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Pack Weight
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Max Dilthey
(mdilthey) - M

Pack Weight on 03/16/2013 11:33:35 MDT Print View

I found an interesting quote from a while back that I wanted to share, and get some opinions on. I find the logic to be enormously sound. There's a general trend of cutting down to ridiculously small or thin packs, and when I see someone getting ready for a multi-day trip with something that has no frame at all, I can't help but think about the back issues that don't reveal themselves quite as obviously.

I am on board for reducing weight; I don't think I'm on board with cutting out backpack padding, like a lot of people are. At least, not like I used to be. As comfortable as my Boreas 40L is, the dialed-in fit of my huge Kelty is just fine with all the padding. It's nice having a pillow on your lower lumbar for distribution on a sub-20lb load. Is it just me? Am I crazy?

Here's the quote:

"I commented on pack weight in another thread a while back, but I'll say the same thing:

In my opinion (and I'm no expert, but I know what I like) the one single place I would not skimp is your pack. Without going all Gregory Baltoro on anyone, the options are excellent out there. I say anything under 3lbs (yes, I meant to type 'lbs' not 'oz' haha) is still plenty good for a thru-hike. I've hiked with heavier for shorter, but the one thing I don't want is hurting shoulders, trapezius, or other back issues. Just make sure the pack has the features you want (pockets, mesh holders, water storage/bladder hooks, whatever) and that it fits your gear, and that includes a bear canister.

People used to (errr...still do) hike the PCT, CDT, AT, etc., with all styles of packs, some newer and some older.

Find a pack that fits, find a pack that fits your style, find a pack that fits your gear, find a pack that fits your budget....THEN and only then start looking at ounces.

Again, my opinion, and one that may not be popular with some. Cut your tags off, cut your toothbrush, cut your hair, get a colonoscopy, but don't skimp on your pack for a 4 month hike. :)"

-Dug Shelby, BPL Member


P.S. "This is a forum for UL backpackers, look elsewhere" has never been helpful or necessary. Just looking for opinions!

Edited by mdilthey on 03/16/2013 12:04:18 MDT.

Max Dilthey
(mdilthey) - M

McHale on 03/16/2013 11:34:53 MDT Print View

McHale packs are a good example of people ignoring pack weight in favor of comfort and features, though, everyone seems to skirt around it a little bit.

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Always Put Horse Before Cart on 03/16/2013 12:03:31 MDT Print View

Howdy Max:

UL focus is not on cutting the padding out of a backpack. It is about focusing on building your gear system by judiciously looking at every piece -- using these three steps in order -- and then matching your resulting gear with an appropriate backpack:

1. What pieces aren't really being used or being actually useful? Leave them home next time.

2. Of the items actually used -- what items can perform multiple functions? Leave the substituted pieces at home.

3. Of the remaining items -- are there other options that are lighter or more compact?

UL is about shedding unnecessary weight. And if your resulting pack weight obviates the need for a big backpack with strong frame and beefy padding -- then you don't need a big backpack with strong frame and beefy padding! That's why we advise people to do their gear study and selection first -- then match with a backpack with the appropriate volume and carrying comfort!

Lastly, with the weight savings in gear and then the weight saving in backpack -- one can then look at one's boots. Are hefty mountain boots still necessary? Or can a pair of trail runners do the job properly? In my case, I wear trail runners because my pack weight is light enough (20-23 lbs) -- and all I really need are good support and good traction. And with trail runners instead of hefty boots -- I shave off a good 3-4lbs -- and my feet are thankful for that.

You see, it's all related, and gear selection focuses on both the pieces individually -- and also how the pieces fit together as a system.

So, if you have bulky, heavy gear, then you need a good, hefty, comfortable backpack. And then you will need sturdy boots. But often, a better solution is to pare down the gear weight so you no longer have a need for a good, hefty, comfortable backpack -- and then you also no longer need sturdy but heavy boots.

Edited by ben2world on 03/16/2013 12:09:58 MDT.

Max Dilthey
(mdilthey) - M

I hear you, but... on 03/16/2013 12:08:59 MDT Print View

Right, and I did an Excel spreadsheet a few weeks ago where I narrowed my baseweight down to 12lbs, including my pack.

