Backpack Options

Posted by: Davester

Backpack Options - 02/25/11 01:22 PM

I'm looking at getting a new backpack. I don't want to break the bank. I'm looking at the mec brio 70. I mostly do the occasional weekend trip but i'm looking to maybe do the West Coast trail in a little bit. Any other suggestions for bags that I should look at?
Posted by: aimless

Re: Backpack Options - 02/25/11 02:05 PM

The usual advice is:

1) get a backpack that holds what you need without a lot of extra space left over that will tempt you to fill it up with more stuff you don't need. (NB: 70 liters may well be too big, but I don't know what gear you have, or you feel you "need".)
It is not stupid to bring your actual load of gear to the store to test a pack. that's what you'll be carrying after all.

2) get a backpack that fits you. Bodies differ and what is a great fit for others may not fit you all that well. If the size is adjustable, have an experienced fitter adjust it to you. Then load it with a full load and walk around a while.

3) labels and makers don't matter all that much compared to size and fit (see again points 1 & 2). Reputable makers don't make shoddy goods. No-name packs can be surprisingly good, but learn to look carefully at seams and stress points for signs of poor workmanship. Regardless of the maker.
Posted by: finallyME

Re: Backpack Options - 02/25/11 02:29 PM

I don't want to repeat the good advice already given. I will add one thing. If you don't have a quality sleeping bag that compresses to a small package, don't get an internal frame pack.
Posted by: OregonMouse

Re: Backpack Options - 02/25/11 02:50 PM

To reinforce aimless' post: Fit, fit, fit is the most important. Backpack fit is almost as individual as shoe fit! You need to get the pack that fits you and that fits your gear (which is why your gear needs to go to the store with you). Just putting weight in the pack is not a substitute for your own gear. Try not to let price be too much of a factor. Don't settle for a budget pack unless it's truly comfortable for you! Also, make sure you get an experienced clerk to help you. (S)he will help you with minor adjustments and how to pack your gear into the pack.

Check out the articles listed in the left-hand column of the home page of this site, especially this one.

Be sure to check the manufacturer's website for any packs in which you are interested. They will show the maximum recommended weight the pack can carry. If you try to carry more than the max, the pack's support mechanism won't work properly and the result will be quite uncomfortable. It's better to stay several pounds less than that.

In addition to the standard manufacturers, there are several "cottage" manufacturers who make excellent lightweight packs. These include ULA, Six Moon Designs (be sure to get the "optional" stays for more support), and Gossamer Gear, among others. Do go the store route first (so you know what a well-fitted pack feels like) before ordering over the internet, check the specifications (including maximum weight) carefully on the website and be prepared to pay return shipping if the pack doesn't fit you and your gear. Don't try for a frameless pack unless your total pack weight (pack plus everything in it, including food, fuel and water) is close to 20 lbs. or less. I personally would never buy a pack without load lifters (which connect the top of the pack frame to the top of the shoulder straps) to transfer more of the weight to the hip belt. My shoulders are quite sensitive to pressure (must be a hereditary thing as my grandkids have the same problem), so Your Mileage May Vary.
Posted by: BrianLe

Re: Backpack Options - 02/25/11 08:51 PM

One other standard bit of advice I've not see yet (in the good advice given so far) has to do with all of the gear you'll carry in the pack.

If you think there's much chance of changing that gear mix significantly, and in particular if you think you might over time want to cut back on weight (and bulk) of gear either by replacing with lighter versions and/or simply doing without some stuff --- then you might want to borrow or rent a pack in the interim. It's better to have your gear list trimmed down to what you'll actually carry on your trips before selecting the pack. Especially if the weight of the pack is a significant factor for you. Note that pack weights vary incredibly, some weigh about half of the total of everything I typically carry (to include my pack).

If overall pack weight isn't much of a concern for you then "never mind" --- just get a comfortable pack with enough capacity for any trip you can envision.

In terms of saving money: consider buying used (this and other backpacking sites have buy/sell threads for that) and watch for particular sales. Ideal would be to identify the particular pack you want and then just watch for some time in various places for a good price. Apart from major places like REI, there are a number of such, including sierra trading post,, and the cottage industry manufacturers (ULA, Gossamer Gear etc) sometimes have sales as well.
Posted by: phat

Re: Backpack Options - 02/25/11 11:26 PM

Hi Davester..

I own an MEC Brio 70 - it's enormous.

I only use it in the winter, strapped to my sled, when I am carrying a buttload of stuff...

Buy your backpack *last* - trust me. you can RENT a brio 70 from MEC in the meantime. think very carefully about what you want to buy for other gear first. If you want to do West Coast Trail, you can do it relatively lightweight, and have a blast, or you can do it like the newbies do and suffer under your backpack.

The reason I say this is that the brio 70 weighs a lot. darn near 7 pounds. To put that in context, I did two nights in the rockies in august with 9 pounds for all my gear, excluding food and fuel. My backpack weighted 500 grams.

Now that doesn't mean you need to go that light, but if you're
careful about what you take there are much much lighter backpacks you can buy at MEC that will get you down west coast trail.

last year I yoyo'ed it - I started at port renfrew, hiked to bamfield, turned around, and hiked back to port renfrew again.

I did pick up a food bag at the bamfield end of the trail, so I only had to carry food enough for one way.

My pack weighted 27 pounds at the start of the trail - *with* a litre of water and all my food in it.

have a look here:

what's in my .signature below is pretty much what I took on West Coast Trail. I might not reccomend you hammock it your first time on that trail, wct is not the easiest place to hammock in some spots.
Posted by: phat

Re: Backpack Options - 02/25/11 11:52 PM

if you're careful about what you take there are much much lighter backpacks you can buy at MEC that will get you down west coast trail.

And to put that in context, I've taken newbies down WCT with them carrying the MEC Alpinelite 45, and the Gregory Z55, both purchased at MEC. You don't need an "expedition" pack. you need the right gear and a pack big enough to carry the right gear.

But you won't know you can do that until you get the rest of your gear..