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#159855 - 01/07/12 06:05 PM What sized pack?
paulnlsn Offline
newbie

Registered: 01/07/12
Posts: 4
So me and a friend of mine got the idea in our head to do a thru hike of the John Muir trail after labor day this year and I just have no idea of what size pack to get for such a venture. Id like something that I can also use for shorter trips between now and then. Im about 5' 8", 130 lb.

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#159857 - 01/07/12 06:56 PM Re: What sized pack? [Re: paulnlsn]
aimless Online   content
Moderator

Registered: 02/05/03
Posts: 3184
Loc: Portland, OR
When it comes to pack size, the correct answer is always: the size that can carry everything you bring, including your food (and bear canister for the JMT), fuel and water. But no larger than that.

I know this sounds unhelpful, but that doesn't make it less true. Common gear, for example sleeping bags and shelters, can vary widely in the amount of pack space they require, and people have widely different ideas of what amount of stuff is indispensible to them. Some people are happy to strap half their gear on the outside of a pack (not me!! it's too easily lost that way), while others insist on putting every last item inside (that's me). All these variables mean that I could name any size at all, including a size that worked perfectly for me on the JMT, and the chances are very high I would be wrong one way or another.

So, the best advice you can get on this is to accumulate all your gear first, or as near to all as you can manage, and then shop for a pack. Whether you buy at a store or online, make sure there's a good return policy if the pack is in like-new condition, because you'll need to test that pack carefully, not just for correct size, but FAR MORE IMPORTANTLY for correct and comfortable fit.

Don't rely on someone else's experience with a brand or model of pack, either. It only fits well if it fits YOU, with your gear inside, and after you've carried it fully weighted for a few hours. An ill-fitting pack can become excrutiating on a long mileage trip. Don't let that happen to you!

Good luck!

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#159860 - 01/07/12 07:09 PM Re: What sized pack? [Re: aimless]
OregonMouse Offline
member

Registered: 02/03/06
Posts: 6760
Loc: Gateway to Columbia Gorge
Aimless' post has it all there!

You'll find lots of info on gear and other topics, including sample gear lists, on the home page of this site, articles listed in the left-hand column. This article starts with pack selection.
_________________________
May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view--E. Abbey

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#159865 - 01/07/12 08:21 PM Re: What sized pack? [Re: OregonMouse]
balzaccom Offline
member

Registered: 04/06/09
Posts: 2087
Loc: Napa, CA
Absolutely right. And one thing you need to decide first is how many stops you are going to make on the Muir Trail. It's over 200 miles long. Some people try to hike 20 miles a day (that's a LOT, in my opinion!) and so they only need ten days' worth of supplies. And they'll want to pack light, because they are planning to cover a lot of ground.

Others will take three weeks to hike that trail, witha re-supply stop or two on the way.

Once you get your basic equipment (sleeping bag, sleeping pad, shelter, clothes and "kitchen") together you'll have a better idea of the pack you'll need. ANd when you decide if you are going to take fifteen days' supplies (a TON) or only seven, you'll know what size pack you need.

BTW, if you are hiking with more than one person, you can cut down on equipment and weight. You don't need three stoves, or three water filters, or three cooking pots...

And your pack just got smaller.

We've done a lot of hiking and many. many miles, and never taken more than a 55L pack. But you may be different.


Edited by balzaccom (01/07/12 08:22 PM)
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#159866 - 01/07/12 08:45 PM Re: What sized pack? [Re: paulnlsn]
lori Offline
member

Registered: 01/22/08
Posts: 2801
First, get measured for a pack - weight has nothing to do with it (well, it might change the size of the hip belt), height sometimes has something to do with it (taller people do not necessary have the same ratio of back length to height as anyone else... this is different for everyone, you can be tall and have a different pack size than someone the same height). The measurement will be from the top of the iliac crest to that bumpy bit on your spine when you bend your head forward a little. That's hard to do on your own accurately.

Second, decide how much weight you are willing to carry, that drives the gear choices. So does what kind of shelter, sleeping pad, and sleeping bag you'll take.

Look at Mark Verber's pages and at BackpackGeartest.org for some good reliable info on all kinds of gear. http://www.verber.com/mark/outdoors/gear/index.html

Look on freecycle, geartrade, craigslist, and at local REI gear sales for used gear that's serviceable and cheaper.

Look at all the online recipes at trailcooking.com and understand that you will need to increase your calorie intake, so will need more than a few granola bars per day, and make sure your resupplies have enough in them, otherwise you will end up like the young guys I met ~20 miles from Whitney, scrounging in bear boxes for stuff other hikers left behind.

Have fun out there!
_________________________
"In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities. In the expert's mind there are few." Shunryu Suzuki

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#159867 - 01/07/12 08:48 PM Re: What sized pack? [Re: aimless]
Glenn Offline
member

Registered: 03/08/06
Posts: 2617
Loc: Ohio
If you're shopping at a store, call to see when they're not busy and take all your gear with you. It will give you a good idea of how your gear will fit (and how to arrange it and balance the load), and how the pack will fit you when it's loaded. Simply dumping a couple of sandbags in the bottom doesn't give you a very good idea of how the pack will carry with the same weight of gear, when all the weight isn't in the bottom.

