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Sub - 2lbs lightweight internal frame pack -- need market update
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Brian Lindahl
(lindahlb) - MLife

Locale: Colorado Rockies
Re: Sub - 2lbs lightweight internal frame pack -- need market update on 06/08/2013 13:09:51 MDT Print View

Honestly, spend the extra $50 in shipping and order each cottage pack and return all but the one that fits you the best (test at your local gym over several miles). Pack fit is SO particular to each individual, that you really should spend the extra $50 to get the best fit.

If you have cash to get the right pack, go McHale. It'll weigh about 1/2lb more, but you'll get the perfect fitting pack - well worth the extra 8oz. It'll pay HUGE dividends when carrying 20-25lbs.

The problem with all of these UL pack manufacturers is that they all have straight backpanels - there isn't a single one that has manufactured an intelligent curve into the fabric backpanel or pads that is maintained once packed. Sure, on some, you can bend the stays, but the load still won't ride close to your back (since only the stays are curved) and will still pull backwards. They're basically designed as solid bricks or cylinders. The only benefit that they have over frameless packs is that they don't collapse when the load gets higher. In my experience, this isn't enough to have truly comfortable carry at 20-25lbs. At those weights, I'd rather carry an extra 1lb of backpack that's designed properly - it will feel lighter (and the extra 1lb isn't even in the suspension!).

The other problem with the UL pack manufacturers is that there isn't a very rigid connection between the hipbelt and the stays. The sway and stretch of the fabrics (that hold the hipbelts and stays to the pack) will cause the stays to twist away from the hipbelt. This also means it'll pull backwards and even effectively acts as torso collapse. The removable hipbelt design is the biggest offender, here. You just can't make one that adequately attaches to stays, at least not with the designs on the current UL market.

IMO, there's a huge hole for someone to fill in quality UL framed packs. The fact that no one is doing it, is kind of astonishing, IMO. Most of these manufacturers don't have a clue how to do a good framed pack - they only know how to do a good frameless pack, and then just tossed stays into them with relatively little research, prototyping and design work (or at least it appears that way). There was probably a bit of copying from other UL manufacturers, as well, which really didn't do them any favors (other than to appear competitive on paper).

I didn't really pull any punches, but of the few UL framed packs I've tried, each one of them exhibited these problems and pales in comparison to a well-designed and well-fitted pack from a major manufacturer. The sad thing is, the weight of those packs are pretty outrageous, and NOT because of the suspension design. If a single UL manufacturer took a proper suspension design and then used UL materials and features, they'd blow away the competition. It would probably weigh a few ounces more than current designs, at most.

To toss one under the bus, the Gossamer Gorilla carried piss-poor. Anyone that argues otherwise has probably never tried a well-fitted framed pack that truly carried comfortably. It might carry 20+lbs better than a frameless pack, but it still carries poorly.

/endrant

Edited by lindahlb on 06/08/2013 14:38:57 MDT.

Drew Jay
(drewjh) - F

Locale: Central Coast
... on 06/08/2013 14:05:29 MDT Print View

Brian, have you tried the Arc Blast?

David Poston
(dgposton) - F

Locale: Texas / Colorado
McHale on 06/08/2013 14:07:08 MDT Print View

Well, I just went over to McHale's website and checked out some of their packs. They look quite nice, but with a price tag to match. I think you are looking at around $600 for one of these packs. Not cheap.

I do agree that a proper, ergonomic, well-made suspension system is important. I think that adding a few ounces to improve in this area would be well worth it. So I'd like to hear more about UL manufacturers who have thought this ought well.

Brian Lindahl
(lindahlb) - MLife

Locale: Colorado Rockies
Re: ... on 06/08/2013 14:36:22 MDT Print View

I have not tried the Arc Blast. The design looks different enough for it to possibly be better. However, from pictures, it still looks like the support pushes weight away from your back. Also, the hipbelt is not centrally attached nor does it appear to be sturdily attached to the stays - they're more or less wings. When a frame is necessary, weight saved in the suspension is often a good example of 'stupid light'.

