Lightweight Internal Frame Packs: a State of the Market Report - Part 1C: Main Bag & Comfort
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Addie Bedford
(addiebedford) - MLife

Locale: Montana
Lightweight Internal Frame Packs: a State of the Market Report - Part 1C: Main Bag & Comfort on 09/14/2010 14:27:22 MDT Print View

Companion forum thread to:

Lightweight Internal Frame Packs: a State of the Market Report - Part 1C: Main Bag & Comfort

Steven Paris
(saparisor) - M

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Part 1C: Main Bag & Comfort: Osprey side pockets on 09/14/2010 16:47:37 MDT Print View

Thanks for the very detailed report (revealed in weekly installments like a Charles Dickens' novel).

Btw, the Osprey pockets have gaps on the sides to give the option of having a water bottle either upright or tilted towards the wearer for (slightly) better access. Like all side pockets, their use can be greatly affected by how full the main bag is, but that's what they are for.

Lynn Tramper
(retropump) - F

Locale: The Antipodes of La Coruna
Re: Lightweight Internal Frame Packs: a State of the Market Report - Part 1C: Main Bag & Comfort on 09/14/2010 18:19:41 MDT Print View

Sternum straps: totally agree. if the pack fits properly these seem totally unnecessary to me. But these are easy to remove if you don't want them, so I don't count this against a pack.

Hydration bladders: Totally disagree as mentioned previously. YOU may not 'need' to drink all the time, and even I can go a couple of hours without drinking, but for me the migraines this causes is just not worth it. And after a decade of using hydration bladder, I have never had one leak (yet). I DO wish more packs had drainage holes at the bottom for IF the bladder ever failed, and for the inevitable rain leakage that occurs in most packs during heavy prolonged rain.

Hipbelt pockets: Some are nice. The Osprey Exos has decent sized pockets which can hold a lot of instant access or wet items. Many other pockets are too small.

Excess straps and other doo-dads are easily removed. I think I removed around 200 grams of these doo-dads from my Exos.

Top pockets: again, this varies by pack and again, the Exos has a decent sized top pocket IMHO.

Side pockets: again, I find these useful. Even the odd arrangement of pockets on the Exos are more than adequate to hold stuff that the author probably doesn't carry, or carries elsewhere, like camp shoes or gas canisters. These things are not bothered by rain, and don't tend to fall out either. However, i find the fabric the outside pockets are made from can cause problems in scrub. the very open mesh of the Exos is terrible in scrub. I prefer a solid durable outer pocket fabric, but that's just because, like Roger, I do a lot of off trail hiking. This is not a problem for much of the European and North American market.

Volume: Outside and top pockets definitely count. We've just come through a very cold winter and I've had no problem fitting everything I need into an Exos, with room to spare, and everything easily accessible, by utilising these extra pockets (including the kangaroo pouch) and floating lid design. I really don't miss the days of the single bag, pocketless design of the likes of NZs traditional alpine packs.

I reiterate that Roger has bravely taken on an impossible task. Pack fit, comfort and features are such individual preferences that a survey of this sort is inevitably going to miss the mark with many readers. But you've got to acknowledge that Roger has done the best job he could, given his preferences and hiking needs, with a very broad range of packs.

That funny little MP3 pocket on the Exos is also easily removed. I thought it was for holding sunglasses...

Robert Blean
(blean) - MLife

Locale: San Jose -- too far from Sierras
Re: Re: Lightweight Internal Frame Packs: a State of the Market Report - Part 1C: Main Bag & Comfort on 09/14/2010 22:15:30 MDT Print View

Roger,

Thanks for another nice report. You are presenting a good series.

I agree with a lot that Lynn said.

Sternum straps -- perhaps I have just had badly sized or designed packs, but for me a properly tensioned sternum strap is great for moving pressure off my shoulder joint and onto my core -- a HUGE win.

Bladder -- I do not understand the interior bladder pockets. How are you supposed to refill such a bladder, assuming the pack is pretty full itself? As the the "why", though -- I have become a convert to them. I put an electrolyte & carbohydrate solution in them. If I am sweating a lot, then the ongoing electrolytes are helpful. The carbs give a steady calorie stream as I am hiking which (for me) really helps keep my energy up. Just stopping to tank up with plain water every couple of hours does neither of these.

-- MV

Edited by blean on 09/14/2010 22:16:11 MDT.

