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Try Pack Before Buying
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Terri Wright
(ncalcamper) - F

Locale: SF Bay Area
Try Pack Before Buying on 03/24/2012 21:20:18 MDT Print View

How many of you tried on the pack you are currently using before buying? I just responded to another post where I based my response on my belief that most BPL folks don't try on their packs before buying. Was I right?

Travis Leanna
(T.L.) - MLife

Locale: Wisconsin
Re: Try Pack Before Buying on 03/24/2012 21:30:26 MDT Print View

The problem with many UL packs is that you Can't try them on before buying because they aren't sold in stores! So, in that regard, yes, you are right. However, I'd wager that anyone looking at a pack available at a local retailer HAS tried it on first.

Generally, I'd say the majority of packs are tried on first. Only the UL cottage packs are often bought sight unseen.

drowning in spam
(leaftye) - F

Locale: SoCal
Re: Try Pack Before Buying on 03/24/2012 21:32:28 MDT Print View

I've tried most of my packs on before buying, including my ULA. My latest pack was custom, and most of the packs in my future will probably be custom too, so trying before buying may be a thing of the past.

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Re: Re: Try Pack Before Buying on 03/24/2012 22:04:21 MDT Print View

"The problem with many UL packs is that you Can't try them on before buying because they aren't sold in stores!"

True, BUT it's more of a hassle than a real problem. Why? UL packs are light by definition, so shipping is pretty minimal. It's a hassle paying for multiple bags and returning some -- but given the cost of some of these packs AND just how important it is to have one that's truly comfy... once you narrow down to the final two or three, I'd say it's well worth the hassle buying them all, trying them all, and keeping the one you truly like.

Ken Bennett
(ken_bennett) - F

Locale: southeastern usa
Re: Try Pack Before Buying on 03/25/2012 07:42:28 MDT Print View

My current pack is a custom Circuit, but I spent a couple of hours walking around Mountain Crossings at Neels Gap in Georgia with a stock Circuit and all my gear. Before that I bought an Ohm sight-unseen, and that was fine, and before that my lovely wife gave me a SMD Starlite for the holidays one year. That was a great gift!

Jace Mullen
(climberslacker) - F

Locale: Your guess is as good as mine.
Try Pack Before Buying on 03/25/2012 08:40:56 MDT Print View

Bought my GG Mariposa after having Glen lend me one of his for a 14 day Philmont Trek.

I don't think that fit is a big deal with a frameless pack compared to a framed one however.

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
always on 03/25/2012 09:13:14 MDT Print View

just like shoes ...

pack fit is a personal thing ... if you cant make sure you can return it ...

i personally think recommending packs without a disclaimer on fit isnt that responsible

there are people here i suspect who have gotten burned by ill fitting untried packs ...

Sumi Wada
(DetroitTigerFan) - F

Locale: Ann Arbor
Re: Try Pack Before Buying on 03/25/2012 09:19:03 MDT Print View

I always assume that I'm probably going to have to buy a few different packs and return the ones I don't want, so I do allocate a certain amount of my budget toward those extraneous shipping costs. For me, it's better to just accept that slight additional cost than miss out on gear items not locally available or to settle for a pack just because I don't want to incur the cost of returning it. Also, in many cases, the shipping costs are offset by saving on sales tax.

I've also found that most of the cottage companies are GREAT about shipping and returns. When I bought my ULA pack, for instance, I think Chris ended up sending me four packs and/or hip-belts before all was said and done. I paid for the first one upfront but he let me keep everything until I got the right combination. I sent the rest back in one shipment, which cost me $10-15. Kat did something similar with her hats.

With that kind of customer service, I don't mind making that initial commitment before trying it on.

Dave -
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Up there
Re: always on 03/25/2012 09:37:05 MDT Print View

Eric - almost impossible if you are a dedicated UL'er who deals with cottage manufacturers. I know of none who don't offer a no questions asked return policy.

On another note, when we are taking about UL loads, it becomes less of an issue because using a sleeping pad as a frame in a frameless pack, for example, will make most frameless packs feel similar with UL loads. Fit becomes far more important with 30 to 35 lbs loads and a framed pack as one has to fit their 'frame' into the packs frame.

K ....
(Kat_P) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Coast
Re: Re: always on 03/25/2012 09:48:25 MDT Print View

"I know of none who don't offer a no questions asked return policy.'

I am no pack manufacturer, but I have a small cottage industry and I do have a no questions asked return policy. Often I will send a couple of items for the buyer to choose from. I ask for the buyer to pay for shipping the item back to me. It is a little more labor intensive and a little pricier to ship, but it is worth it to me to know that the customer is happy. I also offer free repairs on my products, again with the customer shipping to me at their expense.
I think it should be possible for pack manufacturers to offer a similar service.

Daniel Cox
(COHiker) - F

Locale: San Isabel NF
Not really UL, but... on 03/25/2012 09:55:14 MDT Print View

I walked around the store for about an hour with my Jam loaded with a bunch of different weights from 20 to 40 lbs before I bought mine.

I really like the pack, but in full disclosure, I really looked hard at a GG Mariposa or a ULA Circuit. Not being able to try it on before I committed to a +200$ purchase was a deal breaker. Returns are such a hassle, and I wasn't sure what torso length or hip belt I'd be best with.
The Jam was as close as I could get to a UL pack and still be able to test-drive it a little.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: returning goods on 03/25/2012 09:58:58 MDT Print View

What's the hassle? Put it back in the container it came in and make a paid label on USPS.COM. You can even request a pickup by your letter carrier.

