pack question - heavy comfort or lightweight?

Posted by: mcnabb

pack question - heavy comfort or lightweight? - 01/07/08 10:54 AM

I am by no means an expert backpacker, but I am something of a gearhead. I try to take a couple of 3-5 day trips on the AT each year and have one coming up in several months. Since I can usually get great pricing through my job, I like to make the most of it which brings me to my dilemma...

I currently have a Kelty Shadow and I thought the weight on the pack was excellent, but was lacking a little on the comfort side. I'm considering upgrading to the Bora 80 and would like input on what pack the true experts would recommend as the best pack for comfort. Thanks!
Posted by: Pika

Re: pack question - heavy comfort or lightweight? - 01/07/08 11:48 AM

I won't vote since I have no experience with either of the packs you mention. However, I do a lot of 5-10 day trips in the western mountains often hauling water and I use a medium-lightweight pack. In the past, I have used a Mountainsmith Phantom, I now use a somewhat larger GoLite Quest for these trips. Both weigh three pounds. IIRC, the Bora 80 is over seven pounds. I recommend that you look at all of the packs in the three pound range and try them on for comfort before you purchase the Bora. I'm sure that one of them will work for your 3-5 day trips. Do this before you consider adding four plus pounds of extra pack.
Posted by: Xelif

Re: pack question - heavy comfort or lightweight? - 01/07/08 12:22 PM

I'm not voting either, not knowing the packs myself.

Relevant info I would like to know:
How much do you usually carry?
How bulky is it?
How much does your current pack hold?

I was suckered into the "comfortable pack" trap once. A pack that's over 5 pounds is advertised as comfortable and feature heavy... well, the weight was brutal as I ended up carrying 3 pounds of extra pack and then 5 pounds of useless tent in that extra space.

Bottom line, REI etc are great at talking up heavy packs as "comfortable" but they are NOT. What guides my comfort level is almost entirely weight. Less weight, more comfort.

(edit) In fact, if someone can explain to me how a heavier pack is more comfortable, I will be impressed <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif" alt="" />
Posted by: Paddy_Crow

Re: pack question - heavy comfort or lightweight? - 01/07/08 12:24 PM

Without knowing a thing about the gear you plan to carry, it is impossible to comment on the appropriate pack. I would suggest putting together a gear list (with weights).

I will recuse myself from any discussions about 7 pound packs.
Posted by: mcnabb

Re: pack question - heavy comfort or lightweight? - 01/07/08 12:31 PM

I usually carry 25-35 (depending on the length of the trip and how many people are sharing equipment).

I would say my equipment is fairly compact, but I sacrifice some bulk and weight for comfort since I'm only section hiking and I like to pack a little extra for trail magic.

the Shadow holds 4500 cubic inches
Posted by: Xelif

Re: pack question - heavy comfort or lightweight? - 01/07/08 12:57 PM

This is really a personal thing, but I fit 30 pounds in a 3000 cubic inch pack that weighs a bit over 2.5 pounds.

Why do you want this 7 pound pack? <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif" alt="" />
Posted by: ringtail

Re: pack question - heavy comfort or lightweight? - 01/07/08 01:01 PM

There are many packs that weight less than 3 pounds that would do what you need done.

I know nothing about the packs you mention, except they are heavier than I would carry.
Posted by: hootyhoo

Re: pack question - heavy comfort or lightweight? - 01/07/08 02:30 PM

Grasshopper, how can 'heavy' and 'comfort' go together?
Put one sock in a garbage bag and carry it five miles,
then put 50 pounds in the most comfortable backpack made and carry it 5 miles.
This is your answer.
Posted by: ndsol

Re: pack question - heavy comfort or lightweight? - 01/07/08 03:05 PM

(edit) In fact, if someone can explain to me how a heavier pack is more comfortable, I will be impressed <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif" alt="" />
I have found that McHale Packs are more comfortable than lighter weight packs. If the weight is placed into matters of comfort, a heavier pack can of course be more comfortable.
Posted by: jasonlivy

Re: pack question - heavy comfort or lightweight? - 01/07/08 08:35 PM

When considering which pack to carry, you have to ask yourself a few more questions than just comfort. Durability, features (side pockets, removeable toplids, etc), size, etc. should also be contemplated.

