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PCT backpack
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Eric McConnell
PCT backpack on 07/27/2013 23:44:32 MDT Print View

I'm new to the ultralight philosophy but thoroughly enjoying the countless hours of research required to start from scratch. I'm planning on thru hiking the PCT 2014 and though I'm fairly comfortable so far with the gear I have acquired, I have stumped myself on which backpack. I don't have a gear list measured and put together yet.. But hope to have a completed one by October. I have been looking at the Arc Blast by Z packs.. But there is no solid review of it that I can find. I also like the Six moons Starlight.. But I'm not committed to using a closed cell pad for the entire journey. I'm shooting for a base weight of 10lbs which should be easily attainable with my sleeping system weight coming in so low. I'm very close to ordering the hammock gear 20 degree quilt coming in around 20 ounces and am waiting on the MLD bug bivy and cuben patrol shelter with Ti stakes coming in at 14oz.

I purchased the golite Jam to toy around with this summer because it was relatively cheap and could give me an idea of what a frameless pack should feel like. I realize that I like a bit of rigidity and since I'm saving some weight elsewhere, I want my pack to be as comfortable as possible (while still keeping it at or below 2 lbs. I'm not sure how big I should go. In the past, I was the guy who had everything for any situation. I'm learning how to be prepared for the proper situations. With that in mind what pack size is ideal for the PCT? I understand that there are some stretches (140-190 miles) without resupply. I would think I need some decent pack volume for food and water. But I don't want to be left with dead space in a big pack when those long stretches are over. I'm sure I'll have many more questions to come. Thank you for any advice

Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
Re PCT pack on 07/28/2013 06:52:13 MDT Print View

I have not done the PCT but here are some thoughts on packs

-Everyone is different but I've tried frameless packs and come back to light internal frame packs for all but very light and very short trips. If I have more then 15 pounds total I'm just more comfortable with a frame.

-Here are some packs too look at - HMG Windrunner, HMG Porter, Osprey Exos, Gossamer Gear Gorilla or Mariposa, Elemental Designs, ULA Circuit

These are all right around 2 pounds more or less so they fit your weight goals.

Clayton Mauritzen
(GlacierRambler) - F

Locale: NW Montana
Re: Re PCT pack on 07/28/2013 07:26:59 MDT Print View

Luke's hit the nail on the head. I prefer a more structured frame for heavier loads. Also, keep in mind you'll have to manage the bear can for some stretches of the PCT. Make sure you have a plan for that if you take a smaller, frameless pack.

Otherwise, Luke's list is great. FYI, the HMG packs are nice in that the 3400 version is basically the same dimensions as the 2400 packs. The just beef up the shoulder straps and hipbelt and add more to the extension collar--all for only a very small weight penalty. I have only carried the 3400 Porter and have been very impressed. The others on the list are very well-respected too.

James Reilly
(zippymorocco) - M

Locale: Montana
Arc on 07/28/2013 08:22:52 MDT Print View

I am gearing up for a PCT thru as well. I used the MLD Prophet for my AT thru-hike and it worked great with total weights in the 20# range. I would not want to carry any more than that in a frameless. For that reason I too am considering the Arc. I would like to be able to put some more weight in my pack for the longer stretches and it seems that the Arc might be able to do it. I would love to hear from some people with first hand experience with this pack.

Edited by zippymorocco on 07/28/2013 10:31:42 MDT.

Steve Martell
(Steve) - MLife

Locale: Eastern Washington
Re: PCT Backpack on 07/28/2013 08:37:11 MDT Print View

Lots of good choices out there.

This is what I would use (ULA Circuit):

Hiking Malto
(gg-man) - F
Resupplies on 07/28/2013 08:42:09 MDT Print View

You can see a copy of the resupply plan that I planned to use in 2011. I ended up doing a couple of things different. I added Kennedy Meadows north out of Sonora pass to cut down the carry in the tough North Yosemite. This plan completely minimizes resupply points to only those that were simple to access from the trail and is probably the fewest that most would use especially in SoCal. There are a bunch of additional point that will allow you to get the food weight and volume down. For perspective I used an MLD Burn which was plenty big enough for 5 (huge) days worth of food. I ended up packing out seven days worth of food from Kennedy meadows since MTR was still closed due to snow in '11. I had to tie a days worth of food onto the side of my pack when I left KM. Here was my resupply schedule. You can also see the gear list, I would carry almost an identical kit if I were to hike it again.

Sean Nordeen
(Miner) - F

Locale: SoCAL
PCT backpack on 07/28/2013 12:50:08 MDT Print View

Well, the safest bet would be a ULA circuit that many use to hike the PCT; but with your projected baseweight, you'll often think its too big for your gear like I did in 2009.

