The Revival 50 from Sierra Designs conjures up two words in my head: comfortable and smart. At three pounds 12 ounces (M/L version) the pack is fairly light, and it’s ideal for trips anywhere from overnighters to a week or so. Finding a really comfortable pack is something of a holy grail, and this Indiana Jones has spent the last month clambering around the Ruby Mountains to get well acquainted with the Revival 50.

Sierra Designs Revival 50 Features:

  • Top-loading design
  • Front-pulling waistbelt adjustment
  • Unique Fulcrum suspension design with single DAC aluminum stay
  • Exterior: 150D Nylon Rain Dobby w/315D Cordura reinforcements
  • Sizes: S/M, M/L (tested)
  • Volume: 50 L (2950 for S/M – 3100 for M/L)
  • Colors: Gator (tested), True Blue
  • MSRP: $239.95

Hiking for a week in the Ruby Mountains with the Revival 50

Sierra Designs Revival 50 Review

The Revival 50 eschews the trend of simply having a tube on your back but maintains a very straightforward design. There is the main storage tube, yes, but also a front pocket with mesh compartments for additional storage. This front compartment is separated from the main compartment by a thin fabric sheet, which unzips and allows the you to get to stuff lower down in the pack without having to dig down through the main hatch. There’s also an outside stuff pocket for easy access to, in my case, binoculars and my birding book.

Front pocket that boosts the storage and grants easy access to the main compartment.

The main compartment is quite roomy and features a hydration sleeve. This pocket is one of my main complaints: it’s not big enough for a baffled military bladder like my go-to Camelbak Omega Water Beast. I used another 2L bladder and it was a tight fit, and a 3L would definitely be snug. I wish SD had used a wider pocket, although the two hooks to suspend bladders with corresponding holes is a nice touch.

Bladder pocket in the Revival 50

The bottom of the pack is slanted upwards to allow for easier movement in steep terrain – essentially keeping the pack from snagging. This has the obvious disadvantage of reducing a wee bit of internal storage, but I thought it was a worthy tradeoff.

The pack’s lid is detachable and features plenty of storage – I found this to be a strong point of the pack, because it has A LOT of storage. Moreover, it’s also separated into two compartments and the inner one has a place to hook keys or other valuable items that can get lost easily.

There are a total of six compression straps that work together very nicely to keep loads stable and tight. The pack features two that run font-to-back just above the water bottle pockets, which made it really convenient to clip water bottle carabiners to make sure they stay with me. There are also two main vertical straps that attach to the lid. They are anchored quite far down on the pack, which was ideal for compressing packs with smaller loads.

There’s a neat shock cord cinch closure for the main compartment that lets the user simply pull a fabric tab to undo the shock cord — a nice touch that’s even more appreciated with cold fingers or gloves. Another strap runs over the opening beneath the lid that compresses down the very top of the load, making it easier to fit a sleeping pad under the lid.

Loaded and ready for a technical 8 miles of trail.

Straps run through a hole each water bottle pocket and can be used to hold bottles tight to the pack. I like this feature but I was dissatisfied with how small the pockets were: they aren’t big enough for a 1L Nalgene to fit well when the pack is full, and mine often popped out. I own a few Kleen Kantene bottles that are a better fit, but I’d prefer to bring my Nalgene bottles.

The 1L Nalgenes are a tight fit for the Revival 50.

There are a ton of lash points on the lid and front of the pack, but they’re quite narrow and only comfortably accept ¼-inch rope. Naturally there are suitable strap points on the bottom of the pack and they easily accepted 1-inch straps for my Sierra Designs Mojo 2 tent.

I was fortunate to use this pack for an equal mixture of well-established trails and some off-the-map adventures where rock cairns are few and far between. I took it through some very technical climbs and (naturally) descents, and it had some great times scooting over boulders. The value of the Revival’s slanted bottom became very apparent at these times.

