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#203042 - 05/19/19 04:36 PM Backpacking backpacks too small?!
Mbphoto Offline

Registered: 01/16/19
Posts: 37
Loc: Switzerland
So, I've used those review pages extensively and went looking for a great backpacking backpack to use with our tent and stuff.

Since the Osprey Atmos 65 AG wins them all (best backpacking backpack), I ordered one.

At home, I loaded my stuff - simulating a trip like our Manasulu circuit trek from a few weeks ago, minus the porter and adding a tent and cooker - just to try the capacity for backpacking.

Since the climate changed a lot, we had short and long trousers and sleeveless, short sleeved and long sleeved merino shirts, as well as a fleece pullover and a pair of socks and three pairs of merino boxers. All of these go tightly packed into ultra-sil stuffsacks.
A down jacket, plus a hardshell for wind and rain go on top.

Then comes the rather fat sleeping bag (1°C comfort temp, Mountain Equipment Helium 600) in the bottom compartment along with the silk liner (for the first few nights).

The tent (MSR Freelite 3 with the additional footprint) goes in the bootom of the pack and the Jetboil MiniMo cooking system goes on top of the tent.

Adding all the stuffsacks with clothing on top and then the hardshell plus the down jacket and the bag is full to the brim.
Toiletries, water sterilisation system, and shower towel go in the lid pocket.

A pair of flip flops can go on the outside, along with the poles and two drinking bottles, but I'm afraid I wouldn't be able to bring my DSLR, nor my ultralight La Sportiva Helios 2 shoes (for the evening, after getting out of the boots). Also, almost no space left for food.

If we were doing a short 2-night trek in the region, where the climate is always the same (no need for different clothing) and we don't need spare clothes, I could probably do with the 65 litres of this pack, provided that my girlfriend carries both sleeping mats in her pack.

Also, if you go on a 5-day trip somewhere where it's very warm and you only wear shorts and t-shirts, sleep in a silk liner with a bug net and don't need a down jacket, yeah, the pack would suffice.

But they don't mention that anywhere.. They always talk about "finding the right size of pack for your needs" but nowhere do they offer any indications as to how much you would need for different sets of gear.

Why do they claim it's the best backpacking backpack there is, if it is clearly NOT suited for backpacking with a tent in less than hot climates?!

Sure, a 1 person tarp tent would be much smaller and you could use a very simple sleeping mat and an even tinier stove to save more space, but these review sites are not aimed at the super ultralight backpacker.

I now ordered the Xenith 75 and Xenith 88 just because I didn't want to go "too small" again.

What I definitely don't want, is to have 10 backpacks for all kinds of scenarios.

I know that an 88 liter pack is tempting to be filled, but - except for 3kgs of camera gear, if I can fit it - I don't bring stuff that couldn't be useful.

On the other hand, they recommend the Xenith backpacks for "very heavy loads, 20kg and up" for "very long trips and arctic excursions with tons of gear". Am I going the wrong way? Did I not pack my pack right? (I googled "how to pack a backpack" and followed those instructions laugh )

Yet, If I look at the gear people ACTUALLY bring to arctic excursions, they usually pull a sled filled with gear and carry a big pack on their back too. Not sure, a 75 litre backpack will do there...

Lastly, once I had stuffed the Atmos 65AG, I didn't put it on the balance, but I'm pretty sure it was nowhere near 20kg. So, my gear isn't all that heavy, it just takes up too much space for a 65L pack.

Any ideas or care to share your own experiences?

#203051 - 05/21/19 03:54 AM Re: Backpacking backpacks too small?! [Re: Mbphoto]
Bill Kennedy Offline

Registered: 02/27/18
Posts: 303
Loc: Portland, Oregon
I looked up that sleeping bag, and it seems to have a somewhat unusually shaped stuff sack. You might consider a different stuff sack, and stuff your down jacket in with the bag to save some space, assuming you only use it in the evenings and mornings.

The MSR tent could be split between two or three people, as it's packed size is fairly large.

Three pairs of boxers seems unnecessary. I think that most people don't carry any extra underwear, other than long johns. Personally, I sometimes carry a pair of very lightweight briefs.

If you have the La Sportiva shoes, you could probably do without the flip-flops.

You definitely have to be a bit experience has been that I will fill to the brim whatever pack I have.
Always remember that you are absolutely unique, just like everybody else. -Margaret Mead

#203052 - 05/21/19 12:11 PM Re: Backpacking backpacks too small?! [Re: Mbphoto]
BZH Offline

Registered: 01/26/11
Posts: 1116
Loc: Madison, AL
The biggest part of lightweight backpacking is knowing what to leave behind. Three pair of underwear? Take one change only. Unpredictable weather means you want long and short sleeves? Wear one, pack one... you don't need to pack both. You have a three person tent for one person? I don't backpack with any footprint for my tent. Why do you need two extra pair of shoes besides the ones on your feet? Why do you need three jackets? The only experienced backpackers I have ever met who use a silk liner are the ones trying to sell a used sleeping bag. I would never put a dslr in the backpack. If you're going to lug that massive weight around you should probably be taking an awful lot of pictures with it. Wear it around your neck or get a chest bag/waist bag for it.

