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Need some pack advice.
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Jonathon Self
(Neist) - M

Locale: Oklahoma
Need some pack advice. on 06/18/2014 07:39:59 MDT Print View

(This is my first post here, so if I'm somehow posting somewhere in a way I'm not supposed to, I'm sorry!)

I need some advice on a new pack. I’m just getting into distance backpacking (but I've camped heavily for years now), and I need lightweight backpacking advice of a slightly different variety.

I want to do unsupported trips with no resupplies. Partially the desire to do so comes from a need to feel completely self-sufficient while on the trail, but also because some of the trails I want to traverse are quite poor for resupplies. The thought is that while I’ll have a relatively robust pack, it’ll primarily be filled with food. Basically I want to do lightweight backpacking only with a giant pile of food. That being said, I have a few necessities:

1. It (preferably) needs to be as light as possible.
2. It needs to carry 40 or more pounds comfortably.
3. It probably needs to have a frame. I have scoliosis and a pack without excellent weight transfer to the hips and some rigidity will be a no-go.
4. Might need to carry multiple bear canisters if I’m in an area that requires them.

I have considered a few options, most of which come from hunting pack manufacturers. There’s the Unaweep and some Stone Glacier options. I could also take a Kelty Cache Hauler frame and simply lash everything to it. That would be a slightly heavier option, but it’s probably one of the most flexible options as well.

Mostly what I’m asking for are opinions on light packs that can carry large loads. I think I’m going to go into the ‘hunting’ pack realm to find something slightly more robust, but I’m no expert. I’m fully open to suggestion.

I appreciate your help! And thanks in advance.

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
Re: Need some pack advice. on 06/18/2014 08:43:12 MDT Print View

>>1. It (preferably) needs to be as light as possible.
>>2. It needs to carry 40 or more pounds comfortably.

I think you're right on track with Paradox or Stone Glacier. If 40+ is the exception rather than the rule HMG or the Granite Gear Blaze might be good options as well.

If you're carrying multiple bear cans that will require a lot of volume (70+ liters), and more importantly, enough circumference to allow the cans to sit horizontally without being a tight and thus uncomfortable fit.

John G
(JohnG10) - F

Locale: Mid-Atlantic via Upstate NY
Big load packs on 06/18/2014 20:22:06 MDT Print View

40 plus pound loads will feel a lot better in a traditional pack than a lightweight pack. Heavy weights can also damage lightweight packs. If you'll be on trails that aren't steep and rocky during hot weather, then an external frame pack might work best.

No matter how great the pack's frame and padding is though - your hips, knees, ankles, and feet will still be carrying 40+ pounds.

The bigger question is: Are you sure you want to do long distance unsupported backpacking ? Since you haven't done any backpacking yet, how would you know for sure ?

My recommendation is to go to REI, rent a pack and go for a 3 day hike. Use this experience to figure out ways to reduce your load, rent a bigger pack, and go for a 6 day hike. This should tell you whether you find long unsupported routes "worth it".

I like 4 day hikes and avoid routes I can't resupply on at every 7 days. Otherwise the pack is too heavy for having fun.

Kevin Schneringer
(Slammer) - MLife

Locale: Oklahoma Flat Lands
Need some pack advice on 06/18/2014 21:01:41 MDT Print View

Sounds like a job for an Paradox or some of the others listed.
if you hiking anywhere in OK you wont need a Bear can and resupply points are readily available.

By the way I happen to live about 9 miles from you and backpack with several local guys. Some from Norman, OK
IF your interested we could show off some of our gear so you could get some ideas of what's available. Or at least look over some packs you may not have seen before?

besides its always good to find another local.

Jonathon Self
(Neist) - M

Locale: Oklahoma
Thanks for the feedback! on 06/19/2014 07:07:37 MDT Print View

David - Thanks for the info! I would hope 40+ would be the exception to the rule, so I'll look into both of those. Ideally, I want a pack that can be used relatively lightweight while still having the weight capacity if longer trips are necessary.

John - I have indeed considered an external frame. I used one for limited backpacking (under 10 miles a go) for years. I sort of like them, but I guessed that a well-rounded survey of what's available was germane before making decisions. Also, I have done some backpacking, just not anything longer like I want to attempt now. Next year I'm going to attempt the Ouachita Trail and see if the interest sticks before planning something more substantial.

I love to walk. I usually walk to work, and it's not uncommon for me to put in 8-10 miles a day just in commute. In the evenings I'll go out for another walk for a mile or two, just to clear my thoughts. I'm not sure why backpacking as a hobby never occurred to me. An ideal vacation for me is one where I can walk, a lot. I find it therapeutic. But at the same time, if I'm going to be walking a lot, I might as well go somewhere in the process.

But your concerns are fair, and I'm slightly concerned myself. I can and have carried a 20lb or so backpack with me when I commute to work, but I've never carried anything over that in commute. The biggest concern to me is how well I acclimate to the extra weight. I would attempt to rent some gear at REI, but Oklahoma is unfortunately devoid of them.

Kevin - That might be useful! There's not a large amount of camping stores around here. I did go to Backwoods in Norman and look at some Osprey packs. They were comfy, I admit, but I'm not really the type of person who would make a decision based on one brief experience.

