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Which pack would be better for a PCT through-hike?
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andrew mccarter
Which pack would be better for a PCT through-hike? on 09/21/2012 12:23:06 MDT Print View

I'm interested in the Gossamer Gear G4 and the Six Moon Designs Swift because both are simple, frameless packs that have large exterior mesh pockets. Both packs are similar in weight and price. The G4 has 10L more capacity, but the Swift is made of tougher material (210D Dyneema rip-stop with 420D in high-wear areas compared to the G4's 70D PU rip-stop with 210D in high-wear areas).

Would you recommend one of these packs over the other for a PCT through-hike, or would you recommend another pack entirely?

Here's my gear list with weight in ounces.

Big 3:

Golite shangri-la 1 tent fly, 16 (oz)
Golite shangri-la bug nest, 19.7
Tent stakes and sack, 3.2
Tent peak cords, 1.5
Golite 3-season quilt w/ trash bag sack, 25.6
Z-rest sleeping pad, 10


Fleece balaclava, 1.7
Glove liners, 1
Thermal bottoms, 6
2 pair socks, 3.8
2 pair sock liners, 1.6
Bug head net, 1.2
REI revelcloud vest, 8.6
Golite post cyn thin softshell jacket, 10.6
Frogg toggs rain jacket, 5.9
Frogg toggs rain pants, 4.5

Consumable-related gear:

8-oz lg isopro canister (w/o fuel weight), 4.8
Aqua mira drops, 3
2 platypus 1L bottles, 1.6
1 platypus 3L hoser bladder, 3.8
Sea-to-summit sil food sack, 3
PCT bear hang cord and carabiner, 2.2
Pocket rocket stove w/o case, 3
GSI minimalist pot w/ spork, 6.4
Plastic bowl, 1

Small essentials:

Petzl tikka plus headlamp, 2.8
Sunscreen, 1.7
Lip balm, 0.3
Bug stick, 1.5
FAK, 2
Mirror, 1.7
Droid x w/ earbuds, 5.9
Spare droid battery, 1
Phone charger, 2.5
Hand sanitizer, 1.2
Washcloth, 1.4
Toothbrush, 0.3
Toothpaste, 1
Floss, 0.1
Camp soap, 1.6
Razor, 0.2
Toilet paper/paper towels, 1
Ziplocks for trash, 0.2
Notebook w/ pen, 2
Guide book/maps, 3

Base weight (not including the weight of the pack itself): 181.1 oz = 11.3 lb.

Added gear for the Sierras: BV500 bear can, 41 oz + microspikes/yaktracks, 12 oz.

Gear carried outside of pack: trekking pole, victorinox trekker knife, silva compass, lighter/matches, wallet, bandana, sunglasses.

So, which pack would you recommend? I'd appreciate any advice for my gear list as well.


Ozzy McKinney
(PorcupinePhobia) - F

Locale: PNW
Given the choice on 09/21/2012 13:20:28 MDT Print View

Given the choice, I'd opt for the swift, if for no other reason than it will last you long after the hike is over. I've also heard favorable reviews for using the swift with a z-lite, which you have.

If you had the opportunity to lighten your shelter, there are some great options out there that could save you some oz. I met a couple of thru-hikers with Tarptent Contrails that were really into them.

Do you hike in socks and liners? it just seems like a lot of socks.

Which soft shell jacket is that? 10oz for a soft shell is pretty darn light. if it isn't pretty warm (and I'm guessing it's not), I'd opt for a windshirt, and replace the revelcloud vest with a puffy jacket.

The trekker knife seems like overkill. The mirror seems a bit heavy, as does the washcloth.

I'd nix the driducks rain pants. I hate rain pants. I haven't used them in years, and I live in Northern Washington.

Do people generally carry bear cans thru the Sierra? The consensus I got from thru-hikers this year was nobody bothered, although I'm not sure that's a good idea or not!

Carl Zimmerman
(CarlZ993) - MLife
PCT Backpack on 09/21/2012 13:46:27 MDT Print View

Unfortunately, I have no direct knowledge about the two packs you are considering. Make sure that they are of sufficient size to carry the bear canister when you get to Kennedy Meadows (Sierras).

While section hiking along the PCT this past summer (S/B from Tahoe to Tuolumne), I saw a lot of ULA packs on the N/B thru-hikers. More than any other brand. You might want to look at that brand as well.

