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#189944 - 04/01/15 07:44 AM G4 Backpack - Review
PaHiker Offline
member

Registered: 02/12/15
Posts: 106
Loc: Pittsburgh, Pa, USA
Review of G4 Backpack

I promised while I was making the pack that I would offer a review after my backpacking trip to Arizona, well, this is it.

About the trip: This was a backpacking trip in the Grand Canyon (South Kaibab and Bright Angel trails) and in southern Arizona, near Tucson. Actual days / nights on the trail was five.

About the pack: I followed the sewing instructions and construction exactly, making only one modification, on the top of the outer mesh side pockets I made the cords cinch-able by making them a bit longer and using a cord keeper. I did this because I intended on carrying my tent poles in one and my flute in the other, and I wanted to assure that they were held firmly in place.

The only other modification was in the material, instead of purchasing the ripstop, Codura, and mesh from Quest Outfitters I cannibalized the material from my old Eureka Backcountry 4 tent. Where it called for Codura I used the tent floor, for ripstop I used the rain fly, for the back mesh I used the no-see-um mesh, and for the outer mesh I used the tent walls. Not 100% replacements, but free, and functional. The tent also provided some of the straps and buckles called for, making the G4 almost free for me. Total weight (without padding) is 12.5 oz (354 g).

Gear: I filled the pack with 13.74 lbs (6.23 kg) of gear, including: Sierra Designs Lightning UL 2 tent; original Blue Kazoo sleeping bag; Therm-A-Rest mummy pad; cat alcohol stove and fuel; Ursac bear bag; clothes, food, and other assorted gear. The weight did not include the water in my 2.5 L Platypus bag.

The hike: The main hike was the Grand Canyon itself, down the South Kaibab trail to Bright Angel Campground, then up the Bright Angel trail the next day (http://tinyurl.com/oj6tl4f). Total distances / elevation changes: South Kaibab: 7 mi / 4,780 ft (-11.3 km / -1,457 m); Bright Angel: 9.5 mi / 4,380 ft (15.3 km / 1,335 m). Terrain is hard dirt, loose rocks, and lots of steps (for erosion control).

Testing: On the way down I used socks for the shoulder pads, and liner gloves for the hip belt; on the way back up I replaced these with 1" closed cell foam in the shoulders and 1/2� in the hip belt.

The pack does not sit the same as a regular pack, I think this is because of a lack of support in the waist belt. Even with the foam pads in the belt the weight of the pack sagged the back down, making the belt not fit well around the hips. Because of this, most of the weight of the gear sits on the shoulders, requiring some padding in the shoulders. With socks the pack was acceptable, and not abrasive to my shoulders, but I found the 1� foam uncomfortable. I think the problem was that foam was too thick, and probably compressed too much inside the shoulder straps. After the GC hike I swapped the 1� foam out for 1/2� foam pads for the other hikes, that felt much better, even more so than the socks.

The storage compartment was too large to keep loose items, to keep from having a mess in the pack, and making it impossible to remove the tent and sleeping bag, I stored everything in bags. The food and cooking gear went into the Ursack bear bag, clothes went into Granite Gear sacks; and smaller items went into 1 gallon slide-lock storage bags. This made unloading and retrieval much easier.

I was surprised at how much the mesh areas held, and that they did so without anything falling out. As I said above, I used the side areas to hold my tent poles and flute, along with a small flashlight and about 200� (61 m) of paracord. The back area was used to store my Platy bag, filter (Gravity Works), and trail food. I also used it to store our camping permits.

All the way down into the canyon and back up again the pack was subjected to rubbing against the canyon walls, multiple cacti, and assorted trees. At the Bright Angel campground the bag had to hang all night on a steel pole that resembles a telephone pole (the purpose is to keep packs up off of the ground, and away from small animals). It even held up to a rather tenacious squirrel at the Indian Garden campground, that tried several times to get at the food in the bag. I wasn�t aware of his attempts until a pair of fellow hikers pointed him out to me. He was climbing all over the bag with his sharp toes, trying to get into the top (which I had rolled down). He took off when I approached, a quick examination of the bad showed no holes or tears.