Edited by lindahlb on 06/08/2013 14:41:48 MDT.

Drew Jay
(drewjh) - F

Locale: Central Coast
Arc on 06/08/2013 15:37:36 MDT Print View

Most of the framed packs I've tried transfer weight to the hip belt vertically, which can cause the belt to sag and slip downward. In my experience the pronounced curve of the Arc frame transfers the weight into the small of the back at something of an angle, which tends to keep the "lumbar" area of the pack glued to your back and makes the hip belt less important. I find the load transfer to be really excellent and every owner review I've read so far seems to agree.

Also, the Arc hipbelt is sewn to the pack bag right next to the bottom of each stay, and is stabilized by the shoulder strap attachment. I've never noticed any sway or twist - it's a pretty solid attachment in use.

Edited by drewjh on 06/08/2013 16:02:47 MDT.

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: Re: Sub - 2lbs lightweight internal frame pack -- need market update on 06/08/2013 17:31:22 MDT Print View

"I didn't really pull any punches, but of the few UL framed packs I've tried, each one of them exhibited these problems and pales in comparison to a well-designed and well-fitted pack from a major manufacturer."

While you're in the mood, what is your take on the OHM 2.0?

Kate Magill
(lapedestrienne) - F
Re: Re: Sub - 2lbs lightweight internal frame pack -- need market update on 06/08/2013 18:14:20 MDT Print View

Brian--

I enjoyed your rant; thanks! I'm curious to know, though, what packs fall into the category of "a well-designed and well-fitted pack from a major manufacturer" for you?

Jennifer Mitol
(Jenmitol) - M

Locale: In my dreams....
Re: Re: Sub - 2lbs lightweight internal frame pack -- need market update on 06/08/2013 18:15:39 MDT Print View

Goodness Brian...

I have been backpacking for about 30 years. I have tried numerous Gregory packs, Osprey packs, Kelty external frame...and I have to say, hands down, none has carried as well as the Gorilla. And my new ULA circuit is a close second, and should do quite well for me on a through hike with a bear can and lots of water.

So I'm pretty sure your rather negative comments are your own personal experiences with packs you haven't seemed to have tried and do not in any way reflect the experiences of many of us.

I happen to find the flexibility of the gorilla to carry better than all those fully suspended Gregorys and Ospreys and Keltys that I've used over the years. It hugs my back like no pack I have ever carried, and the Circuit carries like a dream. I just need to talk myself out of buying an Ohm that I really don't need.....

Kate Magill
(lapedestrienne) - F
Re: Re: Re: Sub - 2lbs lightweight internal frame pack -- need market update on 06/08/2013 18:34:01 MDT Print View

Most of us switch to frameless/UL packs once we've gotten our base weights down to the point that we're confident we don't need beefy suspension anymore. Almost any UL pack will feel comfortable compared to the heavy kit many of us used to carry. The question is, what do you do when your pack contents start to get heavy again... say, a weeklong trip with winter gear, or a trip with young children along? It's not fun carrying 30 lbs in a pack only designed to carry 20, even if it's only for the first couple days of a trip.

I love the design philosophy of UL packs, but there aren't many out there that I would really consider "do-it-all" packs, if doing it all involves carrying more traditional weights. As a minimalist who lives in a hundred-square-foot house, I would really like to have one pack instead of three, and I am coming to terms with the fact that whatever pack I end up with will have to have a good enough suspension to take me anywhere, anytime. Something I can't say of my frameless pack, even though it's perfect for 90% of what I do.

Trace Richardson
(tracedef) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Arc Blast on 06/08/2013 21:45:13 MDT Print View

@Brian: From what you're explaining, it sounds like the Arc Blast fills that hole .... might be worth seeing if you can get your hands one locally to give it a shot .... getting my second one shortly with the new improvements that were recently made .... mine has been great over the last year ...

Doug I.
(idester) - MLife

Locale: MidAtlantic
Re: Re: Re: Re: Sub - 2lbs lightweight internal frame pack -- need market update on 06/08/2013 21:54:21 MDT Print View

"I love the design philosophy of UL packs, but there aren't many out there that I would really consider "do-it-all" packs, if doing it all involves carrying more traditional weights. As a minimalist who lives in a hundred-square-foot house, I would really like to have one pack instead of three..."

