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Help with pack choice...
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Chris Murdock
(emandchris) - F

Locale: North East Georgia
Help with pack choice... on 04/11/2013 20:39:27 MDT Print View


I would love to get your input on choosing a pack. I am in the process of transitioning to LW backpacking, in fact waiting on a MLD Mid. I am extremely motivated since reading Andrew Skurka's book.

Here are my needs...

I am 6'1" 260# (body type athletic/competitive power lifter), and will begin section hiking the AT this year with my 9 y/o son. I fully understand the rational of not utilizing the largest pack, but due to additional carry requirements with my son in tow, I think I need to allow for additional space. My thoughts are having him carry no more than 10% of his body weight, about 10#'s.

Thus far I have been focused on a ULA Catalyst. After looking on the Go Lite site, I saw they had a 65L and an 80L for about half price of the ULA. I did note that there was an additional 10/12oz with the Go Lite packs.

So, any insight would be appreciated, as I want to make the best decision.

Warm Regards,


Edward Jursek

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Pack choice on 04/11/2013 20:59:19 MDT Print View

I really liked my Gossamer Gear G4. It only costs $125 new and can be picked up used for a good price. I just sold mine for $70 as I switched to the slightly smaller and narrower Gossamer Gear Mariposa. The heaviest load I carried in my G4 was 28 pounds and it carried well. My typical multi-day pack weight, including consumables and 1 liter of water is about 22lbs. and the G4 carried that easily. The G4 comes in at about a pound and has a ton of room, about 4000 c.i.

Edited by on 04/11/2013 21:02:33 MDT.

Greg F
(GregF) - F

Locale: Canadian Rockies
Re: Help with pack choice... on 04/11/2013 22:11:25 MDT Print View

What pack are you using now?

One thought would be to wait to update your pack and spend that money on something else in your kit. If you buy now you are buying something with the intent of replacing it later. By waiting a year your son gets bigger and can carry more. If you do some solo and some family trips buying a small pack for you and use your old pack for the family trip might make sense. The logic being that you can outhike your son even with 40lbs on your back so cutting pack weight wont necessarily allow to hike further. On Solo trips a lighter pack may have a real impact.

As to the GoLites are you looking at the Jam or the Quest. If you are looking at the Jam keep in mind that it doesnt have a frame and therefore wouldnt be a good load hauler despite its large size.

Daniel Pittman
(pitsy) - M

Locale: Central Texas
Chew on this: on 04/11/2013 23:12:48 MDT Print View

I wouldn't be so concerned with the overall weight of the pack. I mean, unless it's obnoxiously heavy, a pack's weight is the least important of it's virtues. Of course you'll need to be looking only at packs that will carry all your stuff, and for now, most of your son's gear as well. So once you decide on an appropriate volume, it's pretty easy to narrow down your choices.

First, it has to fit your torso. There are a couple of ways to measure your torso accurately. Try every method you can find and average the results. Some packs are adjustable, but make sure the load-lifters can make a downward angle to the shoulder straps, even at the longest torso length.

Second, the hipbelt needs to support all the weight of your pack full of gear, without loosening or riding down on you. The shoulder straps should only function to pull the pack tight against your back.

Third, it needs to have the right mix of features for your routines. How many exterior pockets do you want? Do you need a mesh panel to put damp clothes in to dry? Bottles or hydration bladder?

For me, my favorite pack for what I do is the REI Pinnacle 35. It's heavy! Designed as a rock-climbing bag, it's made of tough HT nylon with a thick plastic frame sheet and aluminium stays. In its stock form it weighs over three and a half pounds. I knocked half a pound out of it by cutting off gear loops, climbing-rope tie-downs, and superfluous buckles and clips. It's still a three pound pack, but it fits me, has a great hipbelt, carries my gear close to my back, and it's bombproof.

So what I'm getting at, is don't rule out slightly heavier options, as they might make up for the weight with superior comfort.

John G
(JohnG10) - F

Locale: Mid-Atlantic via Upstate NY
go lite packs on 04/12/2013 07:16:22 MDT Print View

I have the current version of the golite jam 50. The lack of a frame is no big deal if you use a z-lite pad in it's place. I also really like the large outer zip pocket and mesh back. The fabric is sturdy, and the shoulder straps and hip belt fit well.
I wish the pack had stiffer foam in the hip belt and shoulder straps. The hip belt is flimsy enough that the pack sags and bounces a little. The shoulder straps dig in a little when I unbuckle the hip belt.
The shoulder straps and hip belt on the granite gear blaze are perfect. I like the pockets on the jam much better, and found the super long extension collar on the blaze got in the way when I wanted to put things into the pack, or get things out. The side fabric is also a little thin, and you have to be careful of broken branches and thorns.
I also wish the jam had a heavy duty bottom fabric. There are a lot of rocks in my area and the bottom of the pack gets the most abrasion.

Dave -
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Up there
Re: Help with pack choice... on 04/12/2013 07:48:20 MDT Print View

With your build you will find the Golite Jam packs lacking. Specifically in the hip belt (floppy) and the too short shoulder straps (padded portion). Not to mntion that it carries preety bad over about 20 lbs and is very heavy for a frameless pack. You are going to have issue with the shoulder harness fitting around your larger chest /back measurement. I am not as large as you but I do Powerlift and have this issue.

ULA is and excellent place to start.

I would also consider the Granite Gear Blaze AC60. The pack has interchangeable belts (as does the Catalyst) but now for 2013, th Blaze will come optional with longer shoulder straps (padded portion) for those with a strength biased build. The Blaze is also functionally larger than the Catalyst (measured by the main compartment) and has an adjustable torso. All for under 3 lbs.

