GVP Gear G4 Pack

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by the Product Review Staff | 2003-06-24 03:00:00-06

Utility for PDA-Wielding Executives

"This pack multitasks like a PDA-wielding executive," notes one ridiculous review of this pack published in another backpacking magazine. We all scratched are heads and asked ourselves, "What exactly does this mean? Is it useful information? What kind of PDA are they talking about? Where did this writer go to college? So, we promise that this review will provide accurate, up-to-date information about the G4 based on an honest evaluation.

Introduction

We have been reviewing the G4 pack for two years, with a suite of six reviewers from all parts of the world. This report represents a culmination of that field testing period and a summary of our review findings.

About the Pack

The G4 is a large frameless rucksack. It has one top-loading main packbag compartment, three external mesh pockets, and a hip belt. It is designed primarily for light loads of less than 25 pounds.

Specifications

Weight. Glen Van Peski, the manufacturer, claims an average weight of a standard (no custom options) G4 is 13 oz. We weighed a total eight standard packs - two size larges, four mediums, and two smalls. The range was from 12.7 oz to 13.2 oz, with an average weight of 12.8 oz. It is refreshing to know that a manufacturer's claim is accurate. Kudos to GVP Gear.

Volume. The main packbag is a voluminous 3,100 cubic inches with a 600 cubic inch capacity extension collar. We found this claim to be accurate if not slightly understated upon verifying the volume with packing peanuts. Two mesh side pockets are approximately 300 cubic inches each, and one external front mesh pocket is approximately 300 cubic inches, bringing the pack's maximum capacity to 4,600 cubic inches.

Pockets. All pockets are non-stretch mesh, which makes for a little bagginess in the pockets unless they are stuffed. We prefer a stretchier mesh (like PowerMesh) that is less likely to snag on brush, and lies flat against the pack when the pockets are empty.

Extension Collar. The extension collar is shockcorded, which makes for easy opening and closing, but the cleaner-looking configuration is to use the roll-top closure, which works well until the pack and extension collar is overstuffed.

Volume:Weight Ratio. You've gotta do the math here. The volume-to-weight ratio of this pack is phenomenal - approximately 354 cubic inches per ounce. Consider that the average internal frame pack of similar volume available in your local outfitters shop is 50-65 cubic inches per ounce, you can begin to appreciate the volume that this pack can carry for its weight. Although we didn't initially feel that volume was terribly important, we slowly began to appreciate the benefits, especially when packing light but very puffy gear like sleeping bags, down parkas, and 2L titanium pots on winter outings.

Suspension. The G4 is a frameless pack. however, it contains a mesh pad sleeve on the back designed to accomodate one of a variety of folded sleeping pads, with a 6- or 8-section Cascade Designs Z-Rest being the primary recommendation. The shoulder straps and hip belt contain pockets to insert foam padding (included) or small pieces of clothing (like extra socks).

Carrying Capacity. GVP Gear claims that this pack is designed to carry 25 pound loads, and they offer some tips at their Web site for properly packing the pack. Overall, we found this to be a reasonable claim, and we go into more detail about its carrying capacity in the "performance" section below.

Options. The standard G4 comes in Forest Green and Black, has an ice axe loop, and is available in Small (16-19"), Medium (18-22"), and Large (20-24") torso sizes, and are usually in stock. Custom-built packs offer a variety of options, including different colors, different packbag and pocket fabric specifications, inside pockets, and additional ice axe loops.

Performance

Durability. Our GVP packs have hiked more than 1,500 miles during two summer seasons among six reviewers carrying loads up to 35 pounds. They are still like new and we had no seam failures. Four of our packs showed noticeable abrasion marks and two of those were littered with holes on the outside of the pack caused from (1) sliding butt-first down a granite scree slope, and (2) sitting on the pack repeatedly at rest breaks. Two packs have large tears in the side mesh pockets resulting from (1) intense bushwacking through slide alder hillsides in the Washington Cascades (2) a determined packrat on the Georgia section of the Appalachian Trail. Compared to off-the-shelf packs available at your outfitter, we'd give the G4 a "C" for durability as a result of using light fabric. However, this is not your normal pack. It's for people who want to go ridiculously light and have the skill to be able to take extra care of their gear. So, to be fair, we have to assign a grade that more accurately reflects the durability of this pack: a durability-to-weight grade, for which we give the G4 a resounding "A". Since it's inception, the G4 has undergone a variety of design and manufacturing changes, and it shows. It is a well made pack.