Still, 12lbs isn't the whole story. Add on 10lbs+ of food and 5lbs+ of water at the longest sections of a hike, and suddenly your 12 is 27. That isn't really negotiable- obviously some conditions and trip lengths facilitate less, but at a certain point, an AT or PCT Thru-hiker has 30lbs on their back. Add on snowshoes or skis, or crampons, or bear canisters, and cuben fiber rucksacks look erroneous to me.

Maybe it's the difference between UL and SUL, but I feel like a suspension system that actually redistributes weight along an anatomically designed hipbelt with a pad that is flexible enough to absorb shock from each step is crucial to long-term back health. We're talking about adding 1-4lbs, and redistributing 25lbs correctly. That has to make a difference.

I am on board for the philosophy, but I am very sympathetic to the allowance of good suspension. I can't figure out how the hipbelts on some of the more minimalist backpacks realistically do anything.

Edit: I'm not trying to dispute you, rather, I agree with you. I'm interested in hearing how other people do without considering weight distribution on significant hikes (I've only gone frameless for ~25 miles in 2 day trips).

Edited by mdilthey on 03/16/2013 12:15:06 MDT.

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Re: I hear you, but... on 03/16/2013 12:15:25 MDT Print View

"I am on board for the philosophy, but I am very sympathetic to the allowance of good suspension."

Max -- I hope you didn't get the impression that beefy packs have no place. They do! But before anyone can decide which pack to bring -- one should decide on the gear pieces first. If you are doing a week-long trip and your total pack weight is in the mid 20 pounds -- then maybe a frameless pack truly is all you need for all day carrying comfort! And if that's the case, why burden your poor legs, ankles and feet with the extra poundage of unneeded frame and padding?

But if you are hiking in the desert -- for even just three days -- but have to carry copious quantities of water -- then again, after gathering up your gear -- you may well need a backpack with volume and carrying comfort.

Reading your first post, Max, I think you were approaching the problem from the wrong direction. No one can properly decide which is the appropriate pack without first deciding what gear pieces and how much food and water to bring.

Have you seen the gear room pics? You notice how people have more than 1 backpack? Yep. Proper tool selection for the job at hand.

Jan S
I agree on 03/16/2013 12:18:47 MDT Print View

Yeah, I agree. And while I think the UL backpacks do a wonderful job in reducing the weight of the pack (where your stuff goes in) and adding just the features that are needed, when it comes to suspension systems they have made a huge step back to the 70s (external frame anyone?). One can of course argue that as soon as you go UL, you don't need to be able to carry 40+ lbs loads, but then most people seem to overload their packs at some point (food and water resupplies, load hauling for others, winter trips, etc.).

Personally I'd love to see decent suspension systems that are able to carry largish loads and are still in a reasonable light backpack. But by the looks of it we have to wait for the big companies to do that job – at least for people who don't buy a McHale pack. Which is a bit disappointing.

Edited by karl-ton on 03/16/2013 12:20:19 MDT.

Travis Leanna
(T.L.) - MLife

Locale: Wisconsin
Re: Always Put Horse Before Cart on 03/16/2013 12:19:08 MDT Print View

Back in 2010 I got all excited to get and use a frameless pack. My loaded pack weight was within the generally accepted range for a frameless pack, and while the pack was ok, I found that it simply didn't carry as nicely as something with proper support. Here's been the evolution of my pack choice:

Kelty Coyote (used twice, then found BPL. Sitting in a closet collecting dust. I should sell or donate it.)

Osprey Exos 58 (I liked it, but after my kit began to evolve, it was just too big. Sold it.)

Osprey Talon 44 (Still use this pack, and is my favorite for general use)

Six Moon Designs Swift (2010 version, no stays. Nicely built pack, but frameless wasn't for me. Sold it.)

REI Flash 30 (Got a super deal so I tried it out. Its good for an overnight when weights are very low, day hikes, or day packraft trips.)

ULA Catalyst (Not a whole lot of use yet, but this is for the times when I simply need the volume and weight carrying ability)

So, I currently have 3 packs, and each one has a different purpose. Using the right tool for the job is important.