Though, if you don't know what pack you'll have, how do you know your baseweight will be 10 lbs? Are you assuming that Zpacks pack weight for now? Assuming your baseweight is accurate, you are borderline to be able to use a frameless pack for a thru-hike and you will experience some discomfort when you get to the High Sierra with the bearcan requirement. Its not that you can't do it, but only you know your comfort level for doing so (try some trips out ahead of time with max. expected PCT weight).

I think the ideal pack for the gearsize/carrying weight for you would be the ULA Ohm which would comfortably carry the gear you mentioned and handle the water weight of Socal and the bearcan for the Sierra. A ULA pack will likely last you for an entire triple crown (doing all 3 trails). They do offer a custom hybrid cuben version but you have to talk to them directly since its custom and pay a lot more to save only a few ounces.

If you can live within its limitations, the zpacks arc blast pack with its frame will likely meet your needs for the PCT. The Zpacks packs are good but do require more care in use and so I don't recommend them for someone new to UL backpacking. I know people who had a failure on their thru-hike and had to get it repaired while they used a backup backpack though they loved it til that point. Other people have been successful in using them for an entire thru-hike without issue, but you may not be able to use it for another thru-hike afterwards depending on how worn it is.

Edited by Miner on 07/28/2013 13:05:24 MDT.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Forget base weight on 07/28/2013 20:25:19 MDT Print View

Need to determine the total weight you will be carrying -- this includes food, water and fuel. Food and fuel decrease in weight as you consume it and get closer to your next re-supply. Parts of So Calif will require a lot of water carry. Also important is the required pack volume which dependent on the specific gear you take.

People have successfully completed the PCT with small frameless packs like the GG Murmur, or with big external frame packs.

A lot of these questions cannot be answered by others -- their solutions work for them and not for others. You have a light pack so start hiking with it as much as possible. With experience you will start to learn what works and what doesn't. Then as you find specific problems requiring a solution, advice from those here will be more focused and valuable.

Thaddaeus Wharton
(Thadjw) - MLife
Re: on 07/28/2013 21:45:50 MDT Print View

I did pct sections this year and saw many ULAs. I used a home-modded Six Moons Feather for much of my time. Ultra light and was fine w a bear can. That's frameless. I modded it to cut out the zipper and make it a long throated pack then added a single closing strap ( while removing the two small closing straps). Also note i used the light waist belt optional strap. Used the GoLite Jam 50 L for a nine day stretch in the early part of the trail and that was pretty good too. The lighter the better I realised by my last section. Good luck!

Marko Botsaris
(millonas) - F - MLife

Locale: Santa Cruz Mountains, CA
Re: Re: PCT Backpack on 07/28/2013 22:45:29 MDT Print View

"-Here are some packs too look at - HMG Windrunner, HMG Porter, Osprey Exos, Gossamer Gear Gorilla or Mariposa, Elemental Designs, ULA Circuit "

Add the Elemental Horizons Kalais to the list if your volume is lower ~ 40L. The Kalais is lighter, with a decent frame and the best belt I'Ive ever used on this kind of pack.

Possibly Arc Blast as well if you have 6 weeks to wait.

Both of these pack swallow (I can personally verify) a Berikade Weekender, and therefore the other standard bear cans as well, without any trouble.

Edited by millonas on 07/28/2013 22:50:36 MDT.

Evan Chartier
Gorilla on 07/29/2013 09:40:12 MDT Print View

I highly recommend the GG Gorilla. I used the 2010 version for my PCT hike, and it worked fabulously. I even fit in a Bearikade Expedition vertically. I also had about a 10 pound base weight (maybe a little less). The light frame was fantastic for me, much better than a frameless pack when I wanted the frame, but not much of a weight penalty. Or, you could take the frame out and bounce box it until you need it!


Eric McConnell
picked 2 to send 1 back on 08/08/2013 16:50:01 MDT Print View

I purchased both the GG gorilla and ULA Ohm. Still waiting on the Ohm, but like the Gorilla so far. Little things to note that I like already from the Gorilla is the zip pocket on top, lightweight adjustable compression and the removable sit pad and aluminum stay. I let ya'll know how it goes!

Brian Lewis
(brianle) - F

Locale: Pacific NW
before you choose ... on 08/09/2013 11:18:50 MDT Print View

I would spend some time working up just what your gear list and your total food load will sum to leaving Kennedy Meadows going north into the Sierras using a worst case scenario of a relatively high snow year. Consider in particular if you plan to carry an extra day of food to climb Mt. Whitney along the way, and decide where your first resupply point will be from there to figure out how many days of food to carry (going out Kearsarge pass, or trying to get all the way to MTR or VVR?).

