


Alternatives to Consider 

  • Arc'teryx Bora AR 50 – a superb new alpine-style pack for civilian users.
  • Osprey Atmos AG 50 – a very comfortable pack with good organization but it’s a bit heavier and not mil-spec so the construction is not as bombproof as the Arc'teryx LEAF line.
  • Fjällräven Kaipak 58 – slightly bigger and heavier but offers robust construction as well and comes in subdued single color variants.

Arc'teryx LEAF Khyber 50


The Good 

  • Lightweight
  • Scalability, easy to adapt to mission
  • External straps and gear attachment options
  • Bombproof construction
  • Top-notch manufacturing and materials

Not So Good

  • No external bottle pockets
  • No internal organization (if you’re looking for some)
  • Lack of dedicated ice tool loops (can be made with paracord)

Arc'teryx LEAF Khyber 50


Verdict

It’s a tough mission-ready pack with alpine features. It blurs the line between bombproof military gear and feature-rich mountaineering equipment. If limited internal organization is not a problem for you, and if you enjoy subdued military styling in your equipment, this might be your #1 choice for a mid-size adventure pack. It would be at home in a thick Northern forest and on top of a snowy alpine ridge. And last but not least - it’s a LEAF-rated product so will survive much more than a ‘civilian’ pack…and probably even more than the person who carries it. It’s undoubtedly a very solid pack, although highest quality always comes at a price.

Arc'teryx LEAF Khyber 50

The Breakdown

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Geek (Performance)

Space & Access
7
Organization
6
Comfort
8

Style (Design)

Look & Feel
9
Build, Materials & Hardware
10
Features
8

Stoke (Experience)

Warranty & Support
10
Brand experience
10
Value
8
X Factor
9

Reader's Review

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  • Adrian Lee

    Hey there, whats that daypack that is carried “piggyback” mode on the Khyber? the one with the Fett logo 🙂

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