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Pack for Heavy loads
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Dave -
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Up there
Pack for Heavy loads on 11/02/2009 13:03:36 MST Print View

""Yes - but if a pack is comfortable at 40 pounds, it will be a dream at 20. If a pack is barely tolerable at 40, then it will be...."

a dream at 20. And much lighter, too!"


My feeling is that if you can carry 15 pounds in a potato bag but somehow can't carry 18 pounds in a fully framed pack, something is a few screws.

Thomas Burns
(nerdboy52) - MLife

Locale: "Alas, poor Yogi.I knew him well."
The 35# threshold on 11/02/2009 13:09:11 MST Print View

Seriously, as someone who used to carry 65# in my misspent youth, let me say, there's this magic threshold (at least for me) at 35 pounds. Above that, the pack is a burden. At 35, it doesn't seem so bad. If you can find a way of trimming that five pounds, you'll be glad you did.

Of course, YMMV. It's just my opinion (and perhaps unique personal experience). I could be wrong.


P.S. When I was carrying 65#, I was 20 years old, weighed 120 on a 5' 11" frame. What was I thinking?

Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
Re. Gregory Z55 comments for loads of 35#+ on 11/02/2009 13:11:52 MST Print View

You're right it will carry more than 35 pounds fairly well its just the edge of its design parametors. The Z-55 is a bit overbuilt and priced for what its supposed to do but I don't mind because it fits me well.
For Tim I think a bigger issue is the space available. I'm not sure a Z-55 has enough volume for what he's wanting to carry.

Dave -
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Up there
Packs for heavy loads on 11/02/2009 13:14:34 MST Print View

"At 35, it doesn't seem so bad. If you can find a way of trimming that five pounds, you'll be glad you did."

It doesn't work that way. Any load has an effect on your musculature, but if the pack you are carrying is designed to carry a heavy weight then it will be effective at transferring the load to your hips and evenly throughout your back, thereby reducing pressure points and maximizing load transfer and stability. You simply get less stress on the body.

So trim the weight of the pack by a pound or two to get a pack that struggles to carry at 35 pounds comfortably?

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Pack for Heavy loads on 11/02/2009 13:16:21 MST Print View

Hi Tim

If you really have to carry a really big load - which sometimes happens, then you should be using an external frame pack like a Kelty or a Luxurylight. You will have to forget the delights of frameless packs of course. The most I have carried with an external frame pack was 120 lb. That was all my gear, half a sack of concrete and a 6' x 6" square hardwood post, up a mountain. We were hut building.

If you just want to carry an 'ordinary' big load then an internal frame pack is suitable, but because it will have to have a solid harness system the pack won't be light. You should be looking at something like a Macpac Cascade or a similar USA design. The pack itself will weigh maybe 3.5 - 4.5 lb. I have carried up to 60 lb that way, into a ski base camp.

Your big problem in the second category will be separating the crap from the good ones, I know. Brand name helps here.


Doug I.
(idester) - MLife

Locale: PNW
Re: Re. Gregory Z55 comments for loads of 35#+ on 11/02/2009 13:18:15 MST Print View


Edited by idester on 11/02/2009 13:19:43 MST.

Tony Wong
(Valshar) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Gregory Z55 comments for loads of 35#+ on 11/02/2009 13:48:19 MST Print View

I will 2nd that the Z55 will handle a 40 lb load fine.

The Z55 has been the most comfortable pack that I have carried so far. (I currently use a Jam2).

When I 1st starting going light, I used the Z55 on a planned 7 day trip over 70 miles from Sequoia National Park to Mt. Whitney.

Started the trip with 35-38 lbs and finished the trip in four days....rode like a dream and with a vented back.

Great pack, but the biggest issue that I see for you is if you have the volume to carry everything that you will need for the both of you.

If you are not carrying a bear canister, then you should be fine....with a bear canister, well, things might get a bit tricky.

You might want to see if you can rig it so that you can carry the empty bear canister on top of the pack and store the food inside the main body/chamber in a stuff bag to make better internal use of space.

You should be able to cut the weight of the pack down by losing the pack lid and trimming some of the straps down.

Cutting out the hydration sleeve is not a bad idea, if you are okay with cutting into your pack, as I doubt that you will be using the sleeve given that you will want the space for the gear for the both of you.

