Pack Recommendation for Beginner

Posted by: asarkar

Pack Recommendation for Beginner - 09/08/12 11:14 PM

I am an avid photographer and love doing easy day hikes (<5 mi round trip). I've never considered speciality hiking gear and so far the blue Jeans with sneakers have served reasonably well. However, I am soon embarking on a NW trip with several day hikes in mind and realized that my luck with being unprepared might just run out anytime. Hence the following question.

Please recommend a backpack suitable for day hikes. It'd be nice, but not necessary, if the pack could also suffice for a weekend overnight trip, which is the longest trip I might indulge in foreseeable future. Upon some research, I found the following few packs seemingly suitable to my need.

GoLite Jam 35L
Gossamer Gear Murmur Hyperlight Backpack 2012
Osprey Talon 22
Osprey Hornet 24
Black Diamond Magnum Pack
Black Diamond Blaze Pack

Thanks in advance.

Posted by: Glenn Roberts

Re: Pack Recommendation for Beginner - 09/09/12 05:50 AM

Also take a look at the Osprey Kestrel 38 - the suspension is a bit beefier than the other two Osprey packs you mention, and the extra capacity would let you stretch it for an overnighter pretty easily. (If 38 liters is still too large, they also make a Kestrel 28.)
Posted by: Gershon

Re: Pack Recommendation for Beginner - 09/09/12 07:34 AM

In my opinion, if your overnight trips will be infrequent, it's not worth it to buy more expensive gear. This means your pack for the overnight trips will probably need to be around 50-60 liters. You may carry more weight than others, but since it's just one day, you won't be loaded down with a lot of food.

My son does just fine with a schoolbag for day hikes. I see all kinds of little bags on the trail and most are more expensive than they need to be. Last weekend I saw a guy with an old pack with a beautifully finished wooden frame. That was the classiest one I've seen. In my opinion, spending a lot of money to save a pound or two on a day pack isn't worth it.

I find suspension isn't so important for dayhikes as the pack is light and I never notice the pack. What may be more important is how it holds your photography gear.

Hiking in jeans and sneakers is fine if you can keep dry. For cheap pants, I prefer cargo pants from WalMart for about $14 as they have more pockets. They are cotton, but my fallback position is to wear my rainpants. If jeans are more comfortable, just carry a pair of synthetic pants in your pack for wet days.

Keep in mind Glenn and I are on opposite sides of the gear thing. Glenn seems to enjoy getting a lot of new gear. I've become almost evangelically opposed to this approach. I prefer to use my gear to extinction. If I have time to drive to REI to look at new gear, I have time to get one more trip out of the old gear I have.

I've also become more minimalist as I get more experience. It's just walking and sleeping on the ground for a night.
Posted by: asarkar

Re: Pack Recommendation for Beginner - 09/09/12 11:14 AM

Thank you. I've a speciality pack for photography gear (with compartments & extra padding) and not planning to use the day pack for same purpose. Most likely, my wife will carry the day pack.
It sounds like, from your suggestion, that I should either go for a school bag or a 50L pack. I wasn't sure if carrying a scantily loaded big pack was worthwhile and was concentrating on small packs like the ones in OP (<25L). But I might be missing something because until yesterday, I had no idea about hiking gear and I can't say in one day I've gained a lot of knowledge.

P.S: I am not getting email notifications of replies posted. What do I need to do to get those?
Posted by: Gershon

Re: Pack Recommendation for Beginner - 09/09/12 12:23 PM

If I had to have just one pack, it would have to serve all purposes. A partially full pack for day hiking is no big deal.

Or you could buy two packs. Either way is good.
Posted by: Glenn Roberts

Re: Pack Recommendation for Beginner - 09/09/12 03:17 PM

Gershon and I are on the opposite sides of the new-gear thing by preference, not for any objective differences. For me, trying out a variety of different stuff has almost become a sub-hobby; I'm luck that my stage in life (no kids, mortgages, or vices other than gear) allows me to indulge this. I've also been lucky in that my "rejects" end up on the trail anyhow, in someone else's pack.

However, there's nothing wrong with his approach - it was my approach, too, back when the kids were at home (with college tuition staring at us), and home was still mostly owned by the bank. It worked, and worked well.

