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Packs, Packs, Packs
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Brandt Zook
(BassDude) - F - M

Locale: Texas
Packs, Packs, Packs on 01/20/2011 20:50:04 MST Print View

I am getting into the whole lightweight backpacking scene and am looking at getting one of the most important pieces of gear, which is the pack. I have a couple I have been looking at, but I haven't quite decided on which would be best for me. I'll list the few I have been looking at, give my pros and cons, and hear what y'all have to say. If you have any other recommendations, I would be more than happy to hear them.

First up is the Granite Gear Virga. Pros: Second lightest of the three I'm looking at. Good size. Cheapest of the three at around $100.
Cons: Not really any external pockets, just one big main compartment. Water bottle holders are a little weird with the compression straps going right over them. Hip belt being just webbing. Have heard it is only good for around 20 pounds.

Second is the GoLite Jam. Pros: Looks pretty comfy. Has hip belt pockets. Can comfortably carry around 25 pounds versus 20. Has front pocket. Really tough material. Popular pack, which makes me think GoLite is doing something right.
Cons: Heaviest of the three. Second most expensive at about $150 retail. Some review of current model aren't so good. They say the Jam2 is better than the current model.

Last is the MLD Exodus. Pros: I really like this pack the best. It is the lightest of the options and has good functionality with the mesh pocket in front and the large side pockets. The fabric is also super tough.
Cons: The one con I have with the pack is the price. At $185, it is kinda out of my budget.

What I want to know from you is how you think these three packs compare against each other in your opinion. Should I wait to get a few more bucks to spend on the Exodus? Should I try and pick up a used jam 2, or just get a new Virga? Any and all help is greatly appreciated.

Doug I.
(idester) - MLife

Locale: PNW
Re: Packs, Packs, Packs on 01/20/2011 20:56:09 MST Print View

What most folks will tell you on these forums (I think, going out on a limb here) is that your pack is one of the last things you should buy. Buy your other gear first -- shelter/sleeping bag-quilt/etc -- and then get a pack that will accommodate that gear, with enough room to accommodate winter gear if you're going with one pack for all seasons.


And all the packs you listed are fine packs.

Jack H.
(Found) - F

Locale: Sacramento, CA
Re: Packs, Packs, Packs on 01/20/2011 21:25:17 MST Print View

Having had all three, I'd buy the Exodus. And it's not perfect.

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Re: Packs, Packs, Packs on 01/20/2011 21:31:03 MST Print View


Curious, how heavy is your expected load? As above, it's subjective, but for many people, frameless packs work best for loads at or below the low 20's (including the weight of the pack itself).

Brandt Zook
(BassDude) - F - M

Locale: Texas
Pack Weight on 01/20/2011 22:04:30 MST Print View

My goal baseweight is 179.1 ounces, or about 11.2 pounds. That is factoring in a MLD exodus pack.

Also, as to buying the pack last, I agree with that and think it is a good idea. I am buying a tarp soon, an Oware 8x10 flat tarp. I know what sleeping bag I want (Montbell UL Super Spiral Down Hugger #3). So really, the only thing I have left to question is the pack. Everything else is pretty much taken care of. I just have to come up with the funds to get everything I want.

So, the Exodus is worth the extra money? I figured it would be. The "you get what you pay for" slogan seems to be pretty true in just about every situation.

Dave -
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Up there
Packs on 01/20/2011 22:09:56 MST Print View

As long as a frameless pack fits you with respect to torso size and with respect to the placement and width of the shoulder straps, there is very little difference in carry under 20lbs. For the most part, a book bag is a book bag. The differences to note are more from the perspective of materials and features.

Travis Leanna
(T.L.) - MLife

Locale: Wisconsin
Re: Re: Packs, Packs, Packs on 01/20/2011 22:21:55 MST Print View

For me, frameless packs are a very different animal compared to framed packs. The comfort of a pack being something that can make or break a trip (or the backpacking experience as a whole) makes pack selection uber important.

