Subscribe Contribute Advertise Facebook Twitter Instagram Forums Newsletter
Light Pack for Heavy Loads
Display Avatars Sort By:
Cameron Harris
Light Pack for Heavy Loads on 07/30/2012 06:09:47 MDT Print View

I need a good, durable pack for a unique situation. I'm going to be doing mission work in remote areas in the mountains of Peru. Most of the work will be between 12,000' and 16,000' in rough conditions. I love the ultralight aspect and do extended hikes here with a weight in the 30 lb. range. In Peru though I will need additional room and caring capacity, at times, for books, medical supplies and various other supplies and will need to be able to handle 45 lb. - 50 lb. and be able to compact down well to the lighter loads. What would you recommend?

I've pretty much narrowed it down to the Osprey Aether 70 or the new GoLite Quest. I've tried the Aether on and love it. It's just hard for me to start with a pack that heavy, but good suspension and frame are more important. I've also tried Deuter but don't really like the way they fit me. The load feels to far off my back compared to the Aether. The GoLite looks very interesting but I know so little about the new model and am not sure if it's even capable of what I'm looking for. There's no reviews out there on the new version and all the pictures are from the front. Anybody have any experience with them. How do the perform with the loads I'm looking at? The price is so good on the Quests right now.

Any thoughts, ideas? Am I missing any other good pack in this category? Thanks.

Brian Grossnickle

Locale: Wild Wild West
....... on 07/30/2012 07:39:51 MDT Print View

Use what the local use.

I would never consider a light weight pack for 'work'. Your back and shoulders will thank you for getting a proper pack for the job.

Kifaru or KUIU would be where I start to look for a pack for that type of work.

Edited by BMG on 07/30/2012 07:41:30 MDT.

NW Hiker
(king2005ify) - M
Kifaru on 07/30/2012 08:14:21 MDT Print View

Kifaru ultralight series...I have the KU 5200 and it is 2 lbs 13 oz.

Carries 50-60 lbs like it is 10 lbs, not kidding. Best suspension I have ever tried, and it is a great made in USA product. I use it for "sherpa" duties with the kids, and have literally taken their packs, just thrown them on top of mine and can carry it easily.

Pricey, but resell value is still 80% of what you buy it for so keep that in mind.


Noel Tavan
(akatsuki_the_devil) - MLife
Re on 07/30/2012 08:15:58 MDT Print View

Rei flash?It s light yet has a frame

Dave -
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Up there
Re: Light Pack for Heavy Loads on 07/30/2012 08:33:51 MDT Print View


Edited by FamilyGuy on 07/08/2013 23:39:50 MDT.

Charles P
(mediauras) - F

Locale: Terra
Re: Light Pack for Heavy Loads on 07/30/2012 08:40:32 MDT Print View

Aether is a good series. Durable as well. If you like it and it fits well, go for it.

Dan Smith
Kifaru on 07/30/2012 10:42:06 MDT Print View

Kifaru KU3700. If you need more room, pick up some long pockets or the E&E to lash on.

Not cheap on the pocketbook, but carries 50lbs like nothing.

Dave -
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Up there
Re: Kifaru on 07/30/2012 11:40:08 MDT Print View

Wow. A $530 silnylon pack.

Edited by FamilyGuy on 07/08/2013 23:40:57 MDT.

Dan Smith
Re: Re: Kifaru on 07/30/2012 11:53:44 MDT Print View

Not Sinylon.

It's reinforced parachute material made by one of the military suppliers (performance textiles). 2 layers. Call it a glorified sinylon.

I do love my Kifaru pack. Hard to go UL when backpacking with young kids.

Dave -
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Up there
Re: Re: Re: Kifaru on 07/30/2012 12:00:47 MDT Print View

I wonder if the bottom is reinforced? That is were the tensional strength would be required.


Locale: South West US
Re: Light Pack for Heavy Loads on 07/30/2012 12:00:53 MDT Print View

You missed the Gregory Baltoro, Mystery Ranch, REI Crestrail. It comes down to what fits you best.

If on a budget you can find the USMC ILBE (arcteyx) for goods prices on eBay.

Brian Grossnickle

Locale: Wild Wild West
Re: Re: Re: Re: Kifaru on 07/30/2012 12:24:59 MDT Print View

McHale makes a great pack no doubt about it. 8 month turn around time may factor into the purchase one also.

Have you ever talked to Dan about light weight packs? You should, one of the most informative discussions on packs I've ever been part of. Dan for his day hikes uses a 5# pack because of the comfort level it provides.

Paul Ashton
(PDA123) - F

Locale: Eastern Mass
Heavy loads on 07/30/2012 16:15:09 MDT Print View

I have an REI flash 60 for summer use and like its light weight and comfortable suspension. However, I very much doubt it would support a load much over 35 lbs. For winter work I have a Lowe Alpine COntour, which has a very good, strong, suspension system that is also adjustable back length. The ability of the frame to handle the expected weight and the comfort and adjustability of the suspension are, IMO, more imprtant than weight when contemplating large loads. If you will be using open trails and little or no scrambling, then an eternal frame system may serve better because of its versatility.