Just a thought.

Rudy Hassall
(WindedBowhunter) - F

Locale: MidAtlantic
Mystery Ranch, Exped on 04/12/2013 18:21:42 MDT Print View

I have been very pleased with my Mystery Ranch packs. They are engineered to the highest standards around! They are designed well to my liking with an internal frame, top lid and long vertical pockets.

Some other companies that you might want to look at are Exped Lightning and Stone Glacier packs

Dave -
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Up there
Re: Mystery Ranch, Exped on 04/12/2013 18:37:40 MDT Print View

Sorry, an 8lb pack empty probably isn't what the folks @ backpacking LIGHT are looking for.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Help with pack choice... on 04/12/2013 18:44:43 MDT Print View

How long will your trips be? How much will you be carrying to include food and water?

Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
Pack Fit on 04/12/2013 18:46:23 MDT Print View

I'd wait to buy a pack till you have all your other gear. Then you know exactly how big it should be and how much weight you'll be carrying.

For someone with your build getting a pack to fit may be a bit more tricky. Make sure the shoulder straps aren't too close together. Otherwise they will put pressure on your neck.

A frameless pack like the Jam might work but such packs are limited to 30 pounds MAX. Most people will probably be more comfortable with a framed pack if they are carrying more then 20 pounds. Andrew Skurka seems to be comfortable with more in his frameless packs then the average hiker. I'm not questioning his authority, I'm just saying what is comfortable for him may not be comfortable for the rest of us.

For heavier loads I think a frame is worth it. A frame only adds about half a pound or so to a pack if its done right and it can dramatically increase comfort.

Here are some ideas for internal frame packs in the 2-2.5 pound range that are durable, carry weight well and should have room for all your stuff.

1. Hyperlight Mountain Gear: Their packs are pricey but very light for the amount of weight they carry.

2. Exped Lightning 45/60: A new pack with an adjustable torso length, light and made of tough materials.

3. Zimmerbuilt Custom Pack: Chris can make a pack to your specifications so if you want a broader harness or whatever he can do it. I'd wait on this though until you know exactly what you want.

Bill Segraves
(sbill9000) - F - M
Re: Re: Help with pack choice... on 04/12/2013 20:08:15 MDT Print View

+1 on GregF's reply and on your recognition that your son's comfort is of primary importance. What pack you carry for these next couple of years isn't going to affect your experience. What pack your son carries and how well you set up the rest of your kit to help him have a great experience are. Set up your son and the rest of your kit, then spend whatever seems like the right amount on any decent quality pack that'll let you carry it.


Bill S.

Kevin Schneringer
(Slammer) - MLife

Locale: Oklahoma Flat Lands
Mountain Hardware Thruway 50 on 04/12/2013 21:29:55 MDT Print View

I carry this as my go to pack when with my 4 kids. It weighs in at 29 oz and has a roll top giving you and additional 7-8 liters if needed.
Comfy I carry 28-30 and its good. It's also my extended trip bag since it is lite and versatile even when caring 15-18 lbs.

Just my $.02 this pack does not get much mention since it is not made by a company known for UL packs/gear.

Chris Murdock
(emandchris) - F

Locale: North East Georgia
Re: Pack choice on 04/14/2013 14:47:24 MDT Print View


I appreciate the insight, and took a look at the G4. Maybe a bit on the small side considering I will be carrying for 2.

Thanks again!


Chris Murdock
(emandchris) - F

Locale: North East Georgia
Re: Re: Help with pack choice... on 04/14/2013 14:50:47 MDT Print View


I currently have an Expedition pack from Dana Designs, if I recall, close to 7-8000 ci. You make a good point utilizing what I have until my son can carry a bit more. Thanks for making me think...


Chris Murdock
(emandchris) - F

Locale: North East Georgia
Re: Chew on this: on 04/14/2013 14:53:55 MDT Print View


Thanks for the thoughts, you have me thinking out of the "ultra light weight box!"


Chris Murdock
(emandchris) - F

Locale: North East Georgia
Re: go lite packs on 04/14/2013 14:56:43 MDT Print View

Thanks John!

Chris Murdock
(emandchris) - F

Locale: North East Georgia
Re: Re: Help with pack choice... on 04/14/2013 15:05:20 MDT Print View

Dr. Shultz,

I appreciate your comments. I am leaning towards the Catalyst, so your comments help to confirm what might be a good choice.

Good to hear from another Power Lifter. I am very fortunate to train with some monsters, squatting close to 1000#, benching mid 700#, and pulling close to 800#. We have a 67 y/o world champion to boot!

I on the other hand am 52, not quite as strong, but enjoy the comradeship and competition. If you are ever in GA, and need a great place to train, drop me a line.


Chris Murdock
(emandchris) - F

Locale: North East Georgia
Re: Re: Help with pack choice... on 04/17/2013 14:16:55 MDT Print View

Average time out will be 4 days, and hoping to keep wt under 35#s.

Chris Murdock
(emandchris) - F

Locale: North East Georgia
Re: Pack Fit on 04/17/2013 14:18:22 MDT Print View

Thanks Luke, all great points to consider! I appreciate the caution regarding proper fit.

Chris Murdock
(emandchris) - F

Locale: North East Georgia
Re: Re: Re: Help with pack choice... on 04/17/2013 14:20:08 MDT Print View

Bill, I appreciate the focus on my son's experience, I really want to make this about him. Sounds like you are or would be a great parent!