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Sub - 2lbs lightweight internal frame pack -- need market update
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David Poston
(dgposton) - F

Locale: Texas / Colorado
Sub - 2lbs lightweight internal frame pack -- need market update *with PICS* on 04/14/2013 09:22:30 MDT Print View

So my trusty Z55 has been doing me fine for the last 4-5 years. I really like how the frame transfers weight to the hipbelt. I also like how the hipbelt and shoulder strap material is really grippy. No major complaints, except that the airflow curvature behind my back places the pack away from my body, resulting in less efficiency.

But now I'm moving away from lightweight backpacking into UL backpacking. My Z55 weighs around 51 oz. I now use a SMD Lunar Duo tent, and am thinking of trading it this summer for a cuben fiber tarp. The rest of my gear has gone the same route. So what are my options for a COMFORTABLE, lightweight (around 20-32 oz) pack with a good internal frame? (I have low back issues, so good support is paramount). I'm not looking at frameless options. I also use an air pad, so using a foam pad as a frame is out of the question. So far, I've been looking at these:

GG Mariposa
SMD Starlight
ULA Ohm 2.0

I'm willing to consider mainstream as well as cottage industry manufacturers. Just looking for the most comfortable lightweight internal frame pack out there that can handle 20-25 lb loads with ease.

Edited by dgposton on 06/23/2013 21:56:09 MDT.

Link .
(annapurna) - MLife
Re: Sub - 2lbs lightweight internal frame pack -- need market update on 04/14/2013 09:34:27 MDT Print View

Elemental Horizon

Dave -
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Up there
Re: Sub - 2lbs lightweight internal frame pack -- need market update on 04/14/2013 09:39:36 MDT Print View

Several models under 2lbs.

James Marco
(jamesdmarco) - MLife

Locale: Finger Lakes
Re: Sub - 2lbs lightweight internal frame pack -- need market update on 04/14/2013 10:30:46 MDT Print View

The Mariposa is a really good pack for mid-volume stuff. For lower volume excursions, usually between 2-3 weeks or less, I use a smaller pack, though (generally the older Miniposa or Murmur.) You mentiontioned no frameless packs due to back problems. GG also has the Klymit Air Beam suspension, which Mike says works better than the frame in the Mariposa foor about 3.8oz. (I have not used it, though I have one on order for my daughter's G5.) Using the Nightlite pad with a pack usually means about a 6oz increase in weight. A little unfortunate, but often, I have found myself carrying both the past couple years.

Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
Lower Back Issues on 04/14/2013 14:23:35 MDT Print View

I'd lean towards the HMG packs if you have lower back issues. I think their hipbelts and lumber pads would transfer the load better.

Clayton Mauritzen
(GlacierRambler) - F

Locale: NW Montana
Re: Lower Back Issues on 04/14/2013 14:49:10 MDT Print View

HMG or ULA. I'm not sure any other company transfers better. Pick a couple of models, try them on and walk around, and ship back all but the best.

Nothing beats trying several on at the same time.

Evan Chartier
GG on 04/14/2013 15:40:03 MDT Print View

I am a huge fan of the Gossamer Gear Gorilla- I have used one for my PCT hike and I recently purchased the 2012 version. The transfer of weight has always worked well for me with smaller loads (less than 30#), however I do use my ULA Catalyst for biggest loads.

Jennifer Mitol
(Jenmitol) - M

Locale: In my dreams....
Go go gorilla on 04/15/2013 07:46:39 MDT Print View

I am also a fan of the gorilla. I have some pretty serious back and hip issues myself, and the gorilla is the only pack that actually felt good to carry. I tried my new ULA Circuit this past weekend and I liked it quite a bit, but honesty, FOR ME, the gorilla is a teeny bit more comfortable. I was terribly afraid of going frameless because of my back, but it ended up being the best decision I made. Besides, the gorilla really isn't frameless: there is an aluminum hoop inside and the sitpad is great. I haven't carried more than 20 pounds in it, but it transfers weight very well to my hips and off my shoulders...I don't even need to take it off during rest breaks.

Having said that, the ULA circuit does have a lot more ways to adjust the fit, so going ULA would probably be the safer bet fit wise.

Good luck!

Charles Grier
(Rincon) - M

Locale: Desert Southwest
Elemental Horizons on 04/15/2013 08:06:03 MDT Print View

Plus 1 on the packs by Elemental Horizons. I recently bought a Kalais and now have had an opportunity to try it out. I have used a lot of packs over my 65 years of climbing and backpacking and the Kalais is, without doubt, the most comfortable and flexible pack I have ever used. It is about the same size as the Gorilla and will only take a bear can vertically so is not a high volume pack; the Elemental Horizons Aquilo is the company's large pack. But, for a lightweight hiker the Kalais is just right. It is a little heavier than some of it's volume competitors but the suspension setup compensates for the minor weight differential. You should at least look at what Elemental Horizons has to offer before you make a decision.

Edited by Rincon on 04/15/2013 20:59:15 MDT.