People on here often give the advice that you should get your backpack after you have got all the rest of your gear. I think what you did is a better idea. Get a backpack that fits you well and then figure out how other people make that work while backpacking. Your 88 liter bag is going to be full of things that seem really important only when you haven't had to lug them up a mountain.

#203053 - 05/21/19 03:48 PM Re: Backpacking backpacks too small?! [Re: BZH]
Mbphoto Offline

Registered: 01/16/19
Posts: 37
Loc: Switzerland
Thanks for the inputs

I too am a little afraid of over-filling the 88L, but it's only 40 grams more than the 75L... Haha.. And only 2cm longer and wider, and 3cm deeper than the Atmos 65AG, when filled to the brim.

The sleeping bag doesn't go any smaller. You can compress the stock stuffsack too, but it's still pretty big afterwards. I have an ultrasil compression stuffsack that I use for my down jacket and the down pillow (don't throw any stones now!)

Regarding clothing:
I bring my hardshell (GTX) and the down jacket, nothing else. (the gtx is my rain jacket too, but the down jacket is not rainproof)
I need 3 pairs of boxers.. LoL.. We're talking 15 days here and you cannot wash every day. (and I'm a germophobic!)
You're right about the shirts. One each would probably be fine. But, again, I need to be able to wash them. The merino didn't dry over night.

The flip flops were used for the toilet/shower in Nepal. I guess, if you go camping wild, you don't need them.

The 3 ppl tent is actually for two. My better half carries the sleeping mats in her pack (that's how we "split" the sleeping stuff.)
We went with the freelite 3 because it's lighter than a hubba hubba nx (2 ppl tent) and leaves a bit of extra space to take gear inside (did I mention my camera?) and move around.

The footprint is necessary only if you set up on harsh grounds (and I'm not going to ruin a 500$ tent that way!).

The silk liner is either for super cold nights inside the bag, or, as I've used it, for nights in tea houses where it's 25 degrees (celsius) at night.
I'm a germophobic (comes with being a Biochemist, I guess?) and cannot sleep in a bed that hasn't been made for me. (hotels are fine, but many tea houses NEVER change sheets during the season..)

Re the camera: I took nearly 2k pictures over 3 weeks. Still, on steep descents, I stuff it in the pack, because I need both poles (stupid knees..)

I guess, if I make a pack list for different occasions I should be able to keep the weight down a little?
The 65 simply was nowhere near enough.

Even if I leave out all of the following:

1 shirt, 1 set of boxers, the flip flops, tent footprint, silk liner, and camera.
It's still cramped in there.

I'm probably just not comfy enough with reducing the stuff that I bring, for a lack of experience.

#203078 - 05/25/19 12:46 PM Re: Backpacking backpacks too small?! [Re: Mbphoto]
wandering_daisy Offline

Registered: 01/11/06
Posts: 2865
Loc: California
a 65L pack IS very large. I do 10 day trips (including a bulky bear can) with a 55L pack. When I do 14-day backpacks I use my old Kelty that I have reduced weight to 3.5 pounds be sewing my own UL pack bag.

The kind of trek you talk about is not what is considered typical backpacking.

The new packs assume you have some of the new lighter and more compact other gear. The "600-" sleeping bag, assuming that means 600-fill down is now replaced by 800-900-fill bags which pack down a lot smaller for the same warmth.

As for ground cloth, a home-made Tyvak footprint is lighter and more compact. Personally, I think it is marketing hype, to advertise a tent as "light" then have the floor so fragile that you have to add a footprint. If the footprint is really needed, then the total weight and bulk of the tent really should include the footprint.

There are UL compression stuff sacks (very expensive, though) that I use for my clothing (except my down jacket). You can really squish wool a lot without damaging it.

You said nothing about food. As for cook gear, it is easy go overboard on this- one pot, each person a cup and spoon, and eating communally out of the one pot saves bulk of too much cook gear. Food varies a lot in bulk, for example elbow noodles (bulky) vs cous-cous( very compact). Freeze dried meals are light but bulky.

Getting the bulk down requires re-thinking every piece of gear. For example, one small 1-oz single blade knife, vs the Swiss Army knife. Perhaps too much first aid gear?

