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#116441 - 05/24/09 01:48 PM smaller better?
Jimshaw Offline
member

Registered: 10/22/03
Posts: 3983
Loc: Bend, Oregon
As I am packing up for a BP trip, I've been thinking about a post written about being dissed for having a tiny pack.

I think we need to straighten out something right now.
1) Smaller does not mean lighter.
2) Lighter may be better because you carry less.
3) Smaller means that you have to compress your gear which is bad for it.
4) Large {pack} and light makes much more sense than small and light

I know part of the problem is the perceived idea that small packs are lighter than large packs, which has a tiny bit of merit, but since my huge pack weighs 29 oz in stripped mode and 48 in the modular mode that I use it in, my huge pack is not much heavier than the smallest pack I cold get my gear in.

HOWEVER THE ATITUDE THAT SMALLER IS BETTER is that attitude that makes more traditional camper think that ULers are affected by their own tiny packs and that they are only concerned about showing off with their tiny packs, which may or may not be lighter in fact. SIZE HAS BECOME TOO IMPORTANT.

I carry a 6500 cubic inch spectra pack that looks like 65 pounds easy even when it weighs 16 pounds. Some people like my white pack, some are impressed by my big pack, some are impressed by how light it is, some are impressed by the price tag, but frankly I don't care, I just hate to compress my gear. Heck I don't use stuff sacks - that can save a pound... But mainly - I can easily locate anything in my pack and it is not compressed or packed away so all my gear is available for use when I need it.

While I'm on this - besides my tent, pad, bag, warm clothes, and cooking gear. The total of my other gear consists of a pocket knife, tiny first aid kit, TP, led headlamp, GPS, spare bats, food hanging cord, camera, two small screwdrivers a flat and a phillips, and about 4 BIC lighters.

I carry about 1.5 pounds of cooking gear, titanium and compressed gas. It also is simply swallowed by the huge pack, so folding it up has no effect.

Lighter = better maybe
smaller = ? - depends, don't get hung up on it, I'd rather be lighter than smaller.
Jim YMMV
_________________________
These are my own opinions based on wisdom earned through many wrong decisions. Your mileage may vary.

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#116445 - 05/24/09 02:45 PM Re: smaller better? [Re: Jimshaw]
thecook Offline


Registered: 10/03/08
Posts: 541
Loc: Minnesota
Jim has a great point and I can certainly see folks (on those other websites of course ;)) who are obsesed with small. I can see a few advantages to small: If you are small, a small pack can be more comfortable to carry, A large pack can be obstructive when bushwaking, a tall pack can be unconfortable (I hate have anything behind my head). Otherwise the weight of my pack makes much more difference in my hike than its size.
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If I wouldn't eat it at home, why would I want to eat it on the trail?

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#116447 - 05/24/09 03:33 PM Re: smaller better? [Re: Jimshaw]
Paul Offline
member

Registered: 09/30/02
Posts: 778
Loc: California
On the other hand, for those with less self-discipline, a smaller pack forces you to bring less stuff, so if you are still working your way to a lighter load by way of eliminating the stuff you don't really need, then getting a smaller pack can be helpful, although certainly not a panacea.

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#116449 - 05/24/09 04:12 PM Re: smaller better? [Re: Jimshaw]
Glenn Offline
member

Registered: 03/08/06
Posts: 2617
Loc: Ohio
So, Jim, size doesn't matter? grin

Actually, I agree. I recently selected an Exos 58 over an Atmos 50. Both packs would hold all the gear I'd ever carry, but the Exos does so more easily, and my sleeping bag and down clothing are less compressed. Also, I can use the various compression straps to shrink the size if necessary. So, like Jim, I'm a fan of larger packs. (Besides, the Exos weighed almost a pound less than the Atmos.)

Like another poster said, if you're just getting into ultralight, a smaller pack may help you resist the urge to take stuff you don't need. However, like Jim says, it may also force you to compress gear. It may also trick you into taking gear that is too small - like a pot that is too small to cook with conveniently, a stove that (bacause the supports are small, and the base too narrow) results in a too-tippy setup, a pad that is too short for comfort and too thin for warmth, and so forth. But hey, it fits in the pack and makes you look cool, right?