Load Carrying Comfort. We tested the G4 carrying a lot of loads that exceeded 25 pounds. We really wanted to push the pack to its limits to evaluate its comfort on those long desert crossings where one might be carrying 10, 20, or more pounds in water weight. Even following the manufacturer's instructions, we were unable to remain very happy for very long (some reviewers made plots of perceived happiness vs. miles hiked while carrying 35 pounds in the G4 and they were not pretty). Thus, it appears, like most frameless packs, the G4's lack of frame limits its load carrying capacity. In addition, the use of ultralight fabric for the packbag (1.9 oz ripstop nylon), which has little mechanical resiliency, results in a lack of load stabilization at higher loads that further contributes to discomfort.

Keep in mind that comments above are based on experiences that are clearly outside the norm of manufacturer recommendations, so we will not downgrade our assessment of the pack's performance due to these limitations. Having said that, all of our reviewers believed that the G4 would be tolerable for short distances with heavy loads if necessary. We do wish the pack had compression straps (at least as a standard option), because small loads slumped to the bottom of the pack and caused it to ride a little low on the butt.

We evaluated several different types of pads to use as the frame, including folded Z-Rest and Therma-Rest Ultralight 3/4 pads in the pad sleeve, a 3/8" foam pad rolled as a cylinder inside the pack, and a Therma-Rest Ultralight 3/4 pad rolled as a cylinder inside the pack. We found that the folded Z-Rest configuration was comfortable for loads of up to 20 pounds, and we appreciated the accessibility of the pad for rest breaks. A Therma-Rest folded in the same configuration and slightly inflated worked fair, but the mesh pad sleeve was too stretch to contain the pad and help maintain the pack's shape at heavier loads. The use of a 3/8" foam pad rolled as a cylinder inside the pack worked extremely well, but at heavier, tighter loads, it did not bend as well to the shape of the spine as did the pads that were in the sleeve. Finally, for those that need more serious weight-bearing capacity, the use of a Therma-Rest Ultralight 3/4 rolled in the pack as a cylinder before packing, and then inflated to its max after packing, proved to be a terrific way to stretch the G4's load carrying capacity. However, it suffered a similar fate as the cylinder foam pad, and makes the G4 akin to a barrel on your back. Despite that limitation, it was our tester's unanimous choice for comfort.

Summary

In summary, we liked the G4, but it took a lot of time to grow on us, as we learned how to use the pack to its maximum benefit. At first, our reviewers balked at the massive volume, but eventually came to crave it for stuffing the puffies when the temperature dropped.

The G4 is not for everyone. It is not a performance pack for load carrying, nor is it made to withstand the rigors of mountaineering or snow-backpacking through thick evergreen forests. However, it is a trail hiker's nirvana, and is entirely appropriate for open cross country travel in the mountains. Its remarkable weight means that it contributes little to your load, and if your average pack weight remains under 20 pounds (or even better, under 15), the G4 just might be the pack for you.

Final Grade: A-minus

Suggested Improvements: Stretch mesh material on the pockets, better security for the rolltop (replace Velcro with side-release buckles for better compression).

Contact:

Glen Van Peski
http://www.gvpgear.com


Citation

"GVP Gear G4 Pack," by the Product Review Staff. BackpackingLight.com (ISSN 1537-0364).
http://backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/00082.html, 2003-06-24 03:00:00-06.

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Frameless Backpack Suspension Systems
The purpose of this thread is to discuss frameless backpack suspensions, load carrying capacities, design considerations, packing methods, and other factors that contribute to making a frameless backpack more comfortable to wear. The reader is referred to the following articles as basis for this discussion:
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(Anonymous)
Re: The forthcoming ULA FUSION... on 06/03/2004 23:15:11 MDT Print View

Have you received and used the Fusion pack yet?


