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HMG Porter vs. ULA Epic
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Derrick White
(miku) - MLife

Locale: Newfoundland & Labrador, Canada
HMG Porter vs. ULA Epic on 03/11/2013 05:53:20 MDT Print View

I am considering both packs for use on a 3 week solo trip, with 10 days in a kayak and 10 off trail hiking.

I have researched both extensively and am finding the decision tough to make. Has anyone used both, or just one that you can post your comments on?



David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
re: Epic v. Porter on 03/11/2013 11:58:44 MDT Print View

Both are well regarded and test out to comparable loads. The choice will come down to which harness suits you better and more importantly which will better fit with your packing style.

Harness packs like the Epic are in theory more versatile, but keeing the load trim requires a carefully sized pack bag of some kind. Most large drybags are quite broad which leads to the Epics frequent short and fat look. A pack like the Porter is less fussy to pack with a conventional kit, but doesn't accomodate weird loads as easily.

Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
Epic vs. Porter on 03/11/2013 12:05:27 MDT Print View

I think you should compare the Expedition not the Porter to the Epic. Putting ten days worth of food in the Porter might be tricky unless your kit its really small.

Dan Durston
(dandydan) - F

Porter/Epic on 03/11/2013 17:31:40 MDT Print View

I mulled over this same decision for a while. The lack of pockets on the Porter doesn't fit well with my style, and the Epic reported to hang pretty low and the side pockets are an afterthought. I ended up getting a ULA Catalyst in hybrid cuben fabric without hydration ports (less water) and with bottom straps (packraft) and side straps (skis).

I tried a dry bag hauler last year (NRS Paragon) and I'm not enamoured with the concept. It's great for 90% on water use, but packing it and using it on the trail is finicky (ie. trying to get the bag to hang right, having the bag fall out when you empty it at night etc).

Edited by dandydan on 03/11/2013 17:32:13 MDT.

Travis Leanna
(T.L.) - MLife

Locale: Wisconsin
Re: Porter/Epic on 03/11/2013 17:53:22 MDT Print View

Dan, have you used your Catalyst yet? How's the fabric?

Philip Marshall
(philthy) - MLife
epic v porter on 03/11/2013 18:02:48 MDT Print View

I don't have either, but I'd thought one of the advantages of the Epic was being able to carry a packraft outside of the main pack compartment. In your case, you wont be packing a packraft, so I'd suggest the Porter would be a simpler and perhaps better suited pack.

Dan, are you worried about the pockets and straps of the Catalyst getting caught whilst rafting? And does the load carry ok with the packraft underneath the Catalyst? I am in the process of working out a pack for packrafting trips as well and perhaps a Porter with straps added to the bottom for the raft could be another similar option?

Derrick White
(miku) - MLife

Locale: Newfoundland & Labrador, Canada
Porter vs. Epic on 03/11/2013 18:34:42 MDT Print View

Thanks for the comments. I opted for the Porter (4400) after speaking with both Dan and Mike of HMG; they were very helpful Once deciding upon the Porter I was still wondering whether to go with the 3400 or 4400. Mike thought the 3400 would be a bit tight for a solo trip of that length and with a packraft hopefully in my future, the choice of the 4400 became easy.

Note: the former Expedition is now called the Porter 4400.

Can't wait to get it!


John Harper
(johnnyh88) - MLife

Locale: The SouthWest
Re: Porter vs. Epic on 03/11/2013 18:57:21 MDT Print View

For those who like pockets, HMG made me a 4400 Windrider SW.

Dan Durston
(dandydan) - F

Packs on 03/11/2013 20:25:17 MDT Print View

"Dan, have you used your Catalyst yet? How's the fabric?"
It's still creeping along in the postal system but it should be here this week. I hope to get it out for a quick weekender soon, but it won't be fully utilized until my big trip in early May (~12 days).

"Dan, are you worried about the pockets and straps of the Catalyst getting caught whilst rafting?"
I'm not worried about the straps catching. I'll just keep them reasonably snugged up. Drybag hauler stylepacks (ie. ULA Epic) have straps everywhere and people use those just fine. I never had any safety concerns with my NRS Paragon (straps everywhere) last summer.

"Does the load carry ok with the packraft underneath the Catalyst?"
The bottom packraft straps are really an 'overflow' tool for a raft, paddle, snowshoes, CCF pad or whatever on long/bulky trips. I'll rarely use them. I prefer to store my packrafts inside the pack. I typically carry my wife's too, so I store two side by side in the pack bottom via Roman Dial's "packraft fold". It protects them better and rafts are not something I pull out frequently so it's not annoying - especially considering I'm probably digging out paddling clothes, PFD, inflation bag etc anyways. I presume the load will carry better with the rafts inside.

I suppose there's the argument that putting the raft outside avoids getting water in one's pack. That would probably be more of consideration if I was frequently transitioning from padding to hiking, but that's not very typical for me. When my raft comes out, it's likely coming out for the only time that day, so it's not a big deal to flip it over and let the water drip off for a couple minutes after. By the time it's all folded up there's not much water left.