Nah, just store one pack inside the other, then it only takes up the space of one pack!

Brian Lindahl
(lindahlb) - MLife

Locale: Colorado Rockies
Re: Re: Re: Sub - 2lbs lightweight internal frame pack -- need market update on 06/09/2013 11:28:05 MDT Print View

Tom,

I've only tried the Ohm 1.0. The Ohm 2.0 is better, but it still exhibits the two problems I mentioned.

Jennifer,

Maybe the Gorilla works different for you, but it carried absolutely awful compared to other better-built suspension systems that I've tried. And yes, I did own the Gorilla briefly (the latest one).

Here's a simple test I use to determine pack load transfer:

1) Load the pack to some of the heavier loads you'll carry.
2) Adjust it to best fit your body.
3) Loosen the shoulder straps

If the very act of loosening the shoulder straps causes the pack to rotate away from your body, it's a very poor design. The better the suspension system, the more you can move around before the back begins to rotate away from your body. A pack with a curvature built into the pack and good stay and hipbelt attachments will balance the load more forward and distribute some of the load across the various parts of your back. Overall, it will be more stable when under motion and exhibit less strain on your shoulders and trapezius muscles.

Of course, just because a pack does a good job at this, doesn't mean that it has a good suspension. However, it's a relatively simple test that clearly demonstrates the poor suspension design of every UL framed pack I've played with.

Another quick visual test that sometimes works: when a pack is adjusted correctly, are the top of the stays and load-lifter attachments more forward (in the vertical plane) than the hipbelt? Or are they directly above the hipbelt? If the latter, generally the suspension won't work as well. The presence of a lumbar curve when packed is also a good indication of a good suspension system.

Drew,

Based on your description, I'm definitely intrigued by the Arc. At the very least, it sounds like it'll definitely work better than the other UL framed packs.

Kate,

Packs with good suspension systems?

The Mammut Lithium 30 actually has a really nice frame design that carries very well and is actually sub-2lbs. You'll want to bend the frame a little bit to fit your back. Honestly, I think this design is the one most adaptable to UL framed packs. I tried to get Zimmerbuilt to make one with a similar frame design, but he refused to stray from his own framed design which, as described to me, is really no different than GG/SMD/MLD frame designs (crap). It turns out he's more of a semi-custom than a true custom shop.

Many Black Diamond packs I've tried have very good suspension designs. I especially like the Demon (caveat: if the framesheet fits your back). Black Diamond is really close to having really good UL designs. The materials are a bit too heavy though.

Many Osprey packs have good suspension designs. Of the Ospreys, my favorite is the Kode snowpacks - they carry skis exceptionally well, which is a very challenging job for any suspension. I'm not particularly fond of the Hornets or Talons. The Talons are actually exceptional for lighter loads, but tend to collapse when you get into the 20-25lb range. If the framing of the Exos fits you, I'm sure it would be an exceptional UL framed pack.

Deuter makes some good suspension systems, but they're pretty heavy duty and overkill. If they paired down the overall overbuilt-ness of the suspension system, and chose the right features and fabrics, they could make a killer UL pack.

Edited by lindahlb on 06/09/2013 12:05:47 MDT.

David Poston
(dgposton) - F

Locale: Texas / Colorado
UL pack with good suspension system on 06/09/2013 12:59:34 MDT Print View

Have you tried the Elemental Designs Kalais? Will Rietveld did a review in which he thought very high of its supportive capabilities. I'm curious why you think none of the UL packs on the market are very supportive. What about the famed ULA Circuit?

I say this not having yet tried a single UL pack. All my stuff thus far (packwise) has been mainstream. I do sympathize somewhat with your concern. If you see my original post, good support is at the top of my list. If no UL cottage manufacturer is making a pack that excels in this area, someone needs to jump into the mix.