I'd love to hear how its doin!

Glenn Roberts
(garkjr) - F

Locale: Southwestern Ohio
What a difference a stay makes on 07/17/2004 04:39:49 MDT Print View

I apologize for the pun (for those of you old enough to remember the song.) I'd been quite happy with my Granite Gear Vapor Trail pack and the 13 pound base load I was carrying (including a T-rest UL 3/4.) But, for the last 6 months I'd been trying out the Granite Gear Virga with a folded Z-Rest 3/4 as the frame. (I picked up the pack in an end of year sale for about $60, so what did I have to lose except a pound?) It worked quite well at loads under 20 pounds, though my shoulders were a little tired - but not sore - at the end of the day. Finally, though, my 54-year-old hips convinced me that I needed to use a more comfortable sleeping pad. I had tried the Ultralight 3/4 as a frame in the Virga, but didn't find it at all comfortable. So, I decided to go back to my old Vapor Trail/Ultralight pad arrangement. When I dug it out, it was inserted into a Lite Chair kit (from an outdoor concert.) A light bulb went on: the kit has stays; why not give the pad/chair combination a whirl as a frame? The stays made all the difference - just leave the pad in the chair, inflate it slightly, and insert it down the back of the pack, with the stays rolled in just enough that the pad is the width of the pack's back. (Put the stays on the inside, not directly along the back of the pack.) With this arrangement, the Virga rides as well as the Vapor Trail, and I've recently been trying it at 25+ pound loads, with no loss of comfort. I haven't yet decided whether it's more comfortable with the "thick" end (where the pad doubles over to insert into the chair bottom) as a lumbar pad or a shoulder brace - I'm kind of leaning toward the lumbar pad. But, for the same weight as the Vapor Trail plus 3/4 T-Rest, I get a pack frame that doubles as a chair! Is it the absolute lightest load? No, but the extra pound is well worth it for me - and I'm still at a 13 pound base weight for a summer trip.

Edited by garkjr on 07/17/2004 08:17:41 MDT.

connie dodson
(ConnieD)

Locale: Montana
Frameless Backpack Suspension Systems on 08/02/2004 18:36:37 MDT Print View

I think a cut-to-size "sitpad" or an insulated winter backpacking cooking surface "sleeping pad" would provide shape and protection from hard objects inside these packs.

I just roll my Aritach ¾ Skin Mat tightly, and stuff, in the inside pack main compartment. I would consider using the rolled and compressed sleeping pad to balance a heavy object in an opposite side exterior pocket.

I have seen comments elsewhere, hikers like double padding under hips and/or shoulders.

Maybe these packs pads could be the "supplemental" sleeping pad, or the "accessory" pads I have described?

I would rather see some air-core type material padding, and such, providing some air circulation and drying, because rucksacks are inherantly sweaty on the shoulders and torso.

These products would provide "form" and serve a very, in my opinion, useful purpose.

I also believe the shoulder straps are often too wide and set too wide on these packs. This is not only a complaint heard from women.

I would like to see Metolious Rope Ranger rope bag shoulder straps on more of these lightweight rucksacks, for "lightweight" loads.

I haven't weighed my Deep Water rescue rope, carried in my Metolious Rope Ranger rope bag, but I do know it is no "featherweight"!

I just got an email back, from Metolious. They do sell the shoulder straps as a separate item, for $7. Wow. My GoLite Breeze pack will be all happiness!

Now, where do I purchase the lightweight air-circulation "padding", like on the GoLite "Infinity" pack?!