Though I have never tried any of the packs you've listed, they are all well received on BPL. What it comes down to is comfort, comfort, comfort, and that's the tough thing about trying some cottage gear.

I'd recommend, as Douglas pointed out, to try and dial in the rest of your kit. Then you'll know how much space you'll need in a pack, how much weight you'll be carrying, and what features you might want.

If at all possible, try to find a gear retailer near you that sells frameless packs, and has a good return policy. While I do not advocate taking advantage of fantastic return policies like REI's, I personally think its ok to try something out as long as it sees minimal use and absolutely no damage. Gotta bring it back like new. Anyways, get a frameless pack, load it up at home and wear it around the house. Or maybe take it for a walk down some trails--again, being careful to keep the pack in a new, returnable condition.

You'll see pretty quickly if frameless packs are for you. There is something to be said for the suspension of framed packs, even though they weigh more. If a 20 oz. frameless pack feels more uncomfortable than a 3 lb framed pack, then there's nothing wrong with the framed pack. In fact, you'll probably enjoy backpacking more. And it is also entirely possible that you can put together a super light kit and thoroughly enjoy a frameless pack.

Good luck!

Larry Dyer
(veriest1) - F

Locale: Texas
Jam on 01/20/2011 22:38:57 MST Print View

I have a 2010 Jam and I find it to be excellent to just below 25 pounds with the hipbelt. I've trimmed the weight to just under 24 ounces so far (without the pad) and still have the hipbelt, compactor system on the bottom and side compression straps. You can generally find one on sale for under $100 with a little bit of patience (I paid $85 for mine off of If paying $150 for it... I'd go MLD instead.

That said, 25ish pounds is only possible with careful packing. You basically have to pay close attention to where and how you place your dense items in the pack so you can make use of them as a pseudo frame when hiking. There are some good threads on these forums discussing doing just that.

Basically there's more to it than just using your sleeping pad rolled inside to create structure. Ideally you'll want to back it up with other items so it can't collapse in the middle. If you don't have the items to do this then I would assume you're under 20 pounds and it isn't as much of an issue.

Hiking Malto
(gg-man) - F
Used Jam on 01/20/2011 23:04:07 MST Print View

You should be able to pick up a used Jam for under $100. I actually have three of them. I have been too lazy to sell either my extra 2008 (lightest weight, no hip pockets.) or a 2009 with hip pockets. If you decide to go with a Jam and want the older lighterweight models send me a PM. Both only have a single trip on them.

Joe Geib
(joegeib) - F

Locale: Delaware & Lehigh Valleys
Re: Packs, Packs, Packs on 01/21/2011 07:53:18 MST Print View

I've had both the GG Vapor Trail (my wife had a Virga), and a GoLite Peak (Wife has the Jam). I'd go with the GoLite Jam (or older Jam2), basically for the reasons you listed above too. While list price is higher, you can probably get it on sale at REI, EMS, or even on CampSaver (where I got my Peak for 30% off).

I ditched the Vapor Trail because of the bottle pockets, overly padded back and belt, and no other pocket. Wife got rid of Virga especially because of the lacking hipbelt, and my reasons above. GoLite seems to be a good mix of hipbelt, comfort, pockets, and options.

That being said, I am intrigued by the MLD (Burn or Prophet), but I am happy with my GoLite.

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
try on 01/21/2011 08:40:40 MST Print View

fit is everything ... just try each of them on with the load youll have and you decide pretty quickly

once youve tried em on then decide on all the other stuff such as feature, weight, etc ...

Rob Vandiver

Locale: So Cal
By the way... on 01/21/2011 09:31:07 MST Print View

Dont forget Golite 40% off sale is still underway. Punch in code DSW10 at checkout and it drops the Jam to $90. Im going this route, as most of my kit is dialed in for spring, and a Jam should easily accommodate my gear.