Good luck to you and sorry to hear about your wife's condition.

Best wishes to the both of you.


Franco Darioli
(Franco) - M

Locale: @Tarptent
Pack for Heavy loads on 11/02/2009 14:22:31 MST Print View

Well I don't know Tim and neither know much about packs, but this I know...
Tim already has at least 2 "lightweight" packs that he can use after this trip.
One is a Starlite , a 4200 cu In bag that is not big enough for what he wants.( and to me with about 30lbs in it looks and feels like a sac of potatoes...)
The other is the GoLite Pinnacle (4500cu) very light for the volume but again not suitable for 40lbs or so.
From the comment "a two week climbing trip" I deduce that he will be carrying ...climbing equipment.
So the requirement is a pack LARGER than 4200 cu in, does not have to be light for future trips, and would be helpful if it were designed to have bits of metal hanging on the front and side.
But I could be wrong.
The Z55 BTW is around 3600cu...

Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
Z-55 on 11/02/2009 14:52:56 MST Print View

Franco good point on the volume question.
Tim I'm not sure you really need an expensive pack if you're going to be doing short days. Why not look at a cheaper pack like a Kelty or Jansport. My brother has one (Big Bear) that weighs about 4 pounds and carries weight well.

Doug I.
(idester) - MLife

Locale: PNW
Re: Z-55 on 11/02/2009 15:07:29 MST Print View


I've got an old Army "mountain" ruck you can borrow if you want. I have no idea what the volume is. It's an external frame pack, made to carry a LOT of weight (ammo is pretty heavy!). And I do mean old, I used it back in the 80s. Pay shipping both ways and you're welcome to use it/abuse it. I haven't used it in years. I 'think' I still have the external frame, but if not you could probably get one cheap from an Army surplus store. Let me know.

Thomas Burns
(nerdboy52) - MLife

Locale: "Alas, poor Yogi.I knew him well."
Ah, the memories . . . on 11/02/2009 15:22:41 MST Print View

>I've got an old Army "mountain" ruck you can borrow if you want. I have no idea what the volume is. It's an external frame pack, made to carry a LOT of weight (ammo is pretty heavy!). And I do mean old, I used it back in the 80s.

Doug, my friend, you have a LOT of neat stuff. I have one of these, as well, made of leather and weighing in at half a ton or so. I wouldn't part with it for the world. It reminds me of what it was like to carry 65 pounds, complete with leather rucksack (when they were called rucksacks!!) and a two-burner white-gas stove. What were we thinking?


P.S. Such equipment reminds me of my solid advice, despite the opinions to the contary: Get the gol-danged weight down to 35# or less. In the end, you'll enjoy the hike better. It's worth the extra expense to have one of those "peak experiences" instead of thinking about how heavy your pack is as you walk for 10 hours with that "monkey" on your back. A pack designed for 40 pounds still feels better at 35, IMO. But that's just my back, I could be wrong.

P.P.S. to Doug: Got the Gatewood Cape and set it up in the backyard. Geesh, the thing is tiny and hard to get to set up with a taut pitch. (I like the weight, though.) Any suggestions?

Tim Heckel
(ThinAir) - M

Locale: 6237' - Manitou Springs
Thanks on 11/02/2009 15:47:27 MST Print View

Jeez, so many posts I don't know where to begin. Thanks for your thoughts.
Gatewood cape. I'm still fiddling with mine but that should be another thread.
Frame pack - no. I have used them for many miles and agree they are great for heavy loads on trails. I should have been clear that I am looking for an internal frame pack.
I believe a pound does make a difference even when carrying +40# loads.
I need a high volume lightweight pack for climbing trips, rope, harness, pro. It will not be my only pack.
The cold cold world packs look good, but I'd like to get under 3# and won't likely consider anything over 3.5#.
I spent more time on the McHale site. I dunno, will look some more and maybe call him. His packs without the bells and whistles may be the ticket.
Thanks again for your ideas and discussion.