As far as your other gear, it looks pretty light overall. You might be able to combine your mirror w/ your compass to shave a few grams there. You probably won't need your bug net until you get the Sierras. Probably the same can be said for the bug nest for your tent. The GSI minimalist is a small volume pot but is very heavy for its size. If small volume isn't a huge concern, I'd go w/ a 0.9L Evernew wide ultralight pot. It's lighter. I'm a little partial to having at least one, 1L bottle (old AquaFina wide-mouth bottle) with me on the trail. It's heavier than a 1L Platypus but it easier to use w/ drink mixes on the trail. Flavored water tastes really good on the trail. You might consider another 2L Platypus in the desert regions (areas that I've avoided when hiking the PCT; so I have no personal experience there). The Bearicade canister is lighter than the Bearvault. Just a little smaller in volume, though. and a lot more expensive. I didn't see an ice ax listed. You probably should add that in the Sierras as well.

Hope you have a fun hike.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Which pack would be better for a PCT through-hike? on 09/21/2012 14:01:11 MDT Print View

No single backpack should fall apart on a PCT trip. The really good ones should last for several, but we really don't know how much you baby your gear.

The gear weight is important, but the volume might be as important. Plus, we don't know how much food weight you think you will be carrying at any point in time. All of that figures in. Your food volume will be that of the BearVault and you will be over 15 pounds of baseweight.

Or, you can take the other approach and see what others recommend for a backpack. You will see what suited them, but that will not necessarily suit you.


andrew mccarter
Lots to think about on 09/21/2012 15:30:58 MDT Print View

Thanks for all your quick and thoughtful replies. This really helps me shake up my gear list. Lots of stuff I would have never thought of.

Steven Paris
(saparisor) - M

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Which pack would be better for a PCT through-hike? on 09/21/2012 15:39:50 MDT Print View

Not to throw a kink in the plans, but you should also consider the MLD Exodus (another simple frameless dyneema pack with a large mesh back pocket).

With any of these frameless packs, I'd think it comes down to shoulder strap fit and pack torso length.

Edit: spelling

Edited by saparisor on 09/21/2012 15:40:21 MDT.

Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
Consider this on 09/21/2012 17:18:16 MDT Print View

I don't know what your experience is with frameless packs. I've tried a couple of commercial models and I've made 7 or 8 of my own. I like frameless packs for smaller lighter loads but I've yet to find one that can carry 20-25 pounds more comfortably then a slightly heavier pack with a light frame. When you factor in things like bear canisters, snow gear, dry sections etc. you will be carrying about 20 pounds a significant part of the time. In my opinion a few extra oz for a frame is worth it at those weights.
I have not tried it but the Swift with the frame might be a good option. I've seen lots of thru-hikers on the CT using ULA packs. I'd think the Circuit would be a good one to check out. Another light pack with a frame would be the Porter/Expedition from Hyperlight Mountain Gear. If you know exactly what you want I'd see if Chris Zimmer could make you a custom pack. He's made several packs of rugged material with removable frames in the 2 pound range. A pack like that should easily last the thru-hike and still be perfectly usable afterwards. You get exactly what you want and his pricing is very competitive.

Ozzy McKinney
(PorcupinePhobia) - F

Locale: PNW
ULA Circuit on 09/21/2012 18:01:00 MDT Print View

I, like most Circuit owners, am in love with it. I've had 50lbs in it (rescue scenario, wouldn't recommend it), I use it for overnights, week long trips, mountaineering, day hikes, and canoe camping. I've used it for two seasons and it looks brand new. Customer service was awesome when I had questions.

I could go on, but you get the point. If it is on your radar, check it out.

Stephen M
(stephenm) - MLife

Locale: Mind your own business
Re: ULA Circuit on 09/21/2012 18:08:44 MDT Print View

I have a 2010 Swift and really like it, I get great support using a Half ridgerest as the frame.

For its weight it's an amazing pack.

Brian Johns

Locale: NorCal
GG Mariposa on 09/21/2012 23:06:26 MDT Print View

Its what works for me, but for the space you'll need and the weights you'll carry on your thru-hike, I suggest the gossamer gear Mariposa. Light, lots of bells and whistles, and it handles big loads very well.

andrew mccarter
Which pack would be better for a PCT through-hike? on 09/22/2012 07:32:22 MDT Print View

It looks like I could drop a quick, inexpensive 8.2 oz by swapping the washcloth for a small packtowel nano, getting a featherweight camp mirror, and losing the rain pants and sock liners. And I'll check into Evernew.

I also think that sending my bug nest ahead to the Sierras might be a good idea. I prefer to use the Shangri-la tent without the nest anyway. I'd have to add a groundsheet to my gear list. Funny you mention the Contrail; that's the tent I'd likely get if I didn't already have the Shangri-la.

Looks like I need to rethink my clothing layers and perhaps beef up my insulation. And maybe add a couple more liters of water for the desert and an ice ax for the Sierras.