Brian Austin
(footeab) - F

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Packs packs packs on 01/21/2011 09:53:16 MST Print View

As far as I am concerned function in a pack far outweighs its weight OR cost.

Means back/neck/Hips.

Function. Can you access sunscreen, camera, food, water without taking the pack off? IE HIPBELT POCKETS!!!! Or a top pocket that is accessable by dual buckles you can detach by reaching over your head?

I cannot stress how useful and functional hipbelt pockets are. Especially for a long distance hiker. Now if you are loligaging for a weekend... It matters not a whit what your pack is. Neither does the weight or size of the pack either in that case.

If you are a weekend warrior only. Cheapest pack is best which probabaly means slightly heavier and larger as its more functional for a variety of different trips.

Brian Austin
(footeab) - F

Locale: Pacific Northwest
packs packs packs on 01/21/2011 09:55:30 MST Print View

I would look at ULA packs as well. They are anywhere from frameless to light frames good to 35lbs. Have hipbelt pockets.

You will note that nearly all guys who hiked the PCT/AT and then create packs ALLLLLL put hipbelt pockets on their packs. ULA/GoLite etc.

Dave -
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Up there
Packs, Packs, Packs on 01/21/2011 10:01:21 MST Print View

Hipbelt pockets are unnecessary weight. Just put what you need in your short or pant pockets. BTW, the belt pockets on say, a Jam or ULA CDT won't even accept a full size Oh Henry. Can you believe it?!?

Robert Cowman
(rcowman) - F

Locale: Canadian Rockies
pockets on 01/21/2011 10:17:34 MST Print View

added weight and redundancy. I would bet on all your gear most people have over 10 pockets easily on just their clothing. add, pack pockets, and additional pockets and stuff sacks, that a lot of organization...

Christopher Mills
(Hiker816) - MLife

Locale: Denver
Re: Hipbelt Pockets on 01/21/2011 10:38:33 MST Print View

I understand the argument as to using pants pockets instead of hipbelt pockets, but I disagree, at least for long distance hiking. Within a couple weeks, anything with any weight or hard edges will wear through the pockets, and produce a big hole. Then you can't put anything in there anymore.

Also, the hipbelt pockets sit in a position that moves the least of any part of the body while hiking. If you put things in pants/shorts pockets, especially ones farther away from the center of your waist, you have to move those items more. This wastes energy. For example, if you put your camera in a lower cargo pocket, that hangs above your knee, you'll swing that camera around a lot more while hiking than if it were in a hipbelt pocket.

I just use a light fanny pack turned around to face the front. Works well.

Mark Ryan

Locale: Somewhere. Probably lost.
REI on 01/21/2011 10:50:09 MST Print View

Find one that is comfortable with all your gear in it. I'd buy from REI and try it out for the weekend. If it sucks, then bring it back and try again. That's what I did to find the right shoes.

Dave -
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Up there
Packs, Packs, Packs on 01/21/2011 11:01:15 MST Print View

Wastes energy? Dude - get to the gym and lift some weights! (kidding)

I find the pockets on many UL packs to be quite small anyway as mentioned previously, to the point of almost being useless. YMMV.

Mark Ryan

Locale: Somewhere. Probably lost.
Pocket fan myself- on 01/21/2011 11:26:10 MST Print View

I miss the old days of external packs (not the weight) and their exterior pockets. For me, it was the best way to keep everything organized and very accessible. When I switched to Internal packs, I picked up ones that had external pockets. As time moved on so did the external pockets and bags became more and more huge buckets. With the lighter UL packs, pockets are darn near extinct.

I love the hip pockets on my Pinnacle. Holds my Leatherman Squirt, rice-crispies treat, Advil, other random small stuff. Stuff that may have been bouncing around in my pants pockets for miles upon miles.

Yes, I wish they were a bit bigger, but wouldn't that make me want to pack more stuff? Think about it.

Have fun