Travis Leanna
(T.L.) - MLife

Locale: Wisconsin
Re: Re: Always Put Horse Before Cart on 03/16/2013 12:21:52 MDT Print View

ULA packs are known to carry a good bit of weight and being reasonably light. HMG as well. Granite Gear, too.

Max Dilthey
(mdilthey) - M

Discussion Cont. on 03/16/2013 12:22:02 MDT Print View

Hmm. I guess it has to be personally decided. I wonder if the zeal at getting a pack under 16oz puts people in positions of sacrificing too much comfort.

I was checking out the other thread on ULA's, and these guys have 30lbs on their backs with about 2 inches of hipbelt width, no frames, and the back of the pack is one square sheet, like a rectangle.

My back is a big S-curve, it flexes while I take every step, and my hips are the strongest center of gravity. If my pack isn't an "S," all I can think about is the wasted energy on compensating for the discomfort, as well as the potential damage from so much weight on my shoulders rather than my hips.

McHale seems to get this. His packs weigh in the 3-4lb range for similar loads, and we have a whole network of acolytes who swear by the comfort. Not coincidence, I don't think. Distribution is important!

I'm going to try doing several "UL" trips with a non-UL pack this spring and post some trip reports. I want to try moving fast with a "luxury" pack with a variable suspension and see if my suspicions have any merit. Ultimately, most people will keep doing what they're doing anyways, but it makes for good discussion. (and I love BPL discussion!)

Travis Leanna
(T.L.) - MLife

Locale: Wisconsin
Re: Discussion Cont. on 03/16/2013 12:24:32 MDT Print View

Max, what thread was the ULA one?

ULA packs don't have 2 inch belts, most models have a frame/stay system, and the stays can be bent to shape your back.

Edited by T.L. on 03/16/2013 12:26:05 MDT.

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Flexible Light Weight Load Hauler on 03/16/2013 12:24:50 MDT Print View


Luxury Lite doesn't get talked about much anymore, but if you see yourself as the daring, think out of the box type -- then maybe cylinders are just what you're looking for. Light weight, eminently flexible, and (according to the personal experience of a friend I know) excellent carrying comfort. Buy the frame and a couple different sizes cylinders and you are ready to carry a wide range of bulk and weight. Read more here.

Max Dilthey
(mdilthey) - M

Toolbox on 03/16/2013 12:25:04 MDT Print View

I like the "tools" metaphor. My friends think I'm nuts for buying my third pack, but I think it's key:

40L Boreas Buttermilk ~3lbs
65L Gregory Baltoro ~5lbs
90L Kelty Red Cloud ~6lbs

I can probably ditch the Kelty (trying to, anyways) since I never fill it.

Now that I've bought the Gregory, I'm thinking the pack will live up to it's reviews, and the stationary shoulder straps of my Boreas will look less and less inviting... testing will tell.

Max Dilthey
(mdilthey) - M

Re: Re: Discussion Cont. on 03/16/2013 12:25:54 MDT Print View

I meant 2 inches tall. It's not actually far off from the height of other hipbelts. My point was, there's definitely a lot less to them in terms of support compared to serious suspension packs.

Edited by mdilthey on 03/16/2013 12:26:29 MDT.

Travis Leanna
(T.L.) - MLife

Locale: Wisconsin
Re: Re: Re: Discussion Cont. on 03/16/2013 12:26:57 MDT Print View

ULA packs have hipbelts that are more like 4-5 inches tall.

And they have more to them than the Osprey's Ive used.

Can you link to the thread?

Edited by T.L. on 03/16/2013 12:27:52 MDT.

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Re: Discussion Cont. on 03/16/2013 12:27:59 MDT Print View

"I wonder if the zeal at getting a pack under 16oz puts people in positions of sacrificing too much comfort."

Only if YOU let it. Everyone is a little different and you have to find out for yourself. Moi,

1. Frameless -- good for weights below 25lbs. Excellent all day carrying when below 22-23lbs.
2. Internal frame (Delrin rods -- not solid stays) -- good to about 30lbs - excellent all day carrying in high 20's.

"McHale seems to get this."

There are so many options for compact and lightweight gear pieces that for my kind of trips (which spans up to one week) -- I have no need for anything like a McHale. I just don't have that much or that heavy that I need to carry! So a McHale would be way too much pack for my needs -- because I have done my homework to pare away unnecessary gear bulk and weight. But your needs may well be different.

