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Pack Decisions
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Nico .
(NickB) - MLife

Locale: Los Padres National Forest
Pack Decisions on 02/17/2010 20:14:29 MST Print View

Over the last year or so, I've become interested in lightweight/ultralight backpacking, become a member of this site and have been re-thinking and re-outfitting my gear. I've posted to a handful of threads on here but mostly just lurk and soak up the wisdom. I gotta' say, I'm really enjoying the benefits of carrying a lighter load and being more knowledgable about my gear.

Anyway, the old heavy stuff has now been mostly sold and a lot of the new light stuff has been made myself (thanks MYOG forum) or purchased from the Gear Swap forum.

I think I'm now at the point where my primary remaining heavy item that needs replacing is my backpack. I currently use an Osprey Atmos 50. I really enjoy certain features of this pack, namely the light waist belt and shoulder straps, the waistbelt pockets, the ventilated back and the way the waistbelt sinches (pulling the tails of the waist belt together out in front of you rather than towards your sides). I don't particularly like the weight (~3.5 lbs) and the awkard frame shape which makes it difficult to fully use the volume of the pack.

My trips mainly range from a simple overnighter to maybe a week at most. My base weight is probably heavier still than most of you folks since I mostly hike with my girlfriend and tend to carry all of our "common" gear like the tent (TT Squall 2 or Rainshadow 2 depending on whether the dog is with us), cooking system (caldera inferno & 1.3 Evernew pot), water treatment (gravity filter), etc. in addition to my own clothes/food/misc personal items. I'd estimate my base weight is in the 10-12 pound range not including the pack. I haven't had any problems fitting all of the stuff into the Atmos pack but I don't have a ton of extra room either so I'm not sure how much smaller (volume-wise) of a pack I could go to without major overhauls of other gear (like switching to a quilt, etc.). We mostly hike in Los Padres National Forest and spend a lot of time off trail or on poorly maintained trails, so a pack that can take some punishment from brush/rock is probably a good idea. I don't often carry a bear canister but it would be nice to be able to accomodate one when necessary.

I like the idea of the GG Gorilla but fear the volume may be too small. The GG Mariposa Plus or ULA Conduit seem like they are around the right volume but I don't know too much about durability, comfort, etc. I'm sure there are other packs I'm neglecting to mention that could fit the bill as well. Perhaps in the future I'll be ready to have a quiver of UL packs for different sized loads, but for right now I'm looking for a good all-around pack that can fit most of my needs most of the time.

Any thoughts or recommendations would be appreciated. Thanks.

Chris W
(simplespirit) - MLife

Locale: .
Re: Pack Decisions on 02/17/2010 20:27:24 MST Print View

Current market packs I'd look at are the ULA Ohm and the Gorilla you mentioned. The Ohm is only slightly heavier than the Conduit and offers a suspension. I use an Ohm myself (replaced a Conduit) and chose it because I like the ULA fit better than GG (mostly in the shoulder straps). This is my primary pack year-round in the SE.

If you can wait a few months, the new BPL Absaroka pack looks promising albeit at a slightly heavier weight.

Dave -
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Up there
Pack Decisions on 02/17/2010 20:30:54 MST Print View

You my also want to through the Granite GEar Vapor Trail into the mix. I found it to be a nice transition from a more traditional pack to an UL frameless one. The Ohm is great (I own one) but I think you will find the volume lacking based on your original post.

Javan Dempsey

Locale: The-Stateless-Society
Re: Pack Decisions on 02/17/2010 20:49:04 MST Print View

sounds like most of the packs with optional stays that many here use could fill your need.

since the GG ones have been mentioned, I'll throw the SMD Starlite and Traveler into the mix, as great choices.

Mike Feldman
(MikeF) - M

Locale: SE USA
Packs on 02/17/2010 20:53:11 MST Print View

I use either a GG Gorilla, or ULA Circuit depending on type of trip, season, shelter used. Both are for me very comfortable, and can survive some off trail use, bushwhacking, ect. Both packs replaced a Conduit, which I liked. I have used the Gorilla w/base weight and consumables as much as 22-25 pounds( with stays)and the carry was very comfortable. For me the Circuit can carry up to 30 pounds comfortably..Another pack you might consider besides the Ohm might be the Granite Gear Vapor Trail, used ones are quite plentiful listed on gear trade boards, and ebay..

Joseph Morrison
(sjdm4211) - F

Locale: Smokies
"Pack Decisions" on 02/17/2010 21:40:35 MST Print View

I would go with the Granite Gear Vapor Trail. It has all the important stuff that a heavier pack will have(nicely padded hipbelt, shoulder straps and back pannel, load lifter straps, sternum strap and frame but without all the useless stuff that only adds weight.

It is similar in size to the Osprey but one of the best things about the Granite gear UL packs is they have a awesome compression system. So you can use the pack for a weeklong trip as well as a day hike.

Its one of the best transition packs out there IMO.