Just to give you a couple suggestions for when you are ready to start shopping, check out the Osprey Kestrel (58 or 68) and the Osprey Aether (60 or 70.) Both have adjustable suspensions, which will let you dial in the fit. But that's just a starting point - there are lots of good makers and lots of good packs out there; get the one that fits you best.

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#159879 - 01/08/12 01:08 AM Re: What sized pack? [Re: aimless]
paulnlsn Offline
newbie

Registered: 01/07/12
Posts: 4
Wow I was not expecting such a multitude of awesome responses in such a short amount of time. Thanks so much people. Ill definitely have more questions in the future smile

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#159888 - 01/08/12 12:04 PM Re: What sized pack? [Re: paulnlsn]
BrianLe Offline
member

Registered: 02/26/07
Posts: 1149
Loc: Washington State, King County
My wife and I plan to hike the JMT around that time frame; small world, maybe we'll see you out there.

I'll likely be using a ULA Circuit to do this. Last time I went through the JMT, I found that folks doing that stretch all seemed to have relatively large packs, and given the need to carry a bear cannister, the Circuit will likely be on the tight side for me. Hmm, in fact I had to carry just a "weekended" size cannister on a trip last year in that pack and it was on the tight side, so you might consider the Circuit as more towards the lower end of what you might see on that trail at 4200 c.i. total, but only 2400 c.i. of that capacity in the main pack body. One ends up strapping relatively more stuff on the outside to push the limits of what can be carried.

I'm not an "ultralight" backpacker, but wow --- the actual "JMT thru-hikers" I saw on trail in June of 2008 often seemed equipped for an arctic expedition or something.

In any event, given that you don't have a lot of experience at this stuff, I'd definitely suggest a larger capacity pack for you, for this trip. It takes time, experience, and typically some money to whittle down to a smaller volume of "stuff" to get into the smaller volume packs.

Do consider whether you anticipate strapping a bear can to the outside of the pack or fitting it inside the main body --- that will make a really big difference in required pack capacity. If you go for external strapping, think through this carefully as a heavy, fully loaded and smooth plastic bear can wants to shift all over the place on you. Using a different pack last time through there (a Gossamer Gear Mariposa Plus) I started into the Sierras with the can strapped to the top but found that to be a real PITA, and so shifted things to barely scrape by with the can in the main body.
FWIW, here's a picture of me with the can still on top, before I wised up and moved things around.


Edited by BrianLe (01/08/12 12:10 PM)
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#159889 - 01/08/12 12:14 PM Re: What sized pack? [Re: BrianLe]
lori Offline
member

Registered: 01/22/08
Posts: 2801
I highly recommend the Bearikade canisters. The Weekender is good for a week for me - with proper packing method you can get a lot in there. And they are lighter for the weight/volume ratio than any other can, and rentable by mail - and if you decide you want one, the rent can go toward the purchase. Or, if you purchase one, it's in demand with light hikers and would sell in a flash.
_________________________
"In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities. In the expert's mind there are few." Shunryu Suzuki

http://hikeandbackpack.com

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#159890 - 01/08/12 12:29 PM Re: What sized pack? [Re: lori]
balzaccom Offline
member

Registered: 04/06/09
Posts: 2087
Loc: Napa, CA
WE've used the Bearvaults, both smaller and larger sizes, and like them as well.
_________________________
balzaccom

check out our website and blog: http://www.backpackthesierra.com/home

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#164779 - 04/09/12 06:41 AM Re: What sized pack? [Re: paulnlsn]
John Donewar Offline
member

Registered: 04/08/12
Posts: 19
Loc: Louisiana
This is going to be fairly basic advice. First and foremost the pack needs to fit you. An earlier post on this thread recommended getting all of your gear first and then looking for a pack that can fit it all. That is good advice.

To find out what size pack you will need you can use the box method. Assemble all of your gear that you plan on putting inside of your pack. Get a large enough cardboard box to hold it all and put your gear inside as neatly as possible. Get the measurements of the box in inches. Length x Width x the Height of your gear at its highest point in the box. Using this formula you'll arrive at an approximation of how big of a pack in cubic inch volume you will need to fit your gear.

Allow a fudge factor of about 10% to 20% more in this calculation added to your final cubic inch result for those things that we all just can't seem to do without and throw into our pack at the last minute. wink

Keep in mind that things like water bottles and your shelter might be carried on the outside so you need to take a good look at the outside pockets and their capacity also.

I carry my shelter in a dedicated side pocket, a quart Gatorade water bottle on the other side, FAK in a smaller outside pocket near the top of the pack and my water treatment etc. in another smaller pocket also near the top of my pack on the other side.

My rain gear and other sundry items fall into the large main front mesh pocket. I also carry two 28 oz water bottles, one on each side, attached to my shoulder straps.

All of this was meant to help you determine a volume / size for your pack. Remember that fit, comfort and pack weight are also prime considerations.

Get the lightest pack that fits you the best that can comfortably carry all of your gear.

Enjoy your trip!

Newton cool
_________________________
One day on the trail is 100 times better than one year on the couch!

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