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Need help narrowing down my selection on 2-3lb packs
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Lynn Tramper
(retropump) - F

Locale: The Antipodes of La Coruna
Re: Need help narrowing down my selection on 2-3lb packs on 01/21/2009 12:15:10 MST Print View

>I have basic gear that I can use to get away with an overnighter, but none of it is UL by any means

Although I am not familiar with your list of pack options, I hope you take into account the loads you are likely to be carrying at the moment. Until you shave down you basic gear weight, what weight and size loads will you be carrying? This should be the first consideration when buying a pack, and is why it is better to get the pack last (beg, borrow or rent one in the interim). For instance, even though you may aim to get your total pack weight down to 20lb, if you are going to be carrying 40lb loads for your first trips, make sure the pack you choose will carry that amount comfortably, otherwise you will not reap the benefits of carrying a lighter pack.

The terrain you will be covering is also a consideration. For me, any pack that is not big enough to hold ALL my gear inside is too small. Gear hanging on the outside catches on bushes, vines, brambles and rocks (aka bush-bashing), and mesh pockets don't fair very well either. If you will be on open trails, then this won't be such an issue.

Edited by retropump on 01/21/2009 12:16:14 MST.

Joe Clement
(skinewmexico) - MLife

Locale: Southwest
Pack on 01/21/2009 12:30:22 MST Print View

>Mark or Joe, does it look like you could remove the top pack and then strap a bear canister to the top of the bag?

I can't speak for Mark, and have never seen a bear canister. But that won't stop me from answering. It almost looks to me like you could let the straps way out on the top lid, and put it between the pack and top lid.

Edited by skinewmexico on 01/21/2009 16:03:09 MST.

David T
(DaveT) - F
. on 01/21/2009 12:53:19 MST Print View


Edited by DaveT on 05/12/2015 16:11:55 MDT.

John Carter

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Pack on 01/21/2009 12:59:55 MST Print View


Now THAT would be really cool! I only need a bear canister once a year at most, so that would be my preference. I might just have to try out a L 46 and give it a try, and if it doesn't work, upgrade to the L 58.

John Carter

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Osprey Exos w/ umbrella on 01/21/2009 13:44:37 MST Print View

It just occurred to me that the Stow-On-The-Go bungee on the shoulder strap could be used to help secure an umbrella for umbrella users. This would keep it from flying away, and would keep it on one's shoulder, so the left hand only has to loosely hold it in place rather than tightly grip it. And since I use my trekking pole as my umbrella shaft, I could keep the handle near my waist for a comfortable setup.

The more I look at this backpack the more I'm impressed with the little details. Now to find a retailer offering a sale...

Edited by jcarter1 on 01/21/2009 13:47:35 MST.

Piper S.
(sbhikes) - F

Locale: Santa Barbara (Name: Diane)
Osprey on 01/21/2009 14:06:47 MST Print View

I hiked the PCT last summer. I started with a light, frameless pack. My gear was pretty light. But I had to carry up to 5 liters of water. That made my pack feel terrible. I bought and Osprey Aura 500 miles in and even though the pack was heavier, the load felt so much lighter and more comfortable.

At first I thought it had too many zippers and doo-dads just like people here have said. Actually, it did not. I used every zipper, pocket, pouch and strap. I could cut some length off the ends of some straps, but that would be all I could remove.

My only complaint was after I rid myself of the bear can, the pack was too big and all my stuff clumped in a pile at the bottom. The compression straps didn't seem to help that much.

Since your gear isn't yet lightweight, consider how much weight you'll be carrying in your decision to buy your pack. Yes, your gear will get lighter and smaller over time, but by then you'll probably want a new pack anyway.

Brad Groves
(4quietwoods) - MLife

Locale: Michigan
Re: Re: Need help narrowing down my selection on 2-3lb packs on 01/21/2009 15:57:48 MST Print View

I'd like to echo much of what Allison said...

