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ULA Camino Panel Loader
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Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
ULA Camino Panel Loader on 04/08/2013 20:26:21 MDT Print View

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...

Any thoughts?

Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
Check this out too on 04/08/2013 20:28:56 MDT Print View

All I'd say is that Elemental Designs and Chris Zimmer both have panel loader options if you want to check them out too.

Edit - Sorry Chris I probably just made your life more complicated. Now you'll have to check out two more packs, plus endless custom options... Sorry:)

Edited by Cameron on 04/08/2013 20:31:05 MDT.

Here There
(cowexnihilo) - MLife
Re: ULA Camino Panel Loader on 04/08/2013 21:08:41 MDT Print View

I got into backpacking via adventure travel, and almost all the packs geared towards that are panel loading. Panel loaders are very versatile, for all of the reasons you mentioned, and are great multi-purpose bags.

When I made the switch to a dedicated "backpacking" backpack it took me awhile to get used to the one big hole style of packing, but at the time I didn't know of any light panel loading alternatives to my five pound travel pack, and the only lighter packs I could find at the time were top loading. So I made the switch and found a new packing style that worked for me.

However, a few years ago I got nostalgic and tried to switch back to a panel loader-- it didn't work. I found that the panel loaders I tried didn't carry half as well as a top loader because it was so hard to keep the load from shifting around after packing. Maybe I've just forgotten how to pack a panel loading pack properly, but I ended up switching back to top loaders for better load stability and carry comfort. My theory is that a) prior to using a top loader I didn't know any better, and b) for travel I tended to carry the pack for much shorter durations than when backpacking, so I was willing to put up with less stable/comfortable loads (and walking through an airport isn't that similar to boulder hopping).

But give it a try, and if you don't like it there's always gear swap...


Dave -
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Up there
Re: ULA Camino Panel Loader on 04/08/2013 21:24:14 MDT Print View

Craig, Granite Gear has a panel loader as well.

Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
Re: Re: ULA Camino Panel Loader on 04/08/2013 21:24:54 MDT Print View

Interesting point David. I suppose if I do go this route I'll have to learn to pack differently for the mountains.
As for carry comfort, it appears the Camino has the same suspension system as the Catalyst and is rated for the same weight, so I'm assuming it's simply a matter of getting everything packed so it doesn't shift around. But I have nothing to base this on....

Damn, I wish there was somewhere to actually see this stuff in person. I think that's half the reason so many of us are so neurotic about buying/selling gear around here. Cottage is great and all, but you can't actually see half the stuff you like until you've already bought it...
5 minutes in a store would answer every question I have about this pack.

Edited by xnomanx on 04/08/2013 21:33:50 MDT.

Here There
(cowexnihilo) - MLife
Re: Re: Re: ULA Camino Panel Loader on 04/08/2013 21:42:54 MDT Print View

I haven't looked at the Camino recently so I have no idea what means it has for compressing and securing loads, but I'm sure some thoughtful packing would go a long way towards making it stable. A floppy, shifting load drives me crazy, especially since I like to do some off trail scrambling, so your own preferred terrain and tolerances will probably play a big part in whether it works for you.

Panel loaders are definitely "neat", and the more items you have to keep track of, the nicer they are (like in travel scenarios). This thread almost makes me want to try one again... how about you buy one and if it doesn't work out I might buy it off you? ;)


Here There
(cowexnihilo) - MLife
Volume on 04/08/2013 21:48:25 MDT Print View

One more factor to consider: all the panel loaders I've used had a definite sweet spot for load volume--too much gear volume is obviously problematic, but too little is hard to secure and pack properly to keep it from shifting, which is exacerbated by the panel loading design. This may be mitigated by the Camino's compression system, but it's certainly worth considering how the Comino's volume compares to your typical loads.


Bob Bankhead
(wandering_bob) - MLife

Locale: Oregon, USA
ULA Camino Panel Loader on 04/08/2013 22:17:58 MDT Print View

Six Moon Designs makes an excellent panel loader - the Traveler

31 ounces with the removable stays in place
26 ounces without the stays

3000 cubic inches in the packbag itself; 3880 cu. in total.

Adjustable torso length harness attachment.

Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
Re: ULA Camino Panel Loader on 04/09/2013 18:30:21 MDT Print View

Thanks for the tips/thoughts folks, but the panel loader is out. I spoke with Chris at ULA and while the Camino will fit a small Bearvault, the large would be pushing it. Any pack I buy has to have the capacity for a large canister.

As I'm increasingly playing the role of guide/porter with my children and family, it looks like I'll go big with the Catalyst and just deal with the extra weight for shorter trips/stuff that doesn't require a canister.


James Winstead

Locale: CA
Side Zip on 04/10/2013 19:41:26 MDT Print View

Craig, no idea about sideways carry for the bear vault, but some of the granite gear packs (nimbus series I think) are top loaders, but have a single vertical zip. It's not as handy as a totally open panel, but sort of a hybrid between the two.

They aren't necessarily ul options but not bad and pretty good load haulers (I hear). Also might be at an rei or something to try on.