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Lightweight Internal Frame Packs: a State of the Market Report - Part 1C: Main Bag & Comfort
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David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
pack details on 09/15/2010 17:59:48 MDT Print View

Roger, you certainly must be commended for tackling such an unruly subject, and without any attempt to artificially constrain or circumscribe it. Bravo!

I do think the comments thus far point to the limitation of choosing to write much of the article(s) as you have, namely with such a pronounced, even ornery bias. While one could debate the utility of taking a more even handed yet wishy washy hypothetical approach (on the one hand, on the other...) to the utility of pack features, much of the first half of this installment comes across as an extended pontification on pack design. It seems I'm not the only one for whom this approach comes up short.

To whit (and to further contribute data points to the pack preferences discussion):

I find pack lids to be superfluous, awkward, and inefficient. If you need things quick other options are better, and if you don't stuff goes in the main body.

(IMO) drinking water at 2 hr intervals is metabolically inefficient. By doing so you are minimizing performance. Period. For some this matters, for others, not. When I can fetch water often I like using bottles in side pockets which are accessible without removing the pack. Otherwise, I use a large dromedary with hose assembly. Very reliable. Packing and unpacking this does require removing items from the pack, but if I use this method of water carrying I'm usually refilling once or twice a day only.

For me a slanted bottom (like the ULA packs) is essential. Squared off, fat butted packs drag and catch when you're scrambling down slopes, a far greater nuisance than them not sitting erect when packing.

Hipbelt (or side) pockets hold snacks in quick to get places and in a much more comfortable way than pants pockets. My favorite hiking pants and shorts all lack such pockets anyway.

The Osprey shoulder strap pockets are great places to store sunscreen and water purification stuff. They can be accessed on the go and left there between trips. Candy bars also fit in the pockets.


Eric Blumensaadt
(Danepacker) - MLife

Locale: Mojave Desert
Hydration sleeve on 09/15/2010 22:07:22 MDT Print View

Personally I LIKE hydration bladders for several reasons and adopted them as soon as they came out. I still have a Gregory bladder for my 2007 REI Cruise UL 60 that's working fine & is MUCH lighter than a Camelbak setup, which I also have in other packs.

Therefore I like the bladder sleeve and hose ports on all the new packs. Don't like 'em? Then cut out the sleeve.

"Floating" lids... well they are OK if large enough AND can be converted into a fanny pack (or sew your own webbing belt loops on the lid's underside) for side trips. That means you don't need to bring the extra weight of a small daypack/stuffsack.

Side pockets... I bought my present REI Cruise UL 60 bag in that size because I knew I was going to use aftermarket side pockets. The pack size of over 3,000 cu in. was a bit small for me but problem solved with two 400 cu. in. side pockets.

To me side pockets not only protect the pack when bushwhacking, but they give fast access to items you may need in a hurry, like 1st aid kit, potty kit(TP, hand sanitizer & snow stake digger), stove kit, water treatment kit, toilet kit and other essential stuff. A pack needs side straps or attatchment loops to accomodate side pockets. Again,if you don't have 'em then sew them on.

Edited by Danepacker on 09/15/2010 22:35:02 MDT.

Matt Sanger
(IPARider) - MLife
more data on 09/15/2010 22:34:08 MDT Print View

As others have noted this is a huge project, pretty impossible to do in a way that will please all...thanks for the data on the packs that is in these reports, but I really wish there was much more straight descriptive data and pics on all the packs in the study, and less personal evaluation and theorizing, much of which I find totally off-base.

Larry Dyer
(veriest1) - F

Locale: Texas
Internal Hydration Sleeve on 09/15/2010 23:54:54 MDT Print View

I use a bladder as my main method of carrying water but still can't stand using a sleeve so I cut them out. Instead I pack my water last and between my sleeping pad and other gear (sleeping pad is acting as a frame in this case). Or sometimes I just lay the bladder sideways in the top of the bag. I don't worry about things getting wet because either they're impervious to water or in a trash bag.

I've worried about busting one and because of this I only fill my 2 liter platy up to the 2 liter mark so it isn't completely full. This makes it very malleable and easier to pack as well from I've seen and it should be significantly more difficult to pop one filled this way.

