Hello, I’m a 6’1” 145 lb skinny+fit dude who usually hikes trails with a fat+unfit fiance (who hefts an 80L and enjoys it, screw physics, HYOH). We are in our 20s. Bushwhacking, scrambling, and water crossings are the norm but you won’t find us strapped onto cliffs, in the middle of the desert, or bagging peaks… Yet.
I’m looking for a lightweight, mid-sized, clean-looking, minimalist pack with few seams, zippers, flappy straps, pockets, etc. I do need some organization to put water bottles and other quick-access stuff. The Lightning 45 and Buttermilks are looking good at the moment. This will become my go-to bag for trail hiking over 1-7 nights with lightweight gear.
How light, you ask? Light enough to brush my teeth without a toothbrush and eat without a bowl. I answer the rain with a hat, sunglasses, a stiff drink, and a raised eyebrow at everyone else’s rain gear (luckily they can’t see the raised eyebrow because of the sunglasses+hat). But not so light that I leave the PJs and liquor flask at home I carry a glue stick sans glue gun as a lux item, FYI. You should too.
The shelter, cooking gear, water filter, etc. will almost always be split with the fiance.
I like to maintain a unique sense of style as opposed to the typical backpackers that look either clueless or like full-blown REI sponsors. This means DIY and MYOG mixed with uncommon or striking or modded gear. I will flat-out reject awesome stuff just because it doesn’t look good or it lacks that individual perfection. I know, I know.
Yes, fit is the most important trait for a pack; I’m just deciding which pack to try on first. If it doesn’t fit, well, I’ve already got my second choice (and third, and fourth, and…).
Due to the current election cycle, I've turned my sarcasm filter to the lowest setting, as it can't differentiate obfuscation and prevarication from humorous intent. Was there a question in your post? If not, welcome. If so, welcome. At least you can't tell if I have a just wry smile or an outright smirk under the hood of my rain gear.
Loc: Portland, OR
You make an emphatic point of saying that your sense of style is a critical component of whatever you choose and I'm sure that's true. The difficulty for others is trying to suss out just what that sense of style could be, because our style sense could easily be worlds away from yours. This promotes doubt and hesitation in making any recommendations.
You'll find that most people here really are interested in being helpful, but what you've given us to work with so far is a bit puzzling. If you make another run at it, we may get somewhere a bit faster.
- Do you know how many cubic inches (or liters) of space your gear is likely to require?
- What about the weight of gear, food and water the pack will be carrying?
- Do you require a frame or hip belt, or is your load so light (15 lbs or less) that these can be dispensed with?
- Are you bushwhacking or staying on trails (this will affect the need for a durable, but heavier, fabric)?
- Does color matter? Or a 'stylish' contour/profile? Or could it be just a utilitarian/minimalist bag with straps?
Answers to such questions would greatly increase the useful info we can provide.
Loc: Gateway to Columbia Gorge
I can only answer with what I'd be shopping for under ficticious circumstances. The pack I bought on sale (because discontinued) in early 2006 is holding up just fine, which is why my scenario is fictitious. I suspect my current pack (from Six Moon Designs) will outlast me!
My need for a pack is one that will easily support 25 lbs. and about 45 liters volume by transferring 95% of the weight to the hip belt and with load lifters that will allow me to keep the tops of the shoulder straps away from my pressure-sensitive shoulders. The pack needs to fit close to my back so I'm not pulled off balance. I also don't want a pack that has a lot of gewgaws (although I do want outside pockets to hold water, snacks, rain gear and a wet tent). My pet peeve is hip belt pockets because the item I want is never in the first pocket I open! I also want a pack that weighs no more than 2 lbs. Unlike you, I don't care at all about style, just comfort.
