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TNF Surge Review (Picture Heavy)

Discussion in 'Gear Reviews' started by Freddo4J, Dec 29, 2012.

    Freddo4J Loaded Pockets

    Hi All,

    Here is a first ever review from me. This one is regarding the (The North Face) TNF Surge I purchased in September 2012 after exhausting myself researching backpacks. I wanted one for EDC and this was "before" I was even familiar with EDC and way before I found edcforums.com (which I'm happy I did). This daypack purchase was to be my go-to bag when I was heading out for the day, a hike, a trip, to work, etc. The Surge has a non-tactical appearance and as I'm learning, a "non-threatening" look to it. Until recently, I knew nothing about "tactical" packs and gear. PLEASE NOTE: This is not the latest release from TNF of this product which you will find out there as the "Surge II"; mine is a prior release and I still see this version available (style: AJUX) in a lot of places but colors may be limited. The pack being reviewed here is the "Asphalt Grey Emboss" color. I bought this pack locally at Ramsey Outdoors here in northern NJ. It was nice to be able to see and hold it before the final decision which "really" helped me know it was well built and would do the job. This pack is also endorsed by the American Chiropractic Association (ACA).

    Some specs: Weight: 3 lbs. 1 oz. (1390 g); Material: 420D nylon, 1680D ballistics nylon; Volume: 2015 cu. in. (33 liters); Size: 20" x 13.5" x 9.5" (51 cm x 35 cm x 24 cm).

    Here's a front view:

    [IMG]

    I've read a lot about this pack and there are complaints about the front zippered access having two separate zippers and that they're not fun to open. Maybe this is true to some degree. BUT... I did a mod I saw a fellow Surge owner do in a YouTube review by making a paracord zipper pull to "link" both zippers together (see following image) and it works great; it just needs to be long enough. Mine is 8-1/2 inches long while 9-1/2" may work even better -- just grab the paracord pull and zip away (or zips away) -- very nice indeed.

    [IMG]

    Living behind the double zippered flap in the first compartment are some organizational pockets. At the top is a padded zippered pocket (7-1/2 in. wide x 3-1/2 in. deep) for glasses, cell phone, etc. This pocket is directly under the upper flap containing THE NORTH FACE logo; just unbuckle the top flap and you're in without unzipping the dual zipper flap - so yes - easy access. Working your way down there are two zippered mesh pockets (5 in. wide x 5 in. deep each). Lastly in this compartment is a non-zippered mesh pocket (10 in. wide x 6-1/2 in. deep). The buckle and strap over this zippered area can be loosened a bit and I've tucked a rolled up sweatshirt under there and cinched it tight to have it handy. Also on the zippered flap are two PALS/MOLLE points (in previous image they're behind the buckle strap under the paracord dual-zipper pull).

    [IMG]

    Next in line is the admin compartment. From front to back: At the right are two layered pockets followed by a wider pocket that allows my iPhone 4S in an OtterBox Defender case to fit into "perfectly". The remaining four (4) pockets are narrow for your pens, lights, etc. All of these pockets are sewn in front of two 5-1/2" wide pockets that span the width of the compartment (non-zippered). Behind these is a 7" deep zippered pocket running the full width of the compartment (11"). Inside of this pocket is a (sort of cheap looking) lanyard and key ring. Lastly, is a pocket 8" deep running the full width of the compartment and has a hook and loop closure in the center. At the top of this compartment's panel is a zippered mesh pocket measuring 5-1/4" deep from the zipper to the seam. There's even more room -- deep down. If you look at the next image, you'll see the top of my Maxpedition E.D.C. Pocket Organizer. It's sitting at the bottom of this compartment and all the way to the left, leaving enough room for my Eagle Creek 1/4 Cube (not shown). Both fill the bottom and add a ton of organization.

    [IMG]

    Next to last is the main compartment being a top-loading area about 18" high x 13" wide x 7" deep. This is simply one large area without pockets or dividers and stores a lot!

