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Protecting a backpack?
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Max Dilthey
(mdilthey) - M

Protecting a backpack? on 12/04/2012 23:34:07 MST Print View

I recently got a Boreas Buttermilk 40. Love it! Really love it.

I have this image in my head, though. My backpacking experience is limited (I'm a cycle camper gone foot), but one day I hiked to Glastenbury Mountain to do their 20-mile loop with a friend. A very friendly thru-hiker there had a GoLite Jam 50 (a popular thru-hiker pack) that was absolutely shredded to hell. I was surprised the bottom didn't give out.

To make matters worse, I threw a leatherman into the hip belt of my big Kelty Red Cloud 90 and it tore through the mesh. Not that big a deal, but concerning...

The question: Is it possible to get a good life out of your pack? What are some strategies for protecting your backpack from the wear and tear? Should I just assume a bag won't make it more than one thru-hike?

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Re: Protecting a backpack? on 12/04/2012 23:45:12 MST Print View

"Is it possible to get a good life out of your pack?"

Yes, it is certainly possible. The trick is to match the pack with the type(s) of hike you anticipate -- plus a tad of common-sense care.

If you are going to bushwhack a lot, then getting a UL silnylon pack would be a mis-match. OTOH, for most trail hikes, even silnylon packs will serve you for at least a few years.

But no pack will handle its owner's careless abuse. I don't like to waste time pampering my gear -- but I do give it "common sense" care. That means not packing really sharp objects directly into the pack. And I don't just plop my pack down on sharp granite when at rest or at the end of the day. And returning home after a trip, I shake out any debris and give it a clean wipe, before storing it in a cool, dry place away from sunlight. Ditto for my tent as well.

I'm still using the pack I got back in 2004 when I first started hiking. There are now a few small repairs to the mesh side pockets -- but otherwise, it still looks 'practically' new.

Edited by ben2world on 12/04/2012 23:46:37 MST.

Max Dilthey
(mdilthey) - M

Steep Descents? on 12/04/2012 23:51:10 MST Print View

I like to think I care for most shoes with common sense care, but the nature of shoes is that they wear out. So i'm thankful for insight into how long packs usually go for, but I would not be shocked if they had a certain life expectancy.

My biggest problem is steep descents; I tend to occasionally lose my footing and end up skidding the bottom of my backpack on the ground. I feel like that will be my area to wear out, so I wonder if pack-lovers back down descents backwards, or practice switchbacking or some other technique.

Edited by mdilthey on 12/04/2012 23:51:44 MST.

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Re: Steep Descents? on 12/05/2012 00:49:31 MST Print View

Practice is always good. And yes, do use switchbacks where they exist -- rather than creating your own 'short cuts' -- which will minimize overall trail erosion. Mishaps can still occur sometimes. But the trick is to mitigate a disaster into a "mere" annoyance. Many, if not most, hikers carry along a reasonable length of cords and duck tape -- both good, light weight, multi-use items.

As well, many of us use hiking poles. Do you? If not, give them a look. Mine (which I really like) are Gossamer Gear LT4 poles. Poles can be a great help on both uphill and downhill.

Leigh Baker

Locale: Northeast Texas Pineywoods
RE: poles on 12/05/2012 04:12:48 MST Print View

+1 "Poles can be a great help on both uphill and downhill."

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
dont worry about it on 12/05/2012 05:35:55 MST Print View

you bought a pack to use, and honestly occasionally "abuse" when you need to ... if you need to do a steep scree, rock or other such descent that is safer for you to butt scoot, you arent going to tell yourself "oh i better not do it this way so i dont wreck my pack" ... because when its the end of the day and youre cold, tired, hungry and in the dark ... youre getting down the safest and best way you know how ... period

buy a pack that will last for what you want to do, has a killer no questions asked warranty, and use it till it it falls apart ... using plenty of seam grip and duct tape on the way ...

and when it wears out in a few years .. buy a new pack

theres a reason why non-sponsored climbers, bushwhackers and other heavy usage people buy packs with durable fabrics ... and even then they still wear out ...

get the right pack for the job ... if it wears out it means you used it well and served its purpose ...

Michael Cheifetz
(mike_hefetz) - MLife

Locale: Israel
slow down, think, learn on 12/05/2012 06:50:51 MST Print View


apart from what was said (re UL packs not appropriate for bushwacking etc) and not to take away from the obvious 'safety first' thing:
I too am wary of my xxx$ pack getting ripped by a random twig/barbed wire fence crossing/ sharp rock/ misplaced sharp item inside.

What I try to do is just what i said in the title - so i slow things down if in doubt (scree/ short bushwack/ when packing that one pointy metal item etc)

I think about what can be done - maybe hold the pack in front for a short butt ride/ maybe wrap that pointy white spirit stove with fleece/ maybe put on the 20$ pack cover for a bushwack or shuffle things around so the pack carries taller and narrower

I try to learn by actively writing down stuff during a hike and then putting down all these ramblings right on the xls I used for that trips' gear list. I later ponder this over for a while and the good part is that when i reopen the xls a few months later to start preparing for a new trip - i see the remarks right there.

