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#94427 - 04/14/08 07:56 PM Oh so many packs to choose from...
jgrey Offline

Registered: 04/14/08
Posts: 1
I need your help. I have been backpacking, not all that seriously for the past few years with this old, uncomfortable external frame, purple pack (gag me) and it is time for a change. I am looking for a lightweight pack, hopefully not above $300, that will be good for 2-5 day trips. Ill be going to Appalachian State next year, and a 3500+ size pack was suggested in case I do some cold weather backpacking. Suggestions? What do you think?

#94428 - 04/14/08 08:04 PM Re: Oh so many packs to choose from... [Re: jgrey]
phat Offline

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

Search the forums using the search function (go back more than a week) . this question, and the topic is discussed an awful lot, and you'll likely have poor response on such a general question.

1) see what other people are using (use the search)
2) check out some of the options
3) Consider all your other gear.
4) try some on and pick something that fits.

Picking a pack and carrying extra weight all year because you "might" do a winter trip is silly. Get something sized right for 3 season, and if you go out in winter seriously, get a big
pack for that, rather than carrying extra stuff all year.

Also helps to fill in your profile at least a little so people know where you are and what you
might be hiking - doesn't need to be everything. Click on my name and you'll get an idea for what I do.

Edited by phat (04/14/08 08:07 PM)
Any fool can be uncomfortable...
My 3 season gear list
Winter list.
Browse my pictures

#94429 - 04/14/08 08:57 PM Re: Oh so many packs to choose from... [Re: jgrey]
mugs Offline

Registered: 12/24/05
Posts: 500
Loc: Kent, WA.
GEAR FIRST, PACK LAST. Too often people buy a pack then fill it up with gear, then get rid of the gear becasue it is too heavy. Buy your basic gear kit first, then take it all to the store and pick out some packs that you may like, put your gear in it and account for some wiggle room such as food and water. When I did this I actually took the food and I was going to take with me and fillded up my water bladder as well. This will give you an estimated size of volume pack you will need. Then you have something to go off, of. Whether you buy a pack from the gear store or from on-line cottage industry. Personally I would go with ULA, MLD. SMD. or the likes.
I miss my 4.8lb base weight as a ground dweller. But I sure don't miss the ground.

#94430 - 04/14/08 11:08 PM Re: Oh so many packs to choose from... [Re: mugs]
TomD Offline

Registered: 10/30/03
Posts: 4963
Loc: Marina del Rey,CA
Phat and Mugs are right. Winter camping and by that I mean cold, snow on the ground winter, not Southern winter or LA winter, involves carrying much more than 3 season camping- not necessarily heavier, although that will be true, but bulkier insulated clothes and probably a winter tent.

I tow a sled with most of my winter gear on it. Much easier on my back for one and plenty of room for everything.
Don't get me started, you know how I get.

#94431 - 04/16/08 12:20 PM Re: Oh so many packs to choose from... [Re: jgrey]
kbennett Offline

Registered: 10/27/03
Posts: 820
Loc: north carolina
Come on, guys, he has his gear already. He wants a new pack for hiking in North Carolina.

jgrey, take your gear down to an outfitter and start trying out packs. If you wait until you get to Boone, they have a great outfitter right off campus (Footsloggers.) $300 is plenty to buy a pack.

Some ideas:

I use a Six Moons Designs Starlite year-round in NC and VA. It's large enough for my winter gear, but weighs under 2 pounds, carries well, and isn't too large for summer hiking at about 3800ci.

The REI UL 60 and 45 packs are popular and inexpensive. Neither is really big enough for winter around here (except for dedicated ultralighters), but the 60 is less than $150 and is fine for 3+ season use, depending on your gear.

Many people like Granite Gear packs, and ULA packs get very high marks. (Note that ULA and Six Moons Designs are available mostly online.)

If you have mostly traditional heavy gear (big 2-person double wall tent, white gas stove, monster cook kit, 20-F synthetic bag, etc) you'll need a bigger pack, but you'll figure that out when you're at the outfitter.