All-in-all, I was quite happy with the G4 bag, its� light weight, and its� ability to fend off a squirrel for a few minutes. I left the bag with my son to replace his older pack, which made him happy, and I will make a version 2 with the remainder of the tent. I will be making a few minor modifications to the pack.


Version 2 mods:
  • The bottom of the pack is wider to allow for storing the tent bag, I am considering making this wider part a little higher to enable storing my sleeping bag as well, just a few more inches. The bottom of the pack is wider to allow for storing the tent bag, I am considering making this wider part a little higher to enable storing my sleeping bag as well, just a few more inches.
  • Making the opening in the side mesh pockets cinch was a good idea, I am considering doing the same with the back pocket.
  • The drinking tube loops were a little small for the bite valves on my Platy and my Camelbak, I will enlarge them a little.
  • I will be using the 1/2� foam for the shoulder pads, so I won�t be using a velcro closure.
  • One of the biggest changes is with regards to the hip belt. I�m really not happy with how poor the support is here, especially with all of the weight resting on the shoulders. What I am going try as a replacement is to use my WWII pistol belt instead. The plan is to sew a 2-1/2� x 12� (6.4 cm x 30.5 cm) open-end panel onto the back of the pack, at the same level as the original belt. I will then pass the pistol belt through the panel. I think this will hold the pack more securely to my hips, and enable me to attach things to the belt (water bottle. GPS unit, flashlight, etc.)
  • I find the cinch closure on the top of the bag unnecessary, with the roll-down closure, so I will not be adding the corded closure.
  • The roll-closure is something else I�m not 100% happy with, with the velcro only on part of the top it�s a poor roll. I am thinking here of sewing the velcro across the entire back of the collar top, this will make it easier to roll.
  • I was going to dump the ice pick loop on the bottom of the bag, but I found it an easy way to heft the bag to lie down in the trunk of a cab, so it�s a keeper, but I�m going to make the ends further apart, like the loop on the top of the bag, to make it easier to get my hand into.
  • It needs a sternum strap. I will put this in place of the thumb loops, the location is right, and the strap will serve the same purpose as the thumb loop.
  • Finally, and not sure how / where to do this, maybe on the outside of the section where the tent stores, or on the back mesh area. I need a small, clear, pouch to store permits, something that can be seen without removing the bag and opening it. Had a couple rangers stop us during different hikes asking for my camping permits. It would be so much easier to just point to the bag. Another hiker�s pack has this feature on the pouch that covers the top of his bag, just not sure where to get clear material that can be sewn without tearing.


Edited by packlite (12/04/15 11:07 AM)
Edit Reason: edited to make images appear
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#189946 - 04/01/15 09:46 AM Re: G4 Backpack - Review [Re: PaHiker]
4evrplan Offline
member

Registered: 01/16/13
Posts: 640
Loc: Nacogdoches, TX, USA
Very nice review PaHiker. I enjoyed it, especially since I've been dabbling with the idea of building one myself, also from free material (old feed bags in my case). I've actually very slowly been working on it over the past two years or so. I've got all or most of the pieces cut out in my office, but I don't have any of the hardware yet. I'm wondering if a different design would actually serve my needs better, especially since my gear is a bit heavier than most of the people who use these bags. After reading your review, I'm pretty sure that is indeed the case.

I've got a question for people on here who have more experience with packs. Does it seem to you like the sagging/weight on the shoulders issue could be due to too much length between the hip belt and shoulder straps? That's the thought that crossed my mind, but I don't know.


Edited by packlite (12/04/15 11:06 AM)
Edit Reason: edited to make images appear

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#189947 - 04/01/15 10:05 AM Re: G4 Backpack - Review [Re: 4evrplan]
PaHiker Offline
member

Registered: 02/12/15
Posts: 106
Loc: Pittsburgh, Pa, USA
In my (limited) experience, no. The problem is more that the shoulder straps connect too low on the bag. On my Gregory pack the shoulder straps connect to the bag above my shoulders. On the G4 the connection point is below the shoulders. To fix this would require either connecting the shoulder straps higher on the bag, or the belt lower on the bag, so that the straps connect above shoulder height. I'm not sure how that would affect the fit, since there is no frame to the pack.
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Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intent of arriving safely in a well preserved body, but to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, worn out, and loudly proclaiming Wow! What a Ride!

