Review: Lowe Alpine Tensor 23 Backpack

The Lowe Alpine Tensor 23 is a comfortable and lightweight daypack at a reasonable price.

The Lowe Alpine Tensor 23 is a comfortable and lightweight daypack at a reasonable price. It's perfect for fast day hikes and even could be used as a small climbing pack.


The Lowe Alpine Tensor 23 is a lightweight, frameless daypack weighing in at 1lb 2oz. If you usually take your internal frame pack on day hikes, switching to this frameless pack will feel amazing. It's super light while still offering plenty of room for food, water, and gear. No frameless pack is going to match the comfort of an internal frame pack if you're carrying a heavy load, but for a day hike you most likely aren't carrying more than 10-15 pounds anyways. And cutting a few pounds off your pack is going to make you a whole lot more comfortable too.

The pack has a fairly flexible plastic sheet (which is removable) at the back of the pack (against your back) to give the pack some slight rigidity for carrying more weight or carrying especially soft and floppy loads. It's important to pack a frameless pack carefully, in a way that won't bend the pack uncomfortably and eventually hurt your back. The plastic piece helps keep the pack close to your back, aiding comfort. But if you ever feel the need to shave off a few more grams, you can always remove it.

While some lighter-weight products sacrifice durability, the Tensor 23 seems to hold up to quite a bit of wear and tear. After around 8 months with the pack and dozens of trips, I've had no issues with the pack. The only concern I would have is that the plastic piece in the back of the pack (that sits against your back) could get crushed if you aren't careful.

Hiking on Mt. Hunger with the Lowe Alpine Tensor 23.
The shoulder straps are well padded and comfortable. The hip belt and chest strap don't really take the load off like in a beefier pack, but they help keep the pack situated comfortably.

The Tensor 23 has - you guessed it - 23 liters of capacity. For me, this is a super versatile size - definitely large enough for a day hike, even for 2 people on a shorter hike, good for toting stuff around on a longer bike ride, and it would even work for short multipitch rock climbs. Overall, it's just the right size for me, and I find myself using it every week.

(If you like the Tensor 23 but find that it's not the right size for you, Lowe Alpine also offers a full range of Tensor backpacks in 5L, 10L, 15L, 20L, and 23L, with the smaller capacity packs generally offering fewer features.)

The Tensor 23 also has a surprising number of features for such a small and lightweight backpack. Internally, there is one large main compartment with a sleeve for a hydration bladder (and a clip at the top). The right shoulder has a pass-through for the hose. The "brain" of the pack has a small zippered external pocket with a key clip, as well as a mesh pocket accessed from the main compartment.

On the outside of the pack, there is a larger, stretchy mesh pocket suitable for quickly stuffing a jacket, or perhaps for storing quick-access snacks if you're like me. There are also two waterbottle pockets. The shoulder straps have a few places to clip things and thread a hydration bladder hose through. The chest strap can be adjusted up and down. One unique feature is the special "TipGripper" trekking pole attachment method, which involves two plastic pieces attached to the bottom rear of the pack and attached with elastic to stow away nicely. The pole tips fit into a hole in the plastic pieces and then are attached with hook-and-loop closure to the top of the pack. Since I don't hike with trekking poles, I haven't really used it. I wish this system also worked for ice axes, but I haven't found a solution, unfortunately.


Overall, the Lowe Alpine Tensor 23 is a great pack - the perfect size, comfortable, plenty of features, and at a great price. I highly recommend it for anyone who does frequent day hikes, fast hiking, or ultralight hiking.

Buy it