You do want a pack large enough to swallow all your gear--not your theoretical gear. Carrying a bunch of crap strapped to the outside of your pack won't do you any good--it'll just make your pack carry worse. When you pack a bag that has more volume than you need, all you need to do is basically lay it on the ground and stack the gear high. Compression straps have always worked--for me. Personally, I'd rather have the capacity to haul all my stuff inside my pack, and consistently have a good carry, than have a too-small pack.

Also, just reading through the last couple posts I might have missed something, but don't buy a pack based on the volume of the large or medium frame. That's not the point of frame sizing. The idea is to get a pack that fits you. So unless your torso is 20 inches or more please don't buy a large pack. It won't do you much good. Food for the general thought... Cheers-

John Carter

Locale: Pacific Northwest
re: Need help narrowing down my selection on 2-3lb packs on 01/21/2009 19:02:23 MST Print View


I was confused on sizing as well until I checked Osprey's website. Turns out each model (34, 46, and 58) comes in small, medium, and large. So there are actually nine models to choose from, with nine different pack volumes, all of which are listed. That's why I've been specifying L 48. This does let you choose pack volume and hip/torso sizing separately.

You're right, though, too big a pack is better than too little. But since my gear gets swallowed in a SMD Starlite, and the L 46 is close to that size, I'm pretty sure I would never need the space of the L 58 (except perhaps for a bear canister. For the original poster, though, a 58 is probably the better choice.

Brad Groves
(4quietwoods) - MLife

Locale: Michigan
Re: re: Need help narrowing down my selection on 2-3lb packs on 01/21/2009 19:35:34 MST Print View

John, at the risk of sounding less-than-humble... I'm not confused about sizing. Each model (34, 46, 58) comes in different sizes NOT for choosing volume, but for selecting the appropriate torso length. I promise; I'm a professional packfitter and do sell Osprey packs. What happens is that different torso lengths end up yielding nominally (pretty much insignificant) volume differences between sizes within a model.

I don't have specific numbers in front of me right now, so let me make something up. Let's say a manufacturer offers a pack they call the ModelX 50. They're indicating the pack has a volume of roughly 50 liters. They offer the ModelX 50 in frame sizes small, medium, and large. Those sizes are indicative of overall torso length. Volumes will vary slightly: the small might be 49 liters, the medium 50 liters, and the large 51 liters. What is important is that you get the right torso length for the pack to fit you properly. Absolutely vital that you do this right.

Please go to Osprey's website to the "Pack Tech" section and click on the drop-down for sizing or fitting. You'll see what I mean.

John Carter

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Need help narrowing down my selection on 2-3lb packs on 01/22/2009 12:58:14 MST Print View


Thanks for the clarification. I believe we have the same understanding, but that I poorly worded my explanation. I can see how listing 9 available sizes in my above post could be misleading. My torso is long, so I would choose the L 46 or L 58. But to be absolutely clear for anyone else, here is the information from their website:

Exos 34 (34 liters = 2100 cu in):
S: 1900 cu in, 1 lb 9 oz
M: 2100 cu in, 1 lb 12 oz
L: 2300 cu in, 1 lb 15 oz

Exos 46 (46 liters = 2800 cu in):
S: 2600 cu in, 1 lb 10 oz
M: 2800 cu in, 1 lb 14 oz
L: 3000 cu in, 2 lb 2 oz

Exos 58 (58 liters = 3500 cu in):
S: 3300 cu in, 1 lb 15 oz
M: 3500 cu in, 2 lb 3 oz
L: 3700 cu in, 2 lb 8 oz

So there are in fact 9 pack choices, with a 200-300 cu in increase in each size, but an individual would only be able to choose 3 of the 9 sizes based on whether their torso/hips matched a S, M, or L. To determine one's size:

Small (S):
Torso length <18.5"
Hip measurement: <31"

Medium (M):
Torso length: 18-20.5"
Hip measurement: 30-34"

Large (L):
Torso length: >20"
Hip measurement: >33"

Edited by jcarter1 on 01/22/2009 13:03:10 MST.