If I were looking for a replacement pack, I'd start with the ULA Ohm 2.0 or Circuit (although the latter is slightly over my max desired weight) or the Elemental Horizons Kalais. Since our criteria are far apart, those may not interest you at all, but it might be worth your while to take a look at them (and other packs by the same manufacturers) online. Other "cottage industry" packs that might be worth a look are those made by Six Moon Designs or Gossamer Gear, and ZPacks. Mountain Laurel Designs is good but their frameless packs mean your total pack weight shouldn't exceed 20 lbs.
What you really neeed before shopping for a pack are the following parameters: (1) Weight to be carried, including weight of the pack (be sure it's several pounds--preferabl;y 5--below the maximum suggested weight for the pack on the manufacturer's website); (2) volume of gear to be carried; (3) your torso length (from the knob at the base of your neck to a point on your spine halfway between your two iliac crests (not your waist). There's a slightly titillating video on the ULA website that shows how to measure, but get someone to measure for you (i"ve come out as much as 3" difference each time when trying to measure myself).
Also, have your gear (including the weight/volume equivalent of a week's food and a day's water) ready to load up in the pack as soon as it arrives. Leave the tags on, keep the pack clean, load it up and hike around the house for a few hours to judge the comfort. If it's not, return it! You may have to pay return shipping for several packs before you find the one that is perfect for you.
If going to a store (where I never had much luck, but each of us is different), pack up the aforesaid gear and dummy food/water and take it to the store with you. The store staff will be appreciative (and therefore more helpful) if you make an appointment in advance during less crowded hours.
May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view--E. Abbey
Very cleverly written, good literary style - not much to make any specific recommendations. Creative writing in large doses tends to fall flat on Lite Gear Talk, but goes over quite well on many of the other forums here.
Take a look at Granite Gear packs - they might have something that fits your needs. Also, Osprey makes some lightweight packs that might fill whatever your needs are - particularly the Exos and Talon series.
Aimless, I agree that my post is not straightforward – It’s both an introduction and a question. But please reread and you’ll see that it already answers all of your questions:
Do you know how many cubic inches (or liters) of space your gear is likely to require? What about the weight of gear, food and water the pack will be carrying? Do you require a frame or hip belt, or is your load so light (15 lbs or less) that these can be dispensed with?
“This will become my go-to bag for trail hiking over 1-7 nights with lightweight gear.”
“The shelter, cooking gear, water filter, etc. will almost always be split with the fiance.”
“The Lightning 45 and Buttermilks are looking good at the moment.”
Lightweight gear, according to Wikipedia, is a base pack weight of 10-20 lbs. 1-7 nights should give you rough estimates of my food weight. I didn’t post specific weights, volumes, and belt requirements because they fluctuate based on trip length, destination, and whether or not I’m hiking solo. The above quotes suggest a 40-60L with ~30 lb capacity with a hip belt (preferably detachable for lighter, shorter trips). Does that sound about right?
Are you bushwhacking or staying on trails (this will affect the need for a durable, but heavier, fabric)?
“Bushwhacking, scrambling, and water crossings are the norm but you won’t find us strapped onto cliffs, in the middle of the desert, or bagging peaks.”
Does color matter? Or a 'stylish' contour/profile? Or could it be just a utilitarian/minimalist bag with straps?
‘Stylish’ as defined in my original post:
“a lightweight, mid-sized, clean-looking, minimalist pack with few seams, zippers, flappy straps, pockets, etc.”
“The Lightning 45 and Buttermilks are looking good at the moment.”
“This means DIY and MYOG mixed with uncommon or striking or modded gear.”
I put a lot of miles on a Granite Gear AC 60. They're a good pack, but they don't handle loads over 35 that well. Not that I do that often, but sometimes... I now carry an Atmos 50 and it does truly carry like a set of wings. I usually forget to use the sternum strap and have had zero discomfort. I need a pack to occasionally haul 6 qts. or more of water on our annual Grand Canyon trips and I usually carry the bulk of our gear and food. We also do a lot of winter trips and I sometimes am carrying fishing gear and a pack raft. If all else fails in your shopping, my Atmos makes carrying 20 lbs feel like 10 to me. The fact that it's heavy itself gets outweighed by its ability to perform. Best pack I've ever used for scrambling on Class 3 sections. It just may be the fact I have the fit dialed in, and my morphology is WAY different than yours. I'm 5'11 and 195. Still if you don't find something that fits your needs... Happy shopping!
