Alps Mountaineering Denali 5500

  • Color: Olive
  • Fabric: Nylon Ripstop Top - 1000D Bottom
  • Capacity: 5500 cu. in.
  • Weight: 5 lb. 4 oz.
  • Fits Torso: 17" to 23"
  • Number of stays: 2
  • Frame Material: Aluminum
  • Access/Loading: Top
  • Sleeping Bag Compartment: Yes
Our REI Great Star next to the Denali 5500
Ready for travel to Chile

Our thoughts:
When we began to travel internationally, we chose to pack all of our gear into backpacking packs as they allow us to easily negotiate the crowds of people navigating the endless customs lines.  We also find ourselves walking to find rental cars and lodging, being able to walk around with our gear on our back is so much easier than trying to drag wheeled luggage around.

Image courtesy of Alps Mountaineering

After reviewing the backpacking packs on the market, we chose the Alps Mountaineering Denali 5500 based on price and features.  At 6' 6" and 260+ lbs, I am not exactly a small person and the folks at Alps must have had me in mind when they designed the Denali 5500.  The first thing I noticed was the ability to change out the waist belt with one that would fit.  Alps offers three different options in waist belts for this pack.  The Standard (26"-40") is sold with the pack, the youth fits waists 22" to 26" and the X-Large fits 40"+ waists.

Snowshoeing into a Forest Service cabin to spend New Years

The adjustments were easy to use and I liked the extra-long straps used to bring the top of the pack closer to the shoulders. The opening in the waist belt are very comfortable and the adjustment is easy to use. I think there could have been more adjustment length in the waist belt, even with the X-Large belt. I have a 42" waist and I found the waist belt was almost too small when I was wearing a fleece jacket. I know a couple of friends my size who backpack and find most waist straps too small. The pack offers some nice features. The integration of straps, belt, and frame work well together and is very simple. The extra side pockets and internal water bladder make hydration on the trail easy.

There are two areas I think could be improved upon.  It would be nice if the sleeping bag compartment had a larger opening.  There is plenty of room in the compartment for a sleeping bag, but trying to stuff one through the small opening was more difficult than using a stuff-sack.  The drawstring divider between the main compartment and the sleeping bag compartment could use a positive locking system.  As we were stuffing the sleeping bag into the compartment, the divider kept opening up.  We ended up tying a knot in the drawstring to keep the divider closed.

The Alps Mountaineering Denali 5500 has been a great addition to our travel gear. The pack has traveled with us on snowshoeing trips and our 16 day trip to Chile. It has done everything we have asked of it. The pack has been loaded down with clothing, tripods, and cooking gear to the point of nearly being too heavy for normal checked baggage. We have never had an issue with the pack and it has held up to the rigors of being checked baggage on international flights. Even with our suggestions for a few small alterations, the sleeping bag opening and waist straps, we would recommend this pack for anybody looking for a sturdy pack for international travel.