Reviewers say the North Face Recon is a tough, durable and versatile backpack. Owners use it for everything from car camping to toting schoolbooks and laptops. Although we found a few minor complaints about design features, most say this is an excellent multipurpose pack for big kids and adults.
Perfect for school or camping. Owners put the 1,830-cubic-inch North Face Recon to a wide variety of uses, from camping to toting a laptop and schoolbooks. The bag has four pockets plus a compartment for a laptop or hydration pack. There are organizers in the secondary storage compartment, two mesh water bottle pockets and a zippered mesh pocket inside the main compartment that users say is perfect for holding your wallet, snacks or emergency gear if you're out in the woods. The laptop/hydration sleeve holds a 15 inch laptop or a hydration bladder, and the backpack has a hydration port for the bladder hose.
"The pockets and compartments allowed me to stay organized and it held everything I needed," says one person who used the Recon for a weeklong camping trip. Another reviewer reports comfortably carrying two 1,000-page notebooks, two 1-inch binders and a laptop. Compression straps keep the load from shifting or sagging, and a holster-style pocket on one shoulder strap gives quick access to a cell phone or MP3 player.
Not everybody is a fan of the mesh "drop pocket" on the front of the pack -- basically a mesh panel with a clip at the top. Those who like it say it's very easy to quickly drop something in or fish it out, and that it's useful for toting anything dirty that you don't want to put inside your pack, such as gym clothes. The only downside we found was a comment from an Amazon.com user that if you stuff too much into the pack's outer pockets, it inhibits storage in the main compartment.
Chiropractors endorse it. The North Face Recon is one of nine North Face backpacks that receives a 2010 endorsement from the American Chiropractors Association for superior ergonomic features. "It's so comfortable even when loaded down," writes a user who purchased the Recon for use while traveling.
Other reviewers appreciate the back cushioning. Kid testers recruited by Good Housekeeping magazine weren't as generous; they like the Recon overall, but some said the back pad was a little too stiff. (It's not clear how old the kids were.) A few adult owners agree about the stiffness, but praise for this pack's comfort is almost unanimous.
Tough, but not the toughest. The North Face Recon performs very well in Good Housekeeping magazine's 2008 tests for durability. Most owners second this, saying this pack is strong and durable enough to hold up to heavy use at school or work. Several owners point out the buckles and zippers are particularly well-made.
Andrew Fong, writing for SkatterTech.com, describes the pack's stitching as "fine" but says he can't find any signs of double-stitching, which would give better durability. He likes the "beefy," heavier-duty fabric on the bottom of the pack where it's likely to take the most abuse, but he warns: "It'll hold its own, but don't count on being able to push it to the max." Fong does like some features on this pack, saying it's "decently water-resistant" and the zippers are built to last.
The North Face Recon is one of the best packs we evaluated in terms of versatility, with features that are equally suited for campers, students and commuters. The only downsides are subjective; some say its ergonomically correct back panel is a little too stiff, while others say stuffing the outer pockets makes filling the main storage compartment problematic. Some simply wish the Recon were a little larger.
Very good More than 20 contributors give the North Face Recon a near-perfect 4.9-star rating on Amazon.com. They love how functional, durable and comfortable it is, saying it's a great bag for the price. A few say it could be bigger.
Review: The North Face Recon, Contributors to Amazon.com, As of Sept. 2012
2. American Chiropractic Association
Good In this news release, the American Chiropractic Association endorses nine North Face backpacks, including the Recon, for their ergonomic features.
Review: American Chiropractic Association Endorses The North Face Backpacks, American Chiropractic Association, May 4, 2010
3. Good Housekeeping
Fair The North Face Recon gets a brief review in this older roundup of kids' backpacks. It earns an overall rating of B+, with editors saying its compartments are great for organization, but it may not be the most comfortable backpack.
Review: North Face Recon Backpack Product Review, Editors of Good Housekeeping, Aug. 2008
Fair Andrew Fong at SkatterTech.com writes a detailed and balanced review of The North Face Recon. Among the backpacks he tests, the Recon is the most comfortable with standard loads. However, he'd prefer more padding in the laptop sleeve.
Review: Day Pack Reviews: North Face Recon, Andrew Fong, July 13, 2008