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Tell me about Backpacks
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Jordan Hurder
(jordanhurder) - F

Locale: Southern California
Tell me about Backpacks on 05/02/2006 17:41:25 MDT Print View

So I'm new to UL (and new to Backpacking)... my philosophy so far is to slowly integrate UL techniques into standard backpacking so I can build up a base knowledge first. With that in mind, I searched forever for a pack that could carry 30 lbs of gear comfortably, and I wasn't happy with any of the UL packs I tried (Gregory G-Pack, Granite Gear Vapor, a Go-Lite pack I don't remember, and some others). Eventually, I decided to go up the weight ladder and bought a Gregory Keeler, weighing in at over 6 pounds. The bottom line, for me, is that 36 pounds (pack plus 30 lbs of gear) is way more comfortable to haul in the Gregory than 32 pounds in the UL packs I tried. So, I'm curious... has anyone else experienced this?...was I trying the wrong packs? it a sensible combo of standard and UL backpacking philosophies to buy a heavy, supremely comfortable pack and fill it with really light gear for comfortable loads? I'm curious what advice dedicated ultralighters have on this issue.

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Tell me about backpacks on 05/02/2006 18:15:32 MDT Print View

Hi Justin,
You might want to take a look at the Mountainsmith "Mountainlight" series. The Auspex weighs ~4#, with a capacity of ~4000 C.I., and will carry upwards of 45# comfortably for most folks. It's one of the best packs I've ever used. It also has a narrow profile that is well suited to off-trail jaunts. It's little brother, the Ghost weighs ~2# 4 oz. with a capacity of 3000 C.I. in size medium. As you gradually move more in an UL direction, it might fill the bill. It's my current pack of choice for trips up to 11 days and loads up to ~30#. It is not as well suited to off-trail routes, but with poles and a little extra attention it does fine there as well. I have found it to be very comfortable. But the bottom line is that "comfortable" is a very individual thing and whatever gets you up into the high country in a good enough mood to enjoy it is what you ought to choose. Good luck!

Dylan Skola
(phageghost) - F

Locale: Southern California
Mountainlight series on 05/02/2006 18:31:53 MDT Print View

While there still seem to be plenty in online stores, the "Mountainlight" series has been discontinued, replaced by a "Treklight" series of completely different packs.

And yes, Jordan, conventional wisdom is to replace the pack _last_ when transitioning to a lighter load.

Edited by phageghost on 05/02/2006 18:33:25 MDT.

Vick Hines
(vickrhines) - F

Locale: Central Texas
Re: Mountainlight series on 05/02/2006 18:58:05 MDT Print View

Dylan has it. when your big ole pack gets too big to stabilize your ultralight load, then it's time to get a UL pack. The only danger is that you may be tempted to fill the extra space.

Mark Verber
(verber) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Tell me about Backpacks on 05/02/2006 20:15:03 MDT Print View

As others have pointed out. The pack is the last item to swap when converting to light or ultralight style... because the pack that is appropriate at the end of your conversion will most likely not be adaquate at the beginning. Keep using your original pack until your weight stabilizes and then pick up a pack. Unless you want to purchase multiple packs.

My experience is it's around 30lbs that a number of people start to find light weight packs have troubles stabilizing the load. For example, depending on who you ask, the Granite Gear Vapor Trail's comfort starts dropping off somewhere between 25-30lbs, and is getting uncomfortable somewhere between 30-40lbs. [I think comfort starts to slowly drop around 25lbs, and it gets uncomfortable over 35lbs].

If you think you are going to be stuck at 30lbs+, then I would look at a slightly heavier pack such as the Osprey Aether 60, Granite Gear Nimbus Ozone, ULA P-2, various McHale packs, or Mountainsmith Auspex.

B. Kelly Saine
(SloHiker57) - F

Locale: NC Foothills
Re: Tell me about Backpacks on 05/03/2006 07:55:34 MDT Print View


I've worked my way through that process pretty much the same way, and have found myself to be "light", but not "ultralight" by any common definition.

For me, pack weight is subjective and absolute at the same time. My experience with the best fitting pack in each category was that 25 lbs in a 1 lb pack felt like 50 .... 28 lbs in a 2 lb pack felt like 28 .... and 30 lbs in a 4 lb pack felt like 20!

I'm not knocking anyone for their choices in gear or philosophy - but for me and my sense of logic, comfort (or the perception of same) is paramount in my choice of backpacks.

Mike Storesund
(mikes) - F
Re: Tell me about Backpacks on 05/03/2006 12:35:51 MDT Print View

I have also heard the philosophy that if you start with a smaller pack, you are then limited to the gear you can bring, forcing you to more closely scrutinize your gear.