My advice was given under the assumption that the decision to buy a new pack had already been made, and you were just narrowing the list. If you already have a pack in the 40 - 50 liter range, try a couple of trips with it, and make sure you enjoy the overnight part before you invest in a lot of gear.
Posted by: asarkar

Re: Pack Recommendation for Beginner - 09/09/12 04:45 PM

Is a 35L (approx 2200 ci) overkill for 4-6 mi day hikes?
Posted by: lori

Re: Pack Recommendation for Beginner - 09/09/12 06:30 PM

If you go on very long dayhikes (sunrise to sunset, 10+ miles) you want to pack enough to carry you over an extra day just in case.

You will want to ALWAYS have the 10 essentials in some form. (If you don't know what those are, cruise to the main page,, and check the links in the left column.)

My overnight (1-4 nights) pack is a 40 liter, however, my gear list has evolved and has less bulk/weight than most. My day pack is a 35L when I am out with a bunch of newbies for a dayhike or have special circumstances (fishing gear, dicey weather forecast, special occasion requiring a birthday cake or some other extra). My usual dayhike pack for up to 8 miles (which I can hike in half a day or less) is about 500 cu. in. and always has the 10 essentials, my food and water for the hike, a windshirt at minimum, a fleece or down jacket maximum, and my point and shoot camera.

I would say everything depends on what (or who) you take on day hikes. If you have kids, you may want a bigger pack, and 35L would be plenty.
Posted by: Gershon

Re: Pack Recommendation for Beginner - 09/09/12 07:03 PM

So far, we haven't discussed any of the features and benefits of daypack design.

Let's use this one for an example.

First thing I'd look for is two outside pockets that will each hold a water bottle. Most of us just buy Arrowhead water or some other brand and use those bottles. They are lightweight and come free with water.

Then there is the compartment for lunch and snacks along the trail. This is normally towards the back of the pack. I'd also put my water filter in this compartment.

There is the small zippered pocket on the top which is a good place to put your wallet, car keys and minor first aid kit.

The outside pocket is a good place for a field guide, journal, or whatever else you might want quick access to. I'd suggest keeping these in Ziploc bags.

Finally, there is what I call the big bag section where I put my extra clothes, stove and fuel.

Saying what size will work is difficult as it may be dependent on how big you are and what specific clothes you bring.

My suggestion is to get all your gear together and go to REI if you have one in your area. I'd stay away from the box stores.

If you have to order by mail, REI has a very liberal lifetime return policy. If you become a lifetime member for $20, you will get emails on sales, a 15% dividend on many of your purchases and you don't have to keep receipts.

Posted by: JPete

Re: Pack Recommendation for Beginner - 09/09/12 08:37 PM


35 litre is a nice size. I carried a 40litre on a thru-hike of the AT, but like Lori, my gear has evolved.

My regular day pack is probably about 10 or 12 litres, but it's jammed (I also carry enough to stay out if something goes wrong)

I've told the story here before, but early in my last thru-hike, a southbound hiker went by me and asked how far I was going. When I said Katadin, he looked at my pack and said, "but that is a day pack." Actually, it was partly in German, so the quote is not direct, but it was pretty funny.

Posted by: lori

Re: Pack Recommendation for Beginner - 09/09/12 09:03 PM

I always get a hydration bladder pocket in my packs, all of them - I never use water bottles. I've had them leak, break, and generally I won't drink enough water if I don't have a bite valve in front of me all the time.

I put everything in the pack itself and never in side mesh pockets where they can be ripped out of the pack by a bush or fall out when I drop the pack. (But I am not always on a nice brush-free trail.)

I never put anything in a front pocket for the same reason.

Everything depends on where and when you go.
Posted by: Steadman

Re: Pack Recommendation for Beginner - 09/09/12 10:01 PM

If you have the bookbag you took to school with you, you're set to start. If you don't, buying a Jansport bookbag from Target will get you started for $10-$15. Still follow the recommendation to bring your ten essentials + any gear you'd put in the pack to the store to ensure it'll fit.

After you've bummed around with that for a while, then think about what more you'd like (a hip belt, a hydration bladder pocket, specific photography gear padding, etc).

Gear is supposed to solve problems that you have. If you have no problem, you don't need a new widget to fix the problem.
Posted by: Glenn Roberts

Re: Pack Recommendation for Beginner - 09/10/12 07:15 AM

"Gear is supposed to solve problems that you have. If you have no problem, you don't need a new widget to fix the problem."