The author clambering up some rocks below Griswold Lake. I should have had the stabilizer straps tightened a wee bit more, but it wasn’t bothering me.

Sierra Designs really sold how comfortable the Revival is, so I paid a lot of attention to that aspect. The shoulder straps are made from reasonably firm foam with die-cut ventilation holes accompanied by soft fabric mesh on the underside, with rougher mesh on the outside. The load stabilizer straps are easy to pull with a fully loaded pack, but I did notice a certain amount of creep snuck up on me over time.

The sternum strap slides along the usual tubular assembly, and I’m happy to say that it permits very little creep. An odd feature is the green bottle opener, emblazoned with Sierra Designs, on the left shoulder strap. It’s an odd feature and one that initially put me off – after all, it adds unnecessary weight and I’d hardly like to add the weight of the accompanying bottles (maybe at a stop in town along the trail?) – but then I decided, hey, it’s a quirky feature and I appreciate SD putting their own unique touch on their products. Definitely a personal choice, and if I didn’t like it I’d just cut it off.

The waist belt made of four pre-curved foam panels. Each wing pivots individually on a central hub on the pack’s single aluminum stay; this allows the pack to move remarkably well under hard conditions. The waist belt straps are forward pull and are so much easier to use for someone who has a bad wrist like me. It’s a small detail, but the forward-pull belt is one of my favorite features. The strap itself creeps a mild amount, though I’ve noticed it’s been getting better over time.

The back panel of the pack is fairly unique: it features four foam contact points to allow tons of room for airflow. I had my doubts, thinking that such relatively small contact area would create pressure points, but my doubts have been allayed after using the pack. It’s part of Sierra Designs’ Fulcrum Suspension, which features the following components: a single main DAC aluminum stay, molded sheets at the lumbar and shoulder blades, and of course the pivoting hip belts I mentioned. They all work together to provide a comfortable ride that stays snug to the body and carries heavy loads comfortably. In addition, all the different straps allow for easy adjustment as the day wears on.

In practice, the simple reality is that the Revival 50 is a comfortable pack that support loads well and moves with the user on technical trails. I really appreciated how easy it is to adjust the various straps to reapportion load as different body parts got tired. The only sore spot I developed was the result of the waistband on some new shorts I’m trying out – seriously, this is a comfy pack.

I loved having access to the main compartment through the front pocket. I was a little irritated by the small water bottle holders I mentioned earlier, but hopefully SD will fix that in later iterations. The pre-curved waist belt was a nice touch, and I found the padding on both the belt and shoulder straps to be an appropriate firmness for support and comfort.  I did notice an abrasion failure on the hip belt from where a sharp edge rubs underneath the fabric and isn’t reinforced.  Mine developed just three weeks into testing, which is a definite problem.

Fabric failure on the hip belt

The pack kept my stuff dry for about 45 minutes of light drizzle, which was a good thing. I ran into a freak hailstorm in the Rubies about two weeks ago and I had to duck under a tree for about fifteen minutes until it calmed down. When I unpacked that night I found some dampness in the bottom of the pack. Be advised, like most packs this is water resistant, not water proof.

Good Revival 50

  • Comfortable
  • Great straps all around, especially forward-pull waist belt
  • Fulcrum Suspension works well
  • Water-resistant fabric
  • Ample storage
  • Thoughtful design, easy to use

Bad Revival 50

  • Small water bottle holders
  • Abrasion on hip belt

Bottom Line: Sierra Designs Revival 50

The watchword of the Revival 50 is comfort, but it doesn’t sacrifice performance on any level. On technical terrain this pack excels, and it presents a respectable challenge to names like Osprey and Gregory. Sierra Designs has a hit with the Revival 50.

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About Author

Kevin Glover is an outdoorsman living, climbing and biking in Spokane, WA. Originally from the Nevada high desert, he moved to the PNW for its mild winters and allergen-free summers. He has guided throughout the Cascades and Enchantments for Peak 7 Adventures.

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