    [IMG]

    The laptop compartment is at the rear of the pack. It will stow away your 15" laptop nicely. (FWIW, my 17" beast can't be hauled around in it but I personally didn't buy this pack for carrying my laptop.) The compartment for your 15" incher is nice and it is padded. The laptop compartment does not go all the way down to he bottom of the pack. There is a wedge of heavy duty cushioning at the bottom that the laptop rides on top of. I loaded one of our 15" machines in there to test out the padding/cushion. Reaching into the bottom compartment towards back and also down from the top of the laptop compartment shows me that the laptop compartment does keep the laptop up from the very bottom of the pack and that items stored in the bottom compartment will not hit the laptop.

    [IMG]

    The North Face is calling the zippered/padded bottom compartment a power-cord pocket (makes sense for a laptop carry pack). For giggles I learned that my son's Maxpedition Fatty will fit in there but I removed it and gave it back to him. The size if this compartment is about 11" wide x 6" deep.

    [IMG]

    Here's an image of the pack from the rear. The hip belt is stowed away so it's not visible in this image but it is padded and winged. The shoulder straps have ventilation built into them as well as the design of the back so it's breathable. The chest strap can be adjusted up or down on a track found on the shoulder straps. At the top is a haul loop. This is very a comfortable bag to wear.

    [IMG]


    There are two (2) side water bottle pockets that are stretchy and hug the bottle tight. I slide 20 oz. Dasani bottles in mine and it's a great fit. I do not think you'll be fitting 32 oz. bottles in these pockets - too small.

    [IMG]


    From the rear of the pack and integrated into the water bottle pockets are two more pockets. These pockets do not open into the same space the water bottles sit in. They're wrapped in front of the water bottle pockets. These would be good for your lip balm, some coins, etc. I personally have not used them yet when water bottles were being carried so time will tell.

    [IMG]

    Lastly, some mods other than the dual-zipper paracord pull: I swapped out the stock zipper pulls for my own simple paracord pulls. The larger knot is much easier to grab and keep hold of, especially for the longer compartment zippers. Some interior compartment zippers do not have pulls at all.

    [IMG]

    ###

    I hope this review and its images help any of you deciding to buy this pack or a similar one. I went into a lot of detail here because I wished I had this information when I was shopping for a pack.

    If you have any questions, comments, or recommendations please reply. If you own a TNF Surge, please share your thoughts and images to help others too! Thanks, enjoy, and happy shopping!
    Last edited by Freddo4J, Jan 5, 2013
    JTPhoenix, GatorMedic, Dusty and 5 others like this.

    nuphoria Loaded Pockets

    Tinkered with the idea of getting one of these myself - thanks for your pics/thoughts on it :)
    • In Omnia Paratus

    stax Loaded Pockets

    Great looking pack and nice review! :cool:
    • In Omnia Paratus

    TARFU EDC!!!!! Junkie

    Looks like a fine review. I'll look forward to reading it later today.

    Freddo4J Loaded Pockets

    You are all welcome and I hope it helps those needing more information.

    EDIT: A pack is a very personal purchase and we want the "perfect" bag. Forget that - there isn't one perfect bag (IMHO) or else there wouldn't be so many to choose from but we can get REALLY close to finding that best bag to suit OUR personal needs. Getting good solid information is everything; images (lots of them) help too. TARFU started a blog that does just this.
    Last edited by Freddo4J, Jan 3, 2013
    bzimmerly likes this.
    • In Omnia Paratus

