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Paradox Packs Evolution pack system review
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Maia Jordan
(maia) - MLife

Locale: Rocky Mountains
Paradox Packs Evolution pack system review on 01/14/2014 12:27:17 MST Print View

Companion forum thread to:

Paradox Packs Evolution pack system review

Dave -
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Up there
Re: Paradox Packs Evolution pack system review on 01/14/2014 13:19:06 MST Print View

Dave, are there lighter and smaller bags that they will be offering? They are huge. Or is the idea to use your own bag. Not a Member, sorry.

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
Re: Re: Paradox Packs Evolution pack system review on 01/14/2014 14:23:37 MST Print View

Since I finished writing the article Paradox announced a number of revisions in the current packbags, as well as several new ones (both in size and material). I imagine Kevin T will be along to provide the latest on that front.

That said, with the excellent compression system having a too big bag is less a downside here than it usually is.

PS Hunter Scott Reekers wrote a good comparison of the Paradox, Kifaru Bikini/Highcamp, Mystery Ranch Metcalf, and Stone Glacier Solo. The article is currently on the front page of

Edited by DaveC on 01/14/2014 14:31:36 MST.

Nathan Coleman
Pack Review on 01/14/2014 21:06:53 MST Print View

Dave thanks for your effort. I'm a bit surprised at how much you were able to figure out just from seeing a pack, which speaks to your knowledge base.

We have made a couple changes since Dave got his pack. First we added a stiffener to the top of the 4800. Second we changed the foam and the cut just a bit in the harness. Where before the harness was "ok" in my book now it gets to good or even very good.

IMO a harnesses' main duty is to go unnoticed. A great hipbelt is noticed and focused on, but all a great harness needs to do is play second fiddle to that great belt. I think we've achieved both of those.

For 2014 we expanded the pack bag line to include a smaller roll top of around 3800 ci and a larger Day Talon of around 1800 ci. We are also offering side zippers as standard with the option for no zipper. We have also developed a pocketed top lid that will work with any of our pack bags and adds around 600 ci.

This isn't new for 2014, but we are offering a pack bag made from a heavily coated 200d nylon that is 5 oz and $50 lighter than our X-PAC bags. While not completely waterproof, our testing proved it to be essentially waterproof in rain but that will only last as long as the coating.


Philip Tschersich
(Philip.AK) - MLife

Locale: Kodiak Alaska
Website update? on 01/14/2014 21:42:10 MST Print View

When do you think the 2014 products will hit your website?

Do you think you could provide more, and more-detailed images of the products on the site? It is really hard to tell anything about the pack designs from the images there.


Tad Englund
(bestbuilder) - F - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Paradox Packs Evolution pack system review on 01/15/2014 01:09:09 MST Print View

Dave, thank you for this thorough review, though given the late hour, I found it a little soporific while reading some of the technical aspects of how to use the compression straps . As always you continue to increase my vocabulary. It was an enjoyable read.

Given the “minimalist-ness “of this pack, the simple design and relative common materials used; I was aghast at the price of this pack.
I guess fit and comfort come at a exorbitantly high price.

Andrew Wilson
(andreww) - MLife

Locale: Vosges
Bear Canister on 01/15/2014 01:10:37 MST Print View

A worthwhile option would be a separate attachement for bear canisters, and a correspondingly smaller main pack, to sit on top, or underneath. You might grab some PCT and California business.

Nathan Coleman
2014 on 01/15/2014 06:21:44 MST Print View

The new products should be available with pictures within a couple weeks.

The bear can idea is a good one I think. Our pack as it is will carry a bear can in several different ways but perhaps a dedicated system is worth some thought.


kevin timm
(ktimm) - MLife

Locale: Colorado (SeekOutside)
Lighter Packbags and new products on 01/15/2014 08:12:45 MST Print View

Thanks for the great review Dave, that must have been a big undertaking and you force me to learn new words as well :)

The new products should hit the web site next week hopefully. We need to get the media and photos together on them and it takes a little time.

The lighter pack material, is essentially waterproof and pretty durable, although not as durable / waterproof as XPAC, but it will compare favorable to most lightweight pack fabrics. It does save weight, and can bring a 4800 style bag to the 3 lb mark. It is also slightly less expensive.

Here is a list of what is new
- 3900 CI Roll Top
- 6300 CI Roll Top
- Day Talon 1800
- Pocketed Universal Top Lid

We also will be doing some custom pack bag options as well, in sort of a "custom shop" . If you want Cordura, it would be a custom shop, or if you want Cuben, it would be custom shop option.

We also have made adjustments to the harness as was alluded, and I would consider it very good myself. We added a stiffener to all roll top bags, and changed a couple minor details (mainly over the top straps) on the roll top bags.

I suspect with the larger day talon, you can use a bear canister underneath the day talon. The larger day talon functions a bit more like the partial pack bags that were common on many externals.

There are ways to reduce cost and weight. You can use a cuben dry sack style pack with just the suspension and a base talon and be in it less than $400.00 and closer to 2.5 lbs.

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
Re: Re: Paradox Packs Evolution pack system review on 01/15/2014 08:18:59 MST Print View

Thanks Tad. I'll beg your and everyone's forgiveness for being so long winded on the technical aspects of the frame, but given how different it is from anything else out there, and how subtle the best parts are, I had no other choice.

John Harper
(johnnyh88) - MLife

Locale: The SouthWest
Re: Re: Paradox Packs Evolution pack system review on 01/15/2014 09:30:23 MST Print View

I wish this pack was easily available to try on - the hipbelt looks great. I also like that xpac is offered and how the bag attaches to the frame. Larger pack volumes are relatively cheap with respect to weight and they provide a lot more versatility with a good compression system, so good job Paradox Packs. I see some good markets for this pack as you described - family haulers, water carriers, people with bad backs, bear canisters, hunting, etc - but I suspect for most BPLers, the Evolution is overkill.

