I have obsessively spent a couple of hours playing with the Catalyst pack that I got on Friday. My first impressions are very favourable, hopefully this is the perfect pack I have been looking for. The main body of the pack is made from dyneema fabric, which if the Golite Pinnacle is anything to go by is very tough. There are thick tough feeling mesh pockets on either side of the pack that can be closed by an elasticated toggle. There is another larger mesh pocket on the front of the pack that can be compressed. This pocket will easily hold maps and waterproofs. There is no lid to the pack just a drybag style opening that attaches to the top and the two side compression straps. There are also two pockets on the hipbelt that are big enough for a camera and small items that you need during the day. I paid extra to have a removable mesh pocket inside the main body of the pack for keys / wallet etc.
The main compartment of the pack is 43 litres with the roll top opening providing an extra 10 litres if needed. One thing that struck me when first getting it out of the box is how wide it is, much wider than say the Pinnacle which is tall and narrow. This makes packing very easy with the top being wide enough to accommodate a horizontal Hilleberg Akto or Laser Competition. This is one of the things that made this pack attractive to me as I find both of these tents a pain to pack due to the attached carbon fibre poles. With the Pinnacle I usually packed these tents vertically down one side of the rucksack before adding other bits and bobs, a nuisance in the rain. With the Catalyst I should be able to get everything packed before taking down the tent and then simply put it inside the pack at the top.
I filled the pack with various bits and bobs until it weighed 13kg which for me would be the approx weight for a 3 day winter trip with food and fuel. With this weight the back system feels very comfortable with a large proportion of the weight being taken up by the supportive waist band. The back system fits me very well (you are given 4 different back lengths to choose from) and the waist belt is superb (again you have 4 sizes to choose from). The only problem with the waist belt is that if I lost a couple of inches round my waist I may not be able to do it up tight enough (a good excuse to eat pies?) – but at the moment it is perfect. The rigid back has a distinct curve to it which feels a bit strange after using a frame less pack. The aluminium stays are removable and can be bent as required but I think that I will take it backpacking and see how it feels before making adjustments.
The only criticism at the moment is that the front of the pack under the mesh pocket and the front of the roll top is not dyneema. It appears to be ripstop nylon. I will have to be careful when packing to ensure that nothing sharp or pointy goes at the front. I would have preferred the entire pack to have been made of dyneema.
No review until it has a few miles under its belt, but in the meantime some photos (sorry about the flash!)