    jeepsrjason Loaded Pockets

    Sweet review! Though I am a bit upset that I didn't get around to doing it first. I believe you and I went through a similar decision making process although I'm pretty sure my way was longer. :)
    Being in the Army has exposed me to lots of gear and, well, it has lead me down a dark path of no return when it comes to apparel, packs, knives, lights, etc. I started off with tactical packs, Maxpedition, TAD Gear, Kifaru, etc and I discovered, the hard way, that tactical packs aren't always the way to go... especially in Europe. Anywhooo years ago I bought my wife the female surge for her as a carry on bag for all the travelling we do and she really loved it and soooo did I. However, I couldn't justify buying one for myself as I had(still have) a Litespeed, E&E and Mollex. Years later I decided to sell one of my bags(Litespeed) on Ebay and long story short It didn't sell but I thought It had and went ahead and purchased a Surge II as I thought it was an upgrade to the surge. It is not! Anyway after returning the Surge II and getting an REI Lookout 40 and returning that... I got a Surge! I freaking love it!
    K, I didn't wanna steal any of your thunder but just wanted to throw my thoughts in. I thought about doing the para cord mod you did but I've found that both zippers operate perfectly by just grabbing the top of the "flap" and pulling down. Also, 32oz Nalgenes do fit in the side pockets. It's tight to be sure and a down right pain when the bag is packed full but they do fit. I prefer to use my liter Camelbak bottles as they taper but Most often I find myself using my .75 liter Camelbak bottle on one side and my 20oz Klean Kanteen in the other. I almost never use the extra pockets in the water bottle pockets as I feel they inhibit the bottles going/staying in. That being said I'll sometimes put a folded bandanna in one.
    TARFU likes this.

    Freddo4J Loaded Pockets

    Thanks for the kudos and for the help with the review. We've all got our own experiences - thanks for sharing yours!!!

    I tried that but "think" (and I'm not a YKK zipper designer/engineer) that might not be good for the zippers (just my opinion though). The paracord helps me stay sane after the $125 spent on this pack (I was using a $30 L.L. Bean pack for many many years and it'll last my lifetime - I just wanted more organization in a pack).

    Cool and thanks! This information will help others and myself too. I want to buy real bottles one day.

    What color did you end up with (?) and maybe pop an image or two up here to add content for others.

    *** LASTLY AND MOSTLY >>>> Thanks for your service to our country! I appreciate all of you that do or have! ***
    Last edited by Freddo4J, Jan 5, 2013
    jeepsrjason likes this.
    • In Omnia Paratus

    TARFU EDC!!!!! Junkie

    Great looking pack but North Face would lose me at hello when it comes to those water bottle pockets. If it can't easily carry a Nalgene then I'm not interested. And I prefer an actual pocket like on the Camelbak Urban Assault or Tom Bihn Smart Alec versus the stretchy material or mesh.

    Otherwise, I really like that quick access compartment for sunglasses, travel documents, etc. I look for that in packs. The TNF bottom compartment is also a nice touch and something you don't find very often. Does that mean that the laptop compartment is not flush with the bottom of the pack? That's something that Camelbak also got right with the CUA.

    Nice job Freddo. I'm going to link to this review so others who might be seeking out information on the Surge can come here.

    Freddo4J Loaded Pockets

    I too would like bottle pockets I didn't have to stretch open but it was not a deal breaker for me...everything else about this pack made my mind up. I'll take the Surge to a store and try some different bottles in its pockets and update the original review post ASAP with my research findings.

    Thanks for the kind remarks. I've updated the initial review above, adding more detail regarding the laptop compartment's bottom protection - it's in there!
    TARFU likes this.
    • In Omnia Paratus

    Fukurai EDC Junkie!!!!!

    Very nice review. When I went for getting a bag I was stuck between TNF surge and TNF big shot. I finally went with the big shot, because I could fit in there more. It serves me well, but I lack a bit the better organization of the surge. It would be ideal if TNF'd make a pack with the organization style of the surge (extra laptop compartment, quick access organization panel) and the main compartment size of the big shot. It'd be great.

    Freddo4J Loaded Pockets

    Thanks Fukurai... One should also note that the newer Surge II does "not" have the first compartment I reviewed that is behind dual zippered panel (a bummer to leave out). That extra organization was key to my purchasing this pack. I'm not sure how much larger the TNF Big Shot could be at 1953 cu. inches; maybe it appears to be due to the compartment configurations (the Surge is 2015 cu. in.).
    • In Omnia Paratus

    Fukurai EDC Junkie!!!!!