I would have a hard time picking this pack over my HMG 4400 SW (which weighs under 2 lbs) since my loads rarely reach the 35-40lb range. I simply don't need a frame which can carry 150 lbs. If, however, there was a less beefy version of the Evolution frame meant for only 60+ lbs that brought the total frame + pack bag weight down to 2-2.5 lbs, then I suspect it would appeal to a much wider customer base. Just my opinion though.

spelt with a t
(spelt) - F

Locale: SW/C PA
Re: Paradox Packs Evolution pack system review on 01/15/2014 10:30:32 MST Print View

I have no need for a pack to haul 80 lbs, but I really enjoyed learning about it anyway. That the hipbelt is sold separately tempts me to dust off the unfinished external drybag hauler I have in the closet.

John Abela
(JohnAbela) - MLife

Re: Re: Paradox Packs Evolution pack system review on 01/15/2014 10:38:32 MST Print View

Tad Englund (bestbuilder): I guess fit and comfort come at a exorbitantly high price.

Well, you are talking about a speciality product here Tad.

If you compare the Paradox to the KUIU Icon, which uses a carbon fiber external frame/harness, or the ZPacks Arc (which also uses an external carbon fiber frame), or the Luxury Lite StackPack (which uses a Carbon/Aluminum system)... I think it is fair to say that Seek Outside has this backpack priced at a *very* competitive price range for the niche market that it/they fall into.

+John Abela

Adam Klagsbrun
(klags) - MLife

Locale: Northeast US
pack weight on 01/15/2014 11:01:53 MST Print View

Am I missing something here? UL at almost 4 lbs? The pack looks solid, well made, and worth it if you really need to carry up to 80 lbs but I don't think that anyone carrying up to that much weight should be having discussions about ultralight... There sure must be a niche category of hunters or something here that the pack would be great for, and I have no reason to knock the pack in any way at all. I just think its kind of silly for it to be talked about and tagged as a "UL" pack. It is designed for carrying heavy, not light, loads, correct? Anyone carrying a 20-30lb load in a 4 lb pack is just not really thinking with a UL mindset either. And I'm not judging, I just think these labels need to have some meaning, if people intend to use them at all, right?

Edited by klags on 01/15/2014 11:02:42 MST.

John Harper
(johnnyh88) - MLife

Locale: The SouthWest
Re: pack weight on 01/15/2014 11:19:53 MST Print View

"Am I missing something here? UL at almost 4 lbs?"

Well, to be fair, the pack weights listed are:

Frame = 37oz
4800 VX-21 Packbag = 13.3 oz
Total = 53.3 oz (3 lbs, 5.3 oz)

Karl Kerschner
(Distelfink) - MLife
McHale Packs on 01/15/2014 11:57:26 MST Print View

If BPL is going to review framed packs then I submit that comparable McHale packs merit a review. McHale has provided these same features in more sophisticated forms for decades, and during at least the last decade, while using ultra-light and ultra strong materials. His designs have evolved with backpacker requirements and newer materials.

Rick Adams
(rickadams100) - M
weight vs results on 01/15/2014 12:05:56 MST Print View

To be fair, i have not read the review, but i do own the pack and have a few miles on it. I thought the price was a little high before i bought it but went ahead anyway as it's competitors are higher. It appears labor intensive to make, i'm sure that impacts the cost. I like it because it works, i typically carry 30/35lbs for a lot of reasons, food, water, fishing stuff and other peoples things. To me, base weight is a bunch of bs, i've not once carried just base weight as i like to eat and drink. I go with ul stuff so i can help the other folks i'm out with. This pack does not have cheap stays or a plastic framesheet that collapses easily. It does not have a lumbar style hipbelt that prevents a full wrap. It's design works, particularly the hipbelt which doesn't slip like most others I've used, particularly when lubed with sweat. The frame is obviously solid. I have mixed feelings about the pack bag and am currently using a 65L drybag instead. I plan on making a couple different bags to entertain myself. The design lends itself to MYOG stuff, pretty easy to make any bag you like if you don't need to worry about a frame, shoulder straps and hipbelt. Further, Kevin and staff clearly care about their customers experience. The product is ++ and I believe they are dedicated to addressing customer wants. This pack is for those that are more concerned with having the best experience vs the lowest spreadsheet numbers.

Bradford Rogers
(Mocs123) - MLife

Locale: Southeast Tennessee
Re: McHale Packs on 01/15/2014 12:57:58 MST Print View

I second Mchale. BPL's own Ryan Jordan used a McHale for years.


Locale: South West US
Re: Paradox Packs Evolution pack system review on 01/15/2014 13:25:08 MST Print View

It'd be interesting to see a pack of this class used to push the limits of backpacking. The Arctic 1000 started off with 55 lbs. How much further is possible with another 45lbs of food? I remember the founder of Golite attempted something like this but gave up early on in the journey.

Edit to add: Nice review! Thanks for the write up.

Edited by oiboyroi on 01/15/2014 13:27:46 MST.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Paradox Packs Evolution pack system review on 01/15/2014 13:31:10 MST Print View

Looks like an interesting design that has good potential for adaptation to truly UL oriented packs. Ultimately it is far outside the pale for UL use and the cost is near equal to my entire kit.

It's nice curiosity and study in design, but worthy of UL consideration? I think not. My cira 1980's Jansport is within a few ounces of the same and far less expensive. Has Cottage Gear Stagnation driven BPL to reviewing such products?

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
Re: Re: Paradox Packs Evolution pack system review on 01/15/2014 13:56:49 MST Print View

I specifically addressed the meaning of "ultralight" in the article. Those who persist in seeing this as a numbers only issue will continue to not have my sympathy.

Jason McSpadden
(JBMcSr1) - M

Locale: Rocky Mountains
re: Paradox Packs Evolution review on 01/15/2014 13:58:04 MST Print View

Jeez! Didn't you nay sayers read the review? David writes the following, "At times even the most indoctrinated lightweight hiker will need to carry a heavy pack. Zeno’s rule of ultralight backpacking states that an infinite number of infinitely light things will be infinitely heavy. Food comes to mind, as does insulation for cold temperatures, and technical equipment such as mountaineering, packrafting, or skiing gear. Combine any two of these things, and the weight adds up fast. Hauling meat out after a successful backcountry hunt is another instance when even the most intentional load can be enormous."