At least in my experience, and from what I've heard from others, leaving KM is the point at which your pack is likely to be heaviest, though indeed it's possible for water carry to approach that in stretches south of there. But think in terms of ice axe, bear canister (and how well and how exactly you plan to load the canister onto or into the pack), and a lot of "I'm a thru-hiker and I eat a whole lot by now" food.

Dave -
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Up there
Re: PCT backpack on 08/09/2013 11:42:49 MDT Print View

If I was doing a long distance trek I would want something more durable and would consider the Hyperlite Mountain Gear Porter. THe fact that it is rain proof is a side benefit.

Eric McConnell
ULM ohm vs GG Gorilla on 08/28/2013 22:55:44 MDT Print View

I kept both backpacks. I love backpacks so I'm not regretting the dual purchase. My problem is until I finalize exactly what I'm taking on my PCT journey, I can't rule one or the other out. The Gorilla fits my body better but has far less features for only 3 ounces less. For example it has no weight lifters above the shoulder straps and less mesh pocket space in the front. It also is about 900 cu in less that the Ohm. The Ohm fills better built and the "smarter choice." I guess I have to see what the pack feels like when its all loaded up. I'll keep you posted

Christopher *

Locale: US East Coast
Re: PCT pack on 08/29/2013 05:19:27 MDT Print View

I did my PCT thru last year. Before leaving: I obsessively weighed all of my gear. I obediently made lists to evaluate grams. I obligingly eliminated all non-essentials that offered only comfort.

I proudly left Campo with a base weight solidly under 10 pounds.
I purposefully arrived in Canada with a 30 pack of beer, 2 bottles of wine and a half-dozen giant cinnamon buns from the Stehekin Bakery.

$h%t happens over the course of 2600 miles.

I'm not saying you cannot or will not do a thru-hike UL or SUL, but being prepared for a change of heart with a pack that can accommodate an evolving perspective and attitude is not a bad thing. (Please forgive the BPL sacrilege)

Edited by cfrey.0 on 08/29/2013 05:24:36 MDT.

Sara Marchetti
(smarchet) - MLife
Re: ULM ohm vs GG Gorilla on 08/29/2013 08:16:34 MDT Print View

"For example it has no weight lifters above the shoulder straps"

Yeah, you want the GG Mariposa if you want load lifters.

(RobertM2S) - M

Locale: Lake Tahoe
Arc Blast reviews on 08/29/2013 13:12:28 MDT Print View

Here's some stuff I found.
"I recently completed the Sierra High Route using the Arc Blast. Here are my impressions of the pack.

This was the updated pack with 2 horizontal stays & taped seams.
I added 2 hip pockets and the total weight came in just under 18oz. My starting pack weight was about 24lbs without water - I generally carry very little water in the Sierra since there is good water readily available everywhere. This was with 6 days of food to make it to the resupply at Reds Meadow. I tend to be pretty weak in the core and upper body, so wanted to distribute as much weight as possible to the hips/legs. The pack did this extremely well, and I had no problems with the weight, even on the 6000' climb the first day with the heavy pack. As pack weight dropped it became so comfortable that I barely noticed it. This was extremely important for efficient travel on the SHR where there is TONS of rock hopping. You want a light pack that carries exceptionally well and doesn't throw off your balance, and the Arc Blast was just that.

The "arc" feature never worked for me.
Tensioning the arc with those tiny cords is hard, and once I got it tensioned as per spec the cord locks would invariably pop loose after a short time. Also, I noticed that when it was in "arc" mode there were uncomfortable pressure points where the stays pressed into my hips. Fortunately, I found that the arc was entirely unnecessary and the pack was completely comfortable without it. I added a thin, 0.5oz piece of foam between my bear can and my back to ensure a comfortable carry, but I'm not sure if this was really needed.

Hip and shoulder belts are very comfortable. I'd prefer if Joe used a wider (2") webbing to connect the shoulder strap to the pack, as the thinner (1.5") webbing would invariable twist when pulling on the second should strap. Not a big deal, but I think easily fixed without adding hardly any weight. With my old pack I would always get some chafing on top of my shoulders in the first couple days of a long hike, but that didn't happen with this pack, thankfully.

The hip pockets are huge, which I like. I carried all food for the day in one pocket, and my camera & other ditties in the other pocket.
The closures are a bit awkward and hard to close with one hand, which constantly annoyed me, but isn't really a big deal.