Jennifer Mitol
(Jenmitol) - M

Locale: In my dreams....
Re: Re: Re: Re: Sub - 2lbs lightweight internal frame pack -- need market update on 06/09/2013 14:26:23 MDT Print View

Brian, I guess my disagreement with you is why you are so convinced it is the actual design of the pack rather than how it fits you that is the problem? The reason I love the gorilla so much is that FOR ME the shoulder straps really don't even touch my shoulders. At all. I don't really even need to cinch them because it doesn't seem to matter...the pack just rides quite nicely on my hips, hugs my back and is the first pack in 30 years that doesn't give me blisters on my shoulders.

So FOR ME, the design is perfect; FOR YOU it is bad. It is disingenuous of you to cast off all the UL packs as horrid designs for all of us simply because they don't fit you.

My last two packs were Ospreys, including the famed Exos. Horrific for me. Tried to sell it to two different friends, but neither one could carry it because it pulled their shoulders too much, no matter how they packed. Am I saying the design is bad? Nope. Just didn't work for the three of us.

J R
(JRinGeorgia) - F
Drew said on 06/09/2013 16:46:20 MDT Print View

Drew said: "In my experience the pronounced curve of the Arc frame transfers the weight into the small of the back at something of an angle, which tends to keep the "lumbar" area of the pack glued to your back"

I do not have the Arc (drool), but I do have a pack that has a similar curved frame to hold the pack off your back, and I agree totally that it transfers the weight to the small of the back at an inward angle. In everyday life I sometimes have lower back pain that seems to be from my pelvis rotating back and up, causing extra curve and stress in the lower area. When I wear this pack the weight doesn't feel like it is coming "down" on my hips as much as it comes from behind and in -- it seems to be "glued" to your back as Drew said, but more specifically for me it seems to "push" my pelvis inward from behind, which rotates it into a better alignment and actually helps my lower back to feel better than when not wearing a pack at all. YMMV.

Michael Gillenwater
(mwgillenwater) - M

Locale: Seattle area
Re: Drew said on 06/10/2013 13:46:55 MDT Print View

My guess is a powerful variable in this debate is how each person packs their pack (i.e., weight distribution). Unless you are controlling for this factor and sampling across a range of body types, we are largely just exchanging anecdotes.

Josh Brock
(needsAbath)

Locale: Outside
Re: Re: Sub - 2lbs lightweight internal frame pack -- need market update on 06/10/2013 15:57:46 MDT Print View

I some what agree with Brian. This is why I have been expirementing with an old external frame.

but I dont think that everything he said is right. I like my gorilla and think it carries fine as long as the load stays light(which is what its meant for). Problem is I dont always go light and have pushed the pack to its limits.

but i agree with him in that some one needs to design a better UL pack with a better suspension made for carrying low volume but can handle heavy loads.

though admittidly I did not follow all the design aspects he mentioned... Im a visual person.

Link .
(annapurna) - MLife
Re: Re: Re: Re: In the end there can be only one... on 06/13/2013 09:37:34 MDT Print View

Dave,
>overpriced or you simply can't afford it?

There is a difference ;)

Link .
(annapurna) - MLife
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: In the end there can be only one... on 06/13/2013 09:44:14 MDT Print View

Sgt. Rocks review of the Kalais .

J C
(Joomy) - M
Re: Re: Re: Sub - 2lbs lightweight internal frame pack -- need market update on 06/13/2013 10:23:09 MDT Print View

"some one needs to design a better UL pack with a better suspension made for carrying low volume but can handle heavy loads."

I know I keep going on about it but I really do love the suspension on the Crux backpacks. Not only is it mega stiff, it is contoured and it is super light, 65g according to their site! The Keprotec stuff they use is bomb-proof and weighs at least 200g per square metre, plus there is an extra layer of 300gsm cordura stitched over the base. I've always thought that if someone could duplicate/license Crux's frame and harness design and couple it with a lightweight Cuben hybrid for the body it would be the ultimate combo, you could probably shave 25-50% of the total weight. That could mean 600-800 grams for 50ish litres.

Edited by Joomy on 06/13/2013 10:49:12 MDT.