"Before I proceed, further, let me define a few terms. I prefer to think of ultralight not as defined by a certain weight threshold, but as a guiding principle for design and the evaluation of it. If a product has been ruthlessly stripped of excess parts (i.e. weight) to the furthest limit of practicality, it is ultralight. This term must then be thoroughly contextualized to have any meaning as sensible weight reduction in one application would be an act of the self-immolating ideologue in another."

I'll take David at his word in that one of the acceptable definitions of ultralight is simplicity. I think this is a fascinating review about a product, (which I knew nothing about), that could help me enjoy The Great Outdoors more than I currently do. This pack seems to have the flexibility to carry just about any size load comfortably. I find David's expertise and experience helpful in making my future pack decisions.

In my mind he seems to be writing that he may been in the process of discovering, to paraphrase Tolkien, "one pack to rule them all."

Sam Haraldson
(sharalds) - MLife

Locale: Gallatin Range
Paradox Packs Evolution pack system review on 01/15/2014 15:33:22 MST Print View

Thorough, scientific gear reviews of this caliber are why I continue to visit Backpacking Light week after week after week.

At least one hunting-specific review of the Evolution should be up on the greater internet by the time you read this.

Dave, has this article surfaced yet, and if so would you please share the link?

peter vacco

Locale: no. california
Re: Re: Re: Paradox Packs Evolution pack system review on 01/15/2014 15:42:22 MST Print View

" Those who persist in seeing this as a numbers only issue will continue to not have my sympathy. "

true fact, eh.
now, on to bending those 7075 stays .. ya'll don't need a vise (of whih i own an extremely nice one), because what they make for bending pack stays is a tool called a "picnic table".
picnic tables bend pak stays hella excellent. AND, you have a handy place to stack all that un-ul caca while you're creating your latest version of perfection.
some discretion is advised, in that a healthy stay is manly enought to lift the more questionable picnic table planks if one is not careful. but just use good manners, and everything works out for the best.

in the world of higer weights, all is exatly as the author states : one must be of appropriate oondition (and attitude) to tote big numbers. a trendy pack alone is not going to cut it.

great review !
i have been wondering is these things were going to work, or were another "cheese shop" sort of an affair. can't wait to test haul one.
now, will one be at the west coast GGG ?


Misfit Mystic

Locale: "Grand Canyon of the East"
24hourcampfire on 01/15/2014 16:02:48 MST Print View

Hi Sam,

I think it was mentioned above, but earlier I read a review on Well done, quite informative, although the pack tested was a pre-production model. It seems that Dave and these reviewers, noting the same potential improvement to the shoulder harness, are the impetus behind the updated harness on production models. It's definitely on my wish list; seems a great tool for trail work, where I might need to pack in a chainsaw or such.



Dave -
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Up there
Re: Paradox Packs Evolution pack system review on 01/15/2014 16:03:03 MST Print View

Sam, Dave mentions it in post #2:

Sam Haraldson
(sharalds) - MLife

Locale: Gallatin Range
Paradox Packs Evolution pack system review on 01/15/2014 16:11:26 MST Print View

Thanks for the heads up on the 24 article everyone. I wasn't sure if that review was the aforementioned or not. That one's sitting in another tab in my browser until I have some time to give it the time it deserves to for me to read and digest it.

Josh Kuntz
(Josh_Kuntz) - MLife

Locale: Idaho & Montana
Well done on 01/15/2014 16:28:12 MST Print View

Thanks for a great review. As a backpacker and a hunter, I have been very curious about this pack and you have given the most comprehensive review I have seen thus far. Well done.

If you are looking for ideas for another pack review, I would love to see a similar style review for the Stone Glacier packs. Either the SOLO or SKY 5100 models.


David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
Re: Well done on 01/15/2014 17:15:25 MST Print View

Thanks Josh. The new Stone Glacier packs do look interesting. Lots of exciting developments in this area.

Sam the 24 Campfire is the article I had in mind. For some reason they don't facilitate permalinks.

Peter, I used a convenient split-trunked birch in the front yard for stay bending. Peculiar to the neighbors, but effective.

Ed Tyanich
(runsmtns) - F - M
Nice write up on 01/15/2014 17:47:48 MST Print View

Nice article Dave. Your experience with the Paradox is very similar to mine. Mine was also a pre-production pack and I'm glad Nathan and Kevin listened to input on shoulder harness, adding Pals webbing to the hip belt etc.

I did have the chance to pack out an elk in mine and outside of the shoulder harness which has since been changed, it handled a maximum load of 96 lbs quite well.

Christopher *

Locale: US East Coast
Re: Paradox Packs Evolution pack system review on 01/15/2014 21:40:09 MST Print View

Thank you for the well articulated and thoughtful write-up.

I was interested in the frame design when these packs were first announced.

I am however still not certain I fully understand the claim; "As the load in the pack goes up, the tension in the whole system becomes greater, and the frame stiffens."

Can anyone explain with a bit more clarity how that press-fit articulating joint becomes stiffened with the addition of increased weight?


David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
Re: Re: Paradox Packs Evolution pack system review on 01/15/2014 21:46:42 MST Print View

"Can anyone explain with a bit more clarity how that press-fit articulating joint becomes stiffened with the addition of increased weight?"

As you can see in the photos of the bare frame, at rest the frame is a U with the vertical sides parallel. The fabric encasement forces the vertical parts to bend towards each other. The greater the load placed onto said encasement, the greater the outward force back towards parallel orientation, which in turn makes articulation un-possible.

Ian Clark
(chindits) - MLife

Locale: Cntrl ROMO
thank you on 01/15/2014 22:30:43 MST Print View

Great review as always. I fully understand the concept of a light weight load hauler and I see no need for an UL argument here. Of course not everyone has had to haul tools/materials for trail maintenance, replace batteries for remote repeaters, SAR gear, communication gear, multiple optics and game cameras, or food for a team in the field. So I accept their confusion and innocence.

