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Frameless pack frame +/- sleeping pad ideas (trying to have cake and eat it too)
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Ian Schumann

Locale: Central TX
Frameless pack frame +/- sleeping pad ideas (trying to have cake and eat it too) on 07/17/2012 13:14:24 MDT Print View

Hey team,
So I've been using frameless packs for several years and am happy with them. I've got a Jam and an MLD Burn (pending sale but I might end up with a Prophet) and am getting ready for another big trip.

Basically I'm trying to get three things to happen at once, but it seems I can only manage a solution that includes two of these at a time. Here we go:
1) I really like having some kind of externally-attached CCF pad that's available for me to break out at various times throughout the day, to sit on or take short rests / naps. I think this kind of thing greatly improves quality of life on the trail.

2) I need some kind of suitable pack frame. Load for my trip shouldn't be more than 20lbs fully loaded. Rumor seems to be (and my experience seems to have shown) that any kind of inflatable pad will be noticeably inferior as a frame, compared to using CCF. But I don't want to get a new pack (i.e. one with an external pad pocket).

3) I'd like to end up with an overall sleeping pad setup that is simple and light. Simplicity is a higher requirement than overall lightness, at this point. E.g. in the past I've used an XS Prolite (torso) combined with a cut-down CCF (legs) and that's been comfy enough. Problem with that setup is that the two pieces move around a lot (!) and are generally, together, just plain fiddly. I love the idea of a single semi-rigid foam or inflatable pad that can be moved and manipulated as one object, and won't come apart on me in the middle of the night.

I'm not convinced necessarily that these three can resolve together at the same time. You'll have to accept some fuzzy logic, and understand that I don't explicitly need every letter of the above 3 goals to be met. Just trying to find a sensible system to meet these different wishes.

At the risk of being verbose, here are some ideas worth considering that might work for me, and I'd like some feedback on:

  • A few people have succeeded in gluing or epoxying velcro tabs of some kind to their CCF (and/or inflatable) pieces, which results in a single finished sleeping pad that can easily be repositioned as one unit, and will not come apart. I'm not aware of an easy way to adhere a piece of velcro to a surface that is as irregular as a ridgerest or Z-lite, though. But, if anyone has had good experiences doing something like this, let me know about that please.

  • Another option could be to use a full-length Thinlite-like CCF pad for #1 and use it to replace my ground cloth. Then put a lightweight torso or 3/4 length inflatable top, and finally accept using some kind of lightweight dedicated pack frame that stays in the pack, such as corrugated polystyrene. Thoughts about that?

  • Anybody had any experience using the Klymit back pad frame that MLD sells? I've been curious about that, but haven't seen hardly any reports. Purportedly it's stiffer than CCF and also takes up less space in the pack, which is attractive. I'm also curious about multi-usage possibilities with that item. Anyone succeeded in using it as pillow or something?

  • It's possible that with #1 I'm unnecessarily limiting myself by sticking to only CCF for a daytime pillow. I am genuinely afraid to use an inflatable or self-inflating pad on bare ground, though, as it seems an unneeded risk. Am I being paranoid? Anyone use their inflatable / self-inflatable pads on bare ground on a regular basis? Would love to hear of this being done reliable. I'll be in the New Mexico rockies for my trip, so there should be plenty of dirt/grass/duff for me to bed down on.

Okay, thanks for bearing with me. Let me know your thoughts, whether they answer these directly or not. Thanks guys!

Edited by freeradical on 07/17/2012 13:17:47 MDT.

James Marco
(jamesdmarco) - MLife

Locale: Finger Lakes
"Frameless pack frame +/- sleeping pad ideas (trying to have cake and eat it too)" on 07/17/2012 14:21:06 MDT Print View

Yeah, been there. I think it was 7 years ago when I researched all this. It came down to the lightest pack, frame, sleeping pad and sitting, as you have correctly deduced. Implementing these took another 6 months or so. At the time there was only one solution that fit all these. That was the Gossamer Gear series of packs (with the external pad pocket for easy sit access.) Now there are several other solutions. I think SMD offers an internal pad sleeve. ZPacks offers an external pad holster as an option. Could be others I missed. The point is examining your requirements gives a very specific set of possibilities to meet them.

1)Requirement : sit pad and availibility when hiking
2)Requirement : sleeping pad
3)Requirement : frame enhancement for your pack

Desired but not necessary: Longer pad, ie torso sized, minimum. (Fit with velcro to pack for your feet.)
Desired but not necessary: Ease of use (a single piece main pad/sit pad. I probably fail to meet this one.)

