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packing a frameless pack for comfort
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d k
(dkramalc) - MLife
packing a frameless pack for comfort on 02/21/2012 13:27:04 MST Print View

This weekend at the GGG I used a frameless pack for the first time (MLD VX21 Exodus, PIF'd to me by Thom Darrah). It's a nice pack, bombproof and beautifully made. Unfortunately, I did not find it comfortable, even though it was not very heavy; I had about 12 pounds of bulky stuff inside. I used a folded GG 1/8" pad closest to my back, but after stuffing my sleeping bag at the bottom, down jacket and other warm stuff above that, tent and cookset/misc. above that, it was convex both vertically and horizontally against my back, which caused the shoulder straps to pull against my shoulders a lot for the small amount of weight I had.

My other problem with it was that the fabric is so stiff that it is difficult to push gear in and pull it out; lots of friction and not much give.

I want to like this pack, but I could not figure out how to make it concave against my back as opposed to convex. Any suggestions? I do want to give it a fair trial before I decide to go back to my Luxurylite.

Dave -
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Up there
Re: packing a frameless pack for comfort on 02/21/2012 13:48:20 MST Print View

Any chance you might be able to post pictures of you with the pack on? I have a sneaking suspicion that the torso length is too small for your back.

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Re: packing a frameless pack for comfort on 02/21/2012 14:00:03 MST Print View

" I used a folded GG 1/8" pad closest to my back... [the pack] was convex both vertically and horizontally against my back"

Those pads make poor virtual frames IMO -- even when folded a couple of layers.

My sleeping pad is an air pad -- which also makes for a poor virtual frame. To remedy that, I insert a piece of blue foam (3/8" -- cut to the size of my pack back), then the folded down air pad -- then the rest of my stuff, starting with sleeping bag, clothing, etc., etc. similar to what you wrote up above. Much, much better. And the foam pad performs multiple functions as pad frame, sit pad, and wind screen.

EDIT: One other thing... do you use multiple stuff sacks... for bag, clothing, food, tent, etc? IMO, packing with stuff sacks can make the overall package "lumpy". I use only one small stuff sack to hold "misc" stuff. Otherwise, I simply shove things in, tighten up, give the pack a few good "padding down" to encourage the contents to take up slack and conform to the shape of the pack overall. My tent is packed in its own sack, but attached to the outside of my pack.

Edited by ben2world on 02/21/2012 14:15:22 MST.

d k
(dkramalc) - MLife
Re: Re: packing a frameless pack for comfort on 02/21/2012 14:11:24 MST Print View

Thanks, Ben. Yes, my sleeping pad is an air pad also. The GG pad was folded in 4, but still not much help. I will try a piece of blue foam etc. and see if that helps.

David, I missed your post until tonight. I wondered myself about the torso length, but the more prominent problem seemed the convexity of the surface against my back. It's unpacked now, and I don't think there are any pictures of me wearing it. As I recall, the shoulder straps went straight back and not down over the backs of my shoulders, though.

In answer to Ben's question about stuff sacks, I had the sleeping bag in the bottom in a stuff sack, the down jacket and tent near the top in stuff sacks, everything else was smooshed in the spaces between them. It wasn't lumpy, unless you think of the back as being one big lump...hmmm, kinda makes sense.

I also wonder if the stiffness of the fabric made it more difficult to move things around and get them to the contour I wanted.

Edited by dkramalc on 02/21/2012 23:37:00 MST.

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Re: packing a frameless pack for comfort on 02/21/2012 14:18:48 MST Print View

You're welcome, dk.

FYI... blue foam pads are not all the same. I prefer Wal Mart's over REI's for example -- cheaper and a bit more rigid.

Dave -
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Up there
Re: Re: Re: packing a frameless pack for comfort on 02/22/2012 08:28:36 MST Print View

"As I recall, the shoulder straps went straight back and not down over the backs of my shoulders, though."

Okay - so then it looks like the torso size may actually a bit long.

With frameless packs you always get some torso collapse with heavier weights and this is probably where the 'folding (concave?)' is coming from. As Ben said, rigidity would be the key here and using a stiffer foam and packing the contents very tight should help prevent the torso collapse you may be experiencing (although you will get it with heavier weights without a frame).