Nico .
(NickB) - MLife

Locale: Los Padres National Forest
pack decisions on 02/17/2010 23:07:50 MST Print View

Thanks everyone for your input so far.

I've been mostly checking out the ULA and GG packs so far. I think for ULA packs, I was actually considering the Ohm or the Circuit... not the Conduit as I accidentally noted in my first post. Too many packs that all start with a C...

I think I'm leaning towards the packs that offer stays, whether they're removable or not. I think I looked at the Granite Gear Vapor Trail at REI a little while back but was unsure about going towards a frameless pack. The volume/weight of the pack seemed about right though.

I haven't looked at the SMD packs at all... I'll have to check those out.

Anyone have any input on the Mariposa Plus? This is the other pack I've been considering along with the ULA packs and the Gorilla.

Thanks again.

Mark Verber
(verber) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: pack decisions on 02/17/2010 23:49:42 MST Print View

I would bet that if the Atmos 50 is working for you, then the gorilla would be usable volume wise if properly packed. The Mariposa Plus would certainly give you enough room. I found the quality of the ULA construction to be excellent, but I think the carry comfort of the Vapor Trail and the Gorilla is better. The VT was my go-to pack 2002-2009, I wrote a review of the vapor trail which may be useful to you. I recently replaced with the Gorilla. I use a couple different SMD packs over the years. They were nice, but I didn't find them quite as comfortable as the Vapor Trail, and they had more volume than I needed. If you need more room they are work looking at.


Edited by verber on 02/18/2010 08:47:54 MST.

James Naphas
(naphas13) - MLife

Locale: SoCal
Mariposa plus on 02/18/2010 00:01:45 MST Print View

Very nice pack. I think size-wise it's a better choice if you ever need to use a bear canister, given the bulk of your other gear. It's a really good pack to pair up with a tarptent, as the long left-hand pocket is perfectly sized to accommodate their two-man shelters. I like the pockets much better than those on the vapor trail; the web pockets just seem to be perfectly sized and configured to handle the gear you'd want to keep handy in an external pocket. I find it comfortable up to around 30-32 lbs.

On the con side,its fabric isn't quite as durable as the ULA dyneema, more alomg the lines of that of the vapor trail. It doesn't compress down quite as well as some others, but if you're being the pack mule and aren't thinking about switching to a minimalist tarp plus a light down quilt setup you're probably OK even on a weekend trip.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Mariposa plus on 02/18/2010 00:14:20 MST Print View

+1 on the Mariposa Plus.

I had a ULA Conduit and an Ohm. Both are fine packs, but I just find it easier to live out of GG packs. I now use either a Murmur for short trips, and the Mariposa Plus for longer trips. Fabric is not as sturdy as the ULAs, but it is not a problem for me.

Tom Clark
(TomClark) - MLife

Locale: East Coast
Re: Pack Decisions on 02/18/2010 06:13:25 MST Print View

You should first get a better measure of the volume that you need with your current kit.

- Fill your pack with a typical load (be honest about it) and note the fill height & weight.
- Then fill the pack to that same level with something that flows easily and will fill the nooks and crannies (e.e., foam peanuts).
- Pour the peanuts into a corrugated box where you can easily measure volume (length x width x height).

Keep in mind that many packs have external pockets that would be used for items like water bottles, tarps, etc. Of course, I think you'll also find that as you go to a smaller pack, you'll also be more judicious about any extras and think about using individual items as a system. Good luck on it!


Dave -
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Up there
Pack Decisions on 02/18/2010 08:14:58 MST Print View

Just a side note regarding the mid-2009 and 2010 Vapor Trail. The side pockets have a 'flow through' side compression that you can secure over the side pockets or through the side pockets (i.e. if using water bottles). They also stay flat against the pack with little chance of snag. The primary criticism of the pack has been resolved (took long enough!).

Curt O
(Rockstrodka) - F

Locale: Central Florida
VT/Ohm on 02/18/2010 08:39:08 MST Print View

I have both a Vapor Trail and an Ohm. The VT has a much beefier hip belt and back padding. My biggest complaint is the lack of an external shove-it pocket, which is very nice for wet stuff or quick access to a rain shell. Now it is my loaner pack, or for high volume winter trips with 25-30 lbs. You may find that the VT extension collar is too long and irritating to pack. After trimming off the extra strap length, ice ax loops and removing the internal shock cord, the regular size weighed ~33 oz (although advertised as 2 lbs, it is now closer to 37oz). I left the hydration bladder pouch in because it is useful for holding small items (i.e. first aid kit or toiletries).

I love the mesh shove-it pocket in the Ohm and the much shorter extension collar. The main pack volume is bigger than I expected, but that gets reduced by my 3/4 prolite frame slightly inflated. I don't think that it rests on my hips as comfortably, but at the lower overall weight I don't notice much of a difference. The large weighs 22 oz.

Good luck on your decision. The Gorrila was also high on my list