Lynn Tramper
(retropump) - F

Locale: The Antipodes of La Coruna
Re: LuxuryLite on 11/02/2009 16:31:03 MST Print View

For really big heavy loads you can't beat a LuxuryLite frame and hipbelt. I attach a GoLite Gust to the frame, but a lot of folks like the cylinders that come with the pack. It will carry any amount of weight and fits anyone, but it's not ideal if you are doing much off track scrub bashing and boulder hopping unless you can get one with the hipbelt attached securely to the frame.

Franco Darioli
(Franco) - M

Locale: @Tarptent
Pack for Heavy loads on 11/02/2009 16:42:13 MST Print View

From the OP (Tim)
I should have been clear that I am looking for an internal frame pack
I need a high volume lightweight pack for climbing trips, rope, harness, pro. It will not be my only pack.

Brian Johnson
(Sirclimbsalot) - F

Locale: Midwest
Mountain Hardwear South Col on 11/02/2009 17:40:23 MST Print View

4600 cu in, carries 45 comfortably. I would think 50-55 would be the limit, but I have not carried this much with it before.

Can be stripped down for a summit push to less than 3 lbs. Mine weighs 4lb 1oz. Very comfortable for my youth I use to carry a terraplane with 55-65lbs. This south col is as comfortable as the terraplane with the same weight.

It's my favorite go to climbing to be designed by Ed Viesturs....great job by Ed.

And if anyone truly has a pack that I accomplish the same for lighter, I'd love to give it a try. I researched long and hard before I got the South col but that was about 1.5 years ago.

Edited by Sirclimbsalot on 11/03/2009 13:39:22 MST.

joe w
(sandalot) - F
Re: Pack for Heavy loads on 11/02/2009 18:06:30 MST Print View


Edited by sandalot on 04/24/2010 11:34:11 MDT.

John G
(JohnG10) - F

Locale: Mid-Atlantic via Upstate NY
Pack for heavy loads on 11/02/2009 18:36:18 MST Print View

I use a Lowe Alpine 70+15L for big loads. It seems to work better than all the other internal & external framed packs I tried (including Mountainsmith, Gregory, Dana & Arcextyl). I think it's because the pack bag is relatively tall, narrow & curved so the load stays close to your back. The pack also has very thickly padded shoulder & hip straps (medium density foam), but they are only a little more padded than most of the others, so I think the significantly better comfort is due to the better balance related to the load's shape. The internal frame is also rigid, but doesn't interfere with my arm swings when walking, or dig into the outer/top edges of my shoulder blades like the 3.5 pound Kelty pack I used to use for heavy loads. I also feel a lot less tired at the end of the day with the internal frame pack than the Kelty. The better balance is very noticeable.

The Lowe Alpine weighs 6.75 pounds empty, so I'd look for something with a similar shape. The Apine's 1000 denier pack bag, 6-8 layers of 400 denier cloth on the back (for length adjustment) and 3/16 thick (almost unbendable) stays are definitely overkill.

ps: I tried the pack without stays (there is no frame sheet), and it was "almost" as comfortable (80-90% ?) with big loads. Of course, with big loads, it was stuffed so tightly that it would barely bend when I leaned it against a chair and pushed down on the unsupported middle section.

Steven Thompson
(stevet) - M

Locale: Northeast
Re: Pack for Heavy loads on 11/02/2009 19:07:58 MST Print View

McHale +1

Definitely give him a call. I have two McHale packs, an expedition size Inex and a smaller Sarc-Chasm. In roll top mode (no top pocket, no bayonet extensions) and with hipbelt pockets it weighs 3lbs 12oz. The Sarc series can comfortably carry well in excess of 40lbs.

Dan has lots of experience backpacking and climbing. After answering a few questions he'll be able to zero in on a suitable model. Just don't choke when he gives you a price; these are outstanding custom built packs.

Hikin' Jim
(hikin_jim) - MLife

Locale: Orange County, CA, USA
Re: Re: Pack for Heavy loads on 11/02/2009 19:18:55 MST Print View

GoLite Odyssey, 5500 cu. in, 3.5 lbs

$140.00 at Sierra Trading Post

Better hurry. Their inventory status says "almost gone."

Ben Smith
(goosefeet) - MLife

Locale: Georgia
GoLite Odyssey on 11/02/2009 19:27:24 MST Print View

And remember, I've got one of these, used on two trips for $100...