You would feel less 'folding' with a pack with a shorter torso but then likely get more pressure on the shoulders, as opposed to the hips. So the first experiement would be with the suggestions Ben provided. If that doesn't work then either look toward a slightly shorter torso'ed pack and / or one with an UL framesheet. My 2C.

d k
(dkramalc) - MLife
Re: Re: Re: Re: packing a frameless pack for comfort on 02/22/2012 08:49:20 MST Print View

It wasn't heavy (12 lbs) but it was stuffed pretty full, and it seemed to assume a *convex* contour against my back:
/ \

The straight line is my back, the half parenthesis is the part of the pack that rested against it.

No matter how I tried to change that convexity, it persisted somehow.

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
frame on 02/22/2012 09:24:54 MST Print View

at a certain point with enough bulk, some frameless packs will convex ...

the best way around it IMO is to pack the stiffer goods towards yr back and the less still goods on the outer edge, also putting the lighter goods on the bottom and the heavier goods close to yr shoulder blades ... in other words standard packing practice

if that doesnt work, then another frameless pack or a framed pack is in order IMO ... ive run away from basic "tube" frameless packs for that reason, i cant climb with a convex pack that constantly shifts ... i look for packs that are sewn and designed in such a way that they dont have this issue ... IMO there are some packs that are designed better to deal with this than others ...

the other way you can deal with it is to go to home depot and get 1mm pine board, or some stiff plastic to use as a framesheet ... which kind of defeats the purpose of a frameless pack ....

Edited by bearbreeder on 02/22/2012 09:27:49 MST.

joseph peterson
(sparky) - F

Locale: Southern California
: "packing a frameless pack for comfort on 02/22/2012 09:39:28 MST Print View

The bane to my frameless pack is a loaded bear cannister. The way you pack the pack affects the shape. Like a ball vs a pack of hotdogs. Your pack will assume the shape of whats in it.

Another thing is where is the weight pulled away at? The way the weight falls within the pack also directly influences the way it carries. Are certain Items creating leverage? The pack itself can create leverage against your back. Pack of hotdogs style packing also creates friction which does seem to make a noticable difference to gravity's effects. Like your pack holds itself up.

When packing the bear can, it should fall into you, not away from you.

My pack when packed right is comfortable enough for class 3 scrambling with a weeks worth of food in a garcia. Its soft, yet taut, and conforms to my shape but makes an effort to hold itself up. I use a regular thermarest prolite 4 as a frame. Its very hard to dial in, but it makes all the difference.

d k
(dkramalc) - MLife
Re: : "packing a frameless pack for comfort on 02/22/2012 10:30:46 MST Print View

Thanks to all for your input and advice. I'm thinking it may be a combination of factors - stiffness of material, construction of pack (no built in curve), and being stuffed to capacity. I will try using a blue foam insert and packing it without stuffsacks, to see if that helps enough. Though I may be better off in the long run going back to some sort of framed pack or framesheet, we'll see.

Konrad .
(Konrad1013) - MLife
Re: frame on 02/22/2012 10:31:11 MST Print View

"the other way you can deal with it is to go to home depot and get 1mm pine board, or some stiff plastic to use as a framesheet ... which kind of defeats the purpose of a frameless pack .."

What Eric is getting at, and Ben too, is that your current fold GG pad/support is simply too soft/flexible, and so it will give when pushed against by other gear, resulting in that horribly uncomfortable convex shape...something I like to call the "burrito bulge"

As other have pointed out, this can be solved with stiffer foam (walmart blue ccf) or different material (pine board)

I prefer to use corrugated plastic sheeting. Extremely light, with flex, and capable of supporting 30lb loads comfortable if integrated properly with the packs design. I pick mine up at Blick. You might live close to one of their stores:

(side note: WTF bpl? Dickblick was picked up in the profanity filter?)

However, because MLD doesn't have any padding on the backpanel whatsoever, the last thing you want is a vertical rigid corrugated plastic sheeting against your pack. I've toyed with the idea of laminating some GG 1/8" thinlight ccf to the plastic sheeting, but haven't implemented it. Seems like it would double as a sit pad quite nicely

But as others state, you're removing the frameless aspect from the pack. But unless you're just a nonsensical weight weeny, I think the additional 3oz penalty is worth the comfort boost.

If you want to pursue the idea further, you can insert thin aluminum rods into the plastic channels present in the sheeting. This will provide more support, and allow you to bend the sheet to fit the curvature of your spine. Golite did this in their Unlimited Series packs from way back. Their frame sheets weighed 6oz.
See here:

Edited by Konrad1013 on 02/22/2012 10:34:00 MST.

Mike W
(skopeo) - F

Locale: British Columbia
packing a frameless pack for comfort on 02/22/2012 14:49:22 MST Print View

I think that using a pad in a frameless pack is the issue. What you are essentially doing is adding a frame sheet to a frameless pack and unless your pad is praticularly thin and flexible, you will cause your pack to stiffen up like a board.

