Backstory: So I began my search for a new pack sometime last year. I got interested in one of the arcteryx bags (the women's axios) which proved impossible to find in person so I decided to return my focus to readily available packs. Osprey and gregory, mostly. A year later, and it's become pretty clear from countless "fitting" sessions, weights included, that nothing either brand offers in the lightweight(ish) 50-60L range is comfortable and/or fits me worth a darn.
Thus, I return, searching for input on the arcteryx pack along with what seem to be semi-comparable granite gears. I've been looking at the Axios 48 and the GG Vapor Flash are probably the two I've personally looked at most more recently. There are some larger GG's (the blaze ki and the nimbus trace) but I tend to suspect I'd find them too large, and the trace seems to have a few too many extra zipper/pocket "features" I tend to find useless. I'm not really an ounce counter but I mostly only carry essentials/things I actually use and am limited to 2-3 day hikes anyway. Mostly out and about around the AT.
Do any of you have any experience with either packs or have suggestions for something else to look into? I know it's all about fit, and I don't plan on buying without trying it on unless of course it can be returned in full with no questions asked. It's just that all the packs readily available for trying just plain didn't work (one even bruised my hips after 15 minutes of illusory comfort with a mere ten pounds of weight). Help!
Once I knew what my measurements were, I ordered online and have great success with the packs I got.
I had zero success with Osprey packs, but the Gregory Jade, Aarn, and Granite Gear Nimbus packs I have fit me well and do the job nicely. Have carried each pack 100+ miles with various weight/loads in them, no soreness or difficulty with fit.
Which is not to say that you will want to use the same brands or models, but to say that you need to know your correct measurements and have an idea of how much volume you need. If you are having trouble fitting packs and have easily bruised hips, you may need a different belt and need to look into packs with swappable belts. The Vapor series don't have swappable belts. The Nimbus series do.
In my case, I can do up to a week in 40 liters for three season trips. For a longer trip with bear can I have to take the Nimbus Ozone - or for winter when bulk increases and I need more space. I need packs with swappable or adjustable hip belts, which all of these have, because I typically need a medium hip belt and my back size is usually the short end of regular, or small, or extra small depending on the brand/pack. So a regular or medium pack with a sewn in belt does nothing for me. The Ozone (no longer made) works because I have the women's hip belt, which is padded adequately and canted slightly to work with my "child bearing hips".
Granite Gear is one of the few vendors that will replace the hip belt - swap to something that works for you - if you send it back to them. No matter where you bought the pack. I got the Ozone on a closeout for roughly half off. But you have to get one with adjustable back frame and swappable straps/belt.
Not all Gregory packs have the same frame either. The larger 50 -60 liter Jade packs did not meet my approval but the 40 liter of the same pack did - different frame.
More specifics can help - what exactly did not work about the packs you've tried? You say soreness is a problem - is it that the hip belts rub, or is the pack riding heavy on the hip bones and bruising you?
I'd ignore zippers and pockets and focus exclusively on fit. If there are extraneous features but the pack fits, that's better than having the exact features with a poor fit. If you want to try a pack and have the patience, and the source has a good return policy, I'd suggest ordering, trying the pack around the house packing all your gear in it, and if it works well stomping around the house vacuuming for a few hours you'll have a clean house and a pack that fits - if not send it back. I have also bought packs on clearance and re-sold them easily enough for a slight discounted price. Since I only wore them a few trips trying them out, I got nearly what I paid for them.
"In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities. In the expert's mind there are few." Shunryu Suzuki
It was different problems with different packs. The 40 Jade was just too small for me to feel okay purchasing as my go-to weekend pack. The 50 didn't fit right on my back. I tried the Deva 60, which was simply too big hot and heavy. Of the Ospreys, I tried the Ariel 65, which we were never able to get to fit right with weight and always seemed to pull on my shoulders, even with just 10-15 pounds. Also, it was too big. The pack that bruised me was the Osprey Aura 50. I almost got that stupid sucker because that first 10-15 minutes it felt great. And then bam, the metal ends of the frame began to pressure point my sides. Then I tried one of the REI packs, don't remember which one, and had the same problem as on the Ariel where it weird pressure on my shoulders.
I have just under a 17.5 torso measurement, and I believe a 32 hip measure.
Did you try the Osprey Kestrel line? I had problems with fit in the Aether, Atmos, Exos, and Talon lines, but the Kestrel turned out great.
You might also check out the Deuter pack line; I used one of their ACT Zero series with some success, and a friend (who is now having a minor love affair with my old Zero) had good luck with the ACT Lite series.
Loc: Gateway to Columbia Gorge
Thanks, Glenn, for suggesting Deuter. Sarbar of "Trailcooking.com" fame uses a women's-specific Deuter pack. Cherry, I suggest you try the Deuter women's packs. Their packs are not lightweight but are very comfortable with lots and lots of padding. If your REI store doesn't have them in the store, you can order the pack from them and have it sent to the nearest store so you'll have help trying it on.
For what it's worth, I tried a number of packs at REI several years ago and didn't find any that I liked. I also found the Osprey packs uncomfortable.
