In mid April 2014, Six Moon Designs released their new Fusion pack series. The Fusion line is a result of design collaboration between Ron Moak of Six Moon Designs and Brian Frankle, founder of ULA. When this collaboration was officially announced in 2013, it created a lot of buzz in the backpacking community. I, among others, was eager to see what they would come up with.
I live in the southwest, and the majority of my trips are in the desert regions. Down here, water weight can be quite a challenge. I’ve been looking for a small volume pack with a strong frame/suspension system that weighs in under or around 2 ½ pounds. My gear is both low volume and light weight, but when I add sometimes 17+lbs of water, I need something more substantial than your average frameless pack. So when I saw the specs for the Fusion 50, I thought this could be a contender for the pack I’ve been searching for.
Specs taken from SMD website:
Main Bag: 2300 cubic inches
Extension Collar: 450 cubic inches
Exterior Pockets: 300 cubic inches
Total Volume = 3050 cubic inches/50 liters
Pack Body: 420D robic ™
Body Contact: DriGlide ™
Side Panels: 210D robic ™
Pockets : 4 Way stretch
Weight: 36 oz.
Torso Sizes: 15″ to 22″
Pack Dimensions: 11″W X 6″D X 22″T
Since getting the 50, I have had the opportunity to put about 65 miles on the pack. Tough (to me), desert miles with plenty of water weight. I’m 5’7”, around 165lbs and ordered a size medium hipbelt and size regular yoke and after some dialing in (putting more of a bend at the top of the aluminum stay, strap adjustments, etc) the pack fits me nicely. The adjustable torso is not limited to small, medium, large, but can be set between sizes. This is a nice feature and gives a lot of room to play with. My torso is 18.5”, and the yoke in the medium slot, pulled up about a ½” was a good fit for me. (note that in the photos I have the torso set to large, I was experimenting with different sizing)
Out of the box, my pack weighs 39.6oz. That’s 3.6oz heavier than the advertised 36oz weight. Was I annoyed by this? Yes, but it’s not a deal breaker. I eventually plan to trim up some of the straps so I should be able to shave off some of that extra weight.
Inspecting the pack, it is obvious a lot of thought went in to the design. Compared with Six Moon Designs previous pack series, the Fusion is much more feature laden and intricately constructed. I couldn’t find any flaws in the stitching and the construction seems solid. This pack certainly has the potential to last through the long haul.
One thing I have to mention is the color scheme. I am the type of person that could care less about the color of their pack (or any other gear for that matter), so the green/white doesn’t really bother me. But I have received and read some comments from people who think this is an extremely ugly pack. All that is purely subjective and my main concern is comfort, not fashion, but if aesthetics is your thing, you may take issue with the colors. That being said, I am considering dying the pack a darker color. I may get around to it, I may not.
Some of the features of the Fusion 50 include:
• Integrated Spine that connects directly to the Hip Belt
• Top Loading with Dry Bag style Closure
• Minimal contact No-Sweat Back Panel
• Dual Density hip belt in 3 sizes
• Interior Zippered Stash Pocket
• Seven Exterior Pockets
• Compression system that doesn’t interfere with pockets.
• Dual Webbing Tie Downs
• Dual Ice Axe Loops
• Dual Hydration Ports
• Contoured Cut
• Adjustable Torso Length
• Bear Canister Compatible
• 420 High Tenacity Nylon Robic fabric
• Bound Seams for additional strength
• Load lifter’s
• Sternum Strap
• Multiple Hip Belt Sizes
• Multiple Shoulder Yoke Sizes
The pockets on the shoulder straps are small and high up on the straps. With the positioning, they end up just about right on the top of my shoulders. This curves the pocket, making it not very functional. I suppose you could stick a tube of lip balm or something else small in there, but I don’t find them necessary. It doesn’t really bother me that they are there, they are so small and well integrated that I won’t even notice them. But they could easily have been left off.
The hipbelt is awesome, easily the shining feature of this pack. The following is taken from the SMD website:
“In the Fusion, the Hip Belt is the foundation of the pack. It wraps your waist comfortably with constant even pressure and dissipates the load evenly. The Hip Belt is tall so it covers more surface area and exert less force when tightened. It is articulated in the front so conforms to the contours of your waist. The Hip Belt is closed with a four fixed point webbing belt. Ensuring that your belt will stay locked into position. The Hip Belt is made from a thin outer layer of plastic to evenly transfer the load from Spine. An inner thin layer of soft but firm foam cushions your hips. Overall the Hip Belt is both rigid yet flexible.”
I completely agree with this. The hipbelt is amazing.
No kidding, these pockets are huge. They are advertised as one liter each. In one pocket I had my Nikon camera, Sawyer Mini, compass, mini Bic, Pro Bar, energy gel and still had room to spare. If you are a fan of hipbelt pockets, these will be heaven.
The double side compression straps go from the spine to the front of the pack. This design works well to compress and tighten the load, much better than traditional compression straps which are only connected on the sides. Some people don’t find compression straps necessary, but I like them and find them to be another outstanding feature of this pack.
Initially I had my doubts as to the durability of the 4 way stretch mesh used for the side pockets. And while I do have low miles on the pack, I have done some bushwhacking as well as put the pack through some abrasive (granite) situations and the mesh is thus far flawless. It has great stretch and each can easily accommodate two one liter Smartwater bottles. I am however a bit torn on the design of the side pockets. On one hand, I think they could benefit from being a bit taller. But, as they are now, I am able to reach back with the pack on, remove and put back a water bottle. I love being able to do that and if the pockets were taller, I’m not sure it would be possible.
As you can see from my list below, I have a lot more pros than cons for this pack. I’m giving it high marks so far but need to get some more time and miles on it to really say if it is going to be the pack that fits my high water weight trip needs. I am very hopeful, as it has performed well thus far.
- Hipbelt – comfortable, supportive, massive pockets. Easily one of the best on the market.
- Compression system – top and sides
- Roll top – pretty standard but I’m a fan
- Durable fabrics
- Able to remove and replace water bottles from side pockets with pack on
- Highly adjustable torso
- Minimum contact spine
- No internal water bladder pocket – saved me the trouble of cutting it out
- Shoulder strap pockets are not very functional
- Actual weight is 39.6oz, pack is advertised at 36oz
- Some may consider the internal stash pocket small, I think it is fine, but I don’t use it for much