Jon Rhoderick
(hotrhoddudeguy) - F - M

Locale: New England
Re: Re: Re: Floating lid on 01/22/2009 13:21:48 MST Print View

I don't know why they branded them floating lids, getting them right is a pain and they certainly aren't light either

John Carter

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Prefer my SMD Essence over Osprey Exos on 01/28/2009 12:40:18 MST Print View

Well, surprise surprise, my Osprey Exos came in the mail, and after loading it in 4 different ways with 23 lb of gear, water and food, and then comparing it to my SMD Essence, I found the Essence considerably more comfortable. Go figure! At this point I'm at a loss to explain why, and these are highly individual matters. But I thought I'd share my experience.

A few notes: My gear fits better in the Essence than the Osprey, and the large foam hipbelt on the Essence is more comfortable. I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that I store my food in the bottom of my Essence, so there is less strain on the shoulders ( don't consider this an option on the Exos because I'd never want to bury my food under my sleeping bag). But I also found the Exos frame pretty confining, and by simply loosening my shoulder straps a bit, I can get some airflow around my back on the Essence. Lastly, the Essence is a simpler design, with far fewer straps hanging everywhere, and it keeps my gear closer to my back. Oh well, 20 oz saved.

This was definitely NOT what I was expecting!!

Edited by jcarter1 on 01/28/2009 12:42:17 MST.

(mountainwalker) - MLife

Locale: SF Bay Area & New England
what model year is your SMD Essence? on 01/28/2009 13:35:27 MST Print View

I've never tried the SMD Essence but will get a chance to check out a friend's Exos soon - I'm curious - what year is your SMD Essence? Because everything I heard about it and Will's BPL review and Ryan and others' comments here indicate that it doesn't handle loads well, and from looking at photos of the design, that's what I'd expect (again, remember, I've never carried one so I'm not speaking from direct experience). Will's review on the Exos, and he's pretty thorough, describe a pack that carries much more comfortably and securely. So are you talking about an Essence 07 or newer, improved model?

John Carter

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: what model year is your SMD Essence? on 01/28/2009 15:03:05 MST Print View

It appears that all of the reviews in the thread you linked are for the older model Essence. I have the newer blue model with the two long side zippers.

In my experience, how you pack up your gear makes a huge difference in how the essence handles weight. The Essence is the only pack where I put the heaviest items at the bottom, near the waist. Since I use the long padded hipbelt, I am able to secure the bottom of the pack to my hips.

For me this means my inflatable pad goes in the bottom, followed by food (which puts it next to the opening).

My next trick is to put my sleeping bag and insulating clothing in 2 large tube-shaped stuffsacks that I insert vertically (kind of like 2 AA batteries in a Garmin GPS unit). Since the pack is rectangular, These vertical stuffsacks provide the structure in the backpack that keeps it from collapsing onto my shoulders. Top pouch has light accessories.

Lastly, keep in mind that I had 23 lbs of supplies, which is on the high end but not unreasonable for a frameless pack.

Incidentally I also own a SMD Starlite with the aluminum stays, and by packing the Essence this way, I find the Essence at least as comfortable as the Starlite. I keep the Starlite around for my wife and for trips with bear canisters.


Here are some examples. One of the things I like about the tubular stuff sacks (from my GoLite Hex 3 tarp and nest) is that it really removes the pressure on the zippers, sine the sacks themselves absorb the compression strain.