Some actions I took after such trips were (not necessarily relevant to you but just to understand what i mean about learning curve):
- dump the amazingly light silnyl pack cover. I now either take a more robust one or non at all and use drybags
- sewing dedicated external stuff sacks to go on the sides of my pack if i need to pack heavy and put delicate stuff like tent/tarp/bivi/TAR outside. so that new stuff sack is from dyneemaX as opposed to the original silnyl one


James Marco
(jamesdmarco) - MLife

Locale: Finger Lakes
Protecting a backpack? Durability & Maintenence on 12/05/2012 07:06:13 MST Print View

I have used up several backpacks. All were of the UL variety. You really aught to become a full member to read the recent articles on the site. Even the older ones still have good stuff in them. Knowledge makes a good camping companion.

Light weight, Ultra-light(UL) and SUL packs are all I use for the past 15-20 years.

I started with an old Kelty external frame, moved the next year to a lighter internal framed Tough Traveler dropping over 2 pounds. I still have both after 35-40 years of hiking. Before, that I had a variety of old military packs. I have one left, the lightest of the lot, that weighs about 4-3/4 pounds. These were rugged, durable and required next to no maintenence. All were on the 2-5 pound category.

Around 1970 or so, I *did* go through the Tough Traveler reinforcing seams, cutting away at the hems and burning the frays with a lighter. I found that all packs can use some pre-trail preperation. As the mnemonic goes, "A stitch in time saves nine." I don't wait for something to fail...reinforce it before heading out.

* Double stitch press points by about 1/8" seperation. Shoulder straps, hip belt mounts, pockets, straps. Do not go over the same stitch twice!
* Burn/seal all frays. Frayed threads, fabric edges, strap edges...
* Add some narrow strap to hip, shoulder straps. The Gossamer Gear packs I use do not have a strap over the shoulder, for example. Bottoms get a couple lengths where it helps to reinforce it.
* If needed, add four or eight small attacment loops: Reinforce with a small piece of fabric (about 1-1/2" square) and melt small holes for short 2mm-cord loops.You can seal these with a dab of silicone calk.

No, I am not a good taylor, I just redo existing stuff. Reinforcment stitches can mean a couple years of extra life out of a pack, though.

Most packs can use a bit of seam sealing. I dilute silicone calk about 10:1 with mineral spirits and do the whole pack...inside and out. This locks in any fibers in the cloth with the others, locks in stitching, and supplies water resistance to the pack. between the extra stitching and seam sealing, it adds about an ounce of weight to the pack. So, removing any un-needed loops, rings, excess strap and mounts helps to keep the pack about the same weight.

Generally, you will find that I don't worry about gear on my outing. It works or it doesn't. I lost a G5 when I broke a piece of rock off comming down a peak. I slid down about 10-15 feet and really ripped the bottom and both pockets. I simply rearranged, added a bit of duct tape to complete the trip and retired it when I returned. This stuff happens to all of us, sooner or later, if you go out enough.

Damage is repaired when I return. The Miniposa lost the center strap keeper a couple times. The fabric "frayed" where I put my stove. And, I put a couple small holes in the bottom over the years. I do not wait for these to get worse. I repair them before I take the pack out again. Generally I clean the pack, apply a sticky patch (cut down as needed) and stitch around them, including an "X" across the hole. I mention the Miniposa, because there are patches on the patches around the bottom. This is part of the maintenence of all packs. All packs require maintenence. Patches, stitching up a loose strap, replacing buckles or loops are all part of good maintenece.

Even with good durability and maintainence, I still have lost packs. This leads to reliability. A good reliable pack will *always* get you home. Even if you have to do a field repair, it will still work. Some things are not repairable. Plastic frame sheets, for example. They can crack and break. I have found a couple sticks work well in place of them. When I got back, I replaced it with a couple arrow shafts. A hole in the fabric is easy, just cover it with duct tape, sometimes both sides.

But, I never think of protecting the pack. I think of the pack as a protection for my other gear. Durability can be enhanced by pre-maintainence. Perform maintence as soon as is possible. You *will* get good reliability out of your pack.

Max Dilthey
(mdilthey) - M

Re: james on 12/05/2012 10:32:39 MST Print View

Thank you James. Such excellent information. I will probably grab a membership this winter as per your recommendation.

I was worried about damaging my pack, so instead of buying a true UL pack, I got the boreas because of the stronger fabric along the bottom section.

To answer other people's questions; I do have Leki poles. I bet I just need more practice. The last time I scree'd it was off-trail. The pack got really dirty on the bottom in streaks, and I thumbed my nose thinking I might've worn a hole, but no damage to report.


How does one go about reinforcing a seam? What kind of thread is best, do I use a regular sewing needle, and is there a guide for technique?