(Anonymous)
FBS system on 09/18/2004 23:28:25 MDT Print View

What about the coeficent of thermal mass loss and friction????

carlos fernandez rivas
(pitagorin) - MLife

Locale: Galicia -Spain
plastic frame on 10/15/2004 03:21:54 MDT Print View

I have a golite jam and used one 1/2 artiach light plus mat (80gr) I used the mat in folded an roller mode but finally I made a plastic frame (less than 100 gr) and i fell that is much better solution

Jay Ham
(jham) - F - M

Locale: Southwest
Sleeping pads...frameless on 10/17/2004 18:36:22 MDT Print View

carlos fernandez rivas - It is difficult for a foam or self-inflating sleeping pad to provide the same level of support as a rigid frame, whether it be a plastic framesheet or internal stay. I have been experimenting with both the Gossamer Gear Mariposa and Six Moon Designs Starlite. Both of these packs use the sleeping pad as the frame, but also have removeable stays. Without the stays, both perform much better with closed cell foam than with the self-inflater. Bummer, because I really prefer to sleep on a self-inflator. The stays solve the problem, for the most part, but I really enjoyed the idea a few posts ago by Glenn Roberts, who used his sleeping pad chair for a virtual frame. That is pure ultralight thinking at its best. Why carry the extra weight of a frame when a camp chair can serve as both a frame and chair.

Glenn Roberts
(garkjr) - F

Locale: Southwestern Ohio
chair kit frame on 11/03/2004 17:27:56 MST Print View

Jay - thanks for the kind comment. However, in the interest of intellectual integrity, I've got to come clean and admit that, after a few more months of trying this system, I've irrevocably reverted to my Vapor Trail. At loads of 15 pounds, the Virga and chair kit frame worked fine. At 20 pounds, I found two irritants: first, that heavy a load meant I was either carrying a lot of bulky cold-weather cold, or carrying a week's worth of food and a change of clothes (for that middle-of-the-week cleaning.) Either way, I found the Virga just wasn't big enough to hold everything without filling the extension sleeve - which detracted from the balance, and also meant I found myself walking a little hunched over all day (there's a really good picture of this phenomenon, featuring a Virga pack, in Karen Berger's Hiking Light Handbook.) My shoulders ended up a little tired as a result (not sore, just tired) - something I never experienced with my Vapor Trail.

Second, for cold weather, I found the Vapor Trail not only held all the clothing I took without using the extension sleeve, but the backpad made a great pad extender for my 3/4-length Thermarest. To obtain the same full-length effect using the Virga in cold weather would have meant using a full-length Thermarest. This would pretty well eliminate the weight advantage, and made the space problem nearly unsolvable.

I prefer to have only one set of gear, usable in all conditions (I hike in Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana; climate simply doesn't force drastic enough changes in gear between summer and winter to justify multiple gear sets - except for sleeping bags.) Also, seeing unused or lightly used gear on my shelf drives me nuts; I always can find some poor unsuspecting Boy Scout that can use it to get hooked on backpacking. (My own little personality quirk.)

Objectively viewed, the chair kit system works; I've simply decided that I'm not going to use it for some fairly subjective reasons.

Jay Ham
(jham) - F - M

Locale: Southwest
chair kit frame on 11/18/2004 07:21:27 MST Print View

The Granite Gear packs are slightly deeper than some, contributing to the need to lean forward slightly to balance the weight.

I think your rationale for going with the Vapor is well justified. When I talk to people about lightweight backpacking, they almost always focus on the pack saying "I wish I had a lighter pack". However, when I take account of their other gear, the pack is the least of their worries. If you're really going to do some trail miles, a slightly heavier, but more comfortable, pack (with ultralight stuff inside) may make all the difference. I get much poorer sleep when I've carried an ill-fitting pack all day, lowering my potential mileage and enjoyment the next.

As far as the chair kit, you might consider replacing the framesheet and padding in your Vapor with it. This may actually end up weighing more; but, sometimes its nice to have a chair along.

Jay

Edited by jham on 11/18/2004 07:22:10 MST.

Glenn Roberts
(garkjr) - F

Locale: Southwestern Ohio
A hitch in the git-along on 11/27/2004 16:16:01 MST Print View

When I got back from my last trip with the Vapor Trail, I noticed a problem: the webbing portion of the hipbelt (attached to the buckle) is separating from the padded portion: the fabric is completely worn through on one side, and nearly so on the other - right along the stitch line that joins the two. It appears to me that the fabric it attaches to is simply too lightweight (the durability of silnylon under stress has always worried me. I had a Gregory G Pack that had both shoulder straps start to separate from the pack at a seam after only one weekend trip.) I had only used this pack for about 25 days over the year I've owned it, and I don't treat gear roughly. So, I'm pretty sure it's a gear problem, not operator error. I suspect the stress of a tightened belt was too much for the seam.