For what it's worth, my cold weather load for a weekend is only 21 pounds, mostly because manufacturers are doing a great job of making truly innovative, light gear - so much so, that you have to watch closely to make sure you get what works for you. So I'm not knocking hiking lighter. I just think smarter is as important as smaller.

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#116450 - 05/24/09 04:29 PM Re: smaller better? [Re: Glenn]
frenchie Offline
member

Registered: 10/05/05
Posts: 461
Loc: Lyon, France
Smaller is highly important to me as hiking/travelling will equal heavy use of public transport, limited weight or storage space (inexistant in some parts of the world, when you have to manage with pack on your lap or at your feet for hours) Actually, I started the UL conversion a long time ago for this special reason...

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#116452 - 05/24/09 05:27 PM Re: smaller better? [Re: Jimshaw]
DJ2 Offline
member

Registered: 01/06/02
Posts: 1348
Loc: Seattle, WA
I agree with you. I've always gone for the bigger packs, even though I've been shaving ounces for over 40 years now.

Throwing stuff into a spacious pack is a wonderful luxury that I like.

Large volume packs have also helped when unexpected things have happened (e.g. having to carry a bear cannister or rope or 5 gallon bucket; having to stuff a 9 pound ice encrusted tent into the pack, etc. )

Large bags create more volume than small bags per square inch of fabric so very little additional weight can create a lot more volume.

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#116454 - 05/24/09 06:50 PM Re: smaller better? [Re: Jimshaw]
Bearpaw Offline
Moderator

Registered: 07/25/04
Posts: 1732
Loc: Tennessee
Smaller usually IS better for a couple of reasons.

One is torque. A larger pack typically has its center of gravity further from the hiker's back. The distance of that center of gravity increases torque at an exponential rate. It WILL have an impact on comfort and energy expended. If you doubt this, fill your pack with pillows, then attach 2 gallons of water to the back of the pack. Next, move the water to driectly against the back inside the pack and repeat.

The second is more important if you bushwhack. Smaller packs are easier to live with when forced to crawl under downed trees, through brush, etc.

For those alone, I would offer up that smaller packs generally ARE better.
_________________________
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#116456 - 05/24/09 07:22 PM Re: smaller better? [Re: Bearpaw]
Howie Offline
member

Registered: 06/02/03
Posts: 481
Loc: Canora, SK, Canada
Where I hike I am frequently having to duck under fallen trees. I notice a huge advantage with my smaller day pack than with my larger overnight pack. The tall pack is always getting caught on branches.

Howie

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#116460 - 05/24/09 08:39 PM Re: smaller better? [Re: Jimshaw]
Fiddleback Offline
member

Registered: 06/22/04
Posts: 478
Loc: Northern Rockies
I practice what you're preachin'. My pack comes in at somewhere around 6750 cu.in. and weighs less than two pounds. It also happens to be pretty comfortable.

It's a real joy to pack stuff without a concern for space or compression. On my first trip out with the pack it looked stuffed to the gills because my down quilt and insulated clothing were just layed in the pack. In passing a couple bp'rs one commented that it looked like I was the pack mule of the group. I took off my pack, held my arm straight out and hung the pack off of one finger...pretty easy since the total pack weight was about 15 pounds. The look was, as they say, "priceless."

FB
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"...inalienable rights...include the right to a clean and healthful environment..." Montana Constitution

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#116464 - 05/24/09 10:38 PM Re: smaller better? [Re: Howie]
phat Offline
Moderator

Registered: 06/24/07
Posts: 4107
Loc: Alberta, Canada

I concur. I prefer my little 30 litre bag for trips where I am bushwhacking or scrambling, having said that I've really gotten used to having to not compress stuff down much in the bigger virga that I use most of the time now

However, I do think in general size doesn't matter, other than for the inexperienced, large volume packs are the enemy because they almost always lead to taking too much crap with them.


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#116466 - 05/24/09 11:01 PM Re: smaller better? [Re: Bearpaw]
Glenn Offline
member

Registered: 03/08/06
Posts: 2617
Loc: Ohio
I agree that a larger pack with heavy stuff in it will torque you more - the 80's and 90's proved that many time.