I love that the pack is completely waterproof (with taped seams). Means that I don't have to mess with a pack cover or liner. It didn't rain on the SHR, but I did use the pack in rain in Colo prior to this trip.

The material seems quite durable. The SHR is brutal on gear (and skin), but I had no problems there.

That's pretty much it. I love this pack & hope to get many trips with it.
It is so much more comfortable (and lighter) than my old, frameless Jam2. If anyone has questions I'd be happy to try to answer from my experience. I hope to put up an SHR TR later this month.


So, I've spent approximately 8 nights/9 days worth of hiking with my Arc Blast now.

I find it very comfortable. I actually feel the pack sitting better on my hips, and there is nothing like a bit of breeze wafting through and over the mesh panel, cooling off my back....yep...I can feel it.
I treat the mesh kindly, as with all of my gear, and find it more than durable for my uses. –
I have my shell gear, Steripen setup, fuel and PLB in the front mesh pocket...and that is it.

I don't notice any discomfort or imbalance from the spacing/mesh panel. I also have an Osprey Talon and another locally made trampoline style pack, so am used to this feeling anyways.

The hybrid material is ace too....very durable, and nice to work with.

I have found myself being more attentive to my packing style though...which is a good thing. I have reduced the number of
dry bags down to 3..
using the zpacks pack liner for my s/bag (zpacks -7 bag), spare clothes, mat (NeoAir) & pillow (OR UL Pillow).
The top dry bag is Joe's large rectangular cuben fiber dry bag (still to arrive), however similar sized dry bag test runs allows me to put my ditty bag, food and condiments (zip locked), Eddie Bauer down jacket , and Evernew 600 with Starlyte set up quite easily...
my Hexamid Solo stays in its own cuben dry bag for the sake of avoiding moisture getting through the rest of the bag. After all of this I still have some room to cinch up the side straps.

The reason why I thought it necessary to paint this picture is because
the arched poles have a slight tendency to pull inwards at the top if I pack the bottom out and neglect to pack out the top.....causing the top to collapse in.
This is expected though, and happens on's just more accentuated with the arched poles. This is easily remedied however, simply by packing my bag correctly in the first place!!

As for the load lifters...I have them on my pack, and find them a waste of time. I use them a lot on other packs that I have, but the UL nature of this pack and subsequent contents kinda renders the use of load lifters useless...for me that is.

I also grabbed a pair of both the shoulder pouches and hipbelt pouches...and I must say they finish the pack off really well.
The shoulder pouches hold my GPS and sunnies etc.,
with the hipbelt pouches looking after snacks, gloves etc.

Really happy with this set up.

Although, I do reaaaally like the white. If anyone wants to swap for an Olive Drab (or work out a deal etc.) for a white let me know!! I know that is superficial, but hey, the white is sexy ;-)

Edited by jase on 11/01/2012 04:35:55 MDT.

Packman Pete
(packmanpete) - MLife

Locale: Rainy Portland
PCT pack on 08/31/2013 01:48:20 MDT Print View

I just got back from a PCT section hike and being a gear geek I was keeping a mental checklist of what others were using. Fully half of the thru hikers were carrying ULA Catalysts. There were quite a few Ospreys and Granite Gear and Gossamer Gear packs, but the ULAs were all over the place. Two hikers I chatted with had given up on their Golite Jams because the frames weren't comfortably carrrying all the food weight. I personally find the GG Gorilla to be just as comfy as the Catalyst, but weigh half as much. Curiously, I didn't see one HMG or Zpack or MLD pack

Edited by packmanpete on 08/31/2013 01:55:25 MDT.

Sean Nordeen
(Miner) - F

Locale: SoCAL
Common PCT packs. on 09/02/2013 22:17:38 MDT Print View

Sure you see a lot of ULA Catalysts. It was also that way when I thru-hiked in 2009. Most potential thru-hikers are far from ultralight hoping just hoping to get their base weight down near 15lbs and for that, the Catalyst is perfect. The OP's gear would be swallowed by that pack never to be seen again in that huge volume. I say that as someone who had one briefly before downsizing for that very reason.

I was redoing a few PCT sections this summer and also saw several of the other ULA packs (Circuits, Ohms, and one CDT besides my own). Usually the 2nd most common pack seen is one of the Osprey's.

HMGs, I've only seen a few on the AT though the owners were happy with them. In fact, I had never heard of them until last summer on the AT when I saw a handful of them. They seemed to have been bought while on the trail as the hikers tried to lighten up.

MLD packs, I've seen a few around on the big trails, but their shelters seem to be more common.