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#190081 - 04/08/15 10:35 AM Re: G4 Backpack - Review [Re: PaHiker]
finallyME Offline
member

Registered: 09/24/07
Posts: 2710
Loc: Utah
There really is only two ways to fix an uncomfortable frameless pack. Either less weight, or add a frame. I don't think the WWII waist belt will help much.
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#190082 - 04/08/15 10:47 AM Re: G4 Backpack - Review [Re: finallyME]
PaHiker Offline
member

Registered: 02/12/15
Posts: 106
Loc: Pittsburgh, Pa, USA
I'm not so sure. The pistol belt may not be the solution, maybe a leather belt. The problem with the pack's belt is that it was not firm enough to keep the pack from sagging. Belts on my Gregory and my external frame packs are firmer. Time will tell.
_________________________
Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intent of arriving safely in a well preserved body, but to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, worn out, and loudly proclaiming Wow! What a Ride!

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#190084 - 04/08/15 11:38 AM Re: G4 Backpack - Review [Re: PaHiker]
Pika Offline
member

Registered: 12/08/05
Posts: 1733
Loc: Rural Southeast Arizona
All the waist belt does is to hold the pack tight against you so that some, or all, of the weight is borne on the circumference of your hips. Parachute cord would do more-or-less the same thing as a 3" wide web belt just not nearly as comfortably.

A pack sags because it is not stiff enough between the hip belt and the shoulder strap attachment. That is why heavier packs have frame sheets or stays of a wide variety. Stiffening a frameless pack can be done, within limits, by using your sleeping pad as a frame sheet or by installing a hoop stay such as is used with the old Six Moons Starlite pack.

I installed a SMD hoop stay in a G-4 that I made. It helped. But, frankly, the G-4 is not one of the most comfortable packs I have made.

In my experience, a frameless pack needs to be closely matched to the volume of its contents to cary well. The contents are, or should be, part of the pack suspension system. Otherwise, pack design is not particularly relevant to carrying comfort and a burlap bag would serve the purpose almost equally well.

The biggest problem with the G-4 pack and others of its ilk is that it has a large volume so a lightweight load fits inside rather loosely. This looseness allows the pack to fold in the middle somewhat when the hip belt is fastened and allows the pack to slump transferring some weight to your shoulders. To stiffen the pack, temporarily, try cutting two pieces of wood lath to the same length as your sleeping pad is wide. Then, fold them into your pad before you put it into the pad pockets. These wood strips will serve as a temporary (or permenant) stay and may increase the carrying comfort. Keep us advised.
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#190086 - 04/08/15 12:38 PM Re: G4 Backpack - Review [Re: Pika]
PaHiker Offline
member

Registered: 02/12/15
Posts: 106
Loc: Pittsburgh, Pa, USA
I'm not explaining myself well, maybe an example.

Wrap a plastic bag around your waist, then hang a hunting knife from it. The bag sags because it has nothing in it to support its' shape. In the same way, the belt on the G4 collapses because there is nothing, other than socks, to give it form. Maybe with foam instead of socks, it would not sag, not sure.

The problem I had was that the belt sagged (collapsed?) because there was nothing to hold it in the shape of a belt. As someone said, even paracord would make a belt, but it would be uncomfortable. Same here.

Is that better?
_________________________
Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intent of arriving safely in a well preserved body, but to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, worn out, and loudly proclaiming Wow! What a Ride!

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#190091 - 04/08/15 03:02 PM Re: G4 Backpack - Review [Re: PaHiker]
finallyME Offline
member

Registered: 09/24/07
Posts: 2710
Loc: Utah
That's a better description. If the belt itself is failing, then yes, something inside to stiffen it would help. Use foam. The old WWII belt is probably not stiff enough. The newer nylon pistol belts (no longer in use but issued up through the 2000s) are much stiffer. But they need padding to be comfortable. I have found that a cut up blue foam pad from Walmart is just right. You can use the same mat for your shoulder straps. It is also light and cheap.
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#190095 - 04/08/15 03:28 PM Re: G4 Backpack - Review [Re: finallyME]
PaHiker Offline
member

Registered: 02/12/15
Posts: 106
Loc: Pittsburgh, Pa, USA
Interesting. Perhaps if the foam was sewn in as part of the construction, I couldn't fit enough in during the trip to make a difference.

