Subscribe Contribute Advertise Facebook Twitter Instagram Forums Newsletter
Big, Heavy Packs
Display Avatars Sort By:
Ryan Jordan
(ryan) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Greater Yellowstone
Big, Heavy Packs on 01/19/2011 18:52:04 MST Print View

Lots of big packs again showing up at Outdoor Retailer this season.

It signifies that the market for robust and heavy packs remains alive and well.

What disturbs me is that these packs are sold primarily to those who consider themselves "serious backpackers" who carry 50+ lb loads.

I can see applications where carrying a big load might be fun - crossing the Arctic unsupported, or finding some lone big wall in the Wind Rivers to Spiderman your way up, or stocking a hunting camp, or carrying all the gear for you, your spouse, your kids, and your dog.


I mean, I still do all these things. I still carry big loads on occasion. But I have to be honest with you, I no longer own an 8 pound pack and don't really ever want one again.

Does that disqualify me from being a serious backpacker?

Of those of you that consider yourselves "serious backpackers" I have 3 questions for you:

1. Why do you consider yourself serious?
2. What pack do you use for serious backpacking?
3. Do you still use something like this, or would you be in the market for one again?

Chad Miller

Locale: Duluth, Minnesota
Re: Big, Heavy Packs on 01/19/2011 18:58:54 MST Print View

1. I don't consider myself serious.
2. I use a pack that fits me and carries the load I'm humpin' comfy like.
3. I don't care what THIS is enough to click on the link.

My question to you Ryan; at what weight do you consider yourself a serious UL backpacker?

Edited by chadnsc on 01/19/2011 19:00:38 MST.

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Re: Big, Heavy Packs on 01/19/2011 19:01:16 MST Print View

Ryan wrote, "does that disqualify me from being a serious backpacker?"

Yes, according to many who posted here!

Marketers paint a wild and dangerous outdoors. Many hikers fancy themselves needing tough packs to handle "whatever Nature throws at them".

But answering Ryan's questions:

1. Why do you consider yourself serious? I consider myself "serious" to the extent that I want to maximize my chance for safe return. This means being properly experienced and properly equipped.

2. What pack do you use for serious backpacking? A summer hike/summit up Mt. Whitney -- a silnylon pack is what I use and it's plenty robust.

3. Do you still use something like this, or would you be in the market for one again? Nope. No need. Back in 2009, I did a solo RTW trip using only surface transportation. The rigors are quantum leaps more rigorous than wildnerness hiking. The 1.5lbs. bookbag I used was plenty tough.

Edited by ben2world on 01/19/2011 19:11:53 MST.

Doug I.
(idester) - MLife

Locale: PNW
Re: Big, Heavy Packs on 01/19/2011 19:09:41 MST Print View

"1. Why do you consider yourself serious?
2. What pack do you use for serious backpacking?
3. Do you still use something like this, or would you be in the market for one again?"

Ah, you did this on purpose.


1. I furrow my brow a LOT while backpacking. And I say very serious things with an occasional 'tsk tsk' for emphasis. Sometimes I even quote Jardine.

2. Nothing colorful, that's for sure. Dark colors. Dark colors are very serious in a pack.

3. Yes. I'd fill it with light pillows, or better yet balloons, so it looked to all the unskilled women like I was a serious, manly man while backpacking. Might get me dates. Hey, nothing else is working!

4. I owe you a small container of eye drops. I haven't forgotten.

Ken T.
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: All up in there
Re: Big, Heavy Packs on 01/19/2011 19:13:08 MST Print View

I think with everything being designed by committee, what winds up happening is gear gets designed that doesn't really suit anyone in particular. As everything seems to marketed to everyone. I think this is why so many of us here seek out cottage manufacturers that produce a niche product for our particular " serious " use.
I still own my 7.5 lb Gregory. I like to pull my fully loaded pack out of it.

drowning in spam
(leaftye) - F

Locale: SoCal
Re: Big, Heavy Packs on 01/19/2011 19:13:54 MST Print View

You would have to be serious if you carried that big load and would knowingly do it again. ;)

I would use a big pack again. It seems like the UL packs lack the provisions to attaching things externally. That makes things a bit difficult when carrying a bear can, snowshoes and a snow shovel. Fortunately newer materials are making it possible to build a big pack without a big weight penalty. I have no problem carrying around wasted volume if it compresses well and is still lightweight.