Charles S. Forstall
(csforstall) - F

Locale: The Appalachian Foothills of TN
Re: Re: A lack of knowledge on your part... on 09/16/2010 06:53:05 MDT Print View

@David I am in agreement, with what you have been stating both here and earlier on though this series.

Matt +1

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.


As I stated previously I can respect your opinion, yet I still think it is out of place to condemn in a State of the Market Report no less, that you yourself aren't comfortable with that system and whatever that might entail in a pack. Aren't these State of the Market Reports for everyone, regardless of choice hiking systems?

I think its great to have your own opinion, I just greatly question the idea of including that opinion in a general review. My ire was raised by what was an obvious breach of the Hike your Own Hike Philosophy.

As well Roger you are still spreading mis-information by claiming that a bladder will burst inside a pack. Given your penchant for empirical data your professing of this untested claim is very out of character for you.

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!

You don't have to stop or sit down, or waste unneeded arm reaching with a bladder! You can wake up and do almost everything on the move until you get to the end of your day! I thought that was the "Efficiency" that Ryan spoke about in the BPL book.

Well to each his own.

Edited by csforstall on 09/16/2010 07:22:57 MDT.

Mike M
(mtwarden) - MLife

Locale: Montana
opinions on 09/16/2010 07:29:47 MDT Print View

I guess it doesn't bother me that Roger has expressed his opinion on different pack options- it doesn't bother me that I disagree w/ some of his opinions- I think that is to be expected

I'll admit I pooh-pooh'd bladders for years until my wife insisted we give them a try (we purchased a couple over a year ago and never tried them). It was nice to be able to drink "on the fly". I, like others have noted, found myself drinking more (and being better hydrated).

I like ULA's approach to these "extras"- they're removable, you don't like (or need) them- simply remove them. While it certainly is plausible to simply cut these unwanted features out- the ability to remove them is a little more appealing (especially when you post your used pack up on Gear Swap! :))

Michael L
(mpl_35) - MLife

Locale: NoCo
Re: pack details on 09/16/2010 08:20:26 MDT Print View

I pretty much echo David on his points. Especially in regards to stuff like hip belt pockets.

I absolutely despise carrying stuff in my pants pockets. Even regular day and around the office. So when hiking, chapstick, sunscreen, snacks, etc go into the hipbelt pockets and not my pants pockets.

John Davis
(Bukidnon) - F
Lightweight Internal Frame Packs: a State of the Market Report - Part 1C: Main Bag & Comfort on 09/16/2010 10:58:17 MDT Print View

Skimming this article made me think I must put aside a significant amount of time to read it carefully because my initial reaction is that I disagree with almost everything in it. For example-

"Most of the packs had some place where you could securely keep your driver's licence, credit cards, and money. I regard this apparently minor feature as being seriously important in practice. If the pack I chose did not have such a place I would certainly add it somehow."

As sea kayakers and Ray Mears say, if you haven't got it on you, you haven't got it. No matter how badly things go, if you can still move yourself, you can get home with a debit card and some pictorial ID. In this context, a valuables pocket in a rucksack is little more than galloping featuritis and inappropriate for a lightweight pack.

Christopher Knaus

Locale: Northern California
Main Pack Configuration and Bear Canisters on 09/16/2010 14:40:05 MDT Print View

A consideration in configuration of the main pack compartment is whether the user expects to be carrying a bear canister. I routinely hike in Yosemite where a canister is required so this was a major driver for me. When shopping for packs, I observed that some of the narrower packs made packing around a canister difficult.