That belongs in the "Most profound advice I've ever gotten" thread! It is, hands down, the most succinct explanation of gear selection I've ever run across. Well done!

So, how do I justify my gear-junkie approach? Well, I spend a lot of time looking for problems! smile
Posted by: ETSU Pride

Re: Pack Recommendation for Beginner - 09/10/12 11:15 AM

Originally Posted By Glenn Roberts

So, how do I justify my gear-junkie approach? Well, I spend a lot of time looking for problems! smile

I seem to have a knack for finding problems. To stay on topic, I'm looking at the 28L Habanero pack from Granite Gear for my dayhiking needs. As well as the Osprey Strato 24L. They are both in 100-115.00 range, but I'll get a lot of use and many years of service out of it.
Posted by: verber

Re: Pack Recommendation for Beginner - 09/10/12 12:39 PM

I would second people's recommendation that one of the best things you can do is gather up all the things you what to carry and bring it to a store with a good selection of daypacks. Find a pack that the gear fits perfectly into (not to big, not to small) and feels comfortable to the person who will be carrying it.

That said, to give you a starting point, if you wife is only carrying things she needs, 20L should be a good size. If you are carrying "just" camera gear and she is carrying everything else, 30L might be a better size. Any pack that would be large enough for an overnight (unless you are committed to going ultralight) would be overkill for your dayhikes. FInd something that is right for the immediate problem and revisit if/when you decide to give backpacking a try.

I would note that The Murmur and the Jam are fairly minimalist. Some people love this sort of design. When backpacking this would be my preference, but for day hikes I typically like a few additional features... the Talon is more my speed.

I have written up some others thinks to consider on my recommended daypacks page.
Posted by: asarkar

Re: Pack Recommendation for Beginner - 09/10/12 07:38 PM

I read your page about recommended daypacks. You mentioned about SLR lenses so it seems you share a similar interest. What's your thought about Black Diamond packs? Some people seem to love 'em but you didn't mention in your reply or in your page.
The closest REI is 3 hr drive away from me. There's a Dick's Sporting Goods but they may not have the packs I wanna try in stock. I need to buy to try hence the long comparison.
Posted by: asarkar

Re: Pack Recommendation for Beginner - 09/10/12 07:38 PM

I always thought a bag that could pack both hiking gear and photo gear did not exist. I have been using a Think Tank Airport Antidote v2.0 for lugging photo gear for more than 2 years now. The pack is not very comfortable on uneven trails but it's built like a tank and gives me a good night's sleep while carrying $$ worth of photo gear. It's also the approved size for carry-on luggage.
Posted by: verber

Re: Pack Recommendation for Beginner - 09/11/12 11:27 AM

I don't feel strongly for or against black diamond daypacks. My experience is that most daypacks are "ok". The carry stuff, they have various features. Most are too heavy. Every now and again someone makes a daypack that stands out... and then they discontinue that really great pack and replace it with something that isn't as good frown

As to a pack that works for hiking and photo work... well it sort of depends. If you are going for maximum protection of camera gear then there are some Lowe Pro bags which might work depending on how many bodies / lens / etc you carry.

Normal daypacks work for me because of two things. First, I tend to think of my camera and lens as tools. I purchased them to use so while I am careful, I don't baby them. If I damage something - has happened... but not while it's in the bag) I will repair or replace it. Second, I tend not to carry a huge area of lens... max 5, only one lens longer than 90mm. I typically have the camera out all the time hanging from a harness or a pouch attached to my shoulder strap with whatever lens I am using at the time (tends to be a 17-35/2.8 or a wide or normal prime). The bottom section of my daypack would have a Domke F-5xb bag which I insert sideways (e.g. the top of the camera bag faces the opening in my pack holding several lens that I might put out for something special. If I have additional lens they will be in Domke wraps in the top section of my daypack. I will typically have a long lens in one of the side water bottle pockets in a padded container... for smaller lens this tends to be a padded / insulated holster designed to hold a water bottle. It is insulated with foam to keep water cool... which provide a good bit of protection. I have the long lens outside so I can get to it quickly for when I could across wildlife that is likely not going to stick around for long.