Another thought is to sew the foam in, and make the sleeve for the belt at the same time, then try each out and go with the one that works best. If the pistol belt didn't work, my next thought was a 2" leather belt.
_________________________
Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intent of arriving safely in a well preserved body, but to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, worn out, and loudly proclaiming Wow! What a Ride!

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#190097 - 04/08/15 04:51 PM Re: G4 Backpack - Review [Re: PaHiker]
finallyME Offline
member

Registered: 09/24/07
Posts: 2710
Loc: Utah
Unfortunately, you will have to redo, or start over on your hip belt with my suggestion. frown

I have found the best way is to use spray adhesive and stick the foam to the fabric of the hip belt. 3M Super 77 is the best, but not the only option.

Here is a video I did making a backpack. I talk about the hip belt starting around minute 3:48.
video
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#190102 - 04/08/15 07:54 PM Re: G4 Backpack - Review [Re: finallyME]
PaHiker Offline
member

Registered: 02/12/15
Posts: 106
Loc: Pittsburgh, Pa, USA
Not a problem, since I gave my "old" G4 to my son, and I will be making a new one for myself, with the changes mentioned above.

As far as the spray, I've been using fabric tape to temporarily hold the pieces in place. It worked well on all of the ripstop and codura, as well. Small pieces tacked into place like straight pins, then you can just run away with the sewing, not having to stop to take the needles out. Not real expensive, especially if you buy large rolls on Amazon or other places.


Edited by PaHiker (04/08/15 07:58 PM)
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Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intent of arriving safely in a well preserved body, but to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, worn out, and loudly proclaiming Wow! What a Ride!

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#190110 - 04/09/15 01:28 PM Re: G4 Backpack - Review [Re: PaHiker]
carbeque Offline
member

Registered: 09/30/14
Posts: 42
Loc: Sacramento, CA
I've been kicking around the idea of making a G4, but I think the design, as is, is a bit too purist for me. Also, I keep hearing the same thing from people: It's huge... so huge that an ultralight load won't fill it up, unless you intentionally fill it with something (like maybe my inflatable Nemo 20R insulated sleeping pad). My thought is that if I was to build one, I'd add two primary features:

1) Better means of compression, like the version sold by Gossamer Gear, with compression cord loops between the side pockets and rear pocket... probably even more than they do, so you can get some serious criss-cross corset action going, and maybe installed under the mesh pockets so they don't get compressed and remain accessible. It'd lace up like a shoe.
Pic of Gossamer Gear G4

2) An aluminum internal stay. I'd probably just pick up this one from Gossamer Gear and tweak the bag design around making it fit. I've seen some UL pack designs that use sub-1-ounce carbon fiber rod setups, but for an additional 2.5 ounces, it'd be great to have it curve to my back. It seems to me that all it'd take is beefing up the top and bottom of the spandex mesh sleeping pad pockets with some cordura, and maybe installing blunt, ~1/2" diameter caps on the bottom ends of the stay so it is less likely to poke through fabric.

The other thing I'd like to do is make about a 3/4 scale G4 for my 4'6", 8-year-old son... then hang onto it for my 1-1/2 year-old son to use later. It'd be awesome to have a home-made heirloom like that, especially in this day and age of consumerism...

-Rodney


Edited by carbeque (04/09/15 01:34 PM)

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#190111 - 04/09/15 02:51 PM Re: G4 Backpack - Review [Re: carbeque]
PaHiker Offline
member

Registered: 02/12/15
Posts: 106
Loc: Pittsburgh, Pa, USA
I've seen that strap cinch, and don't care for it, I think it puts too much pressure on one spot. If not the roll down top, I like the Y strap better.


_________________________
Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intent of arriving safely in a well preserved body, but to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, worn out, and loudly proclaiming Wow! What a Ride!

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#190112 - 04/09/15 03:15 PM Re: G4 Backpack - Review [Re: PaHiker]
carbeque Offline
member

Registered: 09/30/14
Posts: 42
Loc: Sacramento, CA
Originally Posted By PaHiker
I've seen that strap cinch, and don't care for it, I think it puts too much pressure on one spot. If not the roll down top, I like the Y strap better.