But I do take a larger pack than I absolutely need. (However,the Exos 58 I now use is 100 cubic inches smaller than the Vapor Trail it replaced, and is only about half the size of the Dana Terraplane I carried back in the day.) I could get by with a 50L pack, but everything gets compressed more than I like. Using a larger pack than is absolutely necessary, I find I have changed the way I pack. I purposely put my kitchen and food bags closer to my back and a bit lower, for that reason. Extra water (rarely more than 2 quarts) find me rearranging things so it goes next to my back, too. Clothes and my ultralight tent go farther away, and the sleeping bag doesn't get compressed as much, so it helps fill the bag. Previously, the kitchen and food rode higher and further away. I also find I use the compression straps more now to help shape the load. Before, everything went in and then the straps got tightened. Now, I'll tighten the straps a small amount, before anything goes in, to help put things in the pack where I want them. So far, it's working.


Edited by Glenn (05/24/09 11:07 PM)

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#116490 - 05/25/09 02:44 PM Re: smaller better? [Re: Glenn]
Jimshaw Offline
member

Registered: 10/22/03
Posts: 3983
Loc: Bend, Oregon
Hey all
Well this has been interesting.

I forgot to mention - generally the larger "heavier" pack is heavier because it has things like a thick comfortable waist band. I would much rather carry 25 pounds in my Kelty with the nice suspension and waist band, than to carry 15 pounds in my Ray Way pack, which by the way, I only use a ski day pack.

As for torque. There's nothing heavy enough or dense enough in my pack to make a difference. Most anything metallic is in the top pocket. Cinch straps hold everything in so I'm not too moved by the torque idea, especially because you cannot get large bottles of water into a small pack to compare real loads anyway.

But for crawling under trees smaller would be better.

These frameless packs were originally designed for climbers who needed to bend while carrying a load and frame packs didn't work. Everyone knew that frame packs offer more weight carrying capacity, but it was a trade off. Suddenly BPers wanted frameless large packs that would still haul a heavy load.

A large pack can be used as a leg bivy, and a large light pack can be used as a "summiting" pack that is light yet will carry a bivy sleeping bag.

If your friend is injured, you can take half of his stuff in your pack. (been there, done that). In the once a decade event that my wife says she'll go bping with me if I carry the pack, my pack is big enough. And finally - a bigger pack means you have a wider choice in which items to take on a given trip, reather then being limited to the only things you have that will fit.

Come on you guys, we need some good strong argument for small besides crawling under trees.

Jim crazy


Edited by Jimshaw (05/25/09 03:50 PM)
_________________________
These are my own opinions based on wisdom earned through many wrong decisions. Your mileage may vary.

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#116494 - 05/25/09 04:51 PM Re: smaller better? [Re: Jimshaw]
Bearpaw Offline
Moderator

Registered: 07/25/04
Posts: 1732
Loc: Tennessee
We don't need any thing to walk.

But I've given two solid reasons for a smaller pack, which you've simply dismissed because you can't refute them.

Come on Jim, you can do better than that.
_________________________
http://www.trailjournals.com/BearpawAT99/

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#116497 - 05/25/09 05:17 PM Re: smaller better? [Re: Jimshaw]
Glenn Offline
member

Registered: 03/08/06
Posts: 2617
Loc: Ohio
OK, I'll try to argue that big isn't always better. As I've said, I like a pack that is a little bigger than I absolutely need; it give me some options and still rides comfortably.

However, I don't like large for the sake of large - and a pack can be too large. With a lightweight load, significant over-capacity can lead to no load control. For example, I tried a Gossamer Gear "original" pack (I forget what it was called - G1?, G2?), and found that it was simply too large. I'd put my sleeping bag in it, totally uncompressed, then load in everything else - which compressed the sleeping bag, and let the load go too low. I never could get that pack to fit right, even with all the compression system fully tightened. With no load control, and a load riding too low, my shoulders ached and it felt like I was carrying a sack of flour around.

In short, "big" and "small" isn't an argument that can occur in a vacuum: you need a pack that fits the load you plan to carry most of the time without forcibly compressing it to the point you're carrying a stiff pack. It needs to provide sufficient load control (yes, Jim, even at 20 pounds, I need load control - not as much as with 40 pounds, but still some control.) A bit larger pack than you need provides that little extra capacity for that once-every-two-year two-week trip you take, or when you visit that beautiful, but water-scarce hideaway and have to carry more water than usual.