My grandson has a Deuter Fox 30 which he has almost outgrown, and it has been so comfortable that he's been able easily to carry several pounds more than he really should for his age. I know I'm going to have problems finding the next step up for him (he's about to turn 12).
I'm built broader (although shorter), so I luckily am able to use a unisex pack without problems. Unfortunately the "cottage" manufacturers (who are making most of the innovative lightweight packs) haven't come up with woman-specific packs. In other words, going lighter will probably not help much in your case. The one possibility might be the ULA Catalyst or Circuit with the S-shaped straps.
Just a note--it would be better to bundle up your actual gear and take it to REI. Most packs carry a lot different with real gear inside than they do with the weights provided in the stores!
You might also look for other outfitters in your area, especially locally owned stores. They are usually (not always) more skilled at fitting packs than big stores like REI. If you can tell us where you are located, somebody on this board should be able to recommend a store--or maybe several.
Edited by OregonMouse (10/26/1101:47 AM)
May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view--E. Abbey
Cannot speak for other packs, but I have the Blaze and I really love it. Although, I found the gear layout in the pack to affect my comfortableness. On day one I had my tent, sleeping bag, etc all laid horizontal from bottom and up. I felt it left a void in middle of my back. It hard to explain, but then next day I put the tent horizontal at bottom, but put the sleeping bag, pad, etc vertical above the tent and it felt much more comfortable. Overall it's the most comfortable pack I have ever carry. Which doesn't really say a whole since this is the third different pack I've carried on a backpacking trip. lol. Granite Gear can customize your straps for you with your specific measurement. You just have to make sure the pack's torso fit you length wise, then you can have measurement sent in for for specific straps free of charge. It an option to check out.
It is one of the blessings of wilderness life that it shows us how few things we need in order to be perfectly happy.-- Horace Kephart
I have an Arcterex Khamsin (it is very old) that is a large mountaineering day pack that I use for weekend trips when I do not have to carry a bear cannister. You can order the pack specially with different sized components- I got the woman's medium with the small waist belt. You should also ask if the other packs you are considering can be bought with mix and match sized components. This may make a difference. Of course, this means you cannot buy them on sale. Like you, Gregory packs just hurt my back. I tried to get my gear in a Gregory Jade, and never could get the bear can to fit with everything else. I personally like to get all my gear inside the pack, so my packs are on the large side. I currently use a Golight Quest (woman's specific expedition pack) for my longer trips. I have arbitrarily decided that I want my packs to be no more then 3 pounds in weight. I also have a 1 pound GG Virga, but am not fond of frameless packs. I only use it with very light weights.
I too have been searching around for a better pack, I narrowed my search down to the Trekker, Bass Pro has them for $169. I like the lots of pockets and the hard frame harness can be made to fit my size and shape. I'm not sure if can be adjusted smaller for a women. I like the external frame because it can be used as a chair, a table or a rain cover support while waiting out a downpour. The external seems to be better at carrying weight on my hips and back proportionally.
Many reach for distant shores only to run to the safest harbor.
Yeahh. I've never really been into external packs and after looking pretty hard at some of the golites, decided against frameless.
The inability to compare fit thus far has basically just made me obsess over the materials things are made out of. Most things I've looked at are between 70D and 400D cordura, or 100-400 rip stop/mini ripstop. I have one friend, military, who claims anything cordura under 1000D is worthless. I think he's being a little ridiculous however, I wasn't even aware there WAS 1000D cordura which has automatically made me feel like the 70D stuff is really sort of sad. What gives.
Hadn't really thought about - I tend to prioritize as:
1. Fit 2. Fit 3. Fit 4. Capacity 5. Features (useful v. non-useful) 6. Price
Having said that, I did go look at the materials used in my current favorite, the Osprey Kestrel 48. The website says the materials are 210D by 330D Shadow Box Nylon and 420D Nylon Pack Cloth for the main compartment and lid panels.
I've also used the Talon series; the fabrics there are 70Dx100D Nylon ShadowCheck and 160Dx330D ShadowBox.
The Kestrel definitely feels more "sturdy," but the Talon did not seem at all delicate, and I didn't give it any gentler treatment than my Kestrel; I had no problems with the Talon.
I know I'm a little late to this party, but do you have access to deuter packs? When shopping for a pack, my wife tried on just about every brand, gregory, arcterix, osprey, rei, etc. all with weight in them. Nothing was comfortable until she tried on her deuter pack. She immediately fell in love. I even got a male version for myself and have to say it's the most comfortable pack I've ever worn.
ULA Cricuit is worth a look With a 25 - 35lb load the ULA Circuit is a perfect pack for my style and needs. I know they aren't widely available but ULA is a great company to order from and they somewhat custom fit every pack. You select a size for back and waist. The circuit is a light framed pack coming in at 36 ounces. It has very few "extra" pockets but for me it's just what I want. I found that most "light" packs cut corners on shoulder and hip padding where as the circuit is extremely comfortable (for me) with loads up to 40lbs. It's excells at transferring weight to my hips while maintaining a close and solid fit to my back and shoulders. All this being said the pack is certainly a warm pack to wear but I have yet to find a pack that doesn't leave my back and arms sweaty when temps are above 50.