The Terra Nova Quasar 55L Backpack is a new alpine style ultralight backpack from the UK built using cuben fiber (which Terra Nova has rebranded as “Ultra” fabric) with heavy duty Dyneema Grid/Cordura at high abrasion points and black silnylon for visual appeal. Complete with an optional top lid, dual ice axe loops, and dual c0mpression straps, this pack is designed for rugged hill walking, scrambling, and mountaineering with an emphasis on weight reduction for both day hikes and overnights.
It’s also worth highlighting that the main pack body on the Quasar 55 (and the smaller Quasar 45L and 30L) is sewn out of multiple fabrics. Cuben fiber backpack specialists Zpacks.com and Hyperlight Mountain Gear take a very different approach, making the main pack body entirely out of cuben fiber fabric, including the high abrasion areas at the bottom of their packs and under the side pockets.
Pack Components/Storage Capacity
The Quasar 55L backpack has many optional components making it a quite versatile pack depending on conditions and your preferences. The minimum pack weight including main compartment, shoulder straps, and hip belt, side pockets, haul loop and climbing rope attachment stap, two tiers of external compression straps and mesh reservoir pocket is a meager 17 ounces. To this. one can add any of the following components, which are all included with the pack.
- Optional hip belt pockets: 1.2 ounces
- Optional floating lid pocket: 3.7 ounces
- Optional mini lid: 0.9 ounces
- Optional foam pad: 3.1 ounces
- Optional plastic frame sheet with center stay: 8.5 ounces
Compression is particularly important on the Quasar 55L, because the main compartment tends to bulge out when the pack is stuffed full of gear and food, and balancing your load takes some patience.
The Quasar 55L has two tiers of side compression straps, with the lower tier sewn inside the pockets, so that that the pockets are still usable. Vertical compression is provided by the floating lid/mini lid and the front straps that connect it to the base of the pack.
Additionally, there are lots of lash points along the front and back side seams of the pack for setting up your own external compression or gear attachment system. I’ve used these extensively during testing, for carrying snowshoes on winter hiking trips in the White Mountains, as the side compression straps and side pockets make it difficult to attach snowshoes to the side of the pack.
When I unpacked the Quasar 55L, the first thing that caught my eye was the hip belt, which seemed minuscule for a 55L / 3,356 cubic inch backpack. I don’t mind lightly padded hip belts, particularly on ultralight packs, but this seemed a bit extreme and proved to be uncomfortable for extended hikes with just a 15 pound load. For a pack with this much of capacity (close to a Gossamer Gear Mariposa Plus in size), I’d expect, even recommend, wider hip belt wings with more padding and a wider canvas webbing strap.
While both the foam pad and the plastic framesheet with stay are optional, I found them quite comfortable to use together. While I suppose you could just use the foam pad an internal framesheet, you really can’t just use the plastic framesheet without some sort of pad to hold it in place in the internal pocket used to hold both components inside the main body of the pack.
The shoulder straps on the Quasar are quite elaborate with all kinds of attachment points to hang gear or water bottles from. I’m actually astonished by the amount of fabric ornamentation on them and reckon they must take a lot of labor to sew.
The Terra Nova Quasar 55L is a fairly large capacity ultralight backpack that is made using silnylon, cuben fiber, and Dyneema Grid / Cordura for improved durability in high abrasion areas. On hindshight, focusing on the use of cuben fiber in this backpack is probably a mistake, given the fact that the pack weighs 33.3 ounces, or over 2 pounds, when configured with the foam pad, frame sheet, floating lid, and hip belt pockets. In fact, the use of cuben fiber on this pack provides vary little functional benefit at all.
Instead, the modular construction of the pack and it’s ability to be configured for different kinds of “missions” is it’s greatest strength, although it is significantly hampered by a limited maximum load weight topping out at about 15 pounds. This could be easily fixed by providing the pack with a wider, more padded hip although I suspect that the Quasar pack design is more functional for the smaller versions of this pack, the Quasar 45L and the Quasar 30L.
The MSRP of the Terra Nova Quasar 55L is $300.
- Lightweight (17 ounces), when used without any of the optional components, including top lid, hip belt pockets, foam pad or plastic frame sheet. If used with the foam pad and frame sheet, the Quasar 55L weighs 28.6, comparable to similarly sized ultralight backpacks made without cuben fiber.
- Extra gear loops on shoulder straps make it easy to hang additional gear
- Extra tie out loops along pack sides (both front and back) make it easy to lash extra gear to the sides and back of the pack
- Top lid flops over main compartment and pulls back of pack away from wearer’s back.
- Hip belt width is too small on a pack with a 55L volume. No padding is provided.
- Main compartment bulges awkwardly when packed with a lot of gear; perhaps the cuben fiber is not thick enough on the front of the pack prevent this.
- Removable lid with double pocket and reinforced crampon attachment points. Includes second low weight “Mini lid” option
- Extendable main compartment
- Multiple gear attachment points
- Rope attachment strap and haul point
- Differential sized side pockets with drain holes
- 2x removable belt pockets
- Shoulder strap load adjustment
- Fully adjustable chest strap with hi viz whistle
- Double water bottle attachment points on shoulder straps
- Internal hydration pocket with double hydration tube entry points on main pack
- PE sheet with single alloy strut
Disclosure: SectionHiker.com (Philip Werner) received a free Quasar 55L from Terra Nova’s US Distributor for this review.
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