I have a new Gregory Z-55 which I have used for a few multi-day hikes. It has served well, and is very comfortable, my gear fits with no problems, even when I had to increase the load while carrying food & shelter for two on the last trip. I have no complaints. Don't try to fix what ain't broke, right?
After reading about Moonbow
gearskins, and their "powerpack" system, it got me thinking. I could insert the insulation pad and down sleeping-bag-as-quilt in to my hammock, and roll the whole thing up together. This would certainly speed up camp setup, especially if I did the same for my 8-year old hiking partner's hammock. I tried it and it makes a roll approx 9" diameter, 21" long. This could easily attach to a backpack (inside a dry bag), but not to the exterior of my current configuration. Besides, shelter/sleep group is easily 50% of the volume of my entire packing system, so I would need a smaller main compartment. I started looking around at external frame packs. (Also saw this article
The Keltys are available everywhere, but they have larger diameter telescoping tubing, and are thus pretty heavy. (5+ lbs) Jansport has much lighter looking frames. When I saw that the Jansport Scout
(meant for older kids & teens, but in my torso size range) was only a few ounces more than my "light" Z-55 (3-11 Jansport, vs. 3-5 Gregory) I ordered one up ($50 at Campmor, vs. $189+ for the Gregory). My intent was to use just the frame and suspension.
The Jansport frames use a horizontal top hoop which the bag hangs from. For the Scout, the main compartment is made of heavy coated cordura nylon like you might find on one of their book bags. Once removed, the remaining frame and suspension weighs 2lbs 2 oz. This could be reduced further by substituting lighter suspension components, or removing extraneous frame portions such as the shelf hoop or top bale. The frame is quite well made, although the suspension feels a little cheap. But it is a $50 pack from a maker of mass-market consumer goods, company history notwithstanding. Additional mods I would consider: Replacing the back pad with a mesh panel, and seeing if suspension is available in "adult size" (the ones on there may be adult size, only the frame may be shorter)
I was hoping to be able to remove the top "shelf" hoop and attach it to the bottom, so it would serve as a gear shelf similar to the Luxury Lite frame or hunting game haulers. Upon inspection, this would only be possible by cutting the bottom bale off the frame to slide the joint-knuckle pieces on to the frame below the welded cross-bar. You could still re-attach the male-ended top bale in place of the bottom bale, and it would be held in place by the waist belt attachment strap and the harness pins. For now I have simply strapped the hammock-roll to the lower portion of the frame, and it fits quite well & snugly.
The dilemma is what to use for the upper compartment(s). One thought is to cut the lower compartment off the original 2-chamber Jansport bag. This would reduce the weight of the bag by 10-12 oz. The panel loading of the top half is nice & easy, and it is designed to fit the frame. It has a couple of large side pockets, but is missing such "modern" features as hydration compatibility, compression straps (those could be added). It fits all my remaining gear at ~1600 cu.in.(26L) + pockets. I find it almost awkwardly wide, being used to internal frames. But it could be made to work. All tolled it would be about 1/2 lb. less than my current pack, but with fewer bells & whistles (no pockets on the waist belt, ventilated harnes, hydration, etc.). Nominally the same in comfort, but more modular & flexible. It would scream "crappy Jansport pack". It's made of that cheap, heavy bookbag material. It would be nice if at least it was ripstop nylon.
Option 2: two dry-bags such as OR Hydroseal
. One for clothing/gear, one for food/cooking system, strapped directly to the frame, dispensing of the upper "hanging" hoop (~4.5 oz.). The plusses are: weight savings, waterproof, cool DIY look. The down side of this: no features, no pockets, inconvenient access, nowhere to integrate hydration.
Option 3: Same as Opt 2, but use a product such as the OR Summit Sack
or a coupleof the REI Flash UL
convertible stuff sacks, strapped to the frame. It would add things like daisy chains, gear loop, or hydration pockets. Gives you a a lightweight day/summit pack. In the end it would weigh the same as the Jansport compartment, but would eliminate the top shelf frame.
Option 4: learn to sew and make a lightweight clone of the Jansport bag.
For now I am thinking go with the Jansport upper for a shakedown hike. May consider leaving it out in the weather so it will age for that vintage look, lol. However, I am liking the idea of option 3 with the Flash UL's, if the concept stays sound through some test.