Another note, I looked at the Lightening 45 and deemed it too small for my needs. Besides the fact I couldn't try it on in person , it lacked the outside stretch pockets I like to stuff my wet clothes and tent in. Style to me is function over form, so things strapped all over the pack that can shift or fall off speaks of afterthoughts and not well prepared. Kind of like throwing a Carharrt work coat over a Saville Row suit. I couldn't find a pack called Buttermilks, but having lived in easy biking distance from bouldering there, I'll guess it's a climbing oriented pack. Could you provide a link for people like me, who lack research skills?
Loc: Nacogdoches, TX, USA
Originally Posted By bluefish
I couldn't find a pack called Buttermilks, but having lived in easy biking distance from bouldering there, I'll guess it's a climbing oriented pack. Could you provide a link for people like me, who lack research skills?
You need to take the gear you have to a store and stuff it in a pack. It does not have to be the pack you want. Just see what Liter capacity you need. Just saying 1-7 days and light weight is not very useful- everyone's gear has varying VOLUME - and that is what you need to know. If you will backpack in an area that requires a bear can, then you need to take that into account. It takes very compact gear to do a 7-day trip in a 40L pack. Or are you going to have your poor GF carry everything that does not fit in yours, LOL. PS, my husband does this to me and I still love him.
If you do not like the style or look, just stick a pack cover over it and nobody will know the difference. Seriously, if bushwhacking, do stay with a clean outside so you do not catch on branches and be sure EVERYTHING fits inside. I once bushwhacked with my sleeping pad on the outside and ended up with a deflated pad- very uncomfortable!
Go for function first. Fine if you find a pack that is also "stylish". Otherwise, forget it.
Bluefish, I like your work-coat-over-a-suit analogy and totally agree with it (the only gear outside of my pack are wet tent/clothes).
The Lightning has a pocket within the main compartment, stretchy side pockets and hip-belt pockets. While it lacks a front pocket, the intriguing compression system seems more functional: you can lash wet gear and/or compress the front of the pack for a thinner profile. The straps can be laced in different ways depending on your needs (criss-cross, vertical, horizontal, etc).
Other pros and cons in my eyes: + A lot of mod potential (swapping out compression straps, adding bottom bag loops or front pocket, etc.) + Roll-top can be sealed in two different ways (affects ease-of-access, compression, and water run-off) + Single seam that runs around the bottom of the pack (better waterproofing, less seams to rip) + Aluminum stay can be bent to the curvature of your spine + Adjustable torso height + Not too many pockets and zippers to distract me from packing light + Very light (2lbs) but with support + Sizes are bigger than advertised: the 45L is more like 50L and the 60L is like 65L + Strap tidies: not a dealbreaker but I don’t like the messy-hanging-straps look + Unusual appearance and rarity (in my area) contribute to ‘style’ - I never see the pack in any local stores so I’ll have to order it online (obviously with return policy) - Hip belt and lumbar padding seem excessove - The kinda-internal-kinda-external frame looks uncomfortable but reviewers seem very comfortable with it - Can’t decide which size pack to try first
As for the Atmos, I loved the fit of the pack, but… (1) The curvature of the main compartment might be difficult to work with. Is this true? (2) It’s design is too complex for me to mod and personalize. (3) It’s the typical common ‘hot’ pack right now so it lacks uniqueness. (4) Some of Osprey’s design sensibilities are questionable IMHO- too many zippers and pockets and straps; too much weight. But the pack looks good overall. And it’s available at a local store with lowest-price matching. And I’ve never tried any other pack that felt like donning a pair of wings.