Edited by chindits on 01/15/2014 22:33:10 MST.

Christopher *

Locale: US East Coast
Re: Re: Re: Paradox Packs Evolution pack system review on 01/15/2014 22:37:53 MST Print View

Thank you for the reply David, and again thank you for the write-up and the plethora of pictures.

Unfortunately I am still having trouble visualizing the mechanics involved with the frame.

I can see that the fabric "encasement" is designed to force the vertical members together. In my mind the frame would exhibit "maximum" articulation in the bare state ... that is the frame would demonstrate the fullest articulation possible when unloaded and out of the "encasement" with the vertical members in parallel position and the press-fit bottom joint unstressed. With the "encasement" forcing the vertical members together, I would intuitively think the inward system tension would place stress on the press-fit joint and inhibit articulation, before the addition of any weight or any other outside forces ... obviously this is the opposite of how it apparently works, I'm just not certain I understand why.

I also am having difficulty visualizing how addition of weight (forces pulling down and out) would effect a force that would pull the vertical members back toward parallel. If anything I would think the opposite would be true.

Additionally on a more global scale, if forcing the vertical members back toward parallel orientation has any definitive effect on frame articulation, how great of an effect do the multitudinous cross-pack (from vertical member to vertical member) compression straps effect frame performance? Can you unintentionally effect frame flex by cranking down on those straps?

Sorry if this line of inquiry is sophomoric. I found the frame design and claims to be really intriguing, but I cannot seem to visualize how it is actually working.

Edited by cfrey.0 on 01/15/2014 22:44:10 MST.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Re: Re: Paradox Packs Evolution pack system review on 01/15/2014 23:11:31 MST Print View

DaveC wrote, "I specifically addressed the meaning of "ultralight" in the article. Those who persist in seeing this as a numbers only issue will continue to not have my sympathy."

You can write all the disclaimers and excuses you like, it's a heavy pack for heavy loads and antithetical to the whole UL concept. Indeed numbers DO come into it and I certainly don't seek your sympathy! It is an editorial trend I don't truly grasp.

I don't intend to be mean spirited, but it does smack of "this isn't pertinent, but we're going to review it anyway."

Alister R Barnes
(ARB) - F

Locale: Piha
Pack weight and comfort on 01/16/2014 00:03:37 MST Print View

An extremely well written review, David. If read carefully, it is easy to decide whether this pack is for you, and whether it is worth buying,
As you say, UL is a state of mind, and not simply about pounds and ounces. To me it meets what should be the BPL criteria.
Delete this review, and BPL would be less interesting, and therefore less attractive.

spelt with a t
(spelt) - F

Locale: SW/C PA
Re: Re: Re: Re: Paradox Packs Evolution pack system review on 01/16/2014 08:17:20 MST Print View

>>You can write all the disclaimers and excuses you like, it's a heavy pack for heavy loads

For the loads it carries it's a very light pack, actually. The comparable capacity Mystery Ranch weighs twice as much. I have a very comfortable older internal frame that weighs about 3 lbs, and while I've had 60 lbs in it (unwillingly), I wouldn't care to do so again.

>>and antithetical to the whole UL concept.

We enjoy and applaud adventurers who do wild, epic trips (Skurka, Gates, Erin and Hig)--certainly we aren't deluding ourselves they're skipping down the trail with 20 lbs? What is the difference between applying UL principles so you can carry 50 lbs of expedition food and a packraft vs doing the same so you can carry an elk quarter? No one gets bonus points for packing out meat in a Golite Jam. It's not appropriate for the job, and would rightfully be called stupid.

>>Indeed numbers DO come into it and I certainly don't seek your sympathy! It is an editorial trend I don't truly grasp.

I think of it as exploring the function of tools that can be used to do things in the woods other than just walk. Anytime I take my packraft it adds ten pounds automatically. Is any trip with a packraft then not UL, even though compared with a folding kayak, a packraft itself is definitely UL? What if my base weight sans rafting gear is 2 lbs? 10 lbs?

I'm not the best to proffer an opinion, probably, but I like the expanded focus. When I first started reading at BPL the PCT/Sierras bias was easy to see even if I didn't know what to call it. Indeed, I've started such threads as "What's so great about the JMT?" and "Why are rocks more interesting than trees?" (second one somewhat paraphrased, about the bias towards hiking/taking pictures above treeline).

I think the point I'm trying to make is that if you want to do different things in different environments, you have to carry different stuff. Sometimes you have to carry a lot of weight, even if your planning and gear selection are ruthlessly efficient. I think that process--learning it, applying it, designing gear around it--is a more useful application of UL overall than keeping the focus only on items of gear below a certain weight.

Edited by spelt on 01/16/2014 08:23:14 MST.

Sam Haraldson
(sharalds) - MLife

Locale: Gallatin Range
Paradox Packs Evolution pack system review on 01/16/2014 09:03:20 MST Print View

I sure as hell wouldn't have wanted an ultralight frameless pack to carry my chainsaw, pulaski, water, and emergency gear when I worked on trail crew so I opted for a Northface internal system of moderate weight. The platform systems that existed back then were pretty heavy and looked more like medieval torture devices than the beauty of a rig featured in this article.

For the weenies out there more weight could possibly be saved by sewing the packbag directly to the frame panel but that would come at a serious loss to the versatility of being able to have multiple sizes of packbags. Also, leaving the panel pocket at home saves a 1/4 pound. All in all the low weight of this item as a ratio to it's load bearing capacity is hard to beat.

Dave -
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Up there
Re: Paradox Packs Evolution pack system review on 01/16/2014 09:13:29 MST Print View

I agree that should one need to carry a load, this would be an option albeit this pack was designed specifically for hunters who requir carrying heavy quantities of meat. Of course the pack could be used for other things.

For what it seemingly does, the weight empty does not seem to be abnormal when compared to comparable products.

