The Seek Outside Divide 4500 (54 oz / 1531 g, $359) is a high-capacity external frame backpack designed to carry heavy loads. Seek Outside introduced this pack in 2016. It features a roll-top closure, multiple compression straps and attachment points, two oversized side pockets, and a back pocket. The bag material is waterproof, and all materials are heavy-duty, intended to give long service in rough conditions.
About This Review
This Limited Review of the Seek Outside Divide 4500 is based on my experience with the pack during a 10-day, 150-mile section hike of the Desert Trail in the Mojave Desert of California, March 2020.
Features and Specifications
- Base MSRP: $359
- External frame
- Roll-top closure
- Waterproof X-Pac fabric
- Dual-adjustment straps on hip belt
- Gatekeeper buckles allow compression straps to be easily added or removed
- Optional accessories include top lid, frame extensions, hipbelt pockets, lumbar pad, bottle holster
- No hydration ports
- Minimal weight 2 lb 12 oz (1250 g)
- Weight as tested 3 lb 6 oz (1530 g)
- 3000 – 4500 cu in (50 – 75 L) volume
- Carries 50+ lb (23+ kg) loads
- Adjustable harness fits torsos 16-20 in (40-50 cm), 18-22 in (45 – 55 cm) with optional frame extension
- Five hipbelt sizes fit 26-48 in (66-122 cm) hip range
|Criteria||Observations and issues|
|Load Hauling||Rigid U-shaped external frame and well-padded yoked harness enabled me to comfortably carry loads of up to 40 lbs (18 kg). Dual straps on hipbelt provided a comfortable and secure fit.|
|Load Adaptability||The side, top, and bottom compression straps minimized volume as water carries went from 8 L to 1 L, and my food supply went from 8 days to 1 day. However, the main bag is cavernous, 38 inches (97 cm) tall when unrolled. It's a long reach to grab gear.|
|Usability and Flexibility||The Divide 4500 comes with an abundance of straps and gatekeeper buckles that are easy to move around between the many attachment loops. The optional hipbelt pocket is positioned too far back, making it difficult to access. The optional lumbar pad increased comfort with heavy loads, increased airflow to back. The pack was easy to balance. A lack of a hydration port meant that I used a side pocket for a hydration bladder, which was easily accommodated by the oversize side pockets.|
|Agility During Off-trail Travel||Articulated hipbelt maintained my freedom of movement. Curved frame geometry kept the load close to my back. Cordlocked drawstrings on back and side pockets kept items secure when clambering up and down rocks.|
|Durability||Heavy-duty mesh and solid fabrics resisted abrasion from rocks and thorny vegetation very well. There are a lot of both on the Desert Trail.|
|Water Resistance||Although I did not seam-seal the pack, only minimal moisture entered the Divide 4500 in an all-day rainstorm.|
|Weight||Seek Outside bills the Divide 4500 as an ultralight pack, placing it in the 2.5 lb(1 kg) category. This billing is unrealistically low, as most configurations result in a 3+ pound (1.4+ kg) pack weight. Such weight doesn't qualify as ultralight in my book. But it does qualify as light, especially in the context of its load and volume capacity.|
What makes the Seek Outside Divide 4500 unique?
- Wide Load Range
- Robust Construction and Materials
I tested the Divide 4500 on a 10-day hike of the Desert Trail in California. With long stretches between food and water caches, I carried loads ranging from 20 to 40 lbs (9 to 18 kg). The pack readily accommodated my maximum load of 6 days food and 6 L of water. I can easily imagine the pack accommodating the kind of bulky gear I bring when leading youth groups: a 4L pot, mixing bowls, bear canister, etc. Conversely, compression down to my base load (15 lbs / 6.5 kg) plus a day of food and 2 L of water was no problem.
Robust Construction and Materials
A ten-day trip is insufficient to assess long-term durability, but the Desert Trail dishes out plenty of pack (and human) abuse per mile. I routinely subjected the Seek Outside Divide 4500 to thorny vegetation and extensive abrasion from rock scrambles. The pack showed no damage or signs of wear. The side pockets are 500d Cordura. The back pocket is a mesh-solid hybrid, with the mesh a non-stretchy heavy-gauge material. These are the most vulnerable points on a pack when bushwhacking, but they were undamaged.
The laminated X-Pac material forming the main bag is heavy (4.4 to 7 oz/sq yd, 150 to 240 g/sq m) and somewhat stiff. This material is exceptionally waterproof (200 PSI, 140K mm H2O) but must be seam-sealed to achieve full water tightness. I hiked for hours in the rain one day with the pack exposed and noted only minimal water infiltration, despite not having seam-sealed the pack.
Close inspection of the Divide 4500 revealed its workmanship to be top-notch. The seams are straight and even and are double-seamed or zig-zagged for strength where appropriate. Seams are covered with tape to prevent fraying, and no loose ends are left to unravel.