Wandering Daisy, It’s not as simple as just taking my gear to a store. My gear varies greatly (in both weight and volume) depending on a TON of factors. This will become my go-to pack for all trips so it’s important for the pack to accommodate these weight/volume variances (ideally by compressing well yet expanding when more space is needed). It should also accommodate future gear developments like winter or desert backpacking- gear that I don’t have yet and can’t weigh or size up.
When I share gear with the GF she takes light-but-big items while I take heavy-but-small items. This minimizes her weight while maximizing her pack volume (her preference). On the other hand, I don’t mind extra weight as long as its tight, compact, and carries well.
Buying an ugly pack and slapping a pack cover on it goes against my philosophy. I am patient enough to hunt for a pack that is both functional and stylish. There’s no need to make compromises.
Loc: Gateway to Columbia Gorge
As I tried to suggest, gently, in my post above, backpack fit is almost as individual as shoe fit. So are many other items you consider important like taste. That's why I listed my personal criteria, since I don't even know what you consider a "pretty" backpack.
If your gear varies so greatly in weight and bulk from trip to trip, I strongly suspect that you need two packs, one for short trips and the other for long. I've managed to get along with only one because for me the only item that varies by length of trip is food and an insulation layer more or less. I also have a pack that can easily be adjusted to fit different volumes by means of compression straps. I even use it as a day pack when base camping (not great, and definitely ugly, but it works well enough that I don't need to carry the weight of an extra day pack).
I notice that you're basically rejecting the advice being given by our members here, many of whom are far more experienced than you. For example, Wandering_Daisy has been backpacking since childhood (as have I) and (unlike me) has spent many years on the staff of the National Outdoor Leadership School. That's your privilege, but, if you're rejecting the advice offered here, it means that you are basically on your own as far as research goes. Good luck!
Edited by OregonMouse (05/06/1603:57 PM)
May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view--E. Abbey
As for the Atmos, I loved the fit of the pack, but… (1) The curvature of the main compartment might be difficult to work with. Is this true? (2) It’s design is too complex for me to mod and personalize. (3) It’s the typical common ‘hot’ pack right now so it lacks uniqueness. (4) Some of Osprey’s design sensibilities are questionable IMHO- too many zippers and pockets and straps; too much weight. But the pack looks good overall. And it’s available at a local store with lowest-price matching. And I’ve never tried any other pack that felt like donning a pair of wings. [/quote]
Dan, you can slide a bear canister into it very easily with room on the sides to stuff clothes and such, so in my opinion, the curvature is a very negligible hindrance. If you wish to compress and narrow the pack, the straps will do that. Loosening them all the way makes quite an opening. In fact, when the divider is taken out, you can put a large bear canister crosswise in the bottom of the pack through the sleeping bag compartment flap.. This makes it carry well and leaves lots of room for other gear. As for the weight- it's a quart of water heavier than UL packs- in my use- basically NOTHING. I'm really not an Osprey salesman; for me and my purposes they got this one right. I looked at the Buttermilk (thanks for the link), I liked it, especially as it has the large pocket on the back. In my experience, (which started with one of the original Kelty external frames) I'd rather have extra capacity than too little. But it really comes down to how the straps and belt fit you. I hate packs that feel great with 20-23 lbs. then you add 12 lbs. of water and the shoulder straps turn into belt sanders. Make sure if you test out packs to load the thing HEAVY and leave it on for awhile. There may come a time when you need to carry more than you thought or would have liked, and your pack shouldn't be a huge pain. OM is right, Daisy has a lot of good advice, don't discount it, you usually have to buy a very good book or somehow pay for what she offers freely.
OregonMouse: Advice, like packs and shoes, is not one-size-fits-all… it can and should be rejected if it doesn’t work for you. I’ve happily accepted your advice regarding the Ohm/Circuit (I’ve got my eye on both) and a 2-pack solution (which I’d rather avoid). I’ve also taken Bluefish’s comments about the Atmos to heart.