I like the Y strap too, but wouldn't it be nice to slim the pack down against your back as well, effectively reduce its cross sectional area? I'm thinking something like this: (the things that look like knots are cord locks, and I'd run the cord *inside* of the mesh pockets)


Edited by carbeque (04/09/15 03:16 PM)

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#190115 - 04/09/15 04:26 PM Re: G4 Backpack - Review [Re: carbeque]
PaHiker Offline
member

Registered: 02/12/15
Posts: 106
Loc: Pittsburgh, Pa, USA
Yes, I agree. I already did that with the sides of the pack to pull it inwards, and to secure my tent poles and flute.

I would not do the ties as you show, on the sides I used this cord lock (separate holes for each end):





Edited by PaHiker (04/09/15 04:28 PM)
_________________________
Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intent of arriving safely in a well preserved body, but to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, worn out, and loudly proclaiming Wow! What a Ride!

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#190116 - 04/09/15 04:54 PM Re: G4 Backpack - Review [Re: PaHiker]
carbeque Offline
member

Registered: 09/30/14
Posts: 42
Loc: Sacramento, CA
Originally Posted By PaHiker
Yes, I agree. I already did that with the sides of the pack to pull it inwards, and to secure my tent poles and flute.

I would not do the ties as you show, on the sides I used this cord lock (separate holes for each end):


Gotcha... Cool. That works! Would keep the pack flatter and wider than my idea. ;-)

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#190117 - 04/09/15 05:00 PM Re: G4 Backpack - Review [Re: carbeque]
PaHiker Offline
member

Registered: 02/12/15
Posts: 106
Loc: Pittsburgh, Pa, USA
The other thing I did, not a pack mod, was to store everything in bags. Ziploc, silnylon, etc. It makes it easier to just grab stuff (like all my food in one, stove stuff in another). With a bag this big it's easy to lose things if you put them in loose.

I like the silnylon bags best because I can pick different colors. For example, to get at my first-aid gear (used it a couple times for myself and other hikers) I just grab the orange bag and it has everything.
_________________________
Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intent of arriving safely in a well preserved body, but to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, worn out, and loudly proclaiming Wow! What a Ride!

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#190190 - 04/14/15 06:58 PM Re: G4 Backpack - Review [Re: Pika]
Glenn Roberts Offline
Moderator

Registered: 12/23/08
Posts: 1362
Loc: Southwest Ohio
When I was trying the ultralite thing, I found a way to justify my 6 ounce chair kit. I would leave the thermarest Prolite pad (not the Neoair) in the chair, let the air out, fold it in half, and roll the edges inward until it was the same width as the back of the pack. Insert it down the back of the pack and, voila!, you've got stays to transfer the weight AND a comfortable place to sit in camp. If that wasn't stiff enough, I'd blow a bit of air into the pad to stiffen it. With the 3/4 pad, there was always about 4 inches that had to be folded over underneath your legs; this meant that the folded pad was also a bit thicker at one end. That end went at the bottom of the pack, and made a passable lumbar pad.

I used to do this with the Granite Gear Virga, and it worked pretty well up to 20 pounds, and at 21 pounds was completely insufficient. That had mostly to do with the fact that it had a very narrow webbing hipbelt that wouldn't support more weight than that without crumpling.

I always thought a lightly padded, wider hipbelt and a hydration sleeve inside the pack would have made it perfect: the pad could slip down inside the sleeve, and the hipbelt would put the weight limit toward 30 pounds. I see they've now added the hipbelt.

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#190191 - 04/14/15 07:07 PM Re: G4 Backpack - Review [Re: Glenn Roberts]
PaHiker Offline
member

Registered: 02/12/15
Posts: 106
Loc: Pittsburgh, Pa, USA
When I was putting my gear away in my cabinet I had the same thought when I move my Crazy Chair out of the way. May have to make adjustments on the distance between the mesh to accommodate the chair stays, will have to see.

