Used this pack for a hike up Mt. Washington. The pack does not come with a hydration bladder, just a sleeve and opening for the drinking tube. I loaded it with a 3 liter Platypus which fits just fine. The foam back panel is removable to use as a sit pad or minimalist sleeping pad, although it is a bit difficult to remove and replace. The pack is comfortable with a load of 20 lbs (haven't used it with more yet). Holds a day's worth of stuff - or an overnight's worth of U/L gear - in the one big compartment. The lid has a fairly large pocket for easily-accessible neccessities (maps, guidebooks, candy bars...) and a small mesh zippered pocket inside for stuff like keys or change. There is a daisychain across the lid for clipping on stuff and the hipbelt has gear loops on both sides. The one I just bought at EMS does not have any external pockets although the TNF website says that this pack has small external pockets and a clear map pocket under the lid - most likely I got last year's model.
I have had my pack for about a year now and have had a chance to use it in various conditions and with different gear (skis, trekking poles, ice ax). I really like the way that the outside of the pack is designed. I think the best part about this pack is the way that my gear stows neatly and securely on the pack and that it is very easy to get gear on and off (going from trekking poles to ice ax or getting at crampons). There are also enough options so that you can store a variety of gear together on the pack to accommodate different mountain conditions.
I also think the pack rides very well and is very comfortable even with heavier loads (about 30-35lbs is my max so far).
Storing water bottles on the side of the pack is more problematic. There are pockets on each side to hold gear/water bottles and it is hard to get a 1 qt. Nalgene bottle in and out of the pocket. It's almost impossible if you have a full pack. I've purchased a separate pocket that I've attached to my hip belt.
The pack (at least my version) only has two compartments. The top pocket is a little small and gets stuffed very easily with those items you want to get at quickly. The main compartment only opens at the top and it is difficult if you need to get to something at the bottom.
For the most part the pack has met the versatile needs here in the Cascades and I would purchase it again.
I had doubts about buying a backpack from North Face, but this pack had all the features I was looking for. I've now had this pack for a little over a year and love it. I've used it mostly on long day hikes and the occasional overnight trip (only when it wasn't necessary to carry a tent though). I've also used it in a wide spectrum of activities, from snowshoeing, climbing 14ers and other casual dayhikes. The outside of the pack is well thought-out, it can carry everything from skis, snowshoes, iceaxes and many other cumbersome items that don't usually fit on packs very well. It can also carry more than one large item at a time, skies and snowshoes for example. There's also a elastic cord on the outside, usefull for tying down a jacket for easy access. The inside of the pack is also well thought-out. There's a large pouch adjacent to the back stay for a large water reservoir. A hole in the back panel of the pack allows the reservoir tube to placed just over the shoulder. As I just mentioned, the pack has a foam back stay to give the pack just the right amount of support. In an emergency the stay can be removed to act as a small sitting pad or even a sleeping pad, though its pretty small. The suspension is jsut right. It has all the adjustments you need to get the perfect fit. More than once I've had the pack filled to the brim, but the suspension made it seem pretty light. With the stiff hipbelt you can easily take the weight off your shoulders.
The bad thing about the pack is the weight. It's not exceptionally heavy, probably not anymore so than other comparable packs. However, it seems that many companies are going towards ultra-light packs, with no stays and flimsier suspensions. If you're looking for an ultra-light pack, this is not for you.