WanderingDaisy’s post is perfectly spot-on for choosing a pack under typical circumstances (and amusingly written, to boot) but her recommendations just don’t work for my particular situation. It’s nothing personal. You make it sound as if I reject advice recklessly; that’s far from the case. Let me explain why a specific weight/volume measurement is not particularly useful for me:
Our shelter for two is 8 lbs but only ~3 lbs when I go solo w/ tarptent and/or hammock. The bigger shelter can be split in many ways so the weight and volume can fluctuate dramatically (2-6 lbs per person). Some trips may involve an even bigger group tent for multiple people.
Our cook system varies between a DIY wood stove, fuel experiments with a pot stand + windscreen, or just a campfire (LNT). Food varies between dry+dense and ambitious+large. I may not take anything when rolling solo… but I might.
Some trips are centered around hiking, others focus more on camping, others are extended music festivals and the like, sometimes we take our packs on a ‘civilized’ vacations and wind up in the wilderness anyway I may travel solo, with my GF, or with a group of 4 or so. These trips all call for wildly different gear. I plan to do winter backpacking in the future but I don’t have the gear for that yet. When I do, I’d like to stuff it all in the same pack. And maybe I’ll take up rock climbing or peak-bagging next year, who knows? Guess what pack I'll be using then?
And so on.
For pure backpacking purposes, my base weight is 13 lbs without the pack (and consumables) and the gear fits easily fits into smaller packs but that’s not the point: the pack should be versatile, able to handle a variety of circumstances, pre-planned or unexpected. That’s why this thread is titled One Pack to Rule Them All. WanderingDaisy’s advice, while excellent in its own right, goes against the type of discussion that I’m trying to have. Your reply (about what you’d buy under fictitious circumstances) was perfect and greatly appreciated.
I’m starting to see what Glenn Roberts was talking about
Bluefish, the Atmos AG has really has been tugging at me. It fits WAY too good: I shopped around with 25 lbs inside and it really did feel a lot lighter than that. Glad to hear that the curvature is not an issue. And the whole idea of carrying extra, unforeseen gear is exactly what I want to prepare myself for.
I've got a couple more questions about it:
How do the straps 'behave' when the pack is on and compressed? Are they dangling everywhere? Does the pack have strap tidies? Flapping straps drive me nuts because I get them snagged, brush against them and think they are bugs (seriously), they look raggedy, etc. The bag is so adjustable that I'd rather not cut the straps too much- it would make a great hand-me-down or loaner bag for other people.
On long hikes does the back panel breathe perfectly? As in no back sweat (beyond what the rest of your body is sweating)?
If you were tasked with making your Atmos identifiable among a stack of other Atmos packs, could you do it? Would you be able to mod personal touches (functional ones) onto the pack? I've always felt that Osprey packs were a bit too busy to mod easily... what do you think?
Thanks for your feedback so far, much appreciated!
The compression straps and the straps for the lid are well laid out and don't flap. The hip belt straps are a mile too long, but I think the intent was to allow a lot of leeway and have the consumer trim them. Honestly, this is a busy pack, with lots of the add-on features to draw consumers in. Some are a little gimmicky, and I could do without them, but in general, I find I use them. Other than the lid can be removed and it has a flap that buckles down in its place - you could attach a lid to this and do away with some straps and 5-6 oz.s I would find this a hard pack to amend and personalize. Even the lid straps have a design and length that allow you to raise the lid and lash down something fairly bulky, like a jacket, a water bladder, or a CCF pad underneath it. You could embroider on your favorite band logo? I'm not kidding, this is not a simple design. As I have ratcheted down salt intake to maintain healthy BP levels and carry more fat gained with age, though I'm not out of shape, I find myself sweating more profusely than I have before. Though the Atmos won't completely eliminate it, it's been the only pack where it wasn't a huge issue. For me, it's one of the winning features. I got away without changing base layers at the end of days this winter. That's a first!!!! I would go to the Osprey site and use their display of the pack to see what you think and try to visualize what you could do. It's not an issue for me, and my creativity seems limited to what I strangle out of an old Gibson and what can be shaped out of wood and nails. The other caveat would be I only have about 400 miles on this pack so far, though the use was fairly diverse. 55 miles in the Grand Canyon, A Tongue Mt. range traverse (An Adirondack hike-tough trail in parts- highly recommended) The rest of the miles on various winter trips in the Northeast, mostly on the AT and the Long Trail. I bought it around Thanksgiving. In the end, I would venture you'll find this pack not quite your cup of tea, though it would probably serve you OK. One of the few Latin phrases I retain- de gustibus non disputandum- matters of taste can't be argued.