Larry Dyer
(veriest1) - F

Locale: Texas
Bulging Bottoms on 09/15/2010 01:51:26 MDT Print View

I find the bulge at the bottom of a pack to be a great feature as a lightweight backpacker for the exact reason you touched on. I've never dealt with traditional gear enough to have an opinion but I figure the results would be the same - just on a grander scale. The bulge at the bottom of some packs has been great for swallowing my insulation items since these tend to be the bulkiest but also the lightest for their size. I find it aesthetically pleasing as well.

By using a pack liner to water proof my gear I've never ran into the problem of an item being to big for the pack opening. I figure that it's probably a non-issue with quality gear and good technique.

I guess I just find it odd that you seem, not opposed, but maybe divided on this feature. I thought it was ingenious from the first time I started packing such a bag up.

dale stuart
(onetwolaugh) - M

Locale: Pacific NW
backpack designs on 09/15/2010 09:57:27 MDT Print View

I agree with the no hydration pockets- I have 2 sports bottle holsters, one on each shoulder strap to handle my water needs.Theory says that it would offset weight from my back - sounds good anyway If I need to really bulk up with water I can slip a 2 ltr in each side mesh pocket.
side view
water holters

I like the roll top style closures with expansion collar. This allows me to get a compressed pack with variable volume.

I like hip belt pockets, just right for carrying bug spray, suntan lotion, camera, glasses on one side and a days worth of trail snacks on the other.

Ross Bleakney
(rossbleakney) - MLife

Locale: Cascades
Re: Lightweight Internal Frame Packs: a State of the Market Report - Part 1C: Main Bag & Comfort on 09/15/2010 09:57:56 MDT Print View

A few comments:

Bladder Sleeve: I never use a bladder connected to a tube. However, when I carry water, I always put my platypus in there and think it is a good idea. I've never crushed the water bottle, nor have I ever heard of anyone crushing their water bottle in that manner. On the other hand, I've heard of folks losing their water bottle, when it is on the outside of the pack. You also ignore one of the main benefits of having the water sitting there. If your water container is full, it is likely the heaviest item you are carrying, as well as the most dense*. For that reason, it makes sense to carry it very close to the back (to reduce torque).

* I'm not sure how the density of water compares to the density of other items (that's your job and you folks at BPL usually do it really well).

Zippers vs. Drawstrings: By and large, zippers are heavy. A small zipper to hold a wallet may not weigh much, but a heavy zipper securing a compartment will weigh more than a drawstring. Zippers are also limiting. You can over stuff a compartment and still secure everything when you have a drawstring opening -- not so with a zipper.

Extra Compartments: Like extra zippers, extra compartments add weight.

Pack Bag Weight: This is why it is difficult to just compare the weight of a backpack, the way you would a different piece of gear (like a tent). If one backpack weight two pounds because it has a very firm hip belt and shoulder strap, along with a solid frame, then the extra weight may be worth it. One the other hand, if a pack is flimsy, but has lots of straps, zippers and extra compartments, then you're just carrying extra weight. It may be more convenient, but ultralight backpacking is (to me anyway) about doing without some conveniences to save weight. Judging the efficiency of the pack bag itself would lead to a much better comparison. I would love it if pack makers listed the weight of just the pack bag. That way, you could easily see whether an extra zipper, compartment, or even a bladder sleeve, is worth it.

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
alpine on 09/15/2010 10:17:05 MDT Print View

i use any pack for scrambling and alpine as well

hydration ... you might be in a situation where you dont have both hands free ... a platy works wonders then ... a pocket helps keep the weight close to yr back

pockets ... the less the better as they get caught against rocks, against shrubs when bushwacking ... the only real pocket thats useful for me are crampons/shovel and wand pockets

zippers ... they break, a drawstring you can easily fix

shape ... alpine packs are narrow at the bottom ... you need this in order to climb without the hipbelt on ... in case of rockfall you pull the pack over the top of yr head

floating lid ... only lid to go, should be removable ... in alpine you need the extra space for yr rope

weight ... light as possible as long as its comfortable and lasts awhile ... lightness is useless if it doesn't fit right

durability ... must be able to take chimneys, hauling, scree descents, sharp bushwaking

the fact is that unless you are willing to have multiple packs ... you will pay a weight penalty if you intend to use yr pack for alpine/scrambling/bushwacking as well as normal trail use

Ross Bleakney
(rossbleakney) - MLife

Locale: Cascades
Re: Re: Lightweight Internal Frame Packs: a State of the Market Report - Part 1C: Main Bag & Comfort on 09/15/2010 10:20:12 MDT Print View

In response to:

Bob: "Bladder -- I do not understand the interior bladder pockets. How are you supposed to refill such a bladder, assuming the pack is pretty full itself?"