Nanatak or Gossamer Gear both offer good pads in CCF. They weigh between 10 and 12 ounces for longer pads. My solution was to mesh the "bumps" into each other cutting about 10" wide for 5 layers.since there is around a 3/4" of seperation between two joints it ends up about 51-1/2" I simply duct tape them together, "fanfold" style.
It meets all three of the requirements.

It fits into the external pad pockets or holsters and acts as a frame. The thickness really adds support and comfort to a frameless pack. And, you can take a more comfortable pad than a 1/2" CCF. It is easily capable of adding about 10-15 pounds to the comfort loading of a pack. Note that this exceeded the Gossamer Gear Max Weight for their packs, soo, some reinforcing things was also done, but the G5, Miniposa and Murmur are all very comfortable when overloaded by 5-10 pounds. Few framless packs are comfortable *at* their rating, so I consider this a win. Also, ZPacks shows a way to strap it on, much like a pad holster, on their site. Joe really knows about that stuff!

Because I don't need to go into the pack, it is easily availible for a brief break. Sitting on rocks, stumps and even hard ground, leaning against a tree (with a couple pieces flipped up) is fairly easy. This solves the siting pad.

I am 69" tall. So, my pillow does NOT rest on my pad. Rather I start at my shoulders, using my sleeping bag bag as a pillow, stuffed with anything handy. I have used pine cones and pine needles stuffed in a gallon zip lock as well. My feet usually rest on the pack. All together it works out pretty well with more than enough length for my tired old bones.

The downside is that by requiring all three, you will limit the set of packs you have available to buy. The good news is ther is more otions avalable than when I was looking for the exact same set of requirements. Of course, you can alwas make your own pad pocket and add it to the pack... Also, the pad is thick, about 2-1/2". It will push the pack away from your body by that much, soo, it will also cause you to lean forward a bit when hiking. Some think this is important, some (like me) do not. It is really a matter of personal preference, snce, 20-25 pounds is a LOT better than 30-35 pounds ever was. . .kind of relative to where you started.

Ian Schumann

Locale: Central TX
Re: "Frameless pack frame +/- sleeping pad ideas (trying to have cake and eat it too)" on 07/17/2012 14:51:19 MDT Print View

Thanks, I think your summary of what I need is pretty right-on, and is a bit more succinct than what I said :-)

The multiple pad layers all together is an alright idea, but I wouldn't want to go any further than 2 layers of my ridgerest, which I've used before. I think any further than that and the back is coming away from my back more than is comfortable.

But, that's still feasible. I could just have half the pad acting as an internal frame, and the other half strapped outside for easy access for sitting. But, I'm still left with the issue of how to reattach those pieces for sleeping -- does velcro or duct tape adhere adequately to the irregular shape of a ridgerest, zlite, or night-lite?

This would indeed solve my requirements, however I'm not positive yet of whether I can handle sleeping on just CCF. It wouldn't necessarily be my first choice, that is.

If anyone else has thoughts on the inflatable / self-inflatable questions mentioned in the OP, I'd love to hear 'em.

Hiking Malto
(gg-man) - F
Burn and pads on 07/17/2012 17:37:24 MDT Print View

I have used two packs during my ul journey, golite jam and mld burn. Up until a year and a half ago I would have agreed with your statement about not getting all three but I found that an inflated mat properly folded makes an excellent frame for my Burn. Why? Because the pack is so small it can always be full. I also loose pack my quilt in my bivy and put that in the pack. That allows the quilt to occupy the volume regardless of food carry. I also have my heavy food bag at the bottom of the pack, then quilt, then tarp and pot. Finally my day food bag with stuff sack of extra clothes on top allowing the clothing to compress around the top.

I used this system on my pct hike last year. I had an 8lb base and the only time I ever noticed my pack was during a 7 day carry entering the Sierra. To this system you could easily add two section of a zrest pad in the side pocket. If you want to get really fancy, use a shorter pad and use the zrest at the bottom.

James Winstead

Locale: CA
Re: Frameless pack frame +/- sleeping pad ideas (trying to have cake and eat it too) on 07/17/2012 20:56:59 MDT Print View

My current similar system for the mld prophet is:

Ridgerest buritto style and gg 1/8 thinlight (full size) rolled in side or back pocket. Thin light comes out on breaks, full length is extra comfy at night. Still use a polycro groundsheet though.

Lighter option could be cutting short the ridgerest to torso only. Never have bothered trying to tape/Velcro two pads, seem way too fiddly. Besides, full length pad for breaks/naps is priceless.