In fairness to Granite Gear, when I contacted them they admitted that they had had similar problems reported from others, had redesigned the belt, and would be glad to replace it free of charge. I haven't sent it in yet (been on vacation), so I don't know if the replacement will be any better.

By the way, I was telling my son about this problem. He has a Granite Gear pack (I forget what model - it's not from their ultralight series, but is very similar in design and construction although the materials may be a little heavier.) He told me he has a similar problem, after even less use, with a shoulder strap attachment. He hasn't contacted them yet.

I'm seriously toying with the idea of backing off a half-step from ultralighting, and using a Dana Designs Bridger; it would still only raise my total load to 22 pounds, would give me a little more capacity (a near-problem on a weeklong fall trip to Isle Royale), and based on my experience with Dana packs, would be bombproof. I had a friend who recently used one to thru-hike the AT, and his still looks like new - that "testimonial" is also a factor in my tentative decision. If I do decide this, my Granite Gear packs will still make ideal packs for the Scouts I'm helping to teach to backpack.

I'll let you know what I think of the new hipbelt.

Glenn Roberts
(garkjr) - F

Locale: Southwestern Ohio
Follow up on Vapor Trail problem on 12/16/2004 10:23:39 MST Print View

I received the new version of the Vapor Trail hipbelt a couple of days ago. (VERY speedy turnaround on Granite Gear's part - kudos to them.) They now secure the webbing to the padded portion with a crampon-patch kind of material. It appears more substantial, but I won't get to try it until spring. Looks like a good improvement, however.

By the way, if you didn't like the lidless pack, GG now makes a lid compartment that retrofits to the Vapor Trail and Virga. I've ordered one from BackcountryGear.com; I'll try to remember to let you know how it looks.

Glenn Roberts
(garkjr) - F

Locale: Southwestern Ohio
Update: Vapor Trail v. Bridger on 01/22/2005 09:08:47 MST Print View

Well, I found a Dana Bridger on sale, ordered it - and am sending it back. It's too fiddly to get a precise fit (I eventually managed to), and even though it's a good fit, it's not "ooh, that's nice!" fit of the Vapor Trail. The Bridger has some nice features, including the lid pocket, but the minimal gain in functionality (for me, maybe more for you) just isn't worth the extra 3 pounds of weight. The Dana "fuzzy" shoulder straps and back pad also irritated my shoulders and back (as in itching and burning sensation.) Finally, the Dana doesn't nestle up against the bottom of my Thermarest 3/4 to make it a full-length pad the way my Vapor Trail does.

By the way, the Vapor Trail hipbelt update seems to work - it features a crampon-type patch where the fabric meets the webbing, and the fabric seems a touch heavier.

Re: the Lid add-on top compartment for the Ultralight series. It's a neat little top compartment, just big enough for a map and compass, and a couple of snacks. It slips over the load lifter straps (thus doesn't float very well when the extension sleeve is filled), and loops around the top center compression strap. This means it has to be "un-looped" as opposed to unclipped to open the pack - a little bit fussy. Haven't made up my mind about this one yet.

By the way, if you need a little extra space in the Vapor Trail (say, for a week-long cold weather trip, where you're carrying extra clothes), you can create workable "side pockets" by adding a short webbing loop and tightener to the unlooped end of a Granite Gear Air Space (cube-shaped) stuff sack. Just run the side compression straps through the loops, tighten, you've got a nice zippered side pocket. A pair weighs about 4 ounces.