My Osprey Exos 58 has the "flared-out bottom" which allows the canister to be stored horizontally, at the bottom of the pack (typical sleeping bag position) or vertically, mid-pack, atop the sleeping bag. I vary the configuration based on balancing my load, relative weight of food, water, cnaister and other items, etc. Sometimes, when in the vertical position I have to finagle the canister to avoid the volume and weight of my (dreaded!) hydration bladder. I do appreciate the flexibility which I did not observe in some packs of similar weight and volume.

scott Nelson
(nlsscott) - MLife

Locale: So. Calif.
Origins of the Sternum Strap on 09/16/2010 14:44:08 MDT Print View

I worked at a backpacking store back in the 70's when sternum straps came into fashion. I think it was during a time when cross country skiing was big. The intention for the strap was to prvent the shoulder strap sliding down your arm when you followed thru on your pole plant. As you hand goes behind your hip, you drop your shoulder. As you recover, and bring your arm back forward, you sometimes had to "shrug" the pack shoulder strap back into place. Pretty soon, the sternum strap was a cheap feature to add on every pack, even external frame packs that you would never ski with. Sternum straps interfer with my lungs fully expanding. I have found them useful on pack with shoulder straps that didn't fit me well, and easily cut off packs that fit.

Len Glassner
(lsglass) - MLife

Locale: San Diego
State of the Market? on 09/16/2010 15:33:31 MDT Print View

I like 'boring, pallid' gear reviews.

So far, I don't think I've learned much at all about the State of the Market. But I know a great deal more about Roger Caffin's personality than I might have ever cared to know.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: more data on 09/16/2010 16:35:46 MDT Print View

Hi Matt

> a huge project, pretty impossible to do in a way that will please all
Yeah, seems that way. :-)

> wish there was much more straight descriptive data and pics on all the packs
As mentioned in the Abstract at the start of Part 1A:
"Part 2 in this series covers the individual packs tested."
So yes, Part 2 gives a detailed mini-review of every pack in the survey, with photos.

I note that many have disagreed with my comments about the bladder sleeve. Fair enough. You might note that several pack manufacturers also agreed with my comments, usually adding that it is the retailers who insist on having all the features. Ah well, ymmv.


Travis Leanna
(T.L.) - MLife

Locale: Wisconsin
Re: Re: more data on 09/16/2010 16:51:11 MDT Print View

The question I have is why the large outpouring of complaints compared to anything a normal member were to submit? If any of us had written this, I'd be shocked to see the same reactions from people.

How about we have a clear, focused *discussion* rather than a rag-fest.

reverse polarity
(reverse_polarity) - F
Re: Re: Re: more data on 09/16/2010 18:09:54 MDT Print View

"The question I have is why the large outpouring of complaints compared to anything a normal member were to submit? If any of us had written this, I'd be shocked to see the same reactions from people."

I think you would see the same reactions no matter who wrote it. The review is littered with very strong personal opinions that outright say that many of the features we like and use in a pack are nothing more than frivolous marketing hype. I mean, really: the author just HAS to have a small zippered pocket to keep keys and driver's license, yet sees no use in a hipbelt pocket. Fair enough the author does not like some features, and considers other essential, but the review is very biased towards the authors personal prejudices and local usage rather than a dispassionate review of the packs features and fit. It's a very unusual way to review packs.

"How about we have a clear, focused *discussion* rather than a rag-fest."

OK, what should we discuss? I'd say there's not a lot, until part 2 comes out.

Travis Leanna
(T.L.) - MLife

Locale: Wisconsin
Re: Re: Re: Re: more data on 09/16/2010 18:24:48 MDT Print View

>OK, what should we discuss? I'd say there's not a lot, until part 2 comes out.

Anything is salient discussion, even why Person X likes or dislikes hydration bladders. But when post after post is littered with "this review is crap because...." or "your way is wrong because...." types of comments, it clogs things up. Quite useless, actually.

Why not step away from the sterility of "a dispassionate review" and embrace it as simply another angle of things? It really can help with looking at things differently in comparison with the basic bullet-pointed specs list.

Edited by T.L. on 09/16/2010 18:27:12 MDT.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: pack details on 09/16/2010 18:52:07 MDT Print View


All this banging on Roger. How else would he review the packs if not from his own point of view, based on many years of backpacking experience. Would we prefer a reviewer with little experience? I actually like reviews where the author discusses what he or she likes/dislikes and why. I am not bothered at all with his observations in his reviews and posts. Do I always agree with him? Heck no. Do I respect him? You bet I do.