The Bora is one tough pack and will carry heavy bulky gear well. it is made to do heavy hauling when that is absolutely needed (i.e., mountaineering), but is not preferable on a 'regular' backpacking trip. Several of my married friends, who haul everything for the family, are, by necessity, required to use heavy haul packs as well. But it is not that comfortable for them.

I believe 'heavy' and 'comfort' are oxymorons. It may be true that due to the suspension of the heavy pack (stays, hip belt, shoulder straps) allows for a very supportive and stable beast due to the amount of thermal foam and heavy suspension involved, this does not mean that it's comfortable or something desirable unless needed. What you want is a compromise of durability, comfort, features and weight. There are many packs that would fit this bill, especially having all of this in a reasonably light package. ULA, Granite Gear, Mountain Smith all offer packs that are very capable of this. Even Kelty have a few packs (not familiar with the Shadow) that would work, although they tend to not be as comfortable as the above mentioned. Comfort, in my opinion, are those who maintain the required weight (in my case up to 30 lbs) without feeling like it is about to collapse. It needs to be both rigid enough and flexible enough to move with you while supporting the load. The hipbelt needs to be firm and supportive yet not cause abrasion (must not be flimsy). The backpanel (stays, plastic frame sheet, foam) need to work together to support the muscles and transfer the weight efficiently (not require the lumbar pad and hipbelt to do all the work). The shoulder straps should be firm and supportive in giving control over the pack while it's on me. I can get all of this in a 3 lb. pack that can carry 30 lbs comfortably at around 3800 cu. in.

I would look around before making my final decision.
Posted by: wildthing

Re: pack question - heavy comfort or lightweight? - 01/08/08 06:10 AM

There are so many options for packs that run between 2-3lbs that will carry 30lbs so nicely that you may want to reconstruct your question and your considerations. Good luck and good fishin!
Posted by: mcnabb

Re: pack question - heavy comfort or lightweight? - 01/08/08 08:03 AM

Thanks everyone for your feedback, and I'm sure my wife would also thank most of you for not suggesting to spend more money on the Arc'Teryx pack. I weighed most of my gear last night and before food and water, I came out with 18.5 lbs (plus my sandals which I forgot to weigh):
shadow 4500 pack - 48oz
skypoint 1 tent - 36oz
delta bag - 37oz
downmat 9 pad - 33oz
whisperlite stove - 12oz
fuel bottle (filled) - 11oz
kitchen items - 12oz
mini works water filter- 14oz
2L bladder - 6oz
thermadry ls shirt - 6oz
fleece shirt - 8oz
nalgene & cup - 11.5oz
epic pant - 7oz
epic jacket - 13oz
extra socks & drawers - 5oz
bath items - 6.5oz
sandals ?
lights & misc - 21oz (headlamp, knife, rope, cards, lighter, etc)
pack cover (if wet) - 6oz
balaclava (if cold) - 3oz
Posted by: gmagnes

Re: pack question - heavy comfort or lightweight? - 01/08/08 09:19 AM

I just feel I have register in here on your question. As others, I have no experience with the two specific packs you were considering. However, in my experience, packs are like shoes--a 9.5 D that fits like a glove for one person really doesn't cut it for another. Fitting a pack, like fitting a pair of shoes, is a very individual matter. You shouldn't buy a pack just based on general reputation. The best advice is to try on whatever pack you're considering, if possible filled up with your gear. If that's not possible, at least try it with roughly the same amount of weight that you expect to carry in it. Try walking around the store or if it's possible, around your neighborhood for a while, until you have a good sense of how the pack feels. Make sure it's adjusted properly and that it's the correct size for your torso/waste etc.