Edited by garkjr on 01/22/2005 09:12:27 MST.

jeremy lieberman
(jl4069) - F
An updated comparison? on 01/29/2005 13:27:21 MST Print View

Glenn,

I read you comprison of the Vapor trail and Gregory g-pack. Do you think you'll be doing a retest with Gregory's redesigned Gpack? Thanks, Jeremy

Glenn Roberts
(garkjr) - F

Locale: Southwestern Ohio
Vapor Trail v. G-Pack on 02/01/2005 15:08:08 MST Print View

No, I don't think I will, for a couple of reasons. The pictures I've seen of the new one still show that round "rucksack" look that I felt pulled me off balance. Also, I didn't notice that they had added compression straps (though I'd have to look again to be sure.) Without them, I couldn't fill the pack and get the center of gravity right. (the weight of everything else tends to compress the 900 fill down bag, and sink to the bottom.) So, doesn't seem they've solved that problem, either.

Most importantly, though, the Vapor Trail fits me like a glove; far more comfortably than the G-Pack, even. It's got me so spoiled that I've lost interest in finding something better. (Though I may play with my Virga and a really, really light load this summer, just for fun!)

For what it's worth, I ran into a fellow at Isle Royale who was using an old-style G-Pack and was quite pleased with it.

jeremy lieberman
(jl4069) - F
thanks Glenn on 02/02/2005 12:03:01 MST Print View

Glenn,
Thanks for the thoughts. I mentioned the G-pack because I just read the latest Backpacking, and they called the new G-pack there favorite ultra-lightweight pack of all- citing its ability to turn a 30 lbs load into a 20lbs load? Also they claim its got some sort of new system that clamps the pack to the small of the back in a new way?
Glenn have you tried Backpackinglight's recommended pack, the Go-lite Infinity?

Glenn Roberts
(garkjr) - F

Locale: Southwestern Ohio
You're welcome, Jeremy on 02/04/2005 22:37:23 MST Print View

I read that, too. I'll be interested in seeing one in the store.

Also, I've seen the Infinity but wasn't intrigued enough to try it on. I don't know why, but it just didn't grab me for some reason. (Kind of like the Mountainsmith Ghost - everyone says its a great pack, but I just never felt the urge to pull one off the rack and try it on, and for no particular reason.) Both may very well be excellent packs.

Glenn Roberts
(garkjr) - F

Locale: Southwestern Ohio
Virga v. Vapor Trail on 05/12/2005 07:16:20 MDT Print View

I've previously posted about using a chair kit and thermarest as a virtual frame inside a Virga pack; I've also indicated that I probably wouldn't switch permanently from my Vapor Trail. I recently had a chance to try both packs, side by side, over the same trail on consecutive days.

I was leading a troop of Boy Scouts on their first backpacking orientation - we were planning a six-mile hike, and allowing all afternoon for it, on an easy trail with a couple of small hills in it (just for fun.) The park we were using was half a state away, but I caught a break: I was working in the area two days before our trip. I took a day off, and went on to the park a day ahead of the Scouts. I decided to use the time to decide, once and for all, whether I wanted to use the Virga or the Vapor Trail.

I took each pack on an identical hike, though the time to complete the hike with the Virga was only about half what the Vapor Trail was. (I took a couple of long breaks, and didn't push the hike; the extra time with the Scouts was for teaching the use of stoves and filters on the trail.) The load in the packs differed only on 3 items (other stuff I was trying to decide about.) The Virga's load included a Clikstand stove/Evernew pot, Katadyn Mini water filter, and tarp/bivy combo for shelter; the total load (including food, water, and fuel) was 16 pounds. The Vapor Trail's load included a Pocket Rocket/Titan kettle, MSR Miniworks water filter, and Zoid 1 tent; the total load weighed just over 19 pounds. Both packs held the full load without using the extension sleeve, and both were equally easy to pack (though it takes a little care to keep the virtual frame in place in the Virga until you get the sleeping bag and tent loaded, which locks the pad into place.)

What I found was that the heavier Vapor Trail was more comfortable than the lighter Virga.

The Virga was fairly comfortable; the stays in the chair kit, plus the lightly inflated pad (a little less than it will inflate to on its own, without blowing into it), provided a very good level of support, and nothing poked or gouged me. However, I did find that the unpadded webbing hipbelt kept riding up (there's a switch!) and interfering a little with the transfer of weight to my hips. Although I was never uncomfortable during the hike, it felt good to take the pack off at breaks. At the end of the hike, I was surprised to find that my back and shoulders ached a little - not horribly, but noticeably. (A couple of Motrin handled it just fine - no lingering effects next morning.)

