I needed a good winter "Day-and-a-half" pack for backcountry ski touring. And I finally found one that had what I wanted... almost.
I got a Camelbak "Commander" camo hunting pack from Cabela's. It had the necessary size, at 2,747 cu. in. and rear shovel flap for my avy shovel. Besides, camo looks cool :)...really...
But it required several mods to be a good pack for backcountry ski touring.
1. Cut off wimpy cloth waist belt.
Replaced it with an REI Ridgeline padded belt which fit EXACTLY behind the pack's lumbar pad after I seam ripped the side stitching & had a shoe repairman bar tack the lumbar pad's edges above the new hipbelt.
The new hipbelt's side stabilizing straps again, by luck, exactly matched the pack's ladder buckles for the old belt's side straps. These stabilizing straps are critical on a ski pack to keep it in place laterally.
2. Replaced the bottom side compression straps' ladder buckles W/QR buckles like the ones on top for quick on/off of the aftermarket side pockets. These straps also hold up the shovel pocket.
***To replace a buckle W/O unstitching webbing cut the buckle's attatchment point crossbar diagonally and in the center of the bar with a Deremel cutting disc. Or buy a buckle like this - IF you can find it. They do make 'em. Then slide the webbing strap through the diagonal crossbar slit. It is strong and will not slide off.
3. Added the (REI) afermarket side pockets. If not needed they become stuff sacks. They never leave the pack.
4. Installed 1" wide aluminum bar stock (from Lowe's) as vertical stays in an upside-down U shape with a cross bar at the top. Melted bolt holes thru the pack fabric W/red hot spike held in Vise-Grips (very carefully!) and used stainless steel bolts, washers & Nyloc nuts to hold frame in place. Works perfectly! (I'd done this before on another pack.) I used heavy duty "Gorilla" brand duct tape on the ends of the frame to protect the pack.
5.Had my shoemaker sew on 3/4" wide webbing W/QR buckles on bottom of pack for carrying extra gear like a Thermarest mattress for emergency bivouac.
6. Used fleece cloth to wrap already insulated hydration hose in critical places for more insulation.
Now I have a great pack that can handle loads over 40 lbs.and put that weight on my hips.
Utilizing the side pockets and the bottom straps I have the equivalent of roughly 5,000 cu. in. if needed.