Had my pack out on the trail for the first time this weekend--a three-day, 45 mile hike with my daughter in the Hells Canyon Wilderness along the Idaho Snake River Trail. Prior to that, I was using it as my daily commuter bag, apx. 45 minute walk/day with a couple steep hill climbs (on pavement) and rocky ground around railroad right-of-way. Also used it as a personal carry-on for flight. First impressions:
>Lunch bag closure works great. I carried my water bottle inside the pack hiking, so was opening/closing the top at least twice per hour. Hiking 8-10 hours/day the closure worked perfectly every time, with no fiddle-factor. Ditto for everyday use.
>I've been using a torso-length CCF pad, cut to fold flat as virtual frame. Effective (starting weight at trailhead was about 13#, including food and a liter of water)--also leave the CCF in place for daily commute (with laptop and books, I'm usually carrying at least as much as on the trail). However, sleeping on CCF for two nights convinced me I'll be going back to my Prolite or NeoAir. I'll probably cut a CCF sit pad to take its place, as I've found the Prolite alone is too floppy.
>Haven't found the need for any compression (although I provided side loops and front daisy chains for it). On the next version, I may drop the daisy chains, or use just a single daisy chain running down the center below the Y-strap.
>Didn't use the hipbelt hiking, and didn't miss it. Next version will prob. just have a removable 3/4" strap. If I do use the wider belt again, I'll go with wrap-style, rather than wing-style. I'm thinking I'll anchor the belt ends about 6-7" apart--that's the portion of the center of the pack that was touching my back while hiking (judging from sweat stains).
>Dinky-stuff pouch that doubles as sleeve for top of CCF pad worked great as pad sleeve, but not deep enough to hold much. Need to add ~2" of depth.
>Overall, lack of "features" wasn't a lack at all.
>Attachment angle of shoulder straps and distance between at attachment was about right. Strap width made for comfortable carry (at least to 10-15#), even when the only padding is 3D mesh.
>Shoulder straps bunch slightly at the outside edge where the sternum strap attaches. Could either accentuate the inward curve of the strap, or set the grosgrain daisy chain closer to the inside edge or both. Also, it feels like I'm relying a little too much on the sternum strap for a comfortable fit.
>Hiking weather this last weekend was fair, but I've walked back and forth to work through some moderate to heavy rain. Seam between extension collar and main bag leaks, at least partly because it should lap the other direction to shingle water away.
>Stitching is holding up, but that's due to bar tacks and double top-stitching. Should have used heavier thread for main (concealed) seams, and used the thinner Sew-All (tex30) only where I wanted the color contrast.
>Gussets to connect shoulder strap webbing to pack bag prob. isn't necessary, but would look better.
Bottom line: I'm happy with the pack, esp. as a first effort. It'll probably be my go-to this year, for trips up to 5-6 days. But I think at least one more pass will produce noticeable improvements.