The Patrol 24 works well as a day pack. At only 24 liters it is a tight fit and you’ll definitely need to be judicious in what you carry, but there’s enough room for essentials, food, plus a jacket and puffy. Anymore than that and it gets tough to add, especially with the airbags taking up space in the center of the main compartment. You can certainly squeeze in most of the utility things like goggles, sunglasses, water, etcetera, but luxury items are categorically denied a seat in the Patrol 24.
Access to the the main and outer compartments is via clamshell style zippers. This allows easy access to the bottom of the pack. The only issue here are the side straps at the top which always get in the way of opening the zipper, but which you need to keep shut to keep the sides taught so the airbags can blow out the velcro seal holding them in.
The outer compartment has sleeves for stashing things like a shovel handle and probe. There’s a top pouch inside the outer compartment for small stuff and another available from the outside for goggles and such. Plus there are additional straps and loops on the backside for slinging skis diagonally, or carrying a snowboard, or hitching on a helmet.
One of the things you will notice is how thin the shoulder straps are. Undoubtedly this is an attempt to save weight but does it do so at the expense of comfort? Their width seems to spread the load well enough without thick padding so I’d say they’re adequate, at least for a day tour.
There are good sized pockets on the waist belt for stashing a camera, snacks, or spare gloves. TNF follows the standard of using a metal buckle but theirs is smaller than usual, and easier to use. It’s a small thing, but noticeable.
As for the airbag system, The North Face has licensed the ABS system for their airbag packs. With the ABS system you get the confidence that comes from pioneering and refining the airbag system that has earned the reputation for a 97% save rate. Caveat emptor – YMMV!
The ABS system comes with dual airbags on either side of the pack for redundancy and greater flotation. Combined the two airbags provide 170 liters of additional volume to help keep you on top in the event you’re riding the back of an avy lizard. ABS uses compressed nitrogen in their cylinders, and a pyrotechnic – that’s physics-speak for a tiny, focused “explosive” – trigger to pierce the seal of the cartridge, allowing the N2 to escape and draw in surrounding air through the venturi valves to fill the airbags. It’s a solid system and the only problem with it is the cost in bureaucratic roadblocks to insure traveling with them is done “safely,” and the cost to replace a “test” cartridge. It’s about $40 (circa 2013) which is more than worth it for saving your life, but can be a nickle and dime annoyance for testing.
Consider the Patrol 24 a forerunner of things to come. Buy one here.
The North Face
Volume: ~ 24 liters
Weight: 6 lbs., 9 oz. (2.98 kg)