A key attribute of the Seek Outside Divide 4500 is its flexibility and how easy it is to configure. I ordered my tester pack with the lighter gray Xpac fabric (the heavier olive material adds 3 oz / 85 g), a lumbar pad (+ 3 oz / 85 g) and a hipbelt pocket (+ 2 oz / 57 g). I opted against ordering the frame extensions, which increase load capacity because I have no intention of ever carrying 60+ lb loads. A top lid is also available.
I adjusted the torso length per the manufacturer’s instructions, a fairly simple operation. I tested the ride of the pack with and without the lumbar pad and opted to keep it mounted as it increased carry comfort with heavier loads and also increased air circulation along my back. I retained the removable horizontal stay (2.5 oz / 71 g) for the same reasons.
Among the distinctive features of this pack are the numerous loops for strap attachment, and the use of gatekeeper buckles for rapid attachment and removal of straps. To minimize weight, I opted to leave off the top “V” strap, the two bottom straps, and used only two, rather than three, side compression straps. The trail weight of this arrangement (size M hipbelt), was 3 lb 6 oz (1.5kg).
The Divide has no hydration ports, which increases its water tightness and suitability for packrafting. It has two very large side pockets. Each pocket can accommodate two 1 L Nalgene or two 1.5 L Smartwater bottles. I prefer to hydrate on-trail with a bladder. It was little trouble to fit a Platypus 2.0 L Hoser bladder in a side pocket, clip its top loop to a compression strap with a mini-biner, cut the drink tube to size and clip it to the shoulder strap.
The Seek Outside Divide 4500 is not an ultralight pack. To justify its weight, it has to carry heavy loads securely and comfortably. A 0.5 inch (1.3 cm) anodized 6061 T6 aluminum external frame is key to load capacity. The frame runs in a U-shape around the perimeter of the pack bag and has a concave curve at the bottom to wrap the pack closer to your body. This geometry keeps the pack’s center of gravity closer to your center of gravity.
The shoulder straps and hipbelt are well-padded. The hipbelt is 5 inches (13 cm) wide and has two independently adjustable 1-inch (2.5 cm) straps. I find the two-strap configuration to provide a superior fit, both on this pack and other packs I own.
The Divide carried loads of up to 40 lbs (18 kg) over rough terrain with minimal flexion and no buckling. The load remained well-distributed at all times, and the pack was easy to balance without much fuss. I believe it could easily cope with an additional 20 lbs (9 kg), but I am not anxious to test this assertion.
Equally important on this hike, the Divide moved with me on innumerable scrambles, climbs, and sidehill traverses. At no time did I feel thrown off-balance by the pack. The Divide hipbelt is articulated, which simply means that it is attached along the bottom edge of the frame and can swivel up and down. This feature is very helpful when scrambling over rocks and reaching for handholds.
In short, the pack’s ability to move with me was superb. It made carrying 30 to 40 lb (12 to 18 kg) loads about as comfortable as is possible.
Last fall, I bought the Andrew Skurka-designed Sierra Designs Flex Capacitor 60-75L. This pack checks many of the same boxes as the Seek Outside Divide 4500 concerning capacity and compressibility and addresses many of the same use cases. I have taken the Flex Capacitor on two trips: a 4-day fall loop through the canyon country of western Colorado, and a winter overnight in the Front Range foothills.
The Sierra Designs Flex Capacitor 60-75 L vs. the Seek Outside Divide 4500
|Weight||Flex Capacitor 43 oz (1220 g), Divide 4500 54 oz (1530 g)||Flex Capacitor|
|Max volume||75L both||Tie|
|Min volume||Flex Capacitor 60L, Divide 4500 50L||Divide 4500|
|Carry comfort||The Flex Capacitor has a high center of gravity, making it tippy. Single-strap hipbelt constantly loosened and slid down||Divide 4500, big time|
|Durability||Mesh side pockets of Flex Capacitor were shredded in bushwhack. The Divide 4500 is made of much burlier material.||Divide 4500|
|Configurability||Few attachment points on Flex Capacitor, the Divide 4500 has many attachment points.||Divide 4500|
|Organization and accessibility||Flex Capacitor has a zippered top lid and zippered main opening (works better than you think). Divide 4500 has back mesh pocket (good) and long roll-top opening (not great)||Flex Capacitor|
|Cost||Flex Capacitor $220, Divide 4500 $359 base||Flex Capacitor|
- Rugged and durable
- Comfortable carry
- High capacity
- Waterproof with seam-sealing
- Adaptable storage options
- Heavy. Best use cases are cold-weather trips, guiding, packrafting, hunting, and long water/food carries
- Hip pocket access is awkward
- No hydration ports or sleeve
Where to Buy
- You can buy the Seek Outside Divide 4500 here.
- Ryan and Andrew talk about load-hauling, and interview Seek Outside founder Kevin Timm in Episode 26 of the Backpacking Light Podcast
DISCLOSURE (Updated November 7, 2019)
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