"For the weenies out there..." This made me laugh. Mostly because it wasn't that long ago that I got picked on by both Sam Haraldson and Mike Clelland for suggesting that a 3lb framed pack could be considered as an addition to a posted gear list that had a frameless book bag as the 'load' carrier given the weights that would be carried. This is backpacking LIGHT, they said. I took it in stride.

I would still prefer a Mchale. ;)

Sam Haraldson
(sharalds) - MLife

Locale: Gallatin Range
Paradox Packs Evolution pack system review on 01/16/2014 09:32:06 MST Print View

I bet Mike still sticks to his guns on that one, Dave.

Dave -
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Up there
Re: Paradox Packs Evolution pack system review on 01/16/2014 09:36:48 MST Print View

"I bet Mike still sticks to his guns on that one, Dave."

Indeed. ;)

Ryan Smith
(ViolentGreen) - F

Locale: Southeast
Re: Re: Paradox Packs Evolution pack system review on 01/16/2014 11:09:51 MST Print View

Dave C-

Although this pack is much more than I need for any trips I take, I appreciate the well thought out review. Well done.

I understand some of the angst regarding these reviews. I try to keep it in perspective that there isn't a publication out there that grabs my attention with every single article, so I can't expect BPL to do so everytime either. They still hit the mark more than most. Without BPL, I would've never even known pack rafting existed! Now, I look forward to the day I can try it out.


Edited by ViolentGreen on 01/16/2014 11:10:44 MST.

Eric Blumensaadt
(Danepacker) - MLife

Locale: Mojave Desert
Very interesting... on 01/16/2014 14:10:15 MST Print View

Dave, thanks for reviewing this truly innovative pack design. Great photos and comparison chart.

I could have used the Evolution in its larger hunting format when hunting mule deer in northern Nevada's Ruby Mountains this October. Instead I used my old Dana Designs Terraplane with my scoped Browning .300 Win. mag. strapped to the back of that pack. I was carrying over 50 lbs. but the d@mn pack itself weighed 7.5 lbs!

With 10 F to 15 F. nights and early mornings I had to carry a liner for my TT Moment, a mummy-shaped down "topper" for my overfilled WM 3 season bag and warm clothing like a Thermolite Micro insulating layer jacket, GTX hunting parka, GTX winter gloves W/removable liners, GTX knee high gaiters, etc..

Then there was the dressing-out/dragging-out gear like a larger folding lockblade knife, elbow length nitrile gloves, gallon ZipLoc bags for heart and liver, rollup plastic "Deersleigher" sled, and Gerber folding bone saw.

So UL backpackers who have not backpack hunted please understand the minimum logistics required of a backpacking hunter.

Good Lord, if I could have saved 3 lbs. on my pack weight with the Evolution I'd have done it. Now there is a pack that will easily make me sell my Terraplane. (I understand Terraplanes are now collectors items. Good!)

Nico .
(NickB) - MLife

Locale: Los Padres National Forest
Paradox Packs Evolution pack system review on 01/16/2014 17:19:59 MST Print View

Nice review Dave. It looks like a well thought out pack with some interesting features/design concepts. I appreciate you taking the time to walk us through and explain the various components and options.

Like many others, I personally don't have too many needs for a pack of this size or carrying capacity, but I can appreciate that for what it's been designed to do, it's an ultralight solution.

I could certainly see it come into play on an extended unsupported expedition, a long desert hike, packrafting trips, hunting trips or even a hike-a-bike trip where one needs to strap and carry their bike for a portion of the trip. If this pack helps to achieve one of these trips in an UL fashion (and save a few lbs on what's surely to be a heavier load), then it seems relevant and BPL appropriate to me.

A pack like this makes me want to dream up ambitious trips that could make use of its abilities.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Re: McHale Packs on 01/16/2014 19:28:00 MST Print View

Dan has stated many times that he really doesn't want his packs reviewed. He doesn't need reviews to sell packs.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Re: Re: Paradox Packs Evolution pack system review on 01/16/2014 19:31:00 MST Print View

"I specifically addressed the meaning of "ultralight" in the article. Those who persist in seeing this as a numbers only issue will continue to not have my sympathy."

Yes, Yes, Yes!!!!

Ian B.

Locale: PNW
Re: Re: Re: Re: Paradox Packs Evolution pack system review on 01/17/2014 13:32:28 MST Print View

A pack that can carry up to 100lbs (per their website) that weighs 3lb 10oz is interesting to me. This is a great option for those who would like to go on an extended journey but do not have the luxury of a resupply. I understand that this may be a foreign concept to those who never or rarely leave a groomed trail.

I also suspect that if a review of the 48oz ULA Catalyst with a 40lb capacity was done instead, the reactions here would be much different. For a 10oz penalty between the two, I can carry a pint less of water and still come out 6oz ahead.

Not trying to be a BPL groupie but another great article David.

Edited by IDBLOOM on 01/17/2014 13:57:12 MST.

Vanne Mocilac
(tui-chub) - MLife

Locale: South Western Montana
Re: Paradox Packs Evolution pack system review on 01/17/2014 19:58:33 MST Print View

As an older female who archery and rifle hunts in Montana, I really enjoyed this article! This year I boned out a bull elk and put it in Alaska bags to air cool. Four men with various frame packs helped get it out in one trip. I used a Mystery Ranch Trance XXX with the meat inside a trash compactor bag inside my pack, and a Kifaru Gun Bearer for my rifle. Twice I fell and had to be picked up off the ground, like the Gary Larsen cartoon! I need a pack to carry warm clothes for glassing, but ever hopeful, for carrying out meat! Maybe we are a small niche market, however, I love articles like this! Getting off the beaten path to hunt and not having to come back to camp in the dark and then turn around and leave the next morning in the dark is why I joined BPL and sold the wall tent and cylinder stove. Titanium and cuben fiber are my knees' best friends, well, next to my elk packing friends...

Edited by tui-chub on 01/19/2014 09:05:37 MST.