Dan Durston
(dandydan) - F

Pad Ideas on 07/17/2012 21:31:06 MDT Print View

Here's what I'd do:

1) Sell your pack(s) and buy a Gossamer Gear Gorilla, which has an external pad sleeve. I know you said you'd rather not buy a new pack, but it's not that much extra money if you can sell your packs for a fair price. The Gorilla is even $20 off right now and it's a perfect pack for a one pack quiver - it can be as light as your burn if you remove the frame and hipbelt, yet it can carry more weight than your Jam while being lighter if you add the frame and hipbelt back.

2) Find whatever pad you like best to function as both the back support and as a sit pad on the trail. Since the Gorilla already has a frame (while being much lighter than your Jam) you don't need the pad to do much as a 'frame'. It's mostly to make the pack more comfortable and buffer out pointy objects in the pack.

3) Grab some grosgrain and buckles from QuestOutfitters and sew one side to your Prolite XS. Only sew outside (or right at the eged) of the heat sealed area so you don't risk puncture. One good line of bar-tacking should do it per buckle. For the CCF sit pad, trying making two holes and running the grosgrain through those and into loops to hold the other side of the buckle, or just use a good adhesive like Gorilla Glue.

Edited by dandydan on 07/17/2012 21:34:45 MDT.

Herbert Sitz

Locale: Pacific NW
my use of two ccf pads on 07/17/2012 21:42:15 MDT Print View

I have a system I like using an SMD Swift backpack combined with a torso length 3/8" Gossamer Gear "Nightlight" pad and a full length GG 1/8" pad.

The Nightlight pad is folded in three sections and fits in the pad sleeve along back of the pack. The 1/8" pad is rolled and inserted as a hollow tube into the body of the pack. Both pads play a part in adding rigidity to the pack. Total pad weight is less than 7oz.

To sleep I simply roll out the full length 1/8" pad and position the thicker torso pad on it from my shoulders to the end of my butt. No need for velcro or anything.

The pad sleeve in the SMD Swift is internal; I haven't tried removing the Nighlight pad while pack is full and don't think that would work well. I have a GG Murmur that I haven't tried with this system yet, but I expect the outer sleeve in the Murmur would take the Nightlight pad and allow easy removal while pack is full.

Edited by hes on 07/17/2012 21:44:31 MDT.

Ian Schumann

Locale: Central TX
Re: options on 07/17/2012 22:40:30 MDT Print View

Thanks everybody for your insights, this has been fun so far!

Dan, I think you might just have me convinced -- you make a solid argument AND I would be helping my local Austin TX economy to buy from Gossamer. Not to mention I can walk into their shop and test out torso length, packing options, etc. Hmmm I may need to go do that.

Meanwhile, a question ... If you have a GG pack that's loaded up and full (e.g. start of a trip), how easy is it to get the pad out during the day and have a sit? How easy is it to stuff the thing back in? Is this kind of thing practical to do 2-3 times in a day?

Thanks everyone. I believe Dan's suggestion might be what ultimately gets me the best overall solution to my problem in the OP. Although, Greg, while I still have my Burn here I might just have to try what you advised.

Never thought of grosgrain / sewing before. That sounds a lot more fun and less hassle than fumbling with velcro.

Thanks everybody! More thoughts are welcome, if you want.

James Marco
(jamesdmarco) - MLife

Locale: Finger Lakes
Re: Re: "Frameless pack frame +/- sleeping pad ideas (trying to have cake and eat it too)" on 07/18/2012 06:42:23 MDT Print View

You Wrote:
But, that's still feasible. I could just have half the pad acting as an internal frame, and the other half strapped outside for easy access for sitting. But, I'm still left with the issue of how to reattach those pieces for sleeping -- does velcro or duct tape adhere adequately to the irregular shape of a ridgerest, zlite, or night-lite?

Two pads would work, I think. Velcro doesn't work all that well unless you are a still sleeper. It also gets dirty fairly easily, needing a good cleaning to restore it every 5-6 days. Threads, lint, duff, all stuck in it. Oils can saturate it, even water drying times are poor in comparison to a CCF pad. (The NightLite is waterproof as is the ZLite.)Off hand, I would say it would not be my first choice. Especially near the middle. If you make a two and three section pad, somewhere near the middle will be the velcro... not a good idea, but, I toss and turn all night due to an old back injury.

Duct tape will last about 5 years, then it sort-of stiffens and loosens. The Nightlight pads are really only good for that long, then they tend to flatten out. Generally it works pretty well. The NightLight pads are about 3/4". The bumps add a bit of insulation when placed up, since the bag will loft into them, if not collapsed with your weight, or, if partially collapsed. With them down, the pad is slightly cooler. This applies to the "pack frame" as well.