I would not expect anyone trying to transition from a Gregory Whitney (5400 + c.i. and 7+ lbs.) jump right into a Gossamer Gear Whisper Uberlight (2000 c.i. and 5 ounces). However, something in-between, like a Gregory Z-Pack (3300 c.i. and 3 + lbs.) or some other similar pack might be a good start.

Having a comfortable fit in the store is one thing, but you need to consider how you feel after a day or two of carrying the full pack. Perhaps renting a pack from a retailer like REI might be an option to “try it before you buy it.”

In 2 years I have gone from a 50 pound pack to a 30 pound pack with food and water changing from a Gregory Palisades to a Gregory Z-Pack; then from that 30 pound pack to an 18 pound pack with food and water changing to a Gossamer Gear G4. Granted I also looked closely at my gear and made lighter choices, but the smaller and lighter more delicate packs make me re-think what I will bring.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Tell me about Backpacks on 05/03/2006 14:17:51 MDT Print View

I've bought used external frame packs for $10 that worked fine for getting started. Look for the Jansport models that have the simple waist bands. Mine weighs 4 pounds, which I think is pretty good considering I could pack it far past any weight I would consider hiking with. If Jansport took that frame design and used UL technology like silnylon fabric, minimal zippers, straps and pockets, it could be very light. A titanium frame would be incredible-- but so would the price.

Back to my point: if you get a good light-enough frame pack you can save your dollars for a lighter shelter and sleeping bag, etc. And you don't want to be hauling 32 pounds in an UL pack. Think more like 20. Unless you are going a long distance with no support options or hauling something like a large format view camera, you never need to haul 32 pounds of stuff. Look through the gear list forums. You will see some very radical lists and more moderate ones too.

I you are new to backpacking, are you using old gear from car camping or what? UL hiking doesn't need to be all that expensive, in fact you save a bunch because you don't need all that extra stuff.

Give us a list of what you want to use now and we might be able to coach you.

You will hear talk about the Big 3 -- pack, sleeping bag, and shelter. Clothes make a big difference and I would say the Big 4.

But don't fall into the trap that you must have the latest, lightest, most expensive gear to get your pack weight down-- unless that is your desire. The most important ultralight gear is above your eyebrows :)

In fact, you may want to go slow on aquiring equipment until you find what kind of backpacking you like to do and in what climate. If you day hike, it's a different thing than overnighting or long weekends and that is different than thru-hiking, etc. Each needs a little bit different gear with some overlap, but the philosophy stays the same: take only what you need, be aware of what each item weighs and what the options are, that you have total control over what equipment you use, and you don't need to fear nature.

Good luck and have fun!

Jordan Hurder
(jordanhurder) - F

Locale: Southern California
My gear on 05/03/2006 14:37:31 MDT Print View

I have a gear list posted in another forum that I could really use some help on, but that's for mountain bike camping (bikepacking, although i hate that term). My gear list for backpacking is:
Gregory Keeler backpack
Mountain Hardwear Lamina 15 sleeping bag
Montbell Hexagon Tent (just got it from Montbell today)
Mountain bike jerseys (plain ones with no zippers- these are very light and compressible)
Sea to Summit plastic utensils
Snow Peak gigapower stove
MSR miniworks filter
Montrail Mojave XCR shoes -or-
Montrail Hurricane Ridge XCR shoes
Mary Jane's dehydradted meals, clif bars, and sharkies
Snow Peak aluminum cookware
REI Lite-core sleeping pad

The gear is pretty light (except for the pack and the sleeping bag), although I'm hunting around for some summer bags and pads that will lighten the load even more.

Also, to answer someone's question- Being new to backpacking means that it's something I had wanted to do for a long time but never really gotten around to. I had some money saved up to buy the above gear, but since I don't have any friends who backpack, I was kind of on my own (except for a friend of mine who wears 4 pound boots and carries a Denali Pro even on overnight trips). I don't have a scale to weigh my pack, but it's not that light.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: My gear on 05/03/2006 17:15:49 MDT Print View

You're off to a good start. Yeah, your pack is heavy, but the rest of your stuff is fine, particularly if you are going with someone else-- split the tent weight. If you're going to have a double wall tent, that is a good one!

Just resist the urge to fill the pack :)

Lessee-- you need:

pants (hehehe)
insulating garment(s)
rain gear (biking gear already?)
gloves -- bike gloves are great with trekking poles
windshirt (biking gear again?)

fire starting stuff
first aid kit
bug repellent
latrine kit
trash compactor bags (waterproofing)
personal hygene
signal mirror (or compas with mirror)
butane lighter
duct tape

trekking poles (your option)
2 or 3 liter Platypus and hose or recycled water/soda bottles-- or your bike bottles.
bear bag and rope
plastic mug
bowl (optional)

Nowhere near 35 pounds!

Once you find a new owner for that pack, you can chop 4 to 5 pounds off your load. The rest of the stuff is generic enough to find used or on sale, use household items, etc. It looks to me like you're well on your way.