    That's interesting. I just went with all my stuff I might need to carry (one full stuffed tatonka backpack, which should be replaced) and my laptop bag with my laptop to a local TNF store and tried to get everything inside the pack. Everything fitted in the Big Shot, but not in the Surge. That's why I went with the Big Shot. The internal organization isn't that good though. Next time I put more weight on this when making a decision.
    • In Omnia Paratus

    MedicInTraining Loaded Pockets

    Awesome review- yet another bag on my watch list!

    Freddo4J Loaded Pockets

    That is cool but if you have something that works you're OK then. You could always add an organizational pouch (or many) to your gear to gain more organization (like Maxpedition's for example) and if you ever switch packs you still have them.
    Fukurai likes this.
    • In Omnia Paratus

    Fukurai EDC Junkie!!!!!

    Yeah, this is my next plan (one of the many...)

    phantom357 Loaded Pockets

    Very nice & detailed review. I don't see very many TNF packs reviewed here, refreshing. ;)

    Sent from my SPH-L710 using Tapatalk 2

    Freddo4J Loaded Pockets

    As much as I'm starting to like the look and capability of the tactical packs, they have their place just as the non-tactical do. As I learn about EDC more and more, and all the gear available, I believe myself and also and see in other posts that a toned down appearance in a pack gets less attention. This may keep people less nervous in certain places which for some scenarios is desired. There a ton of awesome non-tactical pack designs that are quite capable. I wish I found this forum before I made my purchase of the Surge. It may not have changed my mind but it sure would have shown me more options available out there. Just make yours "yours" and enjoy it!
    • In Omnia Paratus

    jeepsrjason Loaded Pockets

    Alrighty, I come bearing pics... but first....

    I also paid full price however I did buy the bag from Backcountry.com since they have their 100% Guaranteed lifetime UNCONDITIONAL returns! I figure If a zipper breaks or I stretch something out or set it on fire... they have to take it back, right?! :D

    Thank you for your support!!!

    Well I posted to earl by mistake and my pics don't seem to be working... hmmmm

    got it...

    front
    [IMG]
    back[IMG]
    back with some misc. bottles
    [IMG]
    32oz Nalgenes in the pockets. It's tight but they do fit. I don't feel that the pockets will be stretched out by having them in there buuut the pockets are at their limits!
    [IMG]
    close up
    [IMG]
    1 liter Camelbak goes in a fits a lot better! In my earlier post I mentioned the green bandanna... putting stuff in this pocket can and does interfere with the bottles entry. It helps if you grab the stuff and wiggle it while putting in the bottle.
    [IMG]
    "Regular" sized bottles.
    [IMG]
    How my pack looks at airports. :cool:
    [IMG]
    Front open w? Kindle.
    [IMG]
    Where I put my Kindle.
    [IMG]
    Admin pocket with stuff I had handy to cram in there. Recoil doesn't really fit in that sleeve, too tall.
    [IMG]
    Bottom pocket
    [IMG]

    I hope this helps everyone out!
    Last edited by jeepsrjason, Jan 7, 2013
    Fukurai and Freddo4J like this.
    • In Omnia Paratus

    jeepsrjason Loaded Pockets

    Totally forgot about these pix... I figured since I was taking pix I'd do some side by side shots with other packs and bags.

    Maxpedition Lunada
    [IMG]
    Patagonia Atom Sling
    [IMG]
    TAD Gear Litespeed
    [IMG]
    Oakley Icon 2.0
    [IMG]
    Kifaru Mollex
    [IMG]

    Enjoy!
    Fukurai likes this.

    Freddo4J Loaded Pockets

    Thanks for posting the bottle pix! So am I correct that the Camelbak bottle is also 32 oz. like the Nalgene but narrower and taller so it fits better in the pockets? I don;t want to but bottles and then fight getting them in/out. I need to make a trip to a good outdoor supplier.