Rating: 4 / 5
I had originally bought the Vapor Ki, wore it around REI for about an hour while oogling at stuff.
Then I went to another shop where they had the Versalite (short). Loaded it with equal weight (30 pounds) and immediately noticed how it held the weight 10x better than the Vapor Ki. It does weight 8 ounces more, but for me, that 8 ounces will mean less tugging at my neck, like the Vapor Ki was doing.
I have yet to field test it and hope that the hipbelt strap problem isn't a universal flaw with the pack...we shall see. I'll update my review when it gets a round of field testing in.
I returned from an 8-day backpacking trip in the North Cascades this past week where I was able to thoroughly test out the Versalite 50.
For starters, I'll mention that both myself and my boyfriend were using the Versalite 50. Since I had read the previous review about the hip belt failing at the sew point, I added extra stitching myself. However, my boyfriend, Todd, declined to add stitching. NEITHER of us had any problems with the hip belt's connection to the backpack. I have to say that it appears as though the sew job could fail, but there is an easy fix (add stitches, like I did). I don't think this should deter folks from purchasing the pack.
As for how it handled on day 1 of the 8 day trip...I had a little over 30 pounds in my pack. Todd had more like 35-40 (those dang snacks and cameras that we won't compromise weigh so much, plus we shared weight for 3 people). Both of us agree that the weight in the packs was on the verge of being too much, but the Versalite performed much better than other packs I've tried with a heavier load. Plus, day 1 is always the heaviest, so we knew the minimal discomfort would be gone soon.
One of the best components of the Versalite 50 is the single carbon/aluminum stay. You can mold the plastic framesheet with stay to your back, which is a lot more versatility than most lightweight backpacks. And it helped me tremendously. I'm not huge (5'2", 110 pounds) so finding a pack that fits is always difficult.
Someone noted that they did not feel that the pack would be big enough for a larger load...I'd have to say, actually, that it does. Although Todd carried the tent (MSR Missing Link), I could have fit it into the pack - the neck on the Versalite will extend quite a bit, along with the hood.
Cons of the pack...the shoulder straps could potentially be too narrow for folks with big, broad shoulders. However, I found that if you don't use the sternum strap (or keep it loose) and if you tighten your pack properly (doing the waist belt first, then bending over and pulling the shoulder straps and load lifters) you can get a snug fit that doesn't pinch your shoulders.
The only other con would be that the hydration pocket is a bit tight, depending on what type of system you use.
All in all, I highly recommend the pack. I'm sure it isn't for everyone (not everyone needs a solid harness/waist belt system, but my neck tells me otherwise), but out of all of the lightweight packs I've tried (REI, Granite Gear, GoLite) I like the Versalite the most.
By day 8 my load was 15 pounds at the very most(including 1.5 liters of water and food for the last day) and I felt as though I had nothing on my back.
I'm curious to test the pack out on a shorter trip now with just the two of us, instead of carrying weight for 3 people over 8 days.