Brian Lewis
(brianle) - F

Locale: Pacific NW
Varies by use (and user) on 12/05/2012 12:18:11 MST Print View

I used to use GG Mariposa Plus packs, and from a couple of experiences I think you get about one thru-hike out of one of those. Of course it matters (a lot) how careful you are, how fortunate you are, and how you load the pack and with what you load it with.

With ULA packs you get more mileage/time of use, they're just more durable. I'm approaching about the equivalent of two thru-hikes worth of mileage on my Circuit. Lower mileage on a pair of older ULAs that my wife and I have but they're holding up very well too. A friend replaced his Catalyst when it had about 5000 miles on it and it was still entirely "useable" at that point.

Unless you're particularly hard on your pack or particularly unlucky I don't think you need to focus on getting the most durable pack out there. The bit about the leatherman going through a mesh pocket suggests to me that the pocket design itself wasn't very intelligently done. I like ULAs because they're a great compromise between durability, price, weight, comfort, and just the most essential 'features'.

I have no relationship with ULA, though I realize the above makes me sound like a shill. :-)

Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife
Protecting a backpack? on 12/05/2012 12:55:42 MST Print View

A lot of "cottage" pack companies now make the bottoms of their packs out of heavier fabric, probably because of the "sitting down" issue. I don't think any are using silnylon anymore. IMHO, the extra ounce or two of weight is probably worth it, because that's where the most wear hits. I've done the butt-scoot routine down really steep slopes a few times and once sat down very abruptly (barely missing my poor dog!) when I didn't duck down far enough going under an overhanging log. The butt-scoot appears to be a lot harder on the seat of my pants than on my pack.

I believe in taking good care of my pack. I don't drag it on the ground or over rocks and I put it down and pick it up gently--no dropping, no dragging. I make sure I don't have any pointed objects inside. I wash it gently (by hand in the bathtub) yearly to remove the trail dust accumulation (which probably adds weight; I should weigh it dirty sometime). So far all I've had to do with my pack (SMD 2005 model Comet, long since discontinued, bought June 2006) since I got it is to send it back the fall of its first year to have some unraveling stitching fixed where the extension collar joins the pack. SMD reinforced the stitching for free and everything has held up fine ever since with no signs of wearing out. I have my eye on a new pack, but the rate my Comet is going I may never have to replace it!

Oh, yes, I did lose half of the waistbelt buckle two years ago. I had trimmed the strap ends and, like an idiot, didn't re-hem them to keep the buckles on. I got to the trailhead and found that half the buckle was missing. Not that big a deal; I removed the other half and tied the strap ends in a square knot (I'm glad I didn't trim them too far!). A few weeks later I was cleaning out the car, and guess what I found in the spare tire well!

Edited by hikinggranny on 12/05/2012 12:58:20 MST.

James Marco
(jamesdmarco) - MLife

Locale: Finger Lakes
Re: Re: james on 12/05/2012 13:00:46 MST Print View

No real directions that I know of, sorry. I just turn the pack inside out. With some you may need to remove the internal frame. External framed packs are usually two pieces anyway. A second stitch is added along the interior. Some hand work is involved, but not much. Straps are just a matter of sewing near existing stuff. I usually use polyester thread. I got hold of some good nylon 4 or 5 years ago. Fine thread, that works on a sewing machine, but this can snap on a high speed run...I think it was melting from the heat, since, it works fine on low speeds. Some hand work is required, so I use the nylon for it and a good thimbal.

My Miniposa has about 2000mi on it, now. Somewhere around 50 outings over the past 6-7 years. Lots of patches, but there is a lot more maintenence on UL packs.

The Murmur is much newer. But the buckle/straps have pretty much worn out. I think I have about 600-700mi on it. Again, most repairs are needed because of a manufacturors defect. In this case, strap slipage was the problem reported by many people. My last trip, 130mi along the NPT, it got noticably bad. I dropped it in favour of the Miniposa for a couple other trips through the high peaks. I have been lazy and not repaired the straps...I will get to it before spring, but I am still looking at buckles/straps.

You probably should have two packs. One for short trips and weekends. Another for longer trips up to about two weeks. In my case, both packs weigh less than one pound. One carries well at 15-20 pounds, the other carries well between 20-30 pounds. I have my older 4500ci packs, still...but I haven't used them in many years. They work well as loaners.

Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - F

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
Re: Varies by use (and user) on 12/05/2012 14:30:59 MST Print View

How do the mesh back pockets hold up on the ULA's? I have the ohm and I feel like it's going to eventually tear up from bushwacking. Other than that, it's a solid pack.

Trevor S
Osprey on 12/06/2012 11:24:14 MST Print View

I know the Osprey Exos may be heavier than what you want but if I am going somewhere i may have to bushwhack I bring my Exos. With Osprey's lifetime warranty they will fix or replace it if it rips or anything fails on it. I know a few companies do this so that is an option.