What we like:
- Thick and durable fabric, zippers, and other elements.
- Lots of pockets, straps, and other storage options.
- Very comfortable to wear.
What we don’t:
- The sleeping bag compartment zipper is hard to open.
- Came with a production defect – a seam is coming loose.
- Too heavy for ultralight hikers
5.1 lbs / 2.3 kg
32 x 18 x 12 in / 80 x 45 x 30 cm
65 l / 4000 cubic inches
600D Oxford Polyester, Aluminum
Limited Lifetime Warranty
Water-resistant fabric, built-in waterproof rain cover
Detailed In-Depth Review
The Teton Sports Explorer 4000 is a versatile internal frame backpack, that’s been around for a long time, and has achieved a good reputation among hikers. It’s also one of the most popular and well-reviewed internal frame backpacks.
I’ve been testing the Teton 4000 for a while now – I purchased it in early 2020. So far, I’ve hiked about 50 miles or 80 kilometers with this backpack, when I was doing a three-day hike through the local forests in Latvia. This review will be based on my initial experience, but It will be updated once I get more miles on this backpack.
Weight, Dimensions, and Capacity
Let’s start by quickly going over the most important specs for the Teton Sports Explorer 4000. The numbers in the name stand for 4000 cubic inches or 65 liters, which is the total capacity of this backpack. If you don’t have ultra-light, compact gear, then I’d say that 65 liters are enough for three to seven-day hikes in the wilderness.
When it’s packed to the brim, it measures at 32 in or 80 cm in length, 18 in or 45 cm in width, and 12 in or 30 cm in depth. This is a very large backpack, which should be enough for just about anything, whether it’s wilderness backpacking or section hiking.
The largest downside to this backpack is the weight. When empty, the Teton Sports Explorer 4000 weighs 5.1 lbs or 2.3 kg. You can find similarly priced 65-liter backpacks that weigh a pound or sometimes even two pounds less, so the Teton 4000 is considered as pretty heavy. If you’ll be backpacking for a few nights in the wilderness, it’s not a big issue, but this backpack won’t be suitable for ultralight long-distance hiking.
Fabric and Seams
The Teton Sports Explorer 4000 internal frame backpack is made from 600D oxford polyester, which explains why it’s so heavy. The fabric, the zippers, all the plastic elements, the straps, everything feels very thick and very durable. It’s clearly built for the backcountry, not ultralight hiking.
Although they haven’t mentioned this specifically, the fabric seems to be pretty good at resisting water. From the inside, it seems to be coated with some kind of plastic coating that doesn’t let any water through. I tried pouring some water on the fabric in the video part of this review, and after leaving a small puddle of water on there for two minutes, nothing inside got wet. However, take this with a grain of salt, because the seams aren’t seam-sealed, which means they’ll let through some water.
In light rain, your contents shouldn’t get too wet, but if it starts pouring, you can use the built-in rain cover at the bottom of the pack. You access it by opening the velcro pocket at the bottom and pulling out the waterproof rain cover. I tested the rain cover, and it seems to be fully waterproof.
Now let’s talk about the seams. Overall, everything seems to be stitched together pretty well. There aren’t too many loose threads or production defects, except for one place.
In the middle of the pack, there seems to be a loose seam, where the fabric isn’t properly sewn together. If left untreated, I think that this will start to tear apart after a while. So I should either send it back for them to fix it, or repair it myself. Unfortunately, that’s something you have to deal with when buying cheaper outdoor gear.
All around, they’ve used very thick and very durable zippers. I didn’t find any markings on the zippers, so I guess they’re unbranded, but they feel very durable. All of them open and close very smoothly, except for the one at the bottom of the pack – the zipper for the sleeping bag compartment. When the backpack is packed full, the zipper is hard to open, because it seems to rub against the fabric.
The zippers on the bottom sleeping cover, the large pocket on top of the backpack, and on one of the side pockets, aren’t sealed, but there’s fabric overlaying them, which means they won’t let through that much water. Only two zippers are sealed – for the two pockets on the right side of the bag.
Straps and Comfort
One thing that I like about this backpack is that it’s very comfortable to wear. I went on a three-day backpacking trip with it and I had about 40 – 50 lbs/ 18 – 23 kg of stuff in there, counting food and water. So all in all, that was a pretty heavy load, as it was about 30% of my body weight. The shoulder straps and the hip belt are all nicely padded, and at the end of the day, I didn’t have any bruises.
Another thing that I like is that the back is very ventilated, because of the airflow channels on the back. Essentially, in some places, there’s a gap between your back and the backpack, which cools everything off. My back still got wet around the hip belt, but at least most of it was kept dry.
The only thing that I don’t like about the padding, is that it starts to make an annoying sound once it gets damp from all the sweat. If the bag is packed heavily and you’ve walked for a few miles already, you will have to bear with the annoying sound from the fabrics rubbing against other elements of the bag.
