Hi everyone. I've been lurking here for a while now and have really appreciated the fantastic insights you have collectively offered as my wife and I make the transition to being much more weight-conscious about our gear. We are preparing to purchase new backpacks and would appreciate any specific advice/warnings you might have given our specific needs/circumstances.
First, my wife. She is in her early 50s and is starting to have persistent problems with arthritis in her knees (which is what has finally precipitated our gear transition). In the past, she has typically carried a pack of around 30 lbs (including consumables, for 3-season mountain trips of 1-2 nights). Now, having purchased a pad, returned to an older down bag, and purchased a new Tarptent Double Rainbow (for now, she carries the tent and I carry the food/camp gear), her base weight EXCLUDING backpack is 13 lbs. Her current pack is still way too heavy - an ArcTeryx Bora 75 weighing in at nearly 7 pounds including cover. The problem for her is that she absolutely loves the comfort of her Bora 75, and wants be be sure that her new pack has the same quality suspension system to which she is accustomed. Thus, many ultralight bags that otherwise might be appropriate for her base weight are not something in which she's interested.
My case: my pack has, in my serious photography days, been over 40 lbs. Now, with new quilt, a high-quality food dehydrator, and a much more minimalist attitude, my base weight EXCLUDING pack is 16-17 lbs, with consumables adding another 8-10 lbs. I also have an extremely comfortable but overly heavy pack - an Osprey Argon 85, also ~7 lbs - and am nervous about any reduction is suspension luxury.
At this point, my own three contenders are a ULA Circuit, a GG Mariposa and an Osprey Exos 58. I'm leaning towards the ULA since reviews suggest its a bit more hardy and has a double-strap waist belt. The wife is less certain about what she wants. The GG Gorilla or Exos 46 seem to be the best choices for her specifications. Her natural tendency is to go back and find the lightest ArcTeryx (an Altra 48 at ~3 lbs) since she likes her current suspension system. She does like to bring extra clothing, which is why we probably want to stay in the 40-49 L capacity range (thus the Ohm, apparently ULA's smallest full suspension pack is probably too big at ~60 L).
In any case, our objective is to get her total weight down to 15-20 lbs, all inclusive, and mine into the 25-30 lb range (I'm 10 years younger and don't have the knee issues). We aren't trying to go Ultra Light as we do like our luxuries (books, enclosed tent, etc). Also, we always carry our Bear Vault (450 or 500, depending on trip length). We actually would like to start doing longer trips, her knees be damned, and will be doing a 4 day section of the Northville-Lake Placid Trail in the ADKs in late Sept. A possible JMT is being discussed for 2014.
Thanks everyone for sticking with me through this tome.