Michael C
(chinookhead) - F - M
David....frame height? on 01/25/2014 21:27:16 MST Print View

David C......thanks for the review. Can you tell us what frame length you used this pack at? Did you keep it at 28" with the frame extensions in or did you sometimes use it at 24"? I am contemplating just getting the 28 solid frame and perhaps trimming it to 26 for a balance between more actual load lifter effect and not needing a 28" frame, since I can't see myself ever carrying much more than 60 pounds. Also, I'm wondering if the 28" frame height made it feel like your head was being forced to lurch over or if at 24" there was not much actual load lifter action? If the 24" configuration had some load lifter effect and the 28" was not too constricting than I will go with the 24/28 standard frame extension configuration instead of trimming a solid 28" frame by 2".

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
Re: David....frame height? on 01/25/2014 22:13:49 MST Print View

Michael, I used the frame with extensions (28") almost all the time. At a 21" torso length, I get some load lifter action at 24, but not much. For me, 26" would probably be fine most of the time, but the extra 2 inches is very welcome at 50 pounds and above.

kevin timm
(ktimm) - MLife

Locale: Colorado (SeekOutside)
Frame Height on 01/26/2014 16:29:59 MST Print View

You can get a standard frame and trim it to desired height, or else use a frame with extensions. I'm 6'1 and find 26 fine for all but the heaviest loads. I would no have qualms about using it for everything. I've also used the 24 and 28 , and both are fine as well, but the 24 has limits of load. The trimmed variant is slightly lighter. I don't find the frame height problematic with either setup. Take my comments for what they are, I am the vendor, but also someone who had put a lot of time in using it as well, in just about every form I can imagine.

Edited by ktimm on 01/27/2014 06:46:07 MST.

Michael C
(chinookhead) - F - M
Scrambling with the paradox? on 01/30/2014 22:32:57 MST Print View

Dave.....or anyone else who has used this pack. How do you think this pack would feel for some mild scrambling and climbing (class 3-4)? I'm asking because for my intended usage it'll be needed to haul in 40-60lbs of gear for week long trips and then it'll be used for daily peak bagging and scrambling. Should I expect it to be very similar to internal frame packs in terms of not feeling like a typical external frame pack making balance tricky when scrambling?

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
Re: Scrambling with the paradox? on 01/31/2014 07:07:29 MST Print View

You'll find it more stable and body-hugging than just about any burly internal with which I've had experience, due to the frame articulation and close center of gravity. The only thing which holds the Paradox back in this area is size, there's no way for a 14" wide pack to feel as agile as a 10" wide one.

Edward Jursek

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Paradox Packs on 01/31/2014 21:34:33 MST Print View is not what I have paid money for. This article and a number of other recent articles show a very identifiable drift into areas away from the what I think is the core mission of BPL and why I pay money to belong here. I see a lot of editorial space and staff energy being directed into areas like pack rafting, heavy packs, hunting, biking, etc. Perhaps the editors and staff have become bored with UL and SUL and moved to other pursuits? These kinds of articles more properly belong in the "Off Piste" forums and not worthy of a feature article.

Misfit Mystic

Locale: "Grand Canyon of the East"
Disagree on 01/31/2014 22:40:13 MST Print View

Sorry Edward, but I must disagree with your sentiments, and I find the snarkiness somewhat silly. Many of us take trips to places where SUL won't get it done; the terrain and conditions are too difficult, the required gear too heavy and extensive. Spend some time traversing terrain in Alaska or western Canada and you can appreciate what I mean. Not to mention, someone has to build and maintain the trails where you endeavor to pursue your SUL ethos, but I suppose we'll just disregard the madness of trying to pack in tools with a SUL pack? Maybe we should never travel into dry climates where multi-gallon water carries are required? Perhaps we should only traverse areas where a resupply is merely a hitch-hike away? My ultralight glacier/high mountain gear weighs more than an SUL baseweight, but your not moving through an extensively glaciated area without axe, crampons, harness, rope, prussiks, etc. SUL has it place: on a boring, well-trodden, sanitized trail. Which means the SUL hiker misses the wildest, most remote of destinations, the places where wilderness is still truly wild. I'll pass...

Tony Ronco
(tr-browsing) - MLife
Comparing Apples and Oranges on 02/01/2014 07:56:16 MST Print View

I think it is fair to say that in terms of BPL's overall membership, both SUL and Hunting out of a Pack (HOOAP?) are both niche interests: Apples & Oranges.

But given that they are both on BPL they do have a commonality in the interest of shaving weight in order to enjoy their pursuits more ... but apparently not all realize those pursuits are different. (And that difference will inevitably result in different gear selections)

SUL is probably the bigger niche here (or at least has seen the most print on how "low can you go", in addition to having its own forum) ... so it likely there are more practitioners with that mind-set, here at BPL.

If the HOOAP folks had their own BPL forum (and not be hidden in the "Other Activities" forum), then the SUL folks would have an advance warning on content they are reading if they decide to click into it ... no Apples to Oranges confusion.

In reference to the post above for needing a big load hauler for some epic remote off-trail Alaskan adventure (non-hunting trip): there are many possible choices that are significantly lighter than the pack reviewed. For one possibility, we can look to Andrew Skurka's Alaska-Yukon Expedition where he decided to use an ULA Epic pack which with the 70 Liter (!!) dry bag he used, weighs 43.4 oz. (= 40 oz for the pack + 3.4 oz for the dry bag: quite a bit lighter that the the 58.6 oz listed for the pack in this review ... and even though it is a breakthrough pack for backpack hunting, as David himself wrote his review: "The utility of the Evolution for the non-hunting backpacker is a bit less clear" ...)

Also in reference to the post above "SUL has it place: on a boring, well-trodden, sanitized trail" (*smile* snarkiness aside, even though being snarky is admonished earlier in that post). One only has to look to John Muir himself as an excellent counterexample. Almost all of his ramblings were off trail (as were no formal trails)

As for my self, I haven't gone on a backpack hunting trip - but respect those that do and their way of connecting to the outdoors.
... and when I do occasionally go SUL I'm either in a friendly, fun competition with friends, or going on a cross country Sierra trip where I want to be fast & nimble.