This summer I switched to using only u4/3. With the Olympus OM-D the image quality is "good enough" for my need when outdoors and is way lighter and more compact than a full size DSLR. A OM-D with the 35mm equiv of a 17-35/2.8 attached, 45/2.8 macro, 20/1.7, 90-400/4-5.6 fit (slightly cramped) into my Domke F5-xb that I installed a couple extra divided.

Posted by: TomD

Re: Pack Recommendation for Beginner - 09/12/12 03:50 AM

One thing I would do for your camera gear if you don't buy a specialty pack is go to a Target, Wal-Mart or Dick's and buy a blue foam sleeping pad and a can of neoprene or wesuit cement. These pads have been around for years and are often the first pad anyone buys. Should be around $10 at the most. They are dense closed cell foam about a half inch think and baby blue (usually). The cement (also called Barge cement which is a brand name), works well on it. A dive shop or place like Home Depot should have it since it can be used on foam insulation.

Use the foam to make dividers or lightweight padded cases for lenses or camera bodies. I've made an insulated case for a thermos bottle and a few other things with it.

On another note from your original post-leave the jeans at home. Once they get wet they are worse than useless and I mean that-heavy and with no insulation at all. Wet jeans can lead to hypothermia which can kill you. Not trying to be dramatic, but those are the facts. If you can't afford fancy hiking pants, don't worry, get a pair of cheap wool pants and wear those. Army surplus stores have them, so does Goodwill and stores like them. Forget anything made of cotton in cold weather unless you are in sub zero weather (I will skip why cotton works in really cold weather for the moment) and I mean anything including underwear. Get anything synthetic. Doesn't have to be fancy. Target and other discount stores carry a lot of synthetic stuff. Dick's should have some cheap snowboard pants and those will work too. Sierra Trading Post is a good place online to buy stuff at heavily discounted prices. I've bought a couple of things from them and they have great customer service if you have to return something.

I have some Patagonia Capilene base layer pieces. The prices are outrageous, but I have two pieces, a top and bottom I bought 25 years ago and they are still fine after quite a bit of wear. They have sales once in a while. Beware of fakes on eBay; there are a lot of TNF (North Face) counterfeit goods on the net, especially on eBay. I've even seen manufacturer's notices for fake climbing gear (Petzl).
Posted by: OregonMouse

Re: Pack Recommendation for Beginner - 09/12/12 11:02 PM

I'd like to reinforce the warning about cotton jeans. My then teenage daughter (who insisted on being fashionable to the point that I gave in) wore jeans on her second backpacking trip. On the trail in, we missed the rain, but the waist-high brush and grass along the trail was soggy and quickly soaked us from the waist down. The air temperature was about 60*F, with a bit of a breeze. I noticed that she was unusually quiet, but it wasn't until the first rest stop that I realized she was shivering and becoming somewhat incoherent. I set some kind of speed record getting the tent up, stripping off her soggy jeans, bundling her into two sleeping bags (hers and mine), heating hot water bottles and brewing many cups of hot cocoa. She was already hypothermic enough that she couldn't have helped herself!

Needless to say, the next trip she wore a pair of Air Force surplus tropical weight polyester and wool pants, and never again insisted in being fashionable on the trail!
Posted by: Gershon

Re: Pack Recommendation for Beginner - 09/13/12 10:33 AM

I'm going to disagree with the "cotton kills" theory. Not to suggest people discard synthetics and go back to cotton, but to illustrate a concept I'll call "Living within the limitations of your gear."

I grew up with cotton and didn't use synthetics until the middle of the season last year. One of the things I emphasized with my son was staying dry. At the time, it was one of the most important paradigms for being in the wilderness. We planned our mileage early in the day before the rain which is quite predictable in Colorado. If it looked like an unexpected storm was coming, we made camp early and sat in the tent. We usually don't have all day storms here.

The military had cotton fatigues until sometime in the 80's. We learned to deal with them just fine, so it is possible.

The second concept is "Recognizing a problem before it becomes a problem." The problem OM described wasn't just cotton. It was combining cotton with a soggy trail. It's pretty impossible to tell a teenager not to get wet. But a simple solution would have been to wear rainpants and go a little slower if needed so the jeans didn't get wet from the inside.

