Rather than asking "which one should I buy" I'm asking if there is any I should stay away from? I've looked at the name brands and intend to go to an outfitter to road test some, but on Amazon there are some off brands that are priced in a first timers range. I'm not looking for the cheapest but don't want to spend big $ and grow tired of backing after the first trip.
Yes there are Some that you will probably want to stay away from but there are a lot more that you don't want to stay away from. I think that when you buy a pack you need to understand what type of hiking that you are doing, what kind of weather you hike in, and then how long you plan to stay out in the back country. That's why you will eventually find that most of us on this forum have more than one specific pack because we have one for each type of hiking and walking we do at any given time of the year. I think that the best way to buy a pack is decide what kind of gear that you are going to carry. Then purchase the gear first, then buy a pack that will accommodate you needs as far as the type of pack and as to the specific size that you will need. I think that you will find that is the way that most every one in here will tell you to go about it any way...Hope that helps...sabre11004...
The first step that you take will be one of those that get you there !!!!!
The first step that you take will be one of those that get you there 1!!!!!
You'll probably end up happier - and not end up buying several packs before you find one you like - if you stay away from the no-name brands. As others said, get your other gear first, then choose a pack, if possible. However, just to give you some kind of a vague goal, you should be able to do anything you want with a 30-pound load (including food and one or two quarts of water), and a 20-25 pound load isn't unrealistic. You can do this without sacrificing much comfort or convenience; you can also do it with "mainstream" equipment. With a general target weight, you can then start prioritizing gear: if gourmet cooking is important to you, you'll spend more of your weight on food and cookware, and you can sacrifice elsewhere (a tarp instead of a tent, poncho instead of rain suit, or chemical treatment instead of a water purifier.) Also, if you have that target in mind, you don't necessarily have to pass up a sale just because you don't have everything else yet.
The pack is one of those things you must get right to enjoy your time in the backcountry. I really struggled with it - some people can seemingly throw a hundred pounds of crap in a cheapo rucksack and never get sore, I tried an Osprey and had to wear a fleece around my waist to add padding to the waist or my back hurt by the end of the day.
I would suggest getting measured, writing down the measurements, and paying attention to those when trying on packs. Some people need a small pack, a medium hip belt, and shoulder straps made for a woman; others get along just fine with "whatever." So I would stay away from packs with belts you can't swap out, for starters. Also it's generally recommended to try on packs, not guess and order online - but places like Backcountry.com that have an unconditional return policy seem a safe bet to me.
I took a chance on a Granite Gear Nimbus Ozone - they are selling the small size at Sierra Trading Post for a very good price right now. The description is misleading - they labeled it a daypack and don't provide nearly enough info, for instance that it's a small, but I guessed that was what the description "works well for short people" meant and ordered. Fits me perfectly. It's definitely not a day pack.
"In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities. In the expert's mind there are few." Shunryu Suzuki
Loc: Portland, OR
The off brands are not always badly built, but they are more unpredictable in quality and design than the establilshed brands (which you should understand can also be duds sometimes).
For example, I have very happily used a no-name off-brand pack for the past six years. I bought it for $45 and have taken it for at least 800 miles since then. I did modify it, mostly to remove stuff I didn't need or want, making it simpler and lighter. Also, and This Is Important: it fit me very well. There is no substitute for a good fit.
In terms of design, the off brands tend to crib their ideas from the "hot new packs" from about two years earlier. How closely they follow the design depends on how easy it is to duplicate the design and features cheaply.
The biggest question mark will be quality of materials and construction. Sometimes the need to omit features makes an off-brand pack simpler and cleaner, which is usually A Good Thing. Sometimes it just results in a needlessly complex pack made on the cheap. The lighter the pack, the less you can take shotcuts on quality materials and construction.
Loc: Washington State, King County
"BTW, I only have REI and EMS, close to me. It seems REI is an ok place but not sure about Eastern Mountain Sports."
I'm not familiar with EMS, but if you're aiming to be a light or even ultra-light weight backpacker, take care when visiting a place like REI, and in particular, I think it's helpful if a person is conscious of the psychological term anchoring.
I've seen this happen to myself and to others. You go into REI and you see their range of packs and associated weights, and the range that they offer becomes established in your mind as what's "normal". So their lightweight packs seem like a pretty good deal. Then later on the trail you find people with significantly lighter packs that do the job just fine.
REI might do a better job these days of offering somewhat lightweight packs (?), but what I'm suggesting is to not let the set of store offerings establish what's "normal" for you. Look at places like www.gossamergear.com and www.ula-equipment.com/ to get a sense for what a lightweight pack should reasonably weigh.
I suggest that strategy for gear in general, but especially for the big three items. REI is in many ways a great way to shop (if you can afford it ...), I'm not saying that an lightweight backpacker can't buy gear there, but FWIW I didn't end up buying any of the major (larger, heavier) items there (nor did I regret going elsewhere).
Loc: Gateway to Columbia Gorge
Also, for packs, try Six Moon Designs. I've had one of their packs (Comet) for almost four years and still think it is the best single purchase I've ever made. Do get the "optional" stays; I wouldn't want to carry more than 15-18 lbs. without them. With the stays, I've carried up to the mid-30's. My knees and feet were screaming, but my shoulders, back and hips were just fine.
I second all of Brian's comments on REI. While I did go there to get fitted for a pack (I tried on a lot of different models to get a better idea of how a comfortable internal-frame pack should fit and feel before shopping on the internet), the fact that I refused to buy any pack weighing over 2 1/2 pounds saved me from a purchase--they didn't have any!
Edited by OregonMouse (02/03/0907:35 PM)
May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view--E. Abbey
Well, I know for a fact that most REI's will rent gear.
so start looking at some of our gear lists, some of the discussion on the site, decide what you want to try, and my suggestion if there is an REI near you is to rent the backpack for the first few times out. If you then get the rest of your gear sorted, then buy a backpack.
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