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 ( 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
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!