The beauty of framless packs in my opinion is there ability to be easily contoured to fit your back. Stuffing a pad between your back and your gear not only moves the bulk of the weight in your pack away from your back but it prevents your pack from assuming the contour of your back.

I always pack my pack tight enough that it holds it's shape but loose enough that I can form and shape it to my back. I found that this was hard with my Exodus because my gear was too small for the huge volume of the Exodus. My Burn is smaller and fits my gear better and it packs much better with my standard load and can be shaped more easily. My Exodus is used only when I have extra gear to pack along.

When I first got my Exodus, I took these pictures that show the difference in shape with and without my foam pad inserted into the pack as a back panel. You can see in the second picture (that has the foam pad in the pack) that the pack is pulling away from my shoulders. I tried to bend the top of the pack in towards my shoulders but it didn't work and you can see the stress on the pack as it pulls backwards away from my shoulders. The first picture is a shot of the same load in my Exodus without a foam pad. It fits nicely and carried much better in this mode.

foam pad not in pack

foam pad used as frame

This final picture was pulled from MLD's site and to me it shows the problem to the extreme. This pack has obviously been stiffened with a pad or something similar and it looks as stiff as a board to me. I can't imagine carrying a pack that was that far out of balance.

Stiff pack

Edited by skopeo on 02/22/2012 15:05:06 MST.

Piper S.
(sbhikes) - F

Locale: Santa Barbara (Name: Diane)
Re: packing a frameless pack for comfort on 02/22/2012 15:14:45 MST Print View

GG = Gossamer Gear or Granite Gear? Anyway, probably makes little difference. I have a Gossamer Gear G4 and found it to be very uncomfortable. It's very mushy and hot. My back hurts after a while. A Z-rest in the back didn't help at all and basically collapses on itself. Putting the Z-rest inside the pack was marginally better. Putting it perpendicular to my spine helped when the pain was acute but didn't last.

What did work was to put the Z-rest in the back pad pocket and stick a stout branch between the Z-rest and the pack. I stuck it in perpendicular to my spine a little above the small of my back. I found the stick near Lone Pine and hiked all the way to the Canadian border like that without further pain.

Willie Evenstop
(redmonk) - F

Locale: Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem
Meh on 02/22/2012 15:15:54 MST Print View

I used to carry weight on my shoulders, now that last picture looks the most comfy to me.


Konrad .
(Konrad1013) - MLife
Re: Meh on 02/22/2012 17:03:40 MST Print View

I agree with Cameron. Mike, if im not mistaken, and based on what many others observe as well, I think your pack might be too small for you. The shoulder straps connect to the back at a level below your shoulders in your pics, which means they wrap around your shoulders, transferring weight to them.

Like Cameron, I feel that Ron's picture shows an ideal fit. Shoulder straps connect to the pack at shoulder level, and the pack is stiff ensuring proper weight transfer to the hips.

People carry packs differently, and I respect that. But I can't stand weight on my shoulders.

Dave -
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Up there
Re: Re: Meh on 02/22/2012 17:12:29 MST Print View

That's what I thought and posted at first, but I don't think the torso is too short based on this comment by the OP:

"As I recall, the shoulder straps went straight back and not down over the backs of my shoulders, though."

This implies that given the convex nature of the loaded pack that the opposite may be true: Too long of a torso length and not enought 'stiffness' built into the pack (using a thicker pad, etc).

Pics would help....; )

Konrad .
(Konrad1013) - MLife
Re: Re: Re: Meh on 02/22/2012 17:16:32 MST Print View

Hey David,

I was referring to Mike's situation, and not OP.

But you're right, pics from the OP could help too.

Dave -
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Up there
Re: Re: Re: Re: Meh on 02/22/2012 17:22:02 MST Print View

Woops. Sorry about that.

Passed right over Mike's post.

Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - F

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
Re: packing a frameless pack for comfort on 02/22/2012 17:37:09 MST Print View

I'm pretty sure the z-lites make the best frames for frameless packs. It works great for me, folds up perfect and sits firm.

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: packing a frameless pack for comfort on 02/22/2012 17:50:05 MST Print View

In Mike's pictures, the straps come out of the pack at a slightly up angle.

In Mike's last picture, the straps come out of the pack perpindicular to it.

Is this important?

Should the shoulder straps come out of the pack at a right angle, or should they come out at an angle slightly up or down?