Thanks for the other pack recommendations. Considering the consumable weight and Sierras gear that would need to be carried on the PCT, I wonder how lightweight I could go. A super-aggressive resupply strategy might be helpful when possible, but a lightweight frame might be the answer for a longer trip like this.

Charles Grier
(Rincon) - M

Locale: Desert Southwest
Which pack would be better for a PCT through-hike on 09/22/2012 14:49:41 MDT Print View

In addition to some of the other packs that have been recommended, I would suggest that you consider the either the Gossamer Gear Gorilla (25 oz) or the Six Moons Designs Starlite (28 oz). Both packs have removable stays that help a lot with the load transfer and carrying capacity. Yes they are heavier but I think the extra weight is reasonable price to pay for the benefits. I have no personal experience with the Gorilla but have seen them in use by happy owners. I have used the Starlite.

I carried a Starlite on a recent PCT section hike from Kennedy Meadows to Vidette Meadows (Then out over Kearsarge Pass). I started the trip with about 15 lb of gear (including a 40 oz BV 500 bear can), 10 lb of food and 4 lb of water. There were a couple of stretches where I had to carry water to dry camps so I sometimes was carrying about 6 lb of water.

The pack is not at its best with weights of over 25 lb but it can handle it without much discomfort. It is definitely a lot better than the G-4 you are considering; I used a G-4 for a similar trip and didn't like it very much. Personally, I would recommend using only a single layer foam "sit pad" in the pad pocket and definitely using the stays; in my opinion the stays are nearly mandatory. If you use a full foam or inflatable pad to provide pack structure, even with the stays you wind up with the heavy part of the load cantilevered away from your back about 2" by the thickness of the pad. In my experience this put an excessive load against my shoulders thus I often finished the day with sore shoulders. When I stopped using the pad pocket and carrying my pad (Thermarest Prolite 3 Short) rolled in the long side pocket, my shoulders stopped hurting at the end of the day.

The Starlite is durable and has an unusually water resistant top closure. I hiked in several heavy rain showers on this trip without a pack cover and never had water get past the closure. It also has a fairly large capacity (4200 cu in and 3000 cu in in the main body) and will hold a BV-500 horizontally in the bottom of the pack.

Edited by Rincon on 09/22/2012 15:20:45 MDT.

andrew mccarter
Re: Which pack would be better for a PCT through-hike on 09/22/2012 18:08:21 MDT Print View

i'll take a closer look at the starlight and appreciate the tip about not using too thick a pad for the back panel.

Dan Johnson

Locale: PNW
Swift on 09/22/2012 23:57:59 MDT Print View

I have the Swift and really like it, but there are somethings that I'm not to stoked on.

I find that the shoulder straps don't quite mold to the angle of my shoulders. This of course is different for everyone but it's not like it makes it ride bad or anything.

I am a thin framed guy (30" waist) and find that the hip belt is attached to the pack right on the end of the pack body. This means when I tighten the pack it is more or less just bringing the pack closer to my body rather than tightening on my hips. My older Osprey Atmos had a hip belt that was connected towards the middle of the pack which meant that when I tightened the belt I could really get a good snug fit on my hips.

Word to the wise when ordering the belt size: I am a 30" waist and saw that the medium and small belts would work for me, so opted for the medium since it made the pockets bigger by a few more cubic inches. Big mistake. Now when I tighten the belt to fit right both hip pockets are almost touching. I should've gotten the size small.

I do find the pack to lack a good compression system though... The single cord pull on the sides isn't my favorite I'll just say. And being that this pack is very roomy I find that it is hard to really secure everything even with all the straps pulled tight. I found it best to leave my sleeping bag loose on the bottom so it fills up the pack better.

The hip belt is not padded at all. My tiny hips don't care for this, YMMV.

Here are the things I love about the pack:

I really feel that this pack is going to last me a long time due to it's materials used and the craftsmanship.

The weight to volume to durability ratio is awesome. Not to mention the price is great.

I would opt for the extra frame stay. You may like it or you may not. I like it cause now I don't have to take my zlite just to have a frame.

I would also totally get the big pocketed hip belt. You will be amazed at how much stuff you store in there!!! They are really huge and awesome.

Even though I mention more bad then good, I still love this pack. It's big enough for me to use in the winter and summer and for family trips when I have to be the mule.
I hope this helps out and best of luck on your trip!

andrew mccarter
Thanks for all the feedback on 09/24/2012 12:20:38 MDT Print View

Thanks for all the feedback. I think I'm going to give the SMD Starlite a try.

Joshua Drake
(smartwaffle) - F
Re: Which pack would be better for a PCT through-hike? on 09/25/2012 20:52:28 MDT Print View


I have heard really good things about these guys:

I was on the PCT for three days near Indian Heaven this past August and saw several of these come through.