When I first started getting back into hiking, I carried a big pack because it was the easy way for me to reuse my bulky street gear on the trail. I would have gone lighter at that time if I had the money and knowledge to do so. Nowadays there's no way I will a big load all of the time.

I've actually been considering a trip where I may go heavy. I'd like to do a little hiking and a lot of lounging. As such, I'll bring some items to make my lounging luxurious.

Ike Jutkowitz
(Ike) - M

Locale: Central Michigan
Serious Backpacker on 01/19/2011 19:15:29 MST Print View

I consider myself a serious backpacker. Although many of my trips are 1-2 nights, I backpack at least twice monthly in all seasons. For longer trips, my goals are generally ambitious, encompassing 20-30 mile days to see and do as much as possible. I hike from dawn till dark on most days. I am probably more pleasant to live with when I hike regularly.

Would I own a pack like that? I did once. My first pack was a Dana Designs Terraplane (1988?), which I loved. It had room for my 3 lb sleeping bag, 2 person tent, inflatable pad, and even had pockets for my candle lantern, potty trowel, pack fly, mess kit. Could have probably stuffed in one of those doohickys that makes your sleeping pad into a chair with a drink holder. Now I don't need any of that stuff. For the last 10 years, I used a Vapor Trail, but last year I bought a more serious backpack, the MLD Burn. It holds everything I need for a week long trip.

I finally sold the Terraplane last year, but I still keep the Vapor Trail around. I have a wife, 2 kids, and 2 dogs- you never know when you might need a really big pack.

Edit- dang. Ryan Jordan set me up! Sorry for the overly "serious" post. UL convert enthusiasm was all.

Edited by Ike on 01/30/2011 11:23:24 MST.

Chad Miller

Locale: Duluth, Minnesota
Big Heavy Packs on 01/19/2011 19:17:49 MST Print View

Ike you're not a serious backpacker. Sorry.

John Nausieda
(Meander) - MLife

Locale: PNW
Big, Heavy Packs on 01/19/2011 19:27:20 MST Print View

When we were in the Cascades this Summer we ran into an old time backpacker who was running an external frame Kelty and carrying at least 50lbs. We talked for at least an hour . He was hardcore. Had moved from Seattle to Bend so he could be hiking in a half-hour. He knew all the trails around there and turned me onto 3 which we loved. I started with an external frame in the 70's and still have it . It's light . I have a Mountainsmith Ghost and got my kid a Go-lite Odyssey and my wife an Ultra-lite REI pack. Our new friend was very interested in all our gear . But his feeling was that he would just bring whatever he wanted. It had started with his kids-him carrying their gear. Later it involved dating on hikes and being able to carry out double loads when things went wrong. I've dropped our weight quite a bit , but I understand the old school . If this guy met you Ryan , he'd be very interested in what you were doing and non-judgmental. And I applaud you for your research and puncturing the myths of the ultralight pack that can handle anything. But some people just don't care about Ultralight Nirvana just as they didn't care about Whole Wheat Nirvana. Serious Backpacking? What is that? William Carlos Williams wrote about people who looked at a freight train and said "That's America" Williams said " The pure products of America go crazy". Maybe crazy comes in lots of weights and styles?

Ike Jutkowitz
(Ike) - M

Locale: Central Michigan
Serious backpacker on 01/19/2011 19:41:01 MST Print View

Damnit Chad- Don't tell my wife. She'll start wondering what I'm really doing when I disappear every couple of weeks.

And for what it's worth, you did click on THIS and everyone knows it.

Edited by Ike on 01/20/2011 14:15:59 MST.

Mark Verber
(verber) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Serious backpacker on 01/19/2011 20:14:13 MST Print View

What is serious?

Darn if I know. There are several definitions I could think of:

1. Am I/Why and I serious? I have no idea.

a) Serious mind set... plans trips carefully and brings what is needed to come back healthy. Doesn't turn tail when it looks like bad weather. This is oppose to the carefree backpacker who calls for a rescue because they are feeling a bit cold or tired. By this, serious.

b) Serious devotion... measured by the number of days you spend backpacking. I suppose it depends of the cutover. There are people here who report type spend 300 days in the back country. I am certainly not one of these folks. I have a regular job and a family. In good years, I was about to get in maybe 40 nights. Is that serious? To someone who does 1-2 weekends a year. Yup. To someone who spends 300 days? Nope.

c) Serious trips... measure by number of days?. What's the break point? A week, 2 weeks, a month, a non stop thru-hike? Seems like a hard thing to settle. I have taken multi-week trips (with and without resupply) in the past but not done a thru hike. I haven't gone unsupported more than 10 days. Serious? Depends on the break point, though I think this would likely quality as serious. On the other hand I haven't taken trip that lasted more than 6 days in the last few years due to family needs. So does this mean I used to be serious and am now not?

d) Serious because you carry a serious backpack or more than X weight. By this definition, I likely haven't been serious for at least 10 years, likely 20 when I stopped carrying 60+lb loads.