"The more you know, the less you need" - Yvon Chouinard

HYOH. (which I realize might now, have two meanings: Hike Your Own Hike, and Hike Your Own Hunt ;-)

Edited by tr-browsing on 02/03/2014 07:59:55 MST.

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: Paradox Packs on 02/01/2014 08:06:04 MST Print View

I, like Edward, am not interested in heavy packs like that

But there were some good ideas about packs in general

That video that showed taking the pack apart - it's inconceivable that there could be so many straps on one pack - amazing!!! - good for some entertainment value watching it - the designer must have a strap fetish : )

Roman Vazhnov
(joarr) - MLife

Locale: Russia
Paradox vs ULA Epic on 02/01/2014 11:04:58 MST Print View

As i can see, Paradox in dry bag hauler configuration weights around 49 oz:
There is also 4800 cu in ultralight combo which weights 48 oz:
So weights are comparable, but Paradox carries much better, judging by this review.

andrew flux
(adventure95004) - F

Locale: Florida/S.Carolina
Just a thought from the other side of the "light" in BPL on 02/02/2014 19:27:11 MST Print View

I am very interested in the review and enjoyed the thought and effort put into it.I have no interest in going SUL or even UL although I have learned much from these reviews. A sub 4lb pack(pack not load) is light for me and one that can carry a load is rare and one that is as modular as this is even rarer unless you go custom.
I have shaved off a good 10lbs from my load over the 2 years I have been on BPL much of it from product reviews and the articles for things that were not strictly SUL/UL.
I know sometimes wit and sarcasm can be hard to convey in a post but reading some of the previous comments about this review smacks a little bit of elitism,something that seems to pervade the sport and pushes people away that might not be as commited to UL but enjoy backpacking "light" as in not humping the traditional 30lb pack but closer to 20, yes that's light to me!! AND I LIKE IT :-)
If a product is not for you then maybe you should just click on the next one and if you have nothing constructive to add to the discussion then why post.
It is BackPackingLight not Backpackinglessthan4000g yes that is a little wit and sarcasm :-)
Thanks for ALL the work BPL does I learn a little from most of the things you do.

kevin timm
(ktimm) - MLife

Locale: Colorado (SeekOutside)
Weights on 02/10/2014 10:21:47 MST Print View

Yes, we have some sub 3 lb options available. Using the lighter frame saves 3 ounces and the lighter bag material saves another 5 - 6 ounces. Not using a Talon compression panel saves weight as well. Another alternative is using a lightweight dry bag, like an Evac dry bag and you get sub 3 lbs, which is comparable to most of the lighter / lightly framed packs. We take a very holistic view of reducing weight, while not sacrificing performance, or longevity. For instance, our pack bags are sort of large, and this in itself helps to save weight by reducing compression sacks and stuff many people use to get gear in smaller pack bags. It also reduced the Beverly Hillbilly affect as well. If you don't need all the volume, don't compress stuff as much. There is no harm in under compressing sleeping gear. We also choose to use materials that do not gain much water weight.

As always, we will continue to push the envelope on weight, while trying to balance usability and durability.

Thanks for all the comments.


sean neves
(Seanneves) - M

Locale: City of Salt
Re: Paradox Packs on 02/18/2014 10:07:15 MST Print View

Couldn't disagree more with you on this, Edward. Subscribed for the last six years. Typical base-weight sub-10lbs, etc, so I have the street cred. I also do massive un-resupplied packrafting trips too. I have been known to haul bikes in really weird ways. Not everybody works outside the way that I do so I don't expect the world to bend to my ways. You shouldn't either. This is really useful information for a lot of people. The gram-weenie stuff is boring now for me. Been there, done that.

Great work, Dave. One of the best articles on here in some time.

Edited by Seanneves on 02/18/2014 10:36:49 MST.

Anthony Weston
(anthonyweston) - MLife

Locale: Southern CA
Paradox evolution suspension on 02/28/2014 07:25:03 MST Print View

Enjoyed the review. If I have to carry water or I'm on a long trek the paradox suspension may be useful.

Anthony Weston
(anthonyweston) - MLife

Locale: Southern CA
z on 03/01/2014 09:22:33 MST Print View

Part of the reason I enjoyed the article was the honesty and thought that went into the article. I liked that the author wrote,

" the best contemporary UL internal frame packs can carry close to if not more than 40 lbs, and do so well. These same packs hover around 2 lbs. While I don’t see any ready ways for Paradox to cut weight from the current design without impeding either durability or function, I nonetheless need a compelling reason to carry the extra pound and a half which the Evolution frame represents. The best answer to this question lies not in the brute ability to transfer weight throughout the frame system, but in the comfort with which a given pack does so."

I ended up purchasing an Paradox Frame that I paired with a Zimmerbuilt backpack 13 oz. I like a narrow pack, dimensions similar to zpacks blast.
The Paradox frame is the most comfortable backpack I have every used, a thing of beauty.



I'll do a review later and compare it to the HMG Porter which I also own. A large part of buying a backpack is personal taste, kind of like buying a car so to each his own. I've owned a GG Gorilla, a ULA Omh, Circuit and Airx, an HMG Windrider and a Porter. My goto backpack is a 13 oz Zpacks Blast with stays and I usually carry about 18 lbs with food and water on a two night backpack, my base weight with a few optional items is about 5.5 lbs. I'm planning a longer trip without resupply and I plan to carry about 30 lbs, not sure if I'll take the Porter or the Paradox.

I also have an injury that doesn't allow me to put weight on my shoulders.

The Paradox has the more comfortable hipbelt and the better suspension system.
I like that I can used a hydration sack outside the pack.
It can hug the body or I can loosen the shoulder straps and lean it back like an external frame. Does the comfort justify the extra weight? Can the frame be stripped down even more?