To be honest, I have enough gear experience, that a reviewer is not going to sway me much to change my style. The review is just once source of information. And I make my own gear decision based on what conclusion I rationally derive from all sources. Just because some well known personality says it is good, does not mean it is good for me.

Also, Roger does not live in the U.S., where I suspect the needs are a little difference.

And who is probably the most famous gear reviewer of all time? Probably Colin Fletcher. And "opinionated" would probably describe him well.

Roger, keep up the good work. A please continue to present your personal opinions and biases.

George Matthews
(gmatthews) - MLife
Re: Lightweight Internal Frame Packs: a State of the Market Report - Part 1C: Main Bag & Comfort on 09/16/2010 18:56:11 MDT Print View


Good work.

I'm not picking a side because the passionate differing opinions do not apply to me, but research reports generate creative tension. Good for all have a bit of forum heat now and then.

Please don't get discouraged.


I'm waiting for the invention of a device called an utter. It would recycle your real bladder output into your pack bladder. Then you'd really never have to stop hiking. I'm sure when it arrives you will review the Ultralight PissUtter.

John Nausieda
(Meander) - MLife

Locale: PNW
You want to be an astronaut on 09/16/2010 18:59:34 MDT Print View

George: Time to become an astronaut if you want to recycle your precious bodily fluids. Also no backpack weight in orbit.

reverse polarity
(reverse_polarity) - F
Re: Re: pack details on 09/16/2010 19:23:34 MDT Print View

"All this banging on Roger. How else would he review the packs if not from his own point of view, based on many years of backpacking experience. Would we prefer a reviewer with little experience?"

Nothing wrong with his experience and opinions, it just could have been written a lot less hostile. For instance, instead of;

“many American packs have extra pockets at the sides near the bottom or across the outside back of the pack. The American manufacturers seem to love to add these, but why they do so is not clear. Perhaps they are marketing frills, or maybe they have the idea that anything stuffed into an external pocket does not really count when working out the pack weight?”

It would have been adequate to just say that the author doesn’t like extra outside pockets (because where he hikes they get caught in scrub, etc...), but if this is a feature that you are looking for in a pack then consider many of the American models such as brand xxxxxxx

Or instead of;

"“Stuff put in the back pocket might be a bit safer, especially if the back pocket has a zip, but that position has a serious problem. Putting weight that far from your back moves the Centre of Gravity (CoG) away from your back, which is a pretty stupid thing to do. You want the CoG as close to your body as possible. That said, a simple back pocket can be very useful for storing flat things like sit mats (which are usually the last thing to get packed away) and map cases. But so often the extra pockets turned out to have very little useful volume once the main bag had been filled up, so the fancy design on many of them seem almost useless to me.”

Which again implies that most people who use this feature don’t know how to pack their bags, and that they are ‘stupid’ He could have just said which packs had back pockets, which had zippers etc…for those that like this feature, even though the author wouldn’t put anything too heavy in them due to issues with CoG.

It is possible to present an opinion without implying people are stupid, or silly, or just don't know how to pack their bags.

"“Finally, I tried keeping things in such pockets, but the pockets were so small I had to stop and very carefully open the pocket when I wanted something out of one - while being very careful not to lose anything else in that pocket. So I am left skeptical: it seems like another cost-adding marketing feature, and I just don't bother with them. Then there's the little pocket found on the Osprey Exos shoulder straps: I was told it's for holding your iPod or MP3 player. Phooey: Keep It Simple!”

Ummm, not all the packs tested had small pockets, and it would be sufficient to point out to readers which pack had larger hipbelt pockets, which got in the way of arm swing (without poles, which many readers use), which had small pockets, and which had a choice of pocket size, while pointing out the he does not see utility in these pockets, but providing the information for those who prefer hipbelt pockets. Hopefully we will get this useful information in part 2!

There's lots more in the article where the author, though very experienced at his way of doing things, comes across as insulting to people who have differing experiences or opinions. It's just unnecessary and inflammatory journalism and not very professional, again just IMHO.

George Matthews
(gmatthews) - MLife
Re: You want to be an astronaut on 09/16/2010 19:33:53 MDT Print View

John: Actually, I was an astronaut for my first job. Here is a pic...