Essence 1

Essence 2

Essence 3

This pack holds more than it seems: In the orange sack is a GoLite Ultra 20 quilt. The Black sack has a Cocoon pullover, cocoon pants, and cocoon pro balaclava. Both sacks are only loosely compressed. I've also got a Tarptent Rainbow and poles in the left pouch, an ID eVent Thruhiker rain jacket in the top right pouch (orange), a BA insulated air core in the very bottom (not visible), an Ursack (the green bag at the bottom opening), and my cooking kit (Caldera Cone) in the small conical sack sitting on top of the other sacks. Since the back panel is flared, the cooking kit fits there perfectly). I also usually have a GG nighlight folded in 6ths strapped to the back (under the two straps), which makes for easy removal at rest stops and protects the back of the pack (and the somewhat exposed caldera cone). I also use a GG SitLite pad in the main pad pouch; it makes everything feel flat against my back. In the last photo, you can see how close to my back everything is.

Edited by jcarter1 on 01/28/2009 15:29:46 MST.

Richard Matthews
(food) - F

Locale: Colorado Rockies
Re: SMD Essence? on 01/28/2009 15:49:55 MST Print View


I also pack my food in the bottom. The more I use this pack the more I like it. The best system for carrying water I have come up with is a pint with my kitchen in the top, a pint on a cordlock on the shoulder strap and quart on top of my hammock fly in the long side pocket.

Excellent pack when you do not need to carry a lot of water.

John Carter

Locale: Pacific Northwest
SMD Essence on 01/28/2009 16:22:03 MST Print View

True, there is not much space for extra water. I hold 1 liter in the bottom right pouch, and backup liter if needed goes above my food sack. If I'm near a dry camp and want 4 liters. I'll just carry an extra 2 Liters in my hand. If I needed 4 or more liters for longer stretches, I'd probably switch to my SMD Starlte.

Bob Bankhead
(wandering_bob) - MLife

Locale: Oregon, USA
SMD Traveler on 01/28/2009 16:57:34 MST Print View

If the SMD Essence is too small, try its bigger brother, the Traveler. Think "panel-loading Starlight".


3800 cubic inches (3000 in the packbag itself)
26 ounces
31 ounce with 2 optional aluminum stays
Fully adjustable shoulder harness fits 15 to 22 inch torsos

My wife and I have a pair of them. If you have to carry a bear canister, it's big enough to take the largest model inside.

See my review at

Edited by wandering_bob on 01/28/2009 17:00:02 MST.

John Carter

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Traveler on 01/28/2009 17:06:48 MST Print View


Indeed, if I didn't already own the Essence and Starlite, I'd probably get the Traveler for the easy sleeping pad access panel. So much for my PM to you touting the Exos!

Remind me again, you can fit a bear canister vertically into the Traveler, correct? How about horizontally?

Edited by jcarter1 on 01/28/2009 17:08:41 MST.

Bob Bankhead
(wandering_bob) - MLife

Locale: Oregon, USA
Traveler on 01/28/2009 19:25:25 MST Print View


Since the packbag is more than 9 inches deep (the maximum diameter for bear canisters), any canister will fit vertically.

With the exception of the Bearikade Expedition - which I have - the others will also fit horizontally with room to spare. Common bear canister heights are:

Bearikade Expedition is 14" tall
Bearvault BV500 is 12.7" tall
Garcia Can is 12" tall
Bearikade Weekender is 10" tall
Bearvault BV450 is 8.3" tall

In reality, I can get my Expedition in horizontally, but it puts a lot of undue stress on the pack seams, and the metal edges are rubbing hard against the fabric. I don't know how long the Dyneema fabric would hold up to that. I don't want to find out.

And my name is Bob, not Ron. You've got me confused with the owner of SMD.


Edited by wandering_bob on 01/28/2009 19:31:41 MST.

Ashley Brown
(ashleyb) - F
Re: Traveler on 01/28/2009 19:30:55 MST Print View

Bob thanks for your review of the traveler. You have officially piqued my interest in this pack!

I don't suppose you have any pics of your traveler (similar to those above for the SMD essence)? I would be interested in seeing any pics you have because the only one available on the web anywhere is the one at the SMD website (I think!).

Cheers, A