That said, I am not a fan of Osprey packs because they seem to have compartment sizes that, for me, are not fully usable. Two 65-L packs do not necessarily have the same useable volume. Particularly if the outside pockets do not expand enough to allow for fully packing the inside compartment of the pack. And for top-loading packs, some manufacturers count the extended top closure part in the total volume. However, if you really pack it all in that high, I find that the weight balance in the pack is very awkward. Some pack "lids" are odd sized- somehow just do not carry the items I want available very well. Side pockets on the hip belt also are sometimes awkward. Also, some pack's volume include (assume)lashing on some gear.

I do not pay much attention to those reviews and lists of the "5 best" or whatever for any gear. But I do think that you have a lot of ways you can reduce the volume of your gear.

#203079 - 05/25/19 03:30 PM Re: Backpacking backpacks too small?! [Re: wandering_daisy]
Mbphoto Offline

Registered: 01/16/19
Posts: 37
Loc: Switzerland

No, the sleeping bag is numbered 600, because it contains 600 grams of goose down (700+ cuin and at our upper budget limit). It's not ultra compact, but the Mammut Sphere was simply too expensive and couldn't be coupled. (and the coupling was really necessary below freezing.)

I tried putting the gear in the 88L pack today and it all fitted okay, but there wasn't a ton of extra space.
Mind you, I didn't put in ANY food, nor my camera and electronics stuff, or my La Sportiva shoes, or the water bottles, sandals, or a first aid kit.. Everything would fit and the pack would still be incredibly comfortable to carry.

Our cooking gear currently consists of a Jetboil minimo, done. We have titanium mugs, but no cutlery (yet) and won't bring plates or coffee cookers, etc. So, that doesn't take up loads of space.

I could fit it all into the 75L bag, but it would be really tight. (also, I clearly need a size M and couldn't get the 75 in that size)

The whole pack weighed maybe 15 kilos at most.

The footprint is necessary, because the tent floor is 15D nylon. I don't trust this at all on a rocky ground.

So, I could maybe do with the 65L bag, if I compress my stuff more and push it into the bag really hard, but I simply don't want that.

The Xenith is ultra comfortable and I like the idea of having enough space to be able to just stuff my stuff in there without having to sit on top and hop up and down to be able to close it againt. smile

I'll see if I can find the 75L in size M, but if I cant, I'll keep the 88L bag. The price was too good.

Edited by Mbphoto (05/25/19 03:31 PM)

#203080 - 05/25/19 05:42 PM Re: Backpacking backpacks too small?! [Re: Mbphoto]
aimless Offline

Registered: 02/05/03
Posts: 3196
Loc: Portland, OR
Looking at your original post and the questions you asked in it, I think the basic answers to your questions have been given. You relied heavily on backpacking gear review sites, took their advice, found it did not suit your needs and desires, and then wondered why or how this could happen.

We have identified ways in which your gear is not typical of the 'average user' that the sites are aimed at. We identified what that average user is doing differently than you, which would not require as big a pack as your gear requires. You are confirmed in your reasons for wanting all the gear you wish to take, and therefore you will need a bigger pack to fit all of it.

My conclusion: forget the gear review sites, since they do not give you advice that fits your desires, take what you want to take, buy as big a pack as will hold all of it, and be happy with your choices. After all, it will be you who must hike the hike, not us, and not the gear reviewers.

There. That was simple. smile

#203081 - 05/26/19 06:28 AM Re: Backpacking backpacks too small?! [Re: aimless]
Mbphoto Offline

Registered: 01/16/19
Posts: 37
Loc: Switzerland
Okay, guess you're right.

If you hike warm, a "best backpacking backpack" really fits it all.

For me, maybe that's a cultural/language problem, backpacking is what students do after graduating, travelling Asia or South America for 6 weeks and more with a backpack.

Going hiking for 5 days in a row is what I call trekking.

One last question:
Are there any serious drawbacks - other than the risk of bringing too much gear - to a pack that's too large in volume?
A friend always brings her 80L pack, even on weekend outings with the tent, but she's not an UL hiker at all.

Because I got the 88L for 190$ (half price) and find it incredibly comfortable, even full.
It's 40 grams heavier than the 75L bersion, but that would be 30$ more at the cheapest.

#203083 - 05/26/19 02:23 PM Re: Backpacking backpacks too small?! [Re: Mbphoto]
wandering_daisy Offline

Registered: 01/11/06
Posts: 2865
Loc: California
If you are relatively young and strong, an oversized (which usually also means heavier) backpack is only a "problem" in that a lighter pack usually allows you to go more miles if you are hiking long distances. Comfort and being sized for the intended load is more important.

As you get older (there are a few of us here that are 70 yrs old + and still backpacking) smaller and lighter backpacks and lighter gear allows one to backpack well into old age!