The next day, I carried the Vapor Trail. Though the load was heavier, the pack was never uncomfortable. The nicely padded hipbelt continues to amaze me: it fits well without constricting, and really doesn't slip down like other belts. The incredibly comfortable back pad transferred the weight to my hips very effectively, and nothing pokes or gouges me through that wonderful back pad. The pack was barely noticeable; I even forgot to take it off during the break where we taught them about water filters! At the end of the hike, when I took the pack off, my shoulders and back were not in the least bit tired - it was like I hadn't been wearing a pack at all.

So, based on these results, I donated the Virga pack to the troop. I figure that there will be that one boy who will want his own gear, and will be excited about experimenting with ultralight. (Did I mention that I'm not using the merit badge handbook, which is woefully out of date? Instead, I'm using the Fieldbook, recently revised, which includes a fair amount of lightweight guidance, and am teaching them mostly light- and ultra-light technique.) The Virga will be a great first pack for that Scout, and I can supplement his gear with the tarp/bivy combo (which I've decided is not as convenient as the tent), the Katadyn filter (again, convenience wins out over weight), and a stove (the jury's still out over which one I prefer. I'm sentimentally attached to the Pocket Rocket, since it's been with me on some great trips to Isle Royale and other places, but the Clikstand is a really, really nice stove.) It will be a good start - had my first ultralight pack been the Virga instead of the Vapor Trail, I might never have bought the Vapor Trail.

Final verdict: they're both good packs; the chair/pad combo makes a very workable frame for the Virga. However, since I'm already spoiled, I'll stay with the Vapor Trail.

Edited by garkjr on 05/12/2005 07:20:55 MDT.

paul johnson
(pj) - F

Locale: LazyBoy in my Den - miss the forest
re: Virga vs. VaporTrail on 05/12/2005 11:13:12 MDT Print View

Glenn,

Good info. Thanks.

Re: your observation of the Virga's hip-belt riding up. Was the Virga's torso length too short for you? This could cause this problem. Not sayin' it was in your case, but I seen this happen for the the reason I stated.

Speaking of convenience, I recently purchased a UV water purifier (you must prefilter through a bandana, pack towel, or cheesecloth, etc until it is clear - I do this anyway when using AqM - don't like "chunks" in my water). With 4 Li AA batts, good for 65 liters I think, it only weighs 5.5 oz. Yeah, it's more than the 1oz AqM re-packaged kit I normally carry, but you can drink the water right away - that's the nicest part. Treatment time is ~60sec for 16oz of water & ~90sec or so for 32oz of water. Kills viruses, bacteria, and protozoans (including spore-formers, e.g Cryptosporidium). Temp of the unit & the water being treated is impt. Neither can be too cold. Warm the unit next to the body & the water should be above freezing. It's microprocessor controlled & adjusts treatment time based upon the unit's temp & the h2o temp.

I haven't "chucked" the AqM yet, but the convenience of the UV purifier is nice.

Glenn Roberts
(garkjr) - F

Locale: Southwestern Ohio
Probably not on 05/12/2005 11:59:50 MDT Print View

Paul: No, I was using the Long size - same as my Vapor Trail. As I think more about it, I can think of a couple of possibilities:

1. The waist belt wasn't supporting the weight in quite the manner that a padded belt does, and may have collapsed slightly. My reaction to that slight collapse may have been instinctive: shorten the shoulder straps and/or pull in the load lifters, both of which would drag the belt upward.

2. The belt doesn't have the trim straps found on the Vapor Trail. As a result, the pack itself may have pulled downward, pivoting the front of the belt upward.

3. In loading the pack, I may have allowed the pad/chair "frame" to move slightly, making it either too high or too low relative to the belt, and throwing the load off enough to move the belt.

It wasn't a drastic riding-up. I would notice, after half an hour, that the belt that started out on my hips was now about waist-high - about where I wear my belt on dress slacks (and no, I'm not quite old enough where that means "just below my adam's apple"!!!)