Good question. It is not ideal, but I've managed to do it. To get the water out, is pretty easy (since it is along the "back" wall of the pack). To put it back, I've found it handy to cup the bottom of the platypus with my hand (basically holding the bladder upright, from the bottom, leaning against my forearm) then sliding my fist (or almost a fist) against the side wall, into the sleeve. Once there, I open my hand and slide it out. It really isn't too hard, unless there is a bunch of stuff in there. At worse, I pull stuff out to get the water in. Ironically, I am using it in opposite way of the design. It was added so that drinking water would be more convenient. In my case, it is less convenient, but more comfortable on my back.

Dale: Good idea. That looks like a poor man's Aarn. Either way, it sits in an ideal spot from a balance perspective, even better than the way water sits in a sleeve. Looking at the picture, I would think that maybe a bit of structure for the front might make sense. Just as there is a frame on the back to shift weight to your hips, perhaps a frame on the front might make sense. Of course, now I'm getting closer to building an Aarn.

Cas Berentsen
(P9QX) - MLife
bladders & side pockets on 09/15/2010 10:28:50 MDT Print View

So, I guess that besides comfort bladders and side pockets are personal choices as well.

Although I find the bladder sleeve and the "hole" in the backpack redundant as well I'm accustomed to carry the bladder in the side pocket. I like the ability to drink at any moment with minimized effort and to check the content of the bladder. I never experienced balance issues.

The other side pocket I usually use for clothes to react fast in rapidly changing weather conditions.

Reducing weight of backpack, sleeping bag, tent or stove will outweight any removal of side pockets.

Frank Steele
(knarfster) - F

Locale: Arizona
Re: Part 1C: Main Bag & Comfort: Osprey side pockets on 09/15/2010 11:16:27 MDT Print View

Sorry, I find his reporting and lack of understanding tiresome.(as you pointed out the purpose of the osprey pack side pockets 2 opening could have been discovered with any casual research)

Charles S. Forstall
(csforstall) - F

Locale: The Appalachian Foothills of TN
A lack of knowledge on your part... on 09/15/2010 12:27:49 MDT Print View

I find the idea of continuous drinking while walking (not to mention the pseudo-scientific name) to be rather silly.

I can respect your opinion, but I must question weather you have even bothered experimenting with the concept you despise?

You can save a great deal of energy while walking with a bladder. I urge you to experiment first, before you condemn a system you are clearly unfamiliar and uncomfortable with.

The idea of having a flexible bladder of water stuffed down inside the back of the pack being crushed by the rest of my gear seems to me to be the height of stupidity: there is every chance of it bursting under some minor extra impact.

This is an erroneous and completely incorrect statement. In five years in the army, with much heavier packs then what anyone on this site would ever carry, I never popped a bladder while it was in my rucksack. If 45 lbs won't pop a bladder 25 lbs won't.

That's the problem with bad marketing spin.

Again, I urge you to try before you condemn. I think it is a bit out of place, and really beyond the scope of just this article for a reviewer to call ALL bladder pockets on ALL backpacks, "Bad Marketing Spin." That is an extreme position that doesn't address the fact a large number of people are comfortable with its application and use.

I understand that a bladder pocket itself is not necessary for proper application of the system being condemned as "stupid" by the author. I believe his dislike comes from the extra weight added by the separate sleeve in these larger volume packs. I agree and understand that sentiment. What I don't understand is the utter dismissal by the author of one of the most effective systems for maintaining hydration during extended physical activity.

Edited by csforstall on 09/15/2010 12:36:55 MDT.

Graeme Finley
(gfinley001) - F

Locale: SF Bay Area
Re: Part 1C: Main Bag & Comfort: Osprey side pockets on 09/15/2010 14:04:52 MDT Print View

I always enjoy Roger's reviews and generally agree with most of what he says, but I have to say that I disagree with almost everything in this article. I think it's because I'm coming from the perspective of a past thru-hiker, and most of the comments Roger raised either don't apply or are (in my opinion) simply wrong for those thru-hiking in the US. I'd appreciate the viewpoints of other people who have done long, multi-week hikes, but my experience has been:

Side/back pockets are invaluable, especially for stashing wet gear (e.g. a wet tarp the morning after rain) or for drying socks/underwear on the outside of the pack (a true sign of someone on a long distance hike). I've also found accessing water purification drops etc much faster when I could just dip into a mesh pocket without opening the pack. Sames goes for snacks like energy bars/GU gel.