I agree with some of the other posters who've suggested that you try some lighter packs. If you wind up carrying 25-30 pounds, there are alot of good choices out there that weigh much less than the 7+ pounds of the Arcteryx. You don't necessarily need to go for the lightest out there--just try to find something that is not unnecessarily heavy for the load you expect to carry and is comfortable for you. I just settled on an Osprey Aether, if that helps give you another pack to consider. They have an Aether 60 and an Aether 70 which are somewhere in between conventional 6-8 lb packs and the very lightweight 2-3 pounders in terms of suspension, weight, and general carrying capacity.
Good luck.
Gerry Magnes
Schenectady, NY
Posted by: kbennett

Re: pack question - heavy comfort or lightweight? - 01/08/08 09:27 AM

You have a few items which fit in the "traditional backpacker" class -- the stove, the filter, nalgene bottles, but your shelter is pretty light, as are your clothes.

If you take out the pack (at 48 oz), you are left with 15.5 pounds of gear. You propose putting this 15.5 pounds of gear into a 7-pound pack, making *one third* of your base weight the empty pack itself. Wow.

As others have mentioned, there are many packs in the 3-pound and under range that will carry 30 pounds in reasonable comfort. You might look at the Six Moons Designs Starlite (get the 2 optional stays), and the GoLite Quest, both of which have a "real" suspension. The SMD is <2 pounds, and the Golite is about 3. I have been using the SMD pack for several years, and it easily holds all my winter gear when needed.

Other packs that people have mentioned in lightweight gear forums include the Gregory Z-series packs, various Granite Gear packs, ULA packs (beloved of many hikers), and the Osprey Aether and Atmos series (though the Aethers have been putting on some weight lately).

If you have access to a good outfitter, take all your gear down and start loading up some packs. Have fun with it.

Oh, and you also might play with some lighter food and water gear. Maybe try an alcohol stove and some chemical treatment like Aqua Mira. That'll save a bunch of base weight and bulk.
Posted by: Berserker

Re: pack question - heavy comfort or lightweight? - 01/08/08 10:22 AM

I think Gerry really hit the nail on the head here. It really is a personal preference/what feels best to you decision. I carry about the same weight as you have indicated you normally carry (see my bio), and I have settled in on my McHale pack which weighs a tad bit over 4 pounds.

Previous packs I have used included an Osprey Crescent 90, an Osprey Aether 60 and a Granite Gear Vapor Trail. After using all of these other various packs I decided that the extra pound or two of pack weight was worth the extra comfort and superior fit of my McHale. The C90 was just to darn big and heavy (this was my pre-lightweight pack), the A60 was in general a good pack but just became uncomfortable over a multi-day hike, and the Vapor Trail just wasn't comfortable unless the total load was below a certain weight (25 lbs for me if I remember right).

People on this board seem to be all over the place as far as there are some who use 24 oz packs and carry 35 loads, and others that use 7 lb packs to carry 20 lb loads. I am of course over exaggerating a little, but I am just trying to make the point that you have to do what feels good for you.
Posted by: Aviprk

Re: pack question - heavy comfort or lightweight? - 01/08/08 01:16 PM

Heavier packs have beefier suspension but that is a bunch of BS when you do hike. Because it's not only your upper body that gets strained but also your legs and knees. When you have a heavier load your lower body will feel the gravity pull of the heavier pack much more than a lighter one and they will feel tired much faster.

But Does that mean heavier packs don't have their place? Packs such as the Bora are made for Sherpa dads who will need to carry tons of load or for expeditions since they need much heavier and bulkier equipment, so they do merit their place. As for us, we are mostly hikers and lighter packs is the way to go for us. As most mentioned here ULA, Granite Gear make excellent light packs. I would also take a look at the budget level REI Cruise UL pack. It weighs a bit over 3lbs but is excellent at transferring weight.
Posted by: hootyhoo

Re: pack question - heavy comfort or lightweight? - 01/08/08 04:16 PM

Maybe the Mchale pack just feels better because your wallet is so much lighter.
Posted by: MattnID