Also, are there any longer trails in the greater area (besides the Ouachita Trail)? Everything I've found is generally under 10 miles. I think I'd almost have to find something in the 20-30 mile range to make a decent backpacking trip. Like I said before, I really enjoy the walking more than the camping. Camping is fun, no doubt, but I have to imagine that if I only covered 8 miles in a day and made camp, I'd get relatively bored if I wasn't with a group of people.

I appreciate everyone's feedback! It's been most useful.

Doug Green

Locale: North Carolina Piedmont
40+ pounds on 06/19/2014 07:26:39 MDT Print View

Others might disagree, some smarter than me, but if I were planning on 40+ pounds and possibly 2 bear canisters then I would not be trying to cut ounces on my pack. IMO you need a traditional pack that is designed for old school "load me up like a mule" backpacking. If it were me I would consider taking my Gregory Baltoro 70 out of retirement. It would carry the weight, and just as importantly the bulk, really well, although as others have pointed out it can take the weight off your back and shoulders but your feet and knees will still feel it. BUT...I used to carry 50+ pounds regularly in my younger days so you might be fine.

One of the problems that I would have with this strategy for ME (not necessarily for you) is that by loading myself with 40-50 pounds I think I would have to stop at half the distance every day, somewhat defeating the purpose. I would try to pay a LOT of attention to calorie density of my food and depending on the length of the hike put on a few pounds beforehand (stored fat on your body is more efficient than food weight) and go calorie negative for the trip. By doing that I be trying to figure out how to keep my pack under 30 pounds and try to cover more distance each day. But that is just me. My 55 year old knees have told me that they are through with their pack mule days. Give me back my 40 year old knees and I might think differently.

Dave -
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Up there
Re: Thanks for the feedback! on 06/19/2014 08:10:36 MDT Print View

I've had 47 lbs in my Porter 3400. It carried fine. The larger Porter Expedition comes with an additional framesheet and should have the load volume you need.

I would likely be looking at a Paradox or Mchale if you are consistent with those loads, however.

Jonathon Self
(Neist) - M

Locale: Oklahoma
Re: 40+ pounds on 06/19/2014 09:36:23 MDT Print View

Doug - I would definitely consider a traditional pack if I deem one of the nicer, framed ultralight packs too expensive. Sure, an Unaweep can probably support 100 lbs, but it's also $339. There's a lot of options one can buy for less than that.

The bulk I'm a little concerned about, but even a larger lightweight pack could probably fit it, if I'm smart about it. I was doing some volumetric calculations of certain foods in relation to caloric density, and a good calorie-dense food can manage around 60 calories per cubic inch. If I account for awkwardness in packing, then the usually stated 1.5 liter of food per day sounds about right. That's 31.5 liters of food for 3 weeks, as long as I smartly choose foods. A pack around 60 liters is probably reasonable as long as I use compact gear.

I wouldn't mind doing longer (maybe not faster) days with less weight, but there's a certain point of diminishing returns if I'm using body fat to supplement my calories. Because I'd be covering more ground, I'd be exhausting more calories, and unless I intend to pack on a considerable amount of extra body fat, I'd still have to pack in a higher proportion of food per day, negating the reduced weight.

But I'm no nutritionist. If I seriously considered a trip of a great magnitude, I'd seriously consider consulting with one.

Dave - Thanks for the info! I didn't know the larger HMG packs came with a framesheet.

I'm tempted to just do shorter, faster trips (when I know the extra space and weight is less necessary), and after I really dial in what I like and what I want to carry, consider something like a McHale. At the moment I'd feel uneasy spending that much money on a pack without some experience behind me.

Again, I appreciate the feedback!

Dave -
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Up there
Re: Re: 40+ pounds on 06/19/2014 09:45:31 MDT Print View

You can also get the 3400 Porter with a framesheet (in addition to the stays) for, I believe, a $25 upcharge.

Kevin Schneringer
(Slammer) - MLife

Locale: Oklahoma Flat Lands
Need some pack advice on 06/19/2014 12:32:32 MDT Print View

Oklahoma Trails are generally short and flat. I spend most of my time in SE OK or SW OK.
there are at least 5 trails of 20+ miles around the Ouachita Trail, many are loops.

Greenleaf has a loop that you can get about 18 miles out of.

please feel to PM me or email at bullseyeservices AT hotmail com

David Ayers
(djayers) - F

Locale: SF Bay Area
Re: Need some pack advice. on 06/19/2014 13:36:03 MDT Print View

If you are near certain you will enjoy the long trips and will get a lot of use out of the backpack, buying is fine. But if you are not so sure, you can rent packs from Lowergear, Mountainside, and probably others that will ship them to you. That way you can try a couple of trips a make sure you like it before you plunk down $300+ on one of your own.

Also the U of OK web site says they rent packs if you or someone you know has access.

Larry De La Briandais
(Hitech) - F

Locale: SF Bay Area
Luxury Lite on 06/19/2014 16:20:04 MDT Print View

Here is another idea for a pack:

I have never seen one, let alone worn one, but they look like a good idea. Just something else to look into.

Edited by Hitech on 06/19/2014 16:21:55 MDT.