Cotton has advantages on the hot end if it's lightweight. It is much cooler than synthetics and it doesn't smell as bad. In colder weather, I'll wear the jeans. I gave up the car last October to May and road hiked almost everyday regardless of the weather. Jeans are warmer in cold weather and a lot tougher than flimsy synthetic pants. You just have to recognize the limitation and put on rainpants if they are going to get wet.

I'm going back to cotton. Light cargo pants and a cotton shirt with a pocket for my camera. I seriously doubt I'll have any problems. There are a couple fallback positions. If my pants get wet, I can just wear my rainpants. If my shirt gets wet, I can take it off. It won't make much difference in warmth if I put my fleece and other layers on over my skin. Worst case, I can set up the tent and get in the sleeping bag.

Posted by: lori

Re: Pack Recommendation for Beginner - 09/13/12 01:34 PM

We were issued cotton and cotton blend shirts and pants for SAR. We are trying hard to convince the dept to change to synthetics - cotton is sweaty, stinky and uncomfortable for hiking.
Posted by: Gershon

Re: Pack Recommendation for Beginner - 09/13/12 04:43 PM

Why not have a choice?

Posted by: lori

Re: Pack Recommendation for Beginner - 09/13/12 05:11 PM

It's a uniform. The sheriff's dept makes Those decisions. Arguing with a paramilitary organization is like teaching pigs to sing...

Cotton is inappropriate for backpacking. Our shirts stay soaked for hours and hours, and Most hypothermia cases happen in summer because people think it won't happen above freezing. And yet it does... Being wet accelerates it, and cotton stays wet.
Posted by: Steadman

Re: Pack Recommendation for Beginner - 09/13/12 08:55 PM

Sheriff's department also has to consider fire as a risk.

As an volunteer EMT in a fire department I NEVER wore synthetics (pants, socks, shirt, t-shirt). 50% poly/cotton is ok (I've worn it with no bunker gear in a firefighting trainer) for heat, but not for direct flame (I really screwed up a shirt burning off irish pennants one day).

The reason for the ban on UnderArmor and like undergarmets in Iraq/Afghanistan (that may or may not still be in affect) is the damage that melting poly clothing does in wounds. It is the same reason that nylon boots aren't allowed aboard Navy ships. While some of these service rules are honored in the breach, they were written in people's blood as early as the STARK incident and the Falklands conflict.

Lori, in your case I recommend approaching the department from a situational perspective - "SAR Volunteer uniforms should be poly (or wool) and if an alternative uniform is approved it should be purchased by the member in a style designed by and approved by the department". You may be able to get around the bureaucracy if you sell them on low cost to the department and departmental control while acknowldging their concerns legitimate safety concerns in other areas.

To help the OP (for whom the above considerations are probably irrelevant) Sears/JC Penny will have pants on sale soon. Last season microfiber or wool pants can go for about $10 a pair if you can find a pair that fits well. I wear the same pair of pants hiking as I do with a sport coat, which amuses me to no end.
Posted by: Steadman

Re: Pack Recommendation for Beginner - 09/13/12 09:03 PM

@Glenn, I learned that by listening a lot even as I've run my mouth.

As someone who's benefited from your gear addiction, I'm not in a position to criticize. I think that makes me an enabler....
Posted by: wandering_daisy

Re: Pack Recommendation for Beginner - 09/13/12 11:42 PM

The appropriatness of cotton depends on where you hike. In the PNW or on the California coast, planning on not getting wet is a pipe dream! If you do off trail travel bushwhacking early in the AM or after rainstorms you WILL get wet. I have nothing against someone hiking in cotton, AS LONG AS they have sufficient non-cotton insulating layers to change into. Personally, I do not want to carry the extra weight of cotton plus insulating layers. If you get 2-3 days of rain in a row and cotton gets wet, you will end up carrying around dead weight. Jeans are not appropriate for hiking for other reasons- they are very heavy and they tend to be tight in the knee area which makes you work harder for each step you take. If you want to hike in cotton pants they should be loose enough that they do not bind when lifting your leg up over a rock.