Good info on the UV filter - not sure I'm ready to go there yet (don't trust battery-driven and chip-controlled devices in the backcountry if I can avoid it - probably just more old-fart syndrome.) Let us know how you like it after a few more trips - after all, by fall my wife will start bugging me for a Christmas list...

Edited by garkjr on 05/12/2005 12:03:10 MDT.

Glenn Roberts
(garkjr) - F

Locale: Southwestern Ohio
Virga Redux on 08/08/2005 21:22:49 MDT Print View

OK, let's flip-flop one more time. Since my previous post, I still couldn't shake the idea that the Virga should work. I went back and analyzed my load - and noticed that I was using a Prolite 4 pad, lightly inflated, instead of the Prolite 3, barely inflated, I usually used. Folding that thicker pad put the stays right in the center, and further from the back of the pack - pretty much undoing the whole effect. I found, too, that the pack I was using was actually too large (how 'bout that, Paul??); the size medium fit much better, and I haven't had any more problems with the hipbelt trying to ride up. (I think, on the large size, it tried to ride down, so I'd haul on the shoulder straps and it would then appear to ride up. Tightening the shoulder straps also explains the sore shoulders.)

I also tinkered with some different gear (REI Minimalist bivy, Granite Gear White Lightnin' tent, and Z-lite pad folded two sections wide as a frame), which brought my base load down to 10 or 11 pounds. (The tarp/bivy combo I mentioned earlier was a mistake: it was the Silshelter and Silbug liner, which weighed the same as the Hubba tent and was a little bulkier.)

All of this, plus a little patience, paid off big. The Virga is now just as comfortable as the Vapor Trail, and is now my pack of choice. The Vapor Trail was used to tempt a buddy to "see the light;" he's now down to an 18 pound base load, and looking for more cuts.

Thanks, everyone, for your patience and support - and excellent advice - while I zeroed in on my own lightest set of gear. It's not THE lightest, but it does the best job of combining light weight, simplicity, ease of use, and comfort that I've found.

Edited by garkjr on 08/08/2005 21:30:33 MDT.

Glenn Roberts
(garkjr) - F

Locale: Southwestern Ohio
One more flip-flop on 03/03/2006 07:50:30 MST Print View

Yet another waffle, after several more months of experience with the Virga (and a little side detour with the Mariposa, which I could never quite make work.)

For most trips, I'm going to revert to my Vapor Trail. The Virga will carry a 20-pound load in reasonable comfort, which is a blessing and a curse. For long-weekend, fair-weather trips in well-watered country, my load tops out at around 15 pounds, which includes 3 pounds of food and two pounds of water.

However, when I go longer, or in cooler weather, or have to carry an extra quart or two of water (or a combination of the above), it's all but impossible to keep my load under 20 pounds - and the Vapor Trail is noticeably more comfortable with loads of 20 pounds or more.

A couple of additional comments: I've also reverted to carrying gear I'm happy with, which doesn't always mean the lightest gear. For example, as part of my foray into Gossamer Gear, I tried out the SpinnShelter. It's a really nifty shelter - but I never found that I could use it as effortlessly as I use my Zoid 1. The Zoid 1 is side entry - less hassle to get in and out. The footprint is perfect for putting my Vapor Trail (empty) in the foot, Prolite 3 Short in the head, and getting a full length pad that won't slide around as the result. Couple it with the MSR Dromlite filled with air as a pillow, and I've simply got the most comfortable bed I've ever had in the backcountry. That same choice of personal preference over theoretical "best-ness" carries into other areas, such as kitchen and water treatment, where I also chose slightly heavier items simply because I like them better.

I'm not knocking those who are willing to place light weight over ease of use or comfort - in fact, I've learned a lot from them; the Vapor Trail kit I carry now is about 4 pounds lighter than it was a year and a half ago as a result of what I've learned here. But, for me personally, backing off a half step seems to be the way to go.

If anyone needs some ultralight gear, say, to make a thru-hike happen or to get someone into the sport who wouldn't be able to otherwise, let me know. We can probably arrange it so my excess gear gathers trail dust instead of house dust.