Bottom line, there are all sorts of dimensions one could use for "serious". I am not sure if it's very useful to think about.

2. What pack do you use for serious backpacking?

Depends on the def. of serious. Right now I can happily use my GG Gorilla for up to around 10 days unless dealing with heavy snow. If I HAD to carry more, then I would switch to my loaner pack which is the original Osprey Aether 60, though I am sure there are packs that are lighter than 3.5lb and can carry 40lbs comfortably. But it would have to be an insanely great trip to convince me it was worth carrying so much stuff that I had to break out the old pack. Beyond that... see next question

3. Do you still use something like this, or would you be in the market for one again?

No. I am not as young as I used to be, and my body carries some damage. I no longer climb or hunt, and I don't carry huge view cameras. I can't imagine anything that would get me to carry more than 40lbs for any length of time other than helping someone else. In the last 5 years, the only time I carried more than 40lbs was when I was carrying my pack as a front pack, and a heavy-weighters pack on my back for a couple of miles because he was carrying his daughter who wasn't up to walking any more on her own. [Hmm... maybe if his daughter had been wearing trail runners and carrying a 12lb pack like my daughter was, rather than the new boots and a much heavier pack, we won't have had to do this. Hmm... not carrying a big pack myself is why I was about to take his. Yep, no monster pack for me] Reminded me why I carry a light pack now. I would rather not carry more than 25lb but would for the first few days of a trip as I eat the food down. So maybe I am not serious. If I was serious I would be willing to carry nearly any amount of weight to do one of those "must go" trips.


Edited by verber on 01/21/2011 11:37:17 MST.

John Sixbey
(Wolfeye) - F
Re: Big, Heavy Packs on 01/19/2011 20:18:01 MST Print View

1) I consider myself a little serious. Most of my hiking has been off-trail in SE Alaska, a fair amount of it class 2-3 scrambling, with a few days-long stretches though brush that will rip most packs and raingear. Devil's Club is the bane of my existence. :) Lately, though, most hikes that my wife & I do are on nice & easy trails here in Washington, especially now that she's expecting. We still like to do one or two weeklong trips a year.

2) My packs tend to be moderately light, tough on the outside for brush busting, and bigger than they need to be in case I want to carry a few gallons of greens or berries on the way home. I really like dyneema. For stupidly heavy dayhike trips, like when I'm salvaging wood for carving, I also have an old military surplus ALICE pack, size medium, with the optional external frame that's got enough metal to bolt down Hannibal Lector. I suppose that's my most "serious" backpack, but I'd never use it for a plain-jane hike. I might loan it to someone I didn't like, though... My go-to pack for 90% of my trips is a Mountainsmith Ghost that hasn't fallen apart yet. My daybag is a Golite Peak.

3) I don't think there's any point to buying an old school 7 lb pack. There are better options out there; I know of one designed to haul 100+ lb loads that weighs under 3 lbs, and a much cheaper one that weighs about 5 lbs. I suppose I'd be in the market for one if I took up deer hunting again, but I haven't done that since half my life ago.

Edited by Wolfeye on 01/19/2011 20:23:50 MST.

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
serious backpacking on 01/19/2011 20:28:01 MST Print View

Serious: a word which begs to be taken in a manner anything but. I'll try to avoid that.

1. Why do you consider yourself serious?

I plan trips in order to challenge myself, and keep building a mental and physical skillset.

2. What pack do you use for serious backpacking?

My homemade North Fork pack. ( It's big, lightish, simple, absorbs almost no water, and carries extra junk like skiing and/or packrafting gear well if packed correctly.

3. Do you still use something like this, or would you be in the market for one again?

Heck no. Sold my Dana last summer. Big loads hurt, even under the best of circumstances.

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: Big, Heavy Packs on 01/19/2011 20:40:35 MST Print View

"Of those of you that consider yourselves "serious backpackers" I have 3 questions for you:

1. Why do you consider yourself serious?
2. What pack do you use for serious backpacking?
3. Do you still use something like this, or would you be in the market for one again?"