I use an Arcterex 24L pack for day hikes. But I do not have a large amount of camera gear. The 24L pack was my go-to pack for long day technical rock climbs. Black Diamond targets climbers so their packs have extra loops for carrying climbing gear or crampons, ice axe, etc. If you do not need these features they just add weight. I like Arcterex because you can order their packs in different waist sizes vs pack size. The packs are also bomb proof. Arcterex packs are also specific to climbing. IF you are not going to do climbing or scrambling where your pack gets beat up by rock, the climbing-specific packs are overkill and too heavy.
Posted by: oldranger

Re: Pack Recommendation for Beginner - 09/14/12 12:03 AM

My experience with SAR uniforms was somewhat different. We had a patch which was tacked onto whatever item we individually cared to wear. We were civilian volunteers responding to requests from the sheriff. The responding deputy wore a uniform. The rest of us dressed appropriately for conditions (anything from a full wetsuit to T-shirt and shorts to full winter gear). Our emphasis was (and is) on performance, not appearance.
Posted by: lori

Re: Pack Recommendation for Beginner - 09/14/12 12:22 AM

We started lobbying two years ago. We got approval last year. Apparently we might get synthetic versions of the shirts we currently have by next year... We're surviving. But the shirts are absolutely beastly and uncomfortable. Bureaucracy grinds along slowly and there's been a search nearly every other week this year.... We have to be in uniform for most functions. It's either the orange dayglo button down or the red cotton t shirt with reflective lettering. Same stuff the deputies wear for SAR.

I did buy a pair of 5.11 taclite nylon ripstop pants in OD green that meets the standard. The old canvas ones I originally had were horrible with a capital HORRIBLE. I hated them.

We still have to wear Nomex and leather boots in federally funded helicopters. But the parks provide that when we get there. Our boots and synthetic whatevers go in the cargo with our packs.

I tried hiking in jeans last year. What a stupid thing to do. I was quite young and impervious before, when it was what we used for hiking - now it feels heavy, hot, sweaty and involves lots of chafing. Cotton socks do nothing but blister my feet these days. I wear t shirts around the house, mostly, they don't go anywhere any more.
Posted by: Gershon

Re: Pack Recommendation for Beginner - 09/14/12 06:53 AM

Nothing quite matches the experience of sitting close to a fire in Wrangler jeans.

(Only older men are likely to remember this one.)
Posted by: lori

Re: Pack Recommendation for Beginner - 09/14/12 10:01 AM

Oh, that's true. Nothing matches trying to dry out your jeans....
Posted by: Gershon

Re: Pack Recommendation for Beginner - 09/14/12 11:30 AM


This one is definately a man thing. On Wrangler jeans there used to be a rivet at the bottom of the zipper. If you sat too close to the fire, the rivet would get real hot and then suddenly burn a strategic part.
Posted by: billstephenson

Re: Pack Recommendation for Beginner - 09/14/12 01:05 PM

Originally Posted By Gershon
I'm going to disagree with the "cotton kills" theory. Not to suggest people discard synthetics and go back to cotton, but to illustrate a concept I'll call "Living within the limitations of your gear."

I have to agree with that, and W_D...

Originally Posted By W_D
The appropriatness of cotton depends on where you hike.

When I'm bushwhacking here through thick bramble, cotton denim jeans are the way to go, the heavier the better. But I wear my nylon zip-offs a lot too when backpacking. They're lighter, pack smaller, and work great with layers. I can wear thick fleece pajama bottoms under those, and long johns under the fleece, and stay pretty darn warm and comfy down into the teens.

Cotton does take a long time to dry. It can be almost impossible to dry. A few years ago I spent 5 days where it went from fog, to drizzle, to rain, and back the entire time and I never could dry out my cotton socks. I did manage to singe them, but not dry them.

Last winter I found out by accident that you can make a great clothes dryer with an emergency blanket. Either solar or a small campfire will power it. I haven't tried to prefect a method, but just rig the blanket into a small box and put your wet clothes in it and build a small fire in front of it. It works fast and it won't singe your socks wink
Posted by: skcreidc

Re: Pack Recommendation for Beginner - 09/14/12 02:37 PM

What did anybody wear prior to synthetics? Wool and cotton? Those people who taught us what we know today, what did they wear. Doesn't mean you can't use the new stuff. I find myself using the new micro wool as opposed to the synthetics shirt wise. Pants...depends upon what I'm doing.
Posted by: bns3