I would have 'died' in the desert on the PCT without a water bladder. I started without one, then bought one in Idyllwild and found my hiking experience to be completely different - I drank more (simply because the hose was always at my mouth) and I hiked faster (because I didn't have to stop every 15 minutes to take out a water bottle and drink a cup of water). I never hike without one of these now, even when I'm using frameless packs that don't have a hydration port.

Lyan Jordan
(redmonk)

Locale: Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem
Lightweight Internal Frame Packs: a State of the Market Report - Part 1C: Main Bag & Comfort on 09/15/2010 14:33:15 MDT Print View

I use a three step process to insert a water bladder into my loaded pack

1) Grab bladder at the cap end. It has a nice solid chunk of plastic that makes a nice grip.

2) Shove the bladder into the sleeve

3) Remove my hand from the sleeve, leaving the bladder in place.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Lightweight Internal Frame Packs: a State of the Market Report - Part 1C: Main Bag & Comfort on 09/15/2010 14:42:44 MDT Print View

Aha! The "what is best" conversation.

So what should a pack do?

- Carry & protect our gear.

- Allow us to access our gear in an effective, efficient, and functional manner.

- Allow us to hike in comfort.

All of this means is that there are many individual preferences. Bladders, pockets, zippers, draw cords, lids, etc. are all options that work for some and not for others. But none are perfect or correct for everyone.

It is just like a house. My floor plan is ideal for me. And you may hate it. But as long as it works for me, your needs are irrelevant.

Many of us (myself included) get fixated on weight only. At the end of the day the most important question is, "Is it easy for me to live out of my pack?"

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Re: Re: Lightweight Internal Frame Packs: a State of the Market Report - Part 1C: Main Bag & Comfort on 09/15/2010 16:06:31 MDT Print View

> Just stopping to tank up with plain water every couple of hours does neither

Have you tried adding fresh coffee grounds? :-)

Cheers

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: A lack of knowledge on your part... on 09/15/2010 16:15:25 MDT Print View

Hi Charles

> I must question weather you have even bothered experimenting with
> the concept you despise?

Basic BackpackingLight rule: we test before we comment. Yes, of course I have tried out the bladder plus hose idea! And yes, I have been walking in the desert and extreme heat.

> You can save a great deal of energy while walking with a bladder.
Huh???? That's a new one on me. Saving time I have heard about, but saving energy?
The energy spent getting a bottle out of my pack after I have sat down for a rest at the end of 2.5 hours walking pales into utter insignificance compared with the effort spent climbing 1000 m in the last 2.5 hrs. Come on!

Ah well, my 2c worth. Ymmv, and that's fine.

Cheers

Travis Leanna
(T.L.) - MLife

Locale: Wisconsin
Re: Re: Lightweight Internal Frame Packs: a State of the Market Report - Part 1C: Main Bag & Comfort on 09/15/2010 16:17:11 MDT Print View

>At the end of the day the most important question is, "Is it easy for me to live out of my pack?"

Nick brings up a good point. Also remember that the gear we carry is a complete system, and any given pack will work differently with different systems. So a pack must not only fit our personal quirks, but it must work well with the rest of our stuff we carry as well.

To a person who doesn't like hydration bladders, the hydration bladder sleeve would seem superfluous.

To a person who doesn't find the need for side pockets, most likely the gear they carry hasn't required the need for them.

And so on.

I'd like to see a lighweight pack that is both top loading and panel loading. Many would think that's weird.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Re: Part 1C: Main Bag & Comfort: Osprey side pockets on 09/15/2010 16:19:13 MDT Print View

Hi Graeme

Who wants boring pallid reviews anyhow?
But please note that we have done many multi-month walks around the European mountains.

> Side/back pockets are invaluable, especially for stashing wet gear (e.g. a wet tarp
> the morning after rain)
Goes under my pack lid on top of the waterproof throat. Never had a problem that way.

> or for drying socks/underwear on the outside of the pack (a true sign of someone
> on a long distance hike).
We hang them on some of the bungee cord or webbing across the back of the pack. They get more sun that way and dry faster.

Cheers

Lynn Tramper
(retropump) - F

Locale: The Antipodes of La Coruna
Re: Re: Re: Lightweight Internal Frame Packs: a State of the Market Report - Part 1C: Main Bag & Comfort on 09/15/2010 17:35:59 MDT Print View

Hydration sleeves: another thing that is easily removed if you don't want it. I find the sleeve makes it easy to slide a bladder in and out of the pack. Without a slippery sleeve, the bladder is prone to get caught on less slippery stuff in my pack. Again, I wouldn't mark a pack down because it has this feature. If I didn't want that feature, I would just take a pair of scissors to it.