Re: pack question - heavy comfort or lightweight? - 01/08/08 06:42 PM

I went with the Bora, apparently I'm the only one to vote on it, lol. I suppose that's because I'm not so much a UL backpacker. I don't mind carrying the extra weight, I enjoy it really and view it as a chalenge worth accepting. Call me nuts I guess, hehe. For me, because I carry a heavy pack by UL definition(30-40 lbs depending on length, location and time of year), comfort is a must for me. I did try on the Bora when I was looking for a bigger pack for my longer trips and I thought it was comfortable, but a little pricey as far as I was concenered and it didn't have the volume I wanted. I settled on something cheaper but still comfortable that fit my size standards. I suppose if you really want the Bora and it fits your standards, go with it. As long as it fits what you want. I however would recommend shopping around, which is what I should have voted for in hindsight, lol. You never know what you'll find out there unless you do.
Posted by: TomD

Re: pack question - heavy comfort or lightweight? - 01/08/08 09:37 PM

I had a Bora 80-two of them actually; one I got on eBay and it was too big and one I got new.

This pack is very well made, heavy, expensive and for me, not comfortable at all-the waist belt was super stiff and didn't fit me right. I even tried one on in REI and thought it was okay, but I was wrong.

I got rid of both of them and got an old Kelty Flight from another member. Way better for my needs-I think it is about 4000 ci or so and very comfortable.

The lesson here is that comfort and heavy do not necessarily go together. If I was buying another big pack, I'd probably buy something from Granite Gear-they seem to fit me fine.
Posted by: ndsol

Re: pack question - heavy comfort or lightweight? - 01/09/08 01:04 PM

In some ways, I was hoping that the McHale was not any better than my Osprey Aether 60. It would have saved me money on another pack. But the demo proved otherwise. There are many times in the process when you can back out of the process in purchasing a McHale pack with very little money invested. It is not an all or nothing proposition. So if one decides to buy it, then you have already gone through a few steps.

For about $200 more than the Bora 80, you can get a pack on sale from McHale that is custom fitted with P&G bayonets, bypass harness, full Spectra bottom, kangaroo pocket and can even have some other options. The McHale has stopped me from having to look at or purchase other packs. In addition, when Dan comes out with improvements, many times they can be incorporated into your pack by sending back to him for the upgrade.

Just something to consider in the search for the right pack.
Posted by: OregonMouse

Re: pack question - heavy comfort or lightweight? - 01/09/08 10:40 PM

For the base weight you have, you certainly don't need a really heavy pack like the Bora! It's fine if you're carrying expedition=type (60 lb.+ loads), but it's definitely overkill for what you have. On the other hand, it definitely sounds as thought your Kelty isn't doing its job. Packs are like shoes--the fit depends very much on the individual. With the base weight you have, you might want to try other packs in the 2-3.5 lb. range, like the Granite Gear packs or REI's so-called "UL" pack which definitely isn't UL, but which (in women's sizes) I found quite comfortable. (I didn't get it because I found a lighter and more comfortable pack online, but it was #3 on my list after lots of research.) If it works for you, the REI UL60 (~3.5 lbs.) (it has a new name which I've forgotten) is relatively low-priced and often on sale. Take your gear to the store with you (to be sure it will fit into the pack), load up each pack you're considering and spend some time walking around the store. Once you've bought a new pack, take some long hikes close to home--even if just several hours on the sidewalks in your neighborhood--to be sure the pack works for you. Return it if it doesn't! If you don't mind paying return postage if they don't work out, try the ULA Catalyst or the Six Moon Designs Starlight or Comet (with the optional stays). Don't do this until you've tried a bunch of packs in the store, fully loaded with your gear and fitted/adjusted by a competent clerk (not all clerks are competent, even in REI--if Bearpaw from this site worked in my local REI, I would be a lot more comfortable about shopping there!). Then you'll at least know what a properly fitted and comfortable pack feels like! What you really want is something that feels like the Bora but weighs half as much! And yes, there are such packs out there!
Posted by: Bearpaw

Re: pack question - heavy comfort or lightweight? - 01/10/08 05:28 AM

If it works for you, the REI UL60 (~3.5 lbs.) (it has a new name which I've forgotten) is relatively low-priced and often on sale.

The new ( and genuinely improved) version of the UL60 is the REI Cruise UL. The material is tougher but the same weight. The whole package is 3 lbs, 2-4 oz (depending on which torso length you get). For the money, it's an awesome pack. When dividends come out in March, and this year's 20% coupon hits, you can grab one for $104.