The ULA Catalyst is spec'd at 48oz, but with the optional trinkets removed (-4oz) and in cuben hybrid (-5oz), it's going to come in around 39oz. A 4400 porter is 31oz, but by the time you add hipbelt pockets (+2oz?) and the rear 'Stuff' pocket (+4.2oz) you're at 37.5oz and you're still missing side pockets which I value. The Catalyst also delivers a proper framesheet (which prevents it from turning into a sausage when it's packed full), a more robust hipbelt, back padding, and ULA made mine with green cuben hybrid fabric instead of white.

Edited by dandydan on 03/11/2013 20:40:10 MDT.

Clayton Mauritzen
(GlacierRambler) - F

Locale: NW Montana
Re: Packs on 03/11/2013 20:30:48 MDT Print View

Just so long as you know you have to post pics for the rest of us.

Dave -
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Up there
Re: Packs on 03/11/2013 20:43:32 MDT Print View

"The Catalyst also delivers a proper framesheet (which prevents it from turning into a sausage when it's packed full), a more robust hipbelt, back padding, and ULA made mine with green cuben hybrid fabric instead of white."

I have a Porter and a Mchale. Both have stays and no frame sheet. Neither turn into sausages.

I think what is vital to understand is that the Porter 4400 has a bigger main bag with volume that can be increased with the front pocket. The Catalyst has a main compartment noticeably smaller. You make it sound like you are getting something for nothing. The Catalyst is smaller and weighs more. The Porter has back padding inside the pack. The dyneema grids top used is 500d.

Thought a clarification might be in order. If your require more space for larger items inside your pack, the Porter is a better choice. If not, the Catalyst may be a better choice.

Edited by FamilyGuy on 06/16/2013 09:26:48 MDT.

Grzegorz Przeorski
(grzechu) - MLife

Locale: Ontario
Re: Packs on 03/11/2013 20:48:27 MDT Print View

I suspect that the "can of warms" will be quickly closed when you post some pictures of your new pack. I've been thinking (for some time)that ULA Catalyst made partially of Cuben would be very appealing piece of equipment for this type of adventure. But for some reason I neglected to ask nice people at ULA if they would make one. I even suspect which optional trinkets you elected to remove. I like white colour in the winter, otherwise green.

Dan Durston
(dandydan) - F

Packs on 03/11/2013 21:05:24 MDT Print View

You're right the 4400 porter is bigger. The Catalyst likely falls in between the 3400 and 4400 models. I was suggesting adding the rear 'stuff' pocket to gain the functionality of a rear pocket (ie. quick access to clothing, avy gear etc), rather than for more volume. The 3400 Porter is only .5oz lighter than the 4400, so that would have likely been a more fair comparison. The 3400 Porter + hipbelt pockets + stuff pocket = 37oz. Cuben hybrid Catalyst = 39oz and has side pockets, framesheet and more robust hipbelt.

HMG packs turn into 'sausages' because they only have longitudinal support with no structure on the lateral axis. This is exacerbated by HMG's close and parallel placement of the stays. Some packs (ie. Gossamer Gorilla) place the stays further apart and connect them for lateral support. McHale packs don't do this because there is large rigid sections in the back panel even though it's not a full framesheet. It's not a big deal because the pressure of the pack on one's body tends to flatten it out after a few minutes, but for big loads it's nice to have the pack ride as close to the body as possible.

Note the side seam that would mark the edge of the back if it was flat.
HMG pack

Edited by dandydan on 03/11/2013 21:38:04 MDT.

Dave -
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Up there
Re: Packs on 03/11/2013 21:13:25 MDT Print View

What year is that Windrider and is that before the increased padding in the belt, straps, and the thicker shaped stays? I have never had such barreling.

The Porter is stiffer than the Windrider.

Edited by FamilyGuy on 02/21/2014 17:13:42 MST.

Dan Durston
(dandydan) - F

Packs on 03/11/2013 21:27:57 MDT Print View

That's an earlier Windrider - circa 2011 I believe. It's just got 2 sleeping bags and a pillow inside, not packed abnormally. I believe it's before the stiffer stays were added, but I don't see how stiffer stays would add significant lateral support unless they were placed at an angle (non-parallel). The current stays aren't bending here - there simply is no lateral structure so it takes the natural shape of a tube as it's packed. The thicker padded 'lumbar' section of the porter hipbelt might help somewhat in this regard.

I'm not very familiar with McHale packs, so I could be wrong about them. I'm referring to the sections below which look to be pretty stiff, if not rigid sections with softer foam on top. They appear to add lateral support.

Dave -
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Up there
Re: Packs on 03/11/2013 21:37:43 MDT Print View

The pack on the left: the top arrow is the backpad that is essentially a pocket that fits a foam pad. It is attached by Velcro. The bottom lumbar pad is not removable but has the same or similar padding as the backpad.

I think the pack on the left is a Merk with the pad inside the pack so there is no external backpad.

But behind these pads are two stays and fabric between. No back panel.

I am once again taking this thread off topic. I will take a few pics and can send them to you. I will PM you.