Edited by Glenn (05/25/09 10:29 PM)

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#116499 - 05/25/09 05:36 PM Re: smaller better? [Re: Jimshaw]
Trailrunner Offline
member

Registered: 01/05/02
Posts: 1835
Loc: Los Angeles
All other things being equal, I prefer to stuff my gear in a smaller pack mainly because it's lighter. The difference between your 29 ounce pack and my 17 ounce pack is huge from my perspective. A small pack carries just as well as a larger pack with my usual load. My 3200 cubic inch 17oz pack is not "tiny" but it easily carries everything I need (including a rolled 3/4 Ridgerest) for 90% of my trips.

This is what works for me. Neither smaller nor bigger is "better" for everyone. It's just a matter of personal preference. I have a bigger pack too and it has its place in some situations.
_________________________
If you only travel on sunny days you will never reach your destination.*

* May not apply at certain latitudes in Canada and elsewhere.

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#116506 - 05/25/09 10:16 PM Re: smaller better? [Re: Jimshaw]
wandering_daisy Offline
member

Registered: 01/11/06
Posts: 2865
Loc: California
Please note that I've just come from days of babysitting my grandchildren! Goldilocks tried Papa bear's bed- too big! Mamma bears bed - too soft! Baby bears bed- just right!

That goes for packs too. I try to go for "just right".

Each person is different; each situation is different. That is why I have many different packs, of all sizes and shapes.

Jim, you may be a big guy and can handle a big pack. I am a small woman, and believe me, size does matter! Compression sacks are my savior. I do not over-compress my sleeping bag, but do really compress my regular clothing and tent. It makes a huge difference. For 2-6 day trips (without bear cannister) I use a 2,400 pack, for 7-10 days with bear cannister I use a 3,000 pack and for 10+ days with bear cannister and a lot of food weight, I use my external Kelty - size varies depending on the size of my stuff sacks.

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#116511 - 05/26/09 01:44 AM Re: smaller better? [Re: Glenn]
300winmag Offline
member

Registered: 02/28/06
Posts: 1342
Loc: Nevada, USA
[quote=Glenn]So, Jim, size doesn't matter? grin

Hee, hee Gotchya Jim!

Eric

_________________________
"There are no comfortable backpacks. Some are just less uncomfortable than others."

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#116512 - 05/26/09 01:51 AM Re: smaller better? [Re: Glenn]
300winmag Offline
member

Registered: 02/28/06
Posts: 1342
Loc: Nevada, USA
OOooo, Glenn, "...smarter is as important as smaller." Now those are truly words to live by.

And that's why I'm a "lightweight" backpacker, not an "ultra light" backpacker. i.e my pack is an REI Cruise UL 60 W/ aluminum internal stays, not a "no-frame" pack, my parka is a Cabela's PacLite and not a Dri Ducks, and I use a T.T. Contrail and not a tarp.

Eric
_________________________
"There are no comfortable backpacks. Some are just less uncomfortable than others."

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#116515 - 05/26/09 06:26 AM Re: smaller better? [Re: 300winmag]
Glenn Offline
member

Registered: 03/08/06
Posts: 2617
Loc: Ohio
I'd fit that lightweight category, too. I tried true ultralight, but backed off a bit. For me, it was the issue of comfort (convenience) v. weight. By the time I hit true ultralight, I wasn't sleeping comfortably and the gear was taking too much fiddling with. So, by adding a little bit of weight, I found my "sweet spot." (Of course, for others, that sweet spot will be ultralight, or maybe traditional. It's an individual thing.)

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#116529 - 05/26/09 11:04 AM Re: smaller better? [Re: Glenn]
alanwenker Offline
member

Registered: 02/04/03
Posts: 812
I carry a slightly larger pack than I absolutely need simply because I can't stand cramming my gear into every single cubic inch of pack. I like to simply toss my stuff in and go. The minimal extra weight doesn't bother me.

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#116540 - 05/26/09 01:36 PM Re: smaller better? [Re: Jimshaw]
ohiohiker Offline
member

Registered: 07/20/07
Posts: 127
Loc: Ohio
I'm excited to see this post. It makes me feel better about the Kelty Red Cloud 6650 I just purchased for carrying more gear on winter and family trips. grin I had it loaded down with about 65 lbs this weekend doing some gear packing tests for family backpacking with kids. But, I'm off-topic on this forum. That's ultra-heavyweight backpacking. grin


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