1. Why serious? Because there simply is no other way for me to approach something I love as much as backpacking; Not to mention, I want to come back alive with all my body parts still in working order.

2. An Ohm. It'll take me on trips up to 11 days, on trail and off, at a maximum weight of ~26#, which is about as long as I get out at this point in my life. If I were ever to get one last wild hair and try a final 14-15 day odyssey, I'd dust off the old Circuit I've got hanging in the basement. There'd certainly be no need for "this".

3. Not.

ziff house
(mrultralite) - F
I find on 01/19/2011 20:41:58 MST Print View

very many prefer heavy gear, even though its counter productive. The ONLY rational i can think of is that it makes you stronger [except for the spinal damage in old age] AND if you consider yourself a SERIOUS MOUNTAINEER you better get used to hauling big loads of gear. I don't.

ziff house
(mrultralite) - F
QUESTIONS on 01/19/2011 20:48:09 MST Print View

1. i am serious about backpacking because nature is seriously sublime.
2. one i built myself seriously under a pound or 1/2 lb.

Jay Wilkerson
(Creachen) - MLife

Locale: East Bay
Big, Heavy Packs on 01/19/2011 21:00:08 MST Print View

(1) I consider myself a serious backpacker-I really enjoy going to very remote places where few have walked before.

(2) On longer trips say at least 5 days or longer and in bear country I will take a
ULA Circuit.. Suits my needs well.

(3) I will never use a heavy pack again only if I had to in a survival situation.
Evolution is a great thing in my backpacking career.

Edited by Creachen on 01/19/2011 21:03:19 MST.

Javan Dempsey

Locale: The-Stateless-Society
Re: Big, Heavy Packs on 01/19/2011 21:04:51 MST Print View

I'll only answer number 3: No, and no.

However, what I'd like to know instead, is how you feel Ryan, about 2.5-3lb packs like the TiGoat Goat Pack, the Kifaru, and Kuiu, that are forthcoming, along with the Absaroka, or the old Arctic Dry-Bag design, that are capable of carrying the same loads?

Does dropping the weight of these big haulers, down to the level of the lightest of the "traditional pack" weights, make the capabilities more interesting even to a "serious backpacker" of our stripe?

I've got a Goat Pack. It's amazing.

Do I need it for the types of backpacking I normally do? Hell no.
Has it inspired me to do a different type of backpacking other than what I normally do? Hell yes.

I've already planned an upcoming trip around it, and some heavier pieces of "UL" gear.

Edited by jdempsey on 01/19/2011 21:06:01 MST.

Ken K
(TheFatBoy) - F

Locale: St. Louis
Double standards on 01/19/2011 21:59:49 MST Print View

I consider myself a serious backpacker because I enjoy it, and I make concerted efforts to get out there and do it. What I carry doesn't matter. Right now it happens to be one of those 5 pound "big packs" because that's what I have and it works for what I need it to do. If money were no object, I would love to have a lighter pack that I can use SOMETIMES. This weekend, when I'm taking out 10 scouts in temps dropping to single digits (some of which have never tried a trip this cold), I'm going to be packing extra gear, and it won't fit in a 13 ounce super light, super small bag.

For the most part, I've found the advice on this forum to be very helpful, and I've tried to give back on topics I know something about. A few times, though, a topic like this comes up here... People mocking or disparaging the "big pack" crowd for their gear choices. It's funny how many of these same folks get their panties in a wad because they think the "big pack" crowds disapprove of their ultralight gear choices. News flash, folks: most of us "big pack" carriers don't care what you carry. If you're happy with your choices, more power to you! If you want to feel persecuted, go for it! But know that spreading the ill will among others who enjoy the great outdoors DIFFERENTLY than you does nothing to advance the overall community.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Big, Heavy Packs on 01/19/2011 22:19:34 MST Print View

I was thinking along this line on the way home tonight. My question is, what is the average base weight for backpackers in general? There must be some market research and demographics out there. I can walk into the REI Flagship store in Seattle and find a half-dozen packs that are interesting to an UL hiker, but there are 100+ packs there.

What in the world does anyone do with an 85 liter pack?

I SERIOUSLY don't carry 50+ pound loads, so I'll pass on the questions.

It would be interesting to sit at some major trailheads and do surveys and weigh packs.