Re: Pack Recommendation for Beginner - 12/07/12 11:46 AM

I am chiming in a bit late on this thread, but figured I'd add a couple of tidbits from my soldiering days.
One, if you have concerns about losing exposed items on your pack (i.e. water bottles), secure the item to your pack or person with 550 cord. I was in an airborne unit and we would tie down everything to the point of being compulsive about it.
Two, for pants, you could do worse that get some surplus BDU pants (light weight rip-stop material). I think they were 100% cotton in my day, but more recently have been poly blend. We would wear lightweight year round because if they got wet they would dry faster.
Three, do not succumb to "paralysis by analysis" when it comes to picking gear. After years of having little to no choice regarding the gear available to use, I found the wide ranges of choices in the civilian world dizzying. But I had to remind myself that I humped many a mile with a cheap low-tech pack and issue boots and hundreds of thousands of others have as well. IOW, don't hold out for the perfect gear to get yourself out there.
Posted by: jbylake

Re: Pack Recommendation for Beginner - 12/07/12 02:01 PM

lolBud, I can second that. I was in a specialized unit, so we did have some options, not available to everyone, as far as gear was concerned, but ABSOLUTELY NOTHING, like running down to the local REI... laugh
And that gear, being absolutelly low tech by today's standards, got us through more than 99.9% of what your average backpacker would even bother with, today.
Posted by: wandering_daisy

Re: Pack Recommendation for Beginner - 12/07/12 10:05 PM

We have gotten off subject! Original post was about packs.

What did we use in the old days?

Pants - Air Force dress wool pants, surplus

longjohns - 100% itchy gray wool union suit, with front buttons and back flap

Socks- my mother knit me wool socks and mittens. She knit socks with no seams! never had such good socks.- also 2 pair of thick rag wool socks - the darned boots were so stiff that you needed 2 pair of thick socks or you would get blisters.

Boots - 5 pound boat anchors. All leather. Huge vibrum soles that we had resoled every so often. Shoes lasted 10+ years.

Sleeping bag - down. Down bags have been around a long time.

Hiking shirt - 60/40 dacron/cotton work shirt, self embroirdered with flowers (we were all hippies then)

insulation - wool, wool and more wool

more insulation - down, down and more down

Shell jacket - cotton treated so that it had a very waxy feel. I cannot recall what it really was.

Tent - same waxy stuff as jackets. Remember when you could not touch the tent or it would leak?

daypack- canvas with leather bottom
backpack - external frame Kelty. Started with an old canvas packbag on a frame, but when I bought the Kelty in 1966 it had a nylon bag.

By now you get the idea- heavy, heavy, heavy!
But when you do not know any other, we felt we were "high tech"! Had the latest and greatest!
Posted by: DTape

Re: Pack Recommendation for Beginner - 12/08/12 05:25 AM

I still have a couple of my externals packs. I still use them on occasion. It regularly goes as the second pack on my tandem canoe trips. I know we often think of them as "heavy", and they are compared to some frameless packs. But the externals are significantly lighter than many of the giant internal frame packs. They can carry a load too! Which is great for the canoe trip portages. At present I think externals are overlooked because they aren't "cool". Ironically, they do literally keep your back cooler than internals. Too bad the style and size choices aren't as available like they used to be.

I still use wool pants too in all but the summer. Used men's dress pants on ebay are a great cheap source.
Posted by: wandering_daisy

Re: Pack Recommendation for Beginner - 12/08/12 01:55 PM

I too still use my external frame. To make it lighter I have sewn my own pack bag. Externals still excel in load carrying.
Posted by: JPete

Re: Pack Recommendation for Beginner - 12/08/12 02:54 PM

Add one for the external frame. My Kelty is actually lighter than internals of the same capacity I've looked at. Like others, I find I rarely use it these days, but when I do, I'm delighted to have it.

And like others, I used a lot of wool and loved it. Only reason I don't use it today is that I have this (fairly new) child bride and trophy wife who's allergic to wool. She can't backpack, but she's a delight on canoe trips, and I typically use much the same gear. In cold weather, it was not unusual to wear three layers of wool with a shell over in camp. Stuff was heavy though.

best, jcp
Posted by: oldranger

Re: Pack Recommendation for Beginner - 12/08/12 08:56 PM

I am still nostalgic for my 1960's Kelty frame pack; had it not been stolen, I would still be using it. Fairly light and nothing beats an external frame for heavy or awkward loads.
Posted by: jbylake

Re: Pack Recommendation for Beginner - 12/08/12 11:34 PM

Originally Posted By oldranger
I am still nostalgic for my 1960's Kelty frame pack; had it not been stolen, I would still be using it. Fairly light and nothing beats an external frame for heavy or awkward loads.