I do disagree that you can only use a smaller pack in "warm" weather. Not sure what you mean by "warm". I can still use a 55L pack for weather down to 10F nights and 40F days. For me, I switch to a larger pack if I need more room for more food (more than 10 days),in real winter conditions where I need a lot more clothing, or if I take the grandkids and have to carry a lot of their stuff.

#203091 - 05/27/19 05:02 AM Re: Backpacking backpacks too small?! [Re: wandering_daisy]
Mbphoto Offline

Registered: 01/16/19
Posts: 37
Loc: Switzerland
I'm 32, so I guess I'll switch packs a few more times before I retire (if we'll ever get there with all the "raise retirement age" talk going on already here)

I really don't see how I could fit everything into 65L.. Not with the 1deg sleeping bag and tent inside the pack (excluding the sleeping mat!) I removed all the "unnecessary" clothing items you guys mentioned and still need 75L.

I mean, I didn't even think about the first aid kit and other "essential" things.

Also, I realised that my partner can bring many more items of clothing with the same volume backpack, simply because her stuff takes up a lot less room. (And I'm only a size Medium)

Lastly, if the big pack isn't an issue, I can pack my down jacket and sleeping bag more loosely to keep them from ageing too quickly.

#203645 - 11/10/19 09:55 PM Re: Backpacking backpacks too small?! [Re: wandering_daisy]
Jimshaw Offline

Registered: 10/22/03
Posts: 3973
Loc: Bend, Oregon
Hi Daisy. Some of you know that I carry an old Kelty white cloud spectra expedition backpack. Its huge! I can put my winter gear in it including a bibler tent and a large old 700 down -5 bag. The pack can be disassembled into different configurations, but the lightest is 29 ounces.

So for 29 ouces I can put ANYTHING in my pack. The reason for tiny packs is the cherished idea that smaller is lighter even if it isn't. If you want to be comfortable camping, you can take larger gear, like a bigger sleeping bag or a 2 person tent, winter stove etc, or you can be totally cool (cold) and carry a purse sized pack...

Just my $.02
These are my own opinions based on wisdom earned through many wrong decisions. Your mileage may vary.

#203921 - 12/28/19 09:02 PM Re: Backpacking backpacks too small?! [Re: Mbphoto]
Talthing Offline

Registered: 12/29/13
Posts: 24
whoa ! That's waaaay too much stuff. The idea is not to carry as much as you possibly can...the idea is to carry as little as you can

I have a the Osprey Exos 58 and that is plenty big for winter camping for a whole week. There are some great gear lists that you can find that will give you ideas on what people are packing.

#203926 - 12/29/19 03:33 PM Re: Backpacking backpacks too small?! [Re: Jimshaw]
wandering_daisy Offline

Registered: 01/11/06
Posts: 2865
Loc: California
Unfortunately, the last I checked, the Kelty White Cloud does not come in an x-small size. A friend had one and I really wanted one too, but I am too small.

The major part of a pack's weight is the internal (or external) frame and suspension system, hip belt and shoulder straps. The actual "bag" is a smaller part of the total weight. Thus, increasing volume does not proportionally increase the total pack weight. The only problem I see with a too large pack is that you will tend to just add more because you can!

Regardless of volume, the pack has to be able to carry the weight. The most important thing is to get a pack that FITS best and has the weight capacity needed. Once these criteria are met, you can play with volume. I find that the stated "weight capacity" is often too optimistic. For me if a pack is rated at 45 pounds, 35 is really my "comfort" limit.

You also have to pay attention to the design proportions (where does the pack get its volume). I bought a pack once that had much of its advertised volume as an expandable top. When loaded, it was very unstable and top-heavy for the x-small frame. It now is relegated to a travel pack (luggage). Some packs use extra width go gain extra volume. Be careful here - the pack can restrict arm movement when using trekking poles. Other packs get the extra volume by being deeper (front to back). The closer to your back the weight is, the easier it is to carry. Some packs have much of their "volume" in tons of small pockets, which often are too small to be useful. I have had two packs, listed as the exact same volume, and one works fine with all my equipment; the other does not.

Because of the above, I am still a proponent of getting equipment first, then fitting it in a pack, and then be sure to carry it around a while to see if it is comfortable and well balanced for your body. As you gain experience, you can begin to reduce volume and weight of your equipment and learn what is really needed and what is not. Maybe after a few years you can get by with a smaller pack.

After nearly 50 years backpacking I am still experimenting, deleting, adding, trying UL gear, buying different packs. If you watch out for sales, packs really are not that expensive (for example, compared to sleeping bags or tents). If I buy a pack and it does not work well after a season's use, I simply donate it to my local boy scouts.

One pack I will never give away is my original 1968 Kelty external frame with extension bar. I still occasionally use it. But now that I am no longer lugging 30 pounds of technical climbing gear, it is a bit over-kill.


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