We're involved in a niche market and there are dues :)

Chad "Stick" Poindexter
(Stick) - F

Locale: Wet & Humid Southeast....
I did on 03/25/2012 09:59:10 MDT Print View

Before I ordered both my ZPacks Blast 30 pack or my Zero pack I was able to try them on. I got lucky though as another UL hiker shipped a bunch of stuff out to me to try out before ordering and these 2 packs were included in the items he sent. I was able to make a video of me wearing his pack (packed up with the gear I would carry in it of course) and got feedback from him, others that viewed the video and even from Joe himself on how the pack fit me. This was a lot of help because I ended up getting something different from what I was planning on ordering blindly...

Also, when I ordered my ULA Circuit I had tried one on at the NOC in Gatlinburg. Although I was not able to load my gear in it and there was only one size for me to try, which was too big for me. So, when I ordered my own I had exchanged emails with Chris for a while asking about sizes, specifically the hip belts. So, when he shipped my pack out he sent both the medium and the large so I could see for myself which one worked better. Then of course I shipped him the one that I didn't need back. This was awesome!

I was also able to try on my very first pack I bought, the Kelty Red Cloud 5600 (a beast) because I knew another guy that had one. Of course at this time I had no idea about any of this really...I actually only got the Red Cloud because my buddy had one and he said it was a good pack...of course he was no where near UL...

Other than this, I did not get to try on the SMD Swift before I bought it.

However, I have wondered how important it is to get the fit really dialed in with a frameless pack. I can see how it is important to get the fit as good as possible on a pack with a frame, but is it as important with a frameless pack? I mean I know it is important for even a frameless pack to fit correctly...but don't we kind of determine the frame with whatever it is we are using as the frame?

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Re: Try Pack Before Buying on 03/25/2012 10:10:05 MDT Print View

"I don't think that fit is a big deal with a frameless pack compared to a framed one however."

I would agree that frameless packs have less variables. But I was glad I got to try out various GG packs a few years back. They were all extremely uncomfortable! But why -- given GG's legions of fans? Because I have a narrower chest than most, and GG's super wide shoulder straps were cutting into my upper arms with every stride! But I didn't know that until after I loaded them and tried them on.

Daniel Cox
(COHiker) - F

Locale: San Isabel NF
Re: Re: returning goods on 03/25/2012 10:49:52 MDT Print View

Maybe hassle is too strong a word, but it costs money to return/exchange purchases, takes time for shipping (I'm impatient), and ultimately, may end in me not being satisfied with any of the products. It's entirely plausible that I buy a pack and after exchanging a Medium for a large and buying both the small and medium hip belt, I find that no combination fits well, and I'm returning a 2nd shipment, and paying $20 to learn this pack just doesn't work for me... but what about another pack from the same company? Would that be any different?

At least with a brick and mortar store, I get to try all the possibilities.

Mike W
(skopeo) - F

Locale: British Columbia
Try Pack Before Buying on 03/25/2012 11:14:43 MDT Print View


Edited by skopeo on 09/08/2015 15:51:40 MDT.

Dave -
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Up there
Re: Re: Re: always on 03/25/2012 11:20:35 MDT Print View

Kat is a perfect example of why I love the cottage manufacturers.

Daniel Cox
(COHiker) - F

Locale: San Isabel NF
Re: Try Pack Before Buying on 03/25/2012 11:33:13 MDT Print View

I brought my gear into the store to try it out. I even had 6 quart bags of rice and beans to simulate the weight and volume of food.

I think that's about as realistic as it gets without taking it out on a real-deal trees and dirt dayhike, which is of course, impractical.

I don't expect everyone to have the same feelings as I do about mail-order gear, but it's important to me.

Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife
Try Pack Before Buying on 03/25/2012 14:10:00 MDT Print View

I started my quest for a lighter pack in early 2006 (my old external frame, which I hated, was 5 lbs) by going to REI and trying on most of the packs in the store. I didn't find one I liked because every one was too heavy--they had nothing that weighed less than 3 1/2 lbs! However, I did get an idea of how a comfortable and well-fitting pack should feel. A wasted effort for REI, but not for me!

I resigned myself to having to order half a dozen cottage manufacturer packs and probably send them back. After much research, my #1 choice was the "Comet" (since discontinued) from Six Moon Designs. At the time I decided to order, the 2005 model was on closeout sale since they were changing the fabric and design. I didn't have time to drive across town to Beaverton (I live east of Portland), so I ordered the pack online. As soon as it arrived, I packed in my gear, the equivalent in weight and bulk of a week's food and 2 quarts of water to be sure everything would fit. I then adjusted the pack and hiked around the house (it was raining outdoors) for a couple of hours. Most boring hike I've ever done, but it was worth it to be sure the pack would work for me. Fortunately, the pack fitted as though it had been custom made just for me! I'm still using this pack 6 years later, and it still works great and is holding up just fine.

Of course not everyone will be that lucky ordering online, but advance research really helps. You are not going to find at REI a 27 oz. pack with stays, a good hipbelt and load lifters that will carry up to 35 lbs. in a pinch. If you want a lightweight pack, the internet is it, and you have to be prepared to pay some return shipping.

PS: If you're going to start at REI, wait until several weeks after the current 20% off coupon expires (April 15) and they've had time to restock. I went in early April (the coupon expired the end of March that year), and their stock was pretty thin!

Edited by hikinggranny on 03/25/2012 14:15:12 MDT.

packs on 03/25/2012 14:41:07 MDT Print View

It is prudent to spend some money on shipping to try and return packs. It will be the best money you spent on your gear