NW Hiker
(king2005ify) - M
Kifaru/McHale on 07/30/2012 18:50:52 MDT Print View


I would put a 100% military spec Kifaru pack up against McHale any day, both brands are excellent! There is a reason however, that the US Armed Forces use Kifaru :)

The KU packs are insanely well made, and deceptively strong (with a very reinforced bottom panel by the way).

Check 'em out a little closer, you'll see raving reviews, a very loyal following, 80-85% resale value, and I would bet McHale's go for as much or more than $530 bucks once you customize and order.

In any case, McHale's packs are things of beauty, and are just as capable I am sure, I just don't have one personally to compare to the Kifaru.

Cameron Harris
Thanks on 07/30/2012 19:24:45 MDT Print View

Thanks for all of the input. I've been reading and digesting everything. I know about many of these packs mentioned, and have eliminated most for the options I've mentioned.
I have not eliminated a Mchale. I know these packs are stellar and dream of having one someday. They are just a little above my price range. Maybe I could squeeze a basic model into my budget but it would be hard to stop there. I'll be using this pack lot and adding in the options and materials that I want will drive price way high.
I actually didn't know about the Kifarus. Of course I've known about Kifaru and Mystery Ranch type packs but had written them off in the past because of there extreme weight. They are probably the ultimate pack, I just didn't need it that heavy. I hadn't found out about the Kifaru Ultralights though. Those look pretty amazing and sound very durable too. I can't believe they made a durable pack that weighs 2.13 lb. and can handle 150+ lb. On the other hand they are pricey as well, especially when you adding a couple extras you'd like.
What about the ULA Catalyst? I've read that it can comfortably handle well over their recommended weight of 40 lb. Any real world experience with them? What's the most some of you have carried in it comfortably?
Also again anybody with real experience with the new GoLite Quests? I don't know how they are selling them so cheap.


Locale: South West US
Re: Thanks on 07/30/2012 19:58:55 MDT Print View

Sooo ... there's probably a reason that "light" packs weren't recommended to carry 45-50 lbs. There's probably another reason that the light packs that were recommended, are expensive. Something to consider.

Edit: If the Aether fits and is comfortable with the weight, why not just go with it? Seems ideal.

Edited by oiboyroi on 07/30/2012 20:13:14 MDT.

Cameron Harris
True That on 07/30/2012 20:18:48 MDT Print View

I know. It's just hard to swallow. More or less wondering if there's something in between. One of my problems is part of my kit will have to be purchased and scrounged anew once I'm there and I'm not totally sure what my weight will be at that point because of availability. I'm only allowed one check in and one carry on into the country and I'm going there to live with my family and have other things to bring as well. With that in mind I'm tempted to get a capable "cheaper" pack, get my kit together, test it all out in that environment for the next year or so and then build my dream pack around that knowledge. Probably that is the best thing for me to do.

As far as what was said to "use what the locals use", that is generally good advice and I'd be all for it. I'm just not that much of a man. They just throw there stuff in a blanket or a burlap bag and throw it over their shoulder. A lot of weight too. For the heaviest loads they support it with a strap on their forehead like you see the Sherpas do. I have a lot of respect for them for doing that. I just didn't grow up in that environment to be able to do that. I'll have a hard enough time packing with the perfect pack on my back at 16,000"+. ;)

j lan
(justaddfuel) - F

Locale: MN
Re: Light Pack for Heavy Loads on 07/30/2012 20:30:43 MDT Print View

Why not go with an interchangeable pack for cheap like the NRS Paragon or a granite gear flatbed.

Would allow you lots of flexibility:

It's about 2.5lbs but still for heavy loads.

John Nausieda
(Meander) - MLife

Locale: PNW
The other man's game on 07/30/2012 20:48:26 MDT Print View

I think you are setting yourself up for a hard time. Don't do it.Don't do the local option. Example. 70 year old Mom and Pop team on the Great Wall in China and a less touristy section at that; They bug you the whole way up and down and it isn't fun. No two steps are of equal rise and run. It Sucks. Don't play the heavy backpack game at BPL. Default settings of McHale, Kifaru, Jan-sport wayback tending toward big bucks. Including me about Alpenlites but way cheaper.If you are still 20 or 30 no contest and haul it . Otherwise think 3 times. Why sign on for the roughest duty? You aren't there to be a mule. Go cheap and try it on at the Goodwill or otherwise. Lose The Trip.It will unfold by itself. Don't make it all undone and over before it even begins. Rent local backs. No need to visit the House of Pain. They know more about it than you and will not put you into something which fails unless you insist upon it.

Russell Adams
(russ_outdoors) - F
mchale / kifaru on 07/30/2012 21:14:41 MDT Print View

If you're looking for something you can beat up I would go with something made with Cordura, HT nylon or the like. The Kifaru KU packs are well made and light, but are still made out of silnylon, regardless if its a "mil spec" or not. McHales are great since you get a true custom pack made to fit you and not assembled out of different sized waist belts, yokes, frame stays etc. FWIW mine didn't take anywhere near 8 months, only 2-1/2.