I'm going back-and-forth on the hydration sleeve, I liked it in the outer mesh pocket, was easier to get at to fill up. I have a sleeve in my Gregory pack, and it's a pain to have to pull it out to fill, then wriggle it back in, full. Still working on that idea.

Primarily I use a water bottle with a hip holster for it, so the hydration pack is iffy.
_________________________
Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intent of arriving safely in a well preserved body, but to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, worn out, and loudly proclaiming Wow! What a Ride!

Top
#190195 - 04/14/15 08:40 PM Re: G4 Backpack - Review [Re: PaHiker]
topshot Offline
member

Registered: 04/28/09
Posts: 242
Loc: Midwest
Originally Posted By PaHiker
Therm-A-Rest mummy pad

Since you had collapse issues (though it also sounds like you needed to make the pack taller than the pattern for your torso length), I'm curious how you were using this for your frame? Or what else did you put into the frame pockets on the back?

Quote:
replaced these with 1" closed cell foam in the shoulders

Yikes! That's way too much as you found out.

Quote:
[*]The bottom of the pack is wider to allow for storing the tent bag

Actually, it's that way to just stuff the sleeping bag. The tent should be higher up in your pack.

Quote:
[*]Finally, and not sure how / where to do this, maybe on the outside of the section where the tent stores, or on the back mesh area. I need a small, clear, pouch to store permits, something that can be seen without removing the bag and opening it.

Seems like a waste for something so specific that will be used so little.

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#190197 - 04/14/15 09:08 PM Re: G4 Backpack - Review [Re: topshot]
PaHiker Offline
member

Registered: 02/12/15
Posts: 106
Loc: Pittsburgh, Pa, USA
Originally Posted By topshot
Originally Posted By PaHiker
Therm-A-Rest mummy pad

Since you had collapse issues (though it also sounds like you needed to make the pack taller than the pattern for your torso length), I'm curious how you were using this for your frame? Or what else did you put into the frame pockets on the back?

Understand, the problem wasn't the pack collapsing, it was the belt. I had socks and liner gloves in it, and I don't think they gave enough support to the belt, hence the collapse. I am 5'8", so I don't think a longer pack is what I need.


Quote:
[*]The bottom of the pack is wider to allow for storing the tent bag

Actually, it's that way to just stuff the sleeping bag. The tent should be higher up in your pack.

Preference matter, I think. My bag compresses pretty well, and is smaller than the tent, so I put the tent in the bottom.


Quote:
[*]Finally, and not sure how / where to do this, maybe on the outside of the section where the tent stores, or on the back mesh area. I need a small, clear, pouch to store permits, something that can be seen without removing the bag and opening it.

Seems like a waste for something so specific that will be used so little.


I don't see how it's much of a waste. I actually found a flat storage pouch that came with some gear I bought, don't remember what right now. It's 3.5 x 5, flat, and weights less than an ounce.
_________________________
Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intent of arriving safely in a well preserved body, but to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, worn out, and loudly proclaiming Wow! What a Ride!

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#191078 - 06/22/15 10:10 PM Re: G4 Backpack - Review [Re: PaHiker]
bob1900 Offline
member

Registered: 06/16/15
Posts: 19
lots of info here, thank you for sharing

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#191111 - 06/24/15 07:31 AM Re: G4 Backpack - Review [Re: bob1900]
PaHiker Offline
member

Registered: 02/12/15
Posts: 106
Loc: Pittsburgh, Pa, USA
Thanks. I'm in the midst of the revision. As soon as I get it done, and get a writeup put together, I will post it.
_________________________
Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intent of arriving safely in a well preserved body, but to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, worn out, and loudly proclaiming Wow! What a Ride!

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#192775 - 12/04/15 02:41 AM Re: G4 Backpack - Review [Re: PaHiker]
AMZSow Offline
newbie

Registered: 12/04/15
Posts: 11
very nice review man. there seems to be an error with your img tags though

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#192787 - 12/04/15 12:08 PM Re: G4 Backpack - Review [Re: AMZSow]
packlite Offline
Admin

Registered: 12/22/01
Posts: 2411
Loc: Pullman, WA, USA
Originally Posted By AMZSow
very nice review man. there seems to be an error with your img tags though


Image tags fixed - thanks!
_________________________
" Not all those who wander are lost ! "
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