Max -- what is your gear weight for your anticipated trips? You should shop for the lightest, cheapest that will provide you with the carrying volume, comfort, features and durability that you need -- and not a dollar or a pound more.

Edited by ben2world on 03/16/2013 12:33:36 MDT.

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
packs on 03/16/2013 12:28:30 MDT Print View

most people out there, not BPLers, can make do with one or two packs for most of their uses

and you can get a ~40L do most things pack at a reasonably light weight from most manufacturers for a reasonable price ...

just consider that for a moment ;)

Jan S
Re: Re: Re: Always Put Horse Before Cart on 03/16/2013 12:29:00 MDT Print View

I admit I don't have the money to have about 5 cuben packs in my closet, but looking at the suspension systems of those packs and comparing them to my Gregory Chaos or MacPac Quantum thingy, I know what I want to have on my back. Pack weight or no pack weight. And yes, I do know that backpacks are a very individual thing. But I do think you can compare engineering (does that make sense?) of the suspension systems and here the UL packs seem to loose out.

And – although I'm not sure what to make of the whole review – the porter review didn't exactly help to build my trust in those suspension systems. Mainly judging by the photo of the hipbelt that looked like a lot of pain on long trips.

Travis Leanna
(T.L.) - MLife

Locale: Wisconsin
Re: packs on 03/16/2013 12:29:34 MDT Print View

I want Patagonia to make a $1000 pack laced with unicorn hair.

Paul McLaughlin
(paul) - MLife
packs and packs on 03/16/2013 12:34:37 MDT Print View

People vary widely in what they can comfortably carry in a given pack. Some can comfortably carry 20 or 25lbs. - or even more - with no hipbelt. Others, much less. That is the key here. Once you find you need a hipbelt, then you also need the structure that is required to transfer weight to the belt effectively - although you don't need to go up to that much in weight to get that. But if you can be comfortable without the belt, then all you need is a sack with shoulder straps and that can be very light. For me, the magic number is around 15 lbs. Below that I can be fine without the hipbelt, above it I want the belt. But since I have a nice pack with internal frame that weighs 16 oz., I don't bother with a frameless pack at all. The few ounces I would save aren't worth it since it would basically be just for overnight trips which I hardly ever get to do anyway. If my other gear were light enough that I could do 5 days with a 15 lb total packweight, then I would think about it.

I do think that there are folks who would be more comfortable switching to a light framed pack in place of their frameless pack - especially if they could do it with a weight penalty of 6 ounces or less. Comfort on the trail is worth some additional weight - how much depends on the degree of comfort and that depends on the individual. So I don't think we can generalize about what sort of pack anyone should be carrying for a particular load or a particular trip, but I do think that many people have only experienced the two extremes - unnecessarily heavy packs that are very comfortable, and extremely light frameless packs that have distinct limitations in load carrying capacity. Give them a very light internal frame pack and I'd bet a lot of them would switch to it

Clayton Mauritzen
(GlacierRambler) - F

Locale: NW Montana
Re: I hear you, but... on 03/16/2013 12:35:47 MDT Print View

Part of the issue with many maiunstream, etc. packs is that they actually have poor suspension for the weight. For example, the Buttermilk 40's frame (which I know you love) weighs a hefty 11 oz--more than double what is necessary for excellent load transfer up to 30-35 lbs. It also relies on a framesheet in connection with what looks like peripheral tubing. The framesheet is unnecessary and actually limits the pack's ability to move with you. Or consider the Granite Gear Crown VC 60 which relies only on a framesheet (no stays) and achieves only moderate load transfer because the framesheet is too flexible but still won't move well with the body. (You can probably tell I don't like framesheets.)

Personally, I rarely use frameless packs, though I do intend to experiment more this summer with them for light, weekend loads. For most everything, I prefer a good frame. It's just that too many manufacturers.

Honestly, a pack with a well-designed frame that matches its other components (hipbelt especially) shouldn't need to top more than 2-2.5 lbs. depending upon size and other options. See ULA's Circuit and HMG's Porter and Windrider/Southwest series (3400 and 4400) to see what I mean. None of these packs sacrifice padding or suspension, but they are all well below 3 lbs.