I doubt seriously that you are beginning to understand what I meant - or what anyone else is saying. At this point, you're starting to come across as "I know more than any of you, and you're not giving me the answers I want."
If you're simply seeking validation for your own opinions and beliefs, you're in the wrong place. These other folks are giving you the benefit of their experience (in my own case, I'm never sure whether I've got 35 years of experience, or 1 year's experience 35 times.) The way the forum works is that they will share information, but in the end you simply take it or ignore it - if you feel the need to prove that they are wrong, one of two things will happen. Either the moderators will step in when things get out of control, or (far worse) the next time you have a question, you'll get no responses from these folks. Either way, you lose.
From following the thread, it appears that this is where we are:
You: "I do a lot of different things. I want you to tell me what one pack I can get that will meet all my needs."
Everybody: "That pack doesn't exist. You may need more than one pack because of the variety of things you do."
You: "That's not what I wanted you to tell me. Tell me what I wanted to hear."
Everybody: "Well, OK, then here are a few that you might be able to make work, but no one will be perfect for everything."
You: "I don't like any of those. No one understands my needs; I'm special - can't you see that? Why can't you just give me what I want, right now?"
Sometimes, you have to realize that things are what they are, and modify your plans - or get busy and design the pack of your dreams (in which case, you might get some really good ideas on the MYOG forum.
Glenn Roberts: No one said that pack doesn’t exist. OM suggested that I may need two packs. That’s a far cry from “everyone”. I accepted all advice except for one piece. That’s a far cry from “tell me what I want to hear.” I’ve expressed interest in Granite Gear packs, Exos, Atmos, Ohm and Circuit based on recommendations from the people here. That’s a far cry from “I don’t like any of those”. I explained my gear fluctuations to provide helpful information, not to “validate my opinions”.
But I catch your drift.
For those interested, the packs I’m deciding between are the Atmos AG, Ohm/Circuit, Granite Gear Lutsen, Buttermilks, and Lightning. I’ll be trying all of them over the next week or two. Thanks for your help everyone!
If I've misunderstood you, I apologize. I really want you to fit in here - it sounds like there's a lot you can learn from us (look how your pack list expanded), and we can always learn new things from anyone. I was just concerned that what appeared to me (and perhaps others) to be a confrontational style was going to end up with everyone disengaging from you, and you leaving the forums - neither of which benefits anyone.
And I was serious - if none of the five packs you're now considering turn out to be what you're looking for, take a look at the MYOG (Make Your Own Gear) forum here, and design and build your own. That's exactly how Gossamer Gear got started - the original owner didn't like any of the packs commercially available, so he built his own. For tents, that's how TarpTent started. It may be an option for you, too.
Loc: California, United States
pack for 7 nights, then see how much volume and weight that is. go try backpacks on at a store where you put weight in the pack. Fit is king. Back country is one area I think function over form is definitely preferred.
Buy more than one pack. People seem to adore Gregory, but you need to have a better job than I do. I am broke. I buy mine either on eBay (discontinued models can be had cheaply if you come along at the right time). Of mine, I prefer my Kelty IF, model unknown.