I think internal pack frames are the greatest invention since ice cream, but I can remember being younger, and hauling heavy loads with external frame packs. You're right about them being heavy duty, but if I had to haul a load with one today, it'd probably put me in intensive care for a week or two... grin Can you even imagine using one of the old wood frame packs?

Posted by: Richard Cullip

Re: Pack Recommendation for Beginner - 12/08/12 11:57 PM

Originally Posted By oldranger
I am still nostalgic for my 1960's Kelty frame pack; had it not been stolen, I would still be using it. Fairly light and nothing beats an external frame for heavy or awkward loads.

I too remember my old Kelty frame pack. Hiked alot of miles in the High Sierra (mostly out of Mineral King) back in the early 1970's. Now that I'm older (and maybe even wiser), I avoid carrying heavy and awkward loads. A load that is both light and compact is the answer that lets me continue hiking in the high country that I love. Total load for my last 5 day trip was 18lbs tucked neatly into my frameless ULA CDT pack. Couldn't have made the trip with the weight I used to carry back when I was young.
Posted by: oldranger

Re: Pack Recommendation for Beginner - 12/09/12 04:50 AM

yup! The first ever rig I used backpacking was a milsurp molded plywood frame, Korean War vintage. It did not have a waist belt, but was surprisingly comfortable, even if a bit heavy. At the time, there was nothing better for a starving student (the Kelty was far out of reach at the princely sum of 38 dollars). I borrowed a Kelty once, and that was my undoing - I finally amassed the small fortune required and got one - and that was before the rig had a solid hip belt.....
Posted by: Glenn Roberts

Re: Pack Recommendation for Beginner - 12/09/12 12:13 PM

I'm not sure externals are dead - they've just morphed into something better. I've got a buddy who absolutely loves his Osprey Atmos 50, and I've used the same pack with success. (However, my own preference is toward internal frames with backpads, since I use them as an extender with my short sleeping pad.)

It's a newer, better version of the old e-frames: advances in material and design mean you don't need the half-inch "pipes" that made up the old frames - the Atmos frame is a lot more like arrow shafts (same improvement as tent poles: no more Eureka Timberline tubes, but the slimmer and stronger pole sets we all know and love.) However, the general structure of the Atmos remains true to the classic design: a visible perimeter frame, with a few bends, and a couple of arched cross-members behind a tightly-tensioned trampoline mesh back band. As a result, you get the same great ventilation as the old Kelty, Jansport, and Camp Trails packs we grew up with.

There's nothing old-school about the pack bag, though: it has a hydration pocket (and an option to use the space between the frame and trampoline for the hydration pack, when space inside the pack is at a premium.) The packs are as streamlined as the modern internal frame bags, and retain one feature of the old Dana Designs Terraplane we all lusted after: long, vertical "sausage" pockets on the outside.

As a result, this hybrid eliminates most (but not quite all) of the one annoying feature of the old externals: the tendency of the frame to move against you as you turned, instead of moving with you.

Maybe other designers will start updating the old external styles, too.
Posted by: jbylake

Re: Pack Recommendation for Beginner - 12/12/12 10:45 PM

Originally Posted By Glenn Roberts

Maybe other designers will start updating the old external styles, too.

My memories of them are reminiscent of Soylent Green. Maybe they'll start updating us old external style people..... laugh

J. sick
Posted by: Gershon

Re: Pack Recommendation for Beginner - 12/20/12 11:24 PM

I wish they would make the old external frame packs just the way they made them.

Meanwhile, I will keep using mine.
Posted by: momof2

Re: Pack Recommendation for Beginner - 01/10/17 05:54 AM

I have planning to go to a camping trip with my husband and kids. But we have been so busy that we don't find the time to do it right away. I'm reading through this forums for valuable tips for beginners like me. For now all the fun we have are going to be at home. a
trampoline and put it beside our house. We might just buy ourselves a camp fit for the family and place it beside our house. When the right time comes, we can finally have that real camping experience.