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Institutional Mountaineering Pack Volume
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Brad Groves
(4quietwoods) - MLife

Locale: Michigan
Institutional Mountaineering Pack Volume on 09/09/2009 15:36:15 MDT Print View

I seem to be working with a large number of people headed into institutional mountaineering programs (via NOLS or Scouts, for example) who must have packs of at least 5,500 cubic inches (90Liters), but which prefer 100L packs... a big pack for a fully grown adult male, but for a pre-pubescent 100-pound 12-year old boy, well... (or the ~110 pound, 5 foot tall female)

Some of the kids I was talking to recently were talking about loaded pack weights in the 60-100 pound range. The kids themselves only weigh about 100 pounds!

I'll admit it: I do still have an old Dana Astralplane, ~7000ci, 110L. The last time I came close to filling it was on a sub-zero winter trip with a girlfriend, and I was carrying pretty much everything but her clothes. We were base camping; I had tons of extra hats, mittens, food, pads, etc. Lots of stuff for two people.

I've been camping in sub-zero weather for decades, but I've never been mountaineering. Other than some of the kids needing a rope, each of them with a helmet, ice axe, and crampons... is there really much more to carry than normal cold-weather gear?

I've had people forced to return 85L packs because they were told the packs weren't big enough. Even when I suggested that we could get that extra 500ci from added side pockets or something. Really?

Never mind that such packs are monstrously heavy. Or that to get a torso length short enough is quite hard, only a few models out there... especially with a small enough hipbelt. And that for a growing boy, it's a heck of a big investment. The Deuter/NOLS pack is too big for the people I'm talking about...

I guess my questions are this: Do they really, truly need to have at least 90 Liters? Obviously the younger kids aren't going to have the spendiest, tiny down bags. They need some room, but... Secondly, I've tried to show them all sorts of ways to lighten up (and size down), but I'm not sure it's getting through. And my recommendations don't affect the requirements of the various institutions... if the pack isn't a certain size, they won't let the students/kids take the pack. I've been telling people that if they get a pack that size, they don't have to fill it.

For those of you out there with institutional mountaineering experience, what words of wisdom can you share?

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Institutional Mountaineering Pack Volume on 09/09/2009 15:50:44 MDT Print View

Hi Brad

Yeah, totally ridiculous of course, but you aren't going to budge the dinosaurs with logic.

Instead, tackle the parents with health concerns. Look really worried about liability. Point out that they risk damage to their childrens' spines if they are loaded up with more than 25% of their body weight. Emphasise that this is an accepted medical limit for safety. Impacted spines, slipped disks, arthritis, ... Lay it on thick: how concerned are they for their children?


Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Damage?! on 09/09/2009 16:06:47 MDT Print View

Damage to spines, hips, knees, ankles, feet and I dunwannaknow what they look like after a face plant with that kind of load going downhill into sharp rocks, breaking arms and dislocating shoulders.

There's still a breed out there that thinks it is manly to haul enormous loads, let alone taking gear that will never be used. I'll blame it on lesft-overs from miltary training.

Better yet, have the parents try to walk around the block with that load.

Brad Groves
(4quietwoods) - MLife

Locale: Michigan
Re: Damage?! on 09/10/2009 18:00:35 MDT Print View

Thanks for your thoughts, Roger and Dale...

Mike C!, are you in computer range and armed with suggestions or thoughts? I know NOLS is transitioning to lighter weight, but how's that going?

Anyone else with some kind of institutional program experience? Are they actually going to refuse to let someone go on a trip because their pack is 8 liters smaller than recommended? Do they really not think that 100# people should carry less than 200# people?