I found that the bumps were quite important to stiffness. The ZLite did not work as well, collapsing after a few miles. But, there was only about 1" of pad, so this could also account for the collapse. Two pieces of interlocking bumps measures about the same as the ZLite, but is *much* stiffer when interlocked. Insure you do that, IFF you decide to make one, though it means wasting a couple inches.

Well, as far as pulling away from your body, as I said, this is a "personal preference" deal with 20-25 pounds of pack. With 30, it is noticable to me. But the old G5 is only rated to 15pounds without the pad. Sort of a trade off for the extra food(and weight) needed on longer trips. It works far better than rolling a pad inside the pack and filling it with gear.

For the old Jam, I made one in a rectangular "box" shape to stiffen the bloody thing. I used this a couple times but gave the pack away to a friend after three trips. It worked real well, but I missed the seat.

Generally, I have three differnt NeoAirs, an Inertia, and several different CCF pads and self inflatables. None of the inflatables or self inflatables have nearly the same stiffness, even partially inflated and with tight pack compression. They will crunch up after a few miles. The Jam was particularly bad about weights over 18pounds. The 1/4" CCF is OK *only* on forest duff where I can burrow it in to my body shape. The 1/8" CCF is a cross between a ground cloth and a light pad, it doesn't seem comfortable to me without a LOT of ground prep.

The CCF pads work fairly well for all soft surface sleeping. On hard surfaces (lean-to's, flatter rocks, compacted "used" camp sites,) I prefer the NeoAir. For me, the Klymit Inertia pads do not work as well as the NightLite, NeoAir or Prolite. It seems to work about as well as my old military issue 1/2" CCF pad.

BTW, I am retired, actually an old man, so the wife tells me. Funny, it still feels like I am 25... I have an old back injury, broke my hip, broken arm, wrist, and shoulder. All feel it when I get up in the morning. I *need* a good pad so I am a bit more carefull about them than most, I guess.

Eugene Smith
(Eugeneius) - MLife

Locale: Nuevo Mexico
Re: Re: options on 07/18/2012 07:00:33 MDT Print View


Did you ever get a chance to shoulder Andy's pack back in May? See what he thinks of the pack having done some long days on the CT.

Consider a MYOG pair of pants with two removable CCF butt pad inserts, one for each cheek. This would at the least, fulfill requirement #1.


Hiking Malto
(gg-man) - F
Proper packing on 07/18/2012 08:31:38 MDT Print View

"Generally, I have three differnt NeoAirs, an Inertia, and several different CCF pads and self inflatables. None of the inflatables or self inflatables have nearly the same stiffness, even partially inflated and with tight pack compression. They will crunch up after a few miles. The Jam was particularly bad about weights over 18pounds. The 1/4" CCF is OK *only* on forest duff where I can burrow it in to my body shape. The 1/8" CCF is a cross between a ground cloth and a light pad, it doesn't seem comfortable to me without a LOT of ground prep."

I think the reason I have not had the issues you describe is one low pack weight, generally not above 15 lbs in the actual pack. ( I should probably note that I store two liters of water and half a days food in hip belt pockets which pulls weight out of the actually main bag. The other factor is how the pack is packed up. All the weight is inthe bottom and the light bulkier stuff is in the top. There is no weight to crunch up.

One last note.... The setup that described my not work in all packs, the Burn is a bit unusual since it is so narrow. I have to fold my mat in sixths to put it in. When my backup gear gets out of storage I will have to try the same setup with my jam.

Edited by gg-man on 07/18/2012 08:35:02 MDT.

William Chilton
(WilliamC3) - MLife

Locale: Antakya
Re: Frameless pack frame +/- sleeping pad ideas (trying to have cake and eat it too) on 07/18/2012 09:24:37 MDT Print View

I've used the MLD Klymit pad with a SMD Swift (internal pad pocket) and it is excellent. It is much stiffer than a Ridgerest and most other ccf pads. I don't think you'd want to use it on the outside of the pack if you hike anywhere with thorny vegetation. I use it under my legs at night. As a pillow, you'd need to fold it and find some way of keeping it folded.

James Marco
(jamesdmarco) - MLife

Locale: Finger Lakes
Re: Proper packing on 07/18/2012 09:33:26 MDT Print View

Yeah, light packs are fine without anything. Really you only start looking at some sort of frame, often compression is enough, at around 10 pounds. For me this is means 1 or 2 days. Food alone for a week weighs about 10.5 pounds at a light 1.5 pounds per day. My base weight is around 9-11 pounds, depending. For a week I am looking at about 20-25 pounds depending on fishing or camera gear. Water is never considered except for two 500ml bottles I carry. In the ADK's, there is usually lots of water.