My HMG Porter with custom water side pockets and hipbelt pockets weighs 35 oz, the Paradox with Zimmerbuilt weighs 51 oz, 16 oz more. If I add a golite infinity framesheet to the Porter then the Porter weighs 41 oz. The framesheet is extremely strong; it has 6 tiny metal rods with diameter of the lead in a pencil encased in plastic an molded to the proper shape.


The ParadoxZimmerbuilt does handle the Bearikade Expedition better.jjll

Nothing left to do but load em up and see which I like better after a full day of hiking. I also could strip it down a bit but not sure I'd want to lose the functionality.

Edited by anthonyweston on 03/01/2014 09:34:07 MST.

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
Re: Paradox and Zimmerbuilt on 03/01/2014 14:03:32 MST Print View

Looks good Anthony, hope it works for you. I look forward to thoughts about comparing the Paradox and Porter, and what difference the framesheet makes in the later.

Kevin T and I have been knocking around a few ideas about how to make the Paradox lighter still, but that will be a long running project.

Richard Nisley
(richard295) - M

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: z on 03/01/2014 16:41:54 MST Print View


You said, " If I add a golite infinity framesheet to the Porter then the Porter weighs 41 oz."

Do you plan on using the Golite infinity frame in addition to the HMG Porter's two aluminum stays or in place of them? Also, the Porter's pad sleeve is sealed; how do you plan to install the Golite Infinity frame?

Anthony Weston
(anthonyweston) - MLife

Locale: Southern CA
p on 03/01/2014 17:34:07 MST Print View

Not sure how I will use the framesheet. It would be easy enough to sew in a pocket of some kind to hold it. So far I just put it in loose in addition to the stays went around the block with it to test it with a heavier load and did flatten the load against my back and give some rigidity.

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
Paradox update on 03/10/2014 21:53:42 MDT Print View

I number of updates to the Paradox system/line have gone live since I wrote the article.

I got my hands on the improved harness last week. It addresses all the concerns I had. The inner face is lined with lighter 3D mesh, and the foam is more flexible.

An UL frame made of lighter tubing is available in all configurations. I have not used this. Kevin Timm with Paradox says it can be 3+ ounces lighter (30% or so) and doesn't really give up any functional durability.

They've also been doing custom bags in a variety of configurations and fabrics, including hybrid cuben.

Paradox also just came out with a version they're calling the Unaweep. It integrates the frame into the bag, making the whole deal simpler and saves quite a bit of weight. As the weight breakdown table in the article shows, this is the one obvious area to do so. According to Kevin, a 4800 Unaweep with the UL 26 inch tall frame, done in VX-07, is a hair over 2.5 pounds.

Conversations with Kevin got me thinking about the possibilities of this integrated frame, and this past week I built one for myself. It's not perfect, but it is quite a bit smaller and tighter than the pack I tested for the article. In 1000 denier cordura (what I had on hand), the 24 inch full strength frame, and the stock harness and hipbelt in comes in under 3 pounds. This for a ~4000 cubic inch pack. I'll be taking it to the Grand Canyon next week.

What drove that decision was the hipbelt. It only took a half mile of a training hike to be reminded how, for me, the Paradox belt absolutely blows everything else out of the water. For light loads (sub 35 pounds) I can get a traditional internal belt, stay, and lumbar pad rig to work just fine. Just fine meaning I can carry it 10 hours a day for a week and never think about my pack. For weights above that, the Paradox is just way better than anything else. Which makes taking it on this upcoming trip an easy choice.

Edited by DaveC on 03/10/2014 21:55:38 MDT.

Michael C
(chinookhead) - F - M
Re: z on 03/16/2014 09:23:40 MDT Print View

Anthony, what xpac material is your zimmerbuilt bag made from? Is it VX21?

Anthony Weston
(anthonyweston) - MLife

Locale: Southern CA
z on 03/16/2014 09:27:34 MDT Print View

VX21 Xpac for the back side and bottom of the pack and a lighter weight VX07 for the front

Doug Coe
(sierraDoug) - F

Locale: Bay Area, CA, USA
Fascinating pack design on 04/04/2014 15:57:02 MDT Print View

I doubt I'll ever have a need for this pack, or want to spend the money for one, but I love seeing such innovative design thinking. And it's great to have choices, external frame systems as well as internal ones.

Thank you for the fantastic review, and I love seeing all the photos of it, especially taken apart.

That Zimmerbuilt bag at different heights with and without the bear can is cool too as I mostly backpack in the Sierras in black bear country.

Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
A place for heavy packs on 04/06/2014 17:59:16 MDT Print View

I just got back from another trip in the Guadalupe Mountains with an Exped Lighting. At 38 oz its on the heavy side but its the pack I keep grabbing. I have a 28 oz pack but I never take it to the Guads. The reasoning is very simple, no other pack I have has such a comfortable hipbelt. My recent custom Zimmer pack was close but unfortunately is too short for me.

I'm as into spread sheets and gram counting as the next guy but when you measure your water load in gallons a 5 or 10 extra ounces for a pack that fits better is a no brainer.

Dave P
(BackcountryLaika) - M

Locale: Northern Alberta
Thank you for the Paradox on 01/04/2015 16:00:37 MST Print View

Thank you for the review, been looking for a sub-4lbs external frame which can handle 100+lbs worth of weight.

I've become a gram-weenie after some bush-whacking last year and made slow progress. Noticed a huge change after lightening the load. Going into the bush is fine, the problem is trying to find a pack which can haul stuff out of the bush.

I enjoy my 2-lbs backpack for trail-walking, but it doesn't hold all the necessary equipment I need for hunting. When you're hauling carcasses, every gram matters; but no one is going to go anywhere if they don't have the proper backpack for the weight load. While trail-walking, there is a much more forgivable error of margin.

Tried a frameless designed for grouse-hunters, and it became obvious because of its design the folks who fell in love with it only went out on day-hunts; not over-nighters, let alone a week-long expedition. Figured out the money would had been better spent on a GoLite Jam than that thing.

Would like to see a review of the Krux frame though.

Edited by BackcountryLaika on 01/04/2015 16:09:15 MST.