Jeff Black
(thehikingdude) - F
Re: My gear on 05/03/2006 17:20:28 MDT Print View

Check out the REI 45UL. I've just recently gone from a Osprey Aether 75 (holding on to it though) to the 45UL and am very pleased with it's performance. The best part was getting it for $29.95. Retail is $99.95. They will be having it on sale very soon - check it out.


Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Re: My gear on 05/03/2006 17:38:08 MDT Print View

{{{{{{green with envy}}}}}}}

Score! Just a little on the small side for a synthetic sleeping bag without mashing it pretty bad, but for $30, I could [shove, push] get it all in there {squeeeeeeeeze].

My GoLite Trek is 66 liters with the collar and it's just right for me with a synthetic bag. My 3lb/20F bag fits well in a 13 liter dry sack and clothes come close to equal that. With essentials, food, cook kit and water bladder, the space all goes quick. If you're going in bear country, a little more room for a can is a very good thing. I need more in the winter too.

Edited by dwambaugh on 05/03/2006 17:39:33 MDT.

Robert Ebel
(poop) - F

Locale: Earth Orbit
Re: Re: Re: My gear on 05/07/2006 15:04:02 MDT Print View

Dear JH: There are a number of very reasonable responses here to your question. You will find there is a group that feels compeled to go lighter and lighter and lighter whether they need to or not and that is their sport and then there is a group like you that likes a more comfortable pack and does not include that in the list that has to be lighter and lighter. With a more comfortable pack I think you can more effectively explore the range. You may indeed find that it's OK to carry a little more gear and that you will not suffer for it. From what I have seen, there are people that sacrifice comfort just to get their numbers down. Unlike you they do not find a balance of going light and still keep the pack comfortable and able to carry the load. That's great if all that matters is the numbers you publish on sites like these, but to me there are other subjective factors like enjoying the load you carry all day. Many of the numbers people are striving for are completely arbitrary. So far no scale has been invented to objectively measure that like the scales to measure weight, and no matter how hard sites like this try to measure comfort for the masses, and mix it with their propaganda, it is left to the individual in the end to make the intelligent choice for themselves. Anyone that betrays their own true personal feelings about this is a fool or a salesperson. We see examples all the time here about this and that pack being comfy up to 30 lbs but going to 35 it's not. Well, it's probably not that great at 25. Words, words, words, and more words. Experience is all that gets you there tempered with some advice. I'm glad there are reasonable people like you still out there.

Edited by poop on 05/07/2006 15:05:39 MDT.

Peter McDonough
(crazypete) - F

Locale: Above the Divided Line
Re: Re: Re: Re: My gear on 05/07/2006 15:14:16 MDT Print View

Yesssss.....but I carry under 3 pounds and you don't.....


Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: My gear on 05/07/2006 15:49:07 MDT Print View

Hehehe--- darn right I don't. And I'm warm, dry, have hot food, coffee, a decent first aid kit, and I sleep comfortably.

Yawwwwwwwwwwn. Save the suffering for the masochists-- I'm gonna have a good time on my days off :)

Antonio Abad
(tonyabad) - F
Re: Re: My gear on 05/07/2006 15:54:11 MDT Print View

"Yawwwwwwwwwwn. Save the suffering for the masochists-- I'm gonna have a good time on my days off"

Exactly! That's why I'm carrying a "heavy" self-inflating pad these days. Some stuff I can do without (e.g. spare clothing and a mummy bag). Some I need (e.g. sleeping pad and washbin). A good night's sleep is one of those things I need.

mark henley
(flash582) - F
Re: Tell me about Backpacks on 05/25/2006 12:16:27 MDT Print View

And don't be fooled into believing that one pack will serve all your needs.

I have a Nimbus Latitude for 4000 cu in loads (cold weather, lots of water for desert travel, carrying family gear as well as my own), a modified 3000 cu in G pack (size large trimmed down to 38 oz), a 2500 cu in Ray-way kit pack (reduced the extension collar down to 8 to 10 inches), and a homemade 2000 cu in G6 clone made from SilNylon. My typical wet pack weights are: in The Nimbus 40 lbs, in the G 20-30lbs (depending on water), in the Ray Way 15 to 20 lb solo trips, and in the G6 Clone less than 15lbs.

I picked up the Nimbus on sale for $120 and the '04 G pack on closeout for $75. The other two I made, $50 for the Ray Way and about $20 in materials for the G6 clone.

I started with a REI Morningstar 75 some years ago, donwsized to a Gust, and finally sold both of those, picked up the G, made the Ray Way and the G6 clone, then bought the Nimbus Latitude.

If I were just starting out all over again, I'd start with the Nimbus Latitude or the Nimbus Ozone, then look at a lighter weight pack once I got the rest of my gear lighter ... but don't get rid of the Big Pack .. You'll need it.