Terry Trimble
(socal-nomad) - F

Locale: North San Diego county
Six Moons or MYOG pack on 07/18/2012 11:51:50 MDT Print View

You can get the Six Moon Swift pack if you want to store a Z lite pad minus one 10" section will fit perfect if folded according style from each side to the center makes a great frame,Use the extra 10" piece stored in a side pocket to pull out for seat.Also the Six Moons Feather pack store pad on the side is also another option.

Or you can do a MYOG pack design similar like my Scraps/FTZP Pack. Long as you make it 10.5 " wide with internal pad pocket. You can store a folded Montbell 120 pad that is 1 3/4" thick, You make a pack cloth pad sleeve 9 1/2" wide by 16" tall to insert the Montbell pad in it then in the internal pack pad sleeve for the frame. Because the pad is in the pad sleeve it becomes stiffer than a foam pad for your internal frame.
I then use a Montbell 30 extension pad made out of foam that folds like a according in to 11.8" length 4.7"wide for my sit pad store in the external pocket I can pull out to sit on. The best thing is the Montbell 120 pad and extension 30 pad mate together to make a longer pad.

Scraps/FTZP Pack

120 pad


extension 30 sit pad

Ian Schumann

Locale: Central TX
Re: on 07/18/2012 12:32:30 MDT Print View

Haha, Eugene, good idea with the butt pads. Yeah I remember putting on Andy's Gorilla and was amazed with how solid and supportive it felt. Perhaps the most substantial and comfortable pack I've ever tried in such a weight range. I'll have to swing by GG in the next couple of weeks and see if I can get a hold of one.

I'm remembering my last time on trail and was real thankful that I had a torso-length CCF pad easily accessible, rather than just a sit pad. I took a lay-down or two while on trail and those were blissful times :-)

So, I guess I'm modifying my requirements a bit, but all these suggestions have been super helpful. I'd like to have an accessible CCF pad while on trail that is at least 30-35". That doesn't change the possibilities a whole lot, though.

I think I'm zeroing in on some solutions here.

1) If I stick with the Jam or the Burn, I'll probably go with Greg's suggestion of using my folded Prolite XS as the frame, and strapping the torso RidgeRest pad on the outside for day use. In this case I would also take Dan's suggestion of linking the two pads for sleeping use, via glue/sewing/grosgrain loops.

2) If instead I end up loving the GG Gorilla so much that I have to have it, then I'll probably use my full-length 1/8" CCF in the pad sleeve (since the hoop stay obviates the need for pad rigidity) and have that available for day use; then at night I'd either use my Prolite XS on top of the CCF, or more likely my new full-length Clearview pad. I guess as an auxiliary option, I could still just do the Prolite XS + RidgeRest combination as mentioned above.

Yep, so basically either of those two should take care of me. It really will just come down to looking hard at my Jam or Burn again, and deciding if I want to ditch them in favor of a new fancy Gorilla, or not.

Ian Schumann

Locale: Central TX
Ha! After all that! on 07/18/2012 20:40:08 MDT Print View

So ... tonight I actually got my new Jam 35L out of the packaging, and realized that there is a kind of framesheet built into it. From what I can tell it's a very thin, rigid, relatively dense foam. Much more rigid than any sleeping pad, and shaped in an S-curve that is at least somewhat anatomical.

Thus, I packed the thing up completely, without adding any kind of additional back pad, and was quite pleased with the weight transfer and overall carry. Using GoLite's center-buckle trick with the side compression straps, it was easy to attach any size CCF pad to the back, and my packed-down Clearview pad easily fit inside. Quite impressed with the whole thing.

And so, this may be settled, with perhaps the simplest solution out of any proposed. Not to mention, I get to keep the very cheapest pack -- the Jam was $70, which is 1/3 the cost of a new Gorilla, and 1/2 the cost of a Burn or Prophet. I'm pretty pleased.

It's odd to me that GoLite isn't more explicit on their site about the "removable foam back pad" . It's quite a bit more substantial (read structural) than the old one I remember on my Jam1 -- which might in fact have been open-cell foam.

(KalebC) - F

Locale: South West
RE: 3 req's on 07/18/2012 22:25:53 MDT Print View

I didn't read all the long long responses.
How about getting a torso nightlite and a neoair xlite short?

It takes less then 60 seconds to pull the nightlite out of the back of the pack for sitting or napping.
And you have a 2.5 inch mat for the night that will allow amazing comfort.
Tuck the nightlite under the neoair so it doesn't shift.
Makes sense to me.