Marmot Verve 42 Backpack Review

Marmot Verve 42, Alpine Lakes Wilderness - WA
 
Intro:
I loved my Verve 32 last year so much I bought its bigger brother, the Verve 42. This means the Verve 42 has a lot to live up to, but does it?

Construction/Material/Fit:
One of the nicest features on the Verve 42 is the J-type double zipper which makes finding anything in the pack really easy. The zipper also makes it easy for you to fill small holes in between your gear when loading the pack in order to completely utilize the interior space of the backpack.
J-type zipper makes finding items on the bottom easy

The Marmot Verve uses 70 denier nylon for the main body and uses 100 denier nylon ripstop for reinforcement areas like the bottom of the pack. In comparison, the Osprey Exos series uses a combination of 100D and 100D ripstop nylon.

The hip belt is extremely comfortable, uses small foam circles which allows the belt to contour the weight around your hips. The lumbar support behind the mesh back-panel really helps when the backpack is fully loaded.

Great hip-belt and lumbar support

The Verve 42 comes in two sizes medium and large, while all the smaller Verve's  do not. I found the one size fits all Verve 32 to fit my torso length slightly better than my Medium Verve 42. It looks like, even in the Medium size, marmot made the backpack bigger by simply extending the frame. So if you are small enough that the Verve 32 barely fits your torso length, the Verve 42 may be too big. If you have a longer torso, than rejoice, as it's slightly larger and even comes in a Large

Performance:
I've been using the Verve 42 as my go to pack this summer due to weight of the backpack and trying to go fast and light. It's been used on mostly backpacking trips, an easy alpine climb, and even a UL mountaineering trip with just a bivy and 1 sleeping bag to share between my wife and I. The pack's sweet spot for weight is around 20-25 lbs. My mountaineering pack was definitely pushing 30lbs+ and you could tell it wasn't meant for it.

Quick overnight trip on a snowless spring trail in the Cascades
When you can get your total gear in the pack's sweet spot, hiking 10+ miles and doing 3000+ gain each day becomes quite easy. Doing the High Divide Loop in the Olympic National Park was made so easy with the backpack and extremely enjoyable. The backpack just crushes miles and elevation gain.

One annoying thing about the pack was the plastic pull tabs on the bungee that keeps your trekking poles attached. When I attached my poles for the first time, the plastic piece came apart into two. I had to use fine tweezers to res-install the tinny plastic pieces back on the bungee. Annoying that it got past factory inspection and impossible to fix on the trail, luckily I was at home packing.

After a few trips, less than 50 miles, a hole formed where the frame-sheet meets the bottom of the backpack. I think this a major design flaw, as the plastic back frame is rubbing and puts pressure on the Nylon bottom. If you look at other major backpack models, or even UL backpacks like the Exos, they all are much more reinforced than the Verve line. This design flaw ultimately means that the durability on the bottom is non-existent, in fact, it helps create the hole.

I think the reason this has become an issue on my Verve 42, and not my Verve 32, is that the frame-sheet is taut flush against the bottom of the pack and that the weight used in the 42L model exasperates the design flaw.

I loved this back enough that I took it down to Rainy Pass Repairs, probably the best gear repair shop in the US, and they couldn't repair it. Rainy Pass stated that because the frame sheet is sewn into the frame, they cannot access the area to work on it. It's sad that only 50 miles has caused such damage to the pack while the rest of the pack still looks new. I plan to warranty the backpack out to Marmot and let them know about the issue. I look forward to whether Marmot will address this problem or ignore it.

Poor design with no reinforcement between the frame sheet and bottom fabric. 
Summary:
The Verve 42 is comfortable, lightweight, breathable even on hot days, and packs down small for summit pushes. The my Verve 42 seemed like the perfect backpack for UL backpacking and a fast approach pack. Unfortunately, a design flaw with the frame-sheet means low durability on the bottom of the pack. I absolutely love this backpack but the durability makes me so frustrated because the pack had such high potential, but falls short. At the end of the day, I don't recommend buying the Verve 42 because of these issues.

Pros:
  • Exceptionally breathable back-panel
  • Foam cushioning in hipbelt and straps are very comfortable
  • Hipbelt pockets are wide enough for a smartphone
  • Weight is on par with other lightweight packs
Cons:
  • Quality control issues

****Update 8/21/15****
Big kudos to Marmot customer service for issuing credit for the backpack and also the prepaid label. I'm glad that they are willing to take care of their customers

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