Link .
(annapurna) - MLife
Re: Elemental Horizons on 04/15/2013 08:19:00 MDT Print View

From Will Rietveld's review in my link above:

The short answer is the Kalais is one of the best backpacks I have ever tested, and I have tested a lot of packs. As with the Aquilo, Elemental Horizons got (almost)(the thing he was not keen on was the water bottle pockets on the side of the pack which they fixed after Will's review) everything right the first time, and the Kalais is another winner.
The Kalais carried a 25 pound load surprisingly well. I noticed the weight, but the pack transferred all of the weight to my hips. It was at this point that I discovered that the Kalais’ four-pull hipbelt tightening system makes a big difference for carrying heavier loads. By separately tightening the upper and lower pulls, the top and bottom of the hipbelt can be tightened separately, which conforms the hipbelt to the hips and prevents it form slipping under heavy loads.
Elemental Horizons uses a removable contoured aluminum stay that is similar to the one used by Gossamer Gear and Six Moon Designs, but its integration into the pack is much better. Rather than a simple straight sleeve on the inside of the backpanel, the stay is more solidly anchored at the top and bottom of the pack, so it transfers weight to the hipbelt better, as my testing results indicate.
I own the Gorilla,the HMG Windrider and the ULA Circuit and I have to say that I agree with Will,it has become my favorite pack and carries better than my others.

Edited by annapurna on 04/15/2013 08:21:22 MDT.

David Poston
(dgposton) - F

Locale: Texas / Colorado
In the end there can be only one... on 06/06/2013 08:16:00 MDT Print View

Since my trip is fast approaching (about 1 month), I'm going to go ahead and order some packs. I don't think I can really afford to try more than 3. Can you guys help me narrow down my list?

Right now, I'm considering the following:

Elemental Designs Kalais (looks like it is custom-built) - lumbar pad or no?
GG Gorilla
GG Mariposa
SMD Starlite
HMG Windrider 3400 (or Southwest?)
ULA Ohm 2.0
ULA Circuit

I would say that I prioritize comfort (i.e., support) over weight given my lower back issues, although I'd like the pack to be under 2 lbs (lighter is of course better). Having a good frame that transfers well is a MUST! I will probably carry up to 25 lbs. I probably need around 45 L of storage capacity. Thoughts?

Edited by dgposton on 06/06/2013 08:16:32 MDT.

Steven Paris
(saparisor) - M

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: In the end there can be only one... on 06/06/2013 08:56:14 MDT Print View

Holy Ground, Highlander!

Jennifer Mitol
(Jenmitol) - M

Locale: In my dreams....
Re: In the end there can be only one... on 06/06/2013 09:02:03 MDT Print View

Shall I recommend trying one of each company - then you can get an idea of how it carries, because that's what you are really looking for. For example, the mariposa vs the gorilla is simply a volume issue, for the most part. Just look at the volume you need and order accordingly.

I will also strongly recommend the circuit to try - there are so many ways to adjust it, it has a relatively beefy frame (which I was initially hesitant about, but frankly it's growing on me quite a bit).

I can't speak to the others, but I will reiterate my earlier comment about not being afraid of a frameless as long as your gear weight is appropriate. I can't believe how much more comfortable my bad back is since I started carrying the gorilla. I do want to try the ohm tho...

Dave -
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Up there
Re: In the end there can be only one... on 06/06/2013 09:39:28 MDT Print View

Hi David - that is an admirable list.

I am partial to the HMG packs, having used and tested them extensively. Having said that, I have also used the OHM and it is a superb pack. If you are looking at loads of no more than 25 lbs, then the Circuit is likely overkill.

Bottom line is you would be best served to order a few of them, try them and return the ones that don't fit at the expense of shipping costs.

Doug I.
(idester) - MLife

Locale: PNW
Re: In the end there can be only one... on 06/06/2013 09:52:33 MDT Print View

What size are you?

David Poston
(dgposton) - F

Locale: Texas / Colorado
Sizing on 06/06/2013 10:08:52 MDT Print View

I think I'm a small. My torso is somewhere around 16.5". Gregory Packs fit me perfectly in a small (my current pack is a Z55). But Osprey Packs don't fit me a small (at least the Exos series didn't).

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: In the end there can be only one... on 06/06/2013 18:18:56 MDT Print View

"Elemental Designs Kalais (looks like it is custom-built) - lumbar pad or no?"

One note of caution regarding the Kalais: Its side pockets are mesh. If you do much off trail hiking, especially in brush, those pockets will not hold up very well.

While on the subject of side pockets, the OHM is almost universally regarded as having the best side pockets around.

Ultralite Hiker
Zimmerbuilt on 06/06/2013 18:25:31 MDT Print View

If you know exactly what you are looking for, go Zimmerbuilt. His quality is top notch, and his customer service is amazing. He will build whatever you want, with options for Cuben, Dyneema, or Xpac for the body. Chris is a great guy to work with.

Peter Longobardi
(paintplongo) - F

Locale: Hopefully on the Trail
ULA on 06/06/2013 19:01:36 MDT Print View

I used a Catalyst on the AT and a Circuit on the JMT. Awesome packs, very well built and feature rich. Not the lightest offered, but carry the weight arguably the best assuming you get the correct sizing.

(Joomy) - M
Zpacks Arc Blast on 06/07/2013 02:00:31 MDT Print View

Am I really the first one to mention the Arc Blast? Sub-1lb and they look (and are reported to be) awesome (no I haven't tried one).