The hip belt is very thick, well-padded, and very stable, which allowed me to put most of the weight on my hips. It’s adjustable from 28 – 70 in / 71 – 177 cm in waist size. I’m about 36 in / 91 cm in waist size, and when I adjusted it tightly enough, one thing that I didn’t like is that the leftover straps were very long and there isn’t a way to secure them in place. One hack that I found is that you can slip those straps through these hip belt tightening-straps on each side. That way, those long leftover straps aren’t dangling around anymore.
The torso length is fully adjustable. On their website, it says that it’s adjustable from 19 – 23 in / 48 – 58 cm, but in reality, it’s less. I measured that in reality, it’s adjustable between 16 – 20 in / 40 – 50 cm. I’m roughly 18 in / 45 cm in torso length, and I keep it in the second-largest setting.
Originally, the adjustable velcro strap for the torso length was looped through four loops. The issue there was that the shoulder straps moved around too much, so I looped it through five loops instead, and the issue was fixed.
The shoulder straps are adjustable down at the bottom, and at the top with load lifters on each side. There’s also a chest strap, that’s adjustable in height.
The Teton Sports Explorer 4000 is an internal-frame hiking backpack, which means that it’s better for your back when carrying heavier loads. On the Teton 4000, the internal frame consists of two aluminum rails.
The frame is actually removable from the inside, so if the backpack gets dirty at some point, you can remove both rails and throw the bag into a washing machine.
Main Compartment (Interior)
At the bottom of the pack, there’s a dedicated compartment for your sleeping bag. I’m a big fan of backpacks with this feature because you’re supposed to put lighter gear, such as sleeping bags, towards the bottom of the pack. If, however, you don’t want to use it as a separate compartment, you can unzip the divider in the middle, and the main compartment turns into one giant, 65L compartment.
There’s a side pocket in the main compartment, which is meant for your water bladder, and also a hole at the top for the water tube. Personally, I haven’t used it, because I don’t like water bladders.
At the top, there’s a smaller pocket for some quick-grab items, such as snacks, a headlamp, or something similar.
You can close the main compartment by tightening both adjustment straps on the top and securing everything with two clips.
Exterior Pockets and Storage Options
At the top of the pack, there’s one large pocket, where I usually keep my wallet, sunglasses, and other quick-grab items. On top of it, there are two adjustable straps for attaching a sleeping mat or something similar.
There’s another three pockets on the sides – two smaller ones on the right side, and a larger one on the left. You can also put something long behind these pockets, such as an ax, a tripod, a fishing rod, trekking poles, or something similar.
You’ll find fabric mesh pockets on each side for storing your water bottles. One thing that I didn’t like about them is that they’re too close to the side pockets, so you can’t really fit large bottles there.
Towards the middle of the pack, there’s a large fabric mesh pocket. And towards the bottom, you’ll find additional adjustable straps, for attaching a sleeping mat or something similar.
If you carry extra carabiners, you can also attach something to the bottom of the pack, on various places in the middle of the pack, and on both shoulder straps through the dedicated fabric loops.
In terms of storage, I really like how many pockets and other features the Teton Sports Explorer 4000 offers.
Brand Reliability and Warranty
Teton Sports is a well-known brand between backpackers. They’re an American company that makes affordable outdoor gear. They were established back in 2005, Utah, USA. Of course, they aren’t as good as Rei, Osprey, and other larger companies, but their prices are much cheaper, and their quality is pretty decent.
The Teton Sports Explorer 4000 comes with a limited lifetime warranty against materials and defects. This means that defects in materials, such as the loosely stitched seam that I have on my pack, should be covered by the warranty. What it doesn’t cover, is wear from normal use, and misuse. Also, the warranty is valid only to the first, original owner of the pack.
It’s very refreshing to see a limited lifetime warranty from a reliable brand on an affordable backpack. Usually, all the cheaper options are made by Chinese brands that don’t stand by their products.
And now, let’s get into my final verdict on this pack.
Let’s start with the pros, and there are a lot of them. The Teton 4000 backpack is built from thick materials, and everything seems to be very durable. It also offers a ton of packing features, which means that you’ll be able to use this backpack well-beyond the 65-liter capacity, by attaching stuff on the outside. Another one is that it’s very comfortable, especially around the hip belt. And lastly, I dig the water-resistance of the fabric, and that it comes with a built-in, waterproof rain cover.
However, this backpack has some negatives as well. First of all, it’s very heavy, which means that it’s a huge turn-off for the ultralight backpackers. Another thing that I hate is that when the pack is full, it makes these annoying sounds from the fabrics rubbing against each other. Another one is that the hip belt straps are very long, and there isn’t a built-in way to somehow shorten them. And lastly, the zipper at the bottom of the pack is hard to open and close when the pack is packed full.
So would I recommend the Teton Sports Explorer 4000? It depends on what kind of a backpacker you are. If you’re doing long-distance hiking, I’d suggest something lighter. However, if you’re going out in the wilderness for a few days, or you’re doing shorter section-hikes, then it will be hard to find something as durable, reliable, and versatile as the Teton 4000 in the same price range. For beginner backpackers, this backpack is one of the best options for 65-liter backpacks on the market.