My beloved Jam2 now has both shoulder straps beginning to tear and it's time to give it up. I don't trust it for higher weight anymore. I have the large capacity hauler that I need (thanks Ken T. !), but now I need to replace my 3 season pack. I was considering MYOG but have decided against it; I don't yet have the skill for some of the details I want.
I've never owned a panel loader but I've done many trips with a friend who uses the original Mountainsmith Ghost. One thing I've noticed...panel loaders are neat...there seems to be a tidy spot for everything and it's all accessible. No digging and stuffing into dark recesses.
The Camino interests me. Yes, I know the Catalyst is bigger for the same weight. Yes, the Conduit is just as big (if not a wee bit bigger) for less weight. I'm aware of the arguments about panel loader zipper failure (though I've never met someone it actually happened to) and how you might not be able to stuff it to the max like a top loader. These issues don't worry me.
That said, here's what I see in it:
Though it'll be used as my primary 3 season pack, it won't be strictly a "backpacking" pack for me. I've been increasingly using packs for surfing and various types of day trips, needing to pack wetsuits, booties, gloves, towels, shoes, changes of clothes, lunch, a thermos, etc.
This task was a royal pain in the arse last week on a surf trip with my Jam, having to spill its entire contents all over a small wet boat, just to get to one thing I need at the bottom. This is how stuff gets lost on boats (and other people trip all over your $hit).
It also looks like it's well suited to different sorts of day trips, car camping, cragging, etc., especially when one has to pack spare shoes, a change of clothes, and other misc. items. It strikes me that a panel loader is simpler for arranging odd items that need to be accessed at different times of the day. I like the fact that unlike the other ULA packs it has a zipper on the mesh back pocket- to keep from spilling, especially on a boat or in a car trunk. I also liked the two top straps for versatility strapping stuff (like a rolled wetsuit/booties).
Overall, it looks like it would do fine for a week in the Sierra.
Does anyone know if the large Bearvault will lay horizontal in one?
All in all, for someone that doesn't want to own 10 different packs it seems like a versatile choice. I think I've done a pretty good job of talking myself into pulling the trigger on one...