Good luck.
--Ken B

#94432 - 04/16/08 01:36 PM Re: Oh so many packs to choose from... [Re: jgrey]
Paul_C Offline

Registered: 07/14/05
Posts: 506
Loc: Beaverton, Orygun
Myself, I prefer ULA packs sue to the large external mesh pockets and waistbelt pockets. Plus, the Dyneema is super tough. I have a Fusion and a Circuit.
Jeeper - NW mountain roamer

#94433 - 04/16/08 02:57 PM Re: Oh so many packs to choose from... [Re: jgrey]
outspoken Offline

Registered: 04/16/08
Posts: 12
Loc: East Tennessee
I was in a similar pack dilema a few months ago. I bought a Vapor Trail by Granite Gear, have used it for an overnighter and a daypack. As an overnighter it has alot of room to spare and I would feel comfortable using it as a multi day pack. I carry a 13 lb base weight and with water and food I find the pack very comfortable.

#94434 - 04/16/08 04:26 PM Re: Oh so many packs to choose from... [Re: jgrey]
Jimshaw Offline

Registered: 10/22/03
Posts: 3973
Loc: Bend, Oregon
Dude <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/wink.gif" alt="" />

3500 is not large enough for "cold weather camping" unless cold to you is 32 degrees. <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/smile.gif" alt="" /> You may as well get one that will hold what you are most likely to carry when you do get away. <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/wink.gif" alt="" /> And mostly you will get 2 day trips - like theres an inverse square funtion there. Like there will be 4/25 as many 5 day trips as 2 day trips. <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/confused.gif" alt="" /> <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif" alt="" />

As was said - go to outfitters and put your gear in packs and see how they feel. <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif" alt="" />

OTOH I'm one of those with an extremely large expensive 29 ounce 6500 inch backpack. I carry it all season - anything goes into it - AND you have to have a tiny UL pack to be any lighter - so smaller does not equal lighter <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/blush.gif" alt="" /> <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/shocked.gif" alt="" /> <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/shocked.gif" alt="" /> More expensive means lighter - duh. <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/wink.gif" alt="" />
Jim <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/cool.gif" alt="" />
These are my own opinions based on wisdom earned through many wrong decisions. Your mileage may vary.

#94435 - 04/17/08 06:12 AM Re: Oh so many packs to choose from... [Re: jgrey]
PhilBiker Offline

Registered: 09/07/04
Posts: 172
Loc: Washington DC area
There are ten zillion packs out there. Frankly, much of this stuff is completely overwhelming to me. There are ten zillion packs, twenty zillion sleeping bags, a hundred thousand tents, etc.

And people's opinions on message boards are very strong usually.

If you are talking overnighters or two nighters then a 3500 sq in pack should do in cold weather. My pack is about that size and it works OK for that in the dead of winter.

I bought a new backpack to replace an old external frame jobbie a few years ago. Basically the most important thing to get is one that fits your frame well. They often come in different sizes.

When it comes to gear, I usually let the sales and clearance discounts guide me. I do a lot of shopping at and , both companies have great web specials. I've even been to Campmor's retail store and it's great! I hit B&M outlets also.

I figure the market for this stuff is so competitive and so limited that anyone making poor gear would be out of business fast. Pretty much everything has plusses, there's very little bad gear out there. As such, I ended up with a backpack from "The North Face" a few years back. It's not perfect, but it's done a week in Alaska and many, many local one, two, and three nighters in all weather from 100 degree heat to waking up in 8 degree cold with not a single complaint. I got it cheap at sierra. Recently I stopped at TNF's retail outlet in New York State and picked up a sleeping bag and tent. Got a great deal on both! I'm going out with them for the first time this weekend; a two nighter. By accident my campsite is going to look like a TNF ad.

I got my Primus stove on closeout at REIoutlet, snowflake pattern Nalgenes at STP, boots at STP, etc.

Anyway, sorry I can't really give you good specific advice. The way I see it, pretty much every company making this kind of stuff does it well, it's really tought to go wrong, so may as well look for the bargains.

That's just me. <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/laugh.gif" alt="" />

Edited by PhilBiker (04/17/08 06:14 AM)

#94436 - 04/17/08 11:00 AM Re: Oh so many packs to choose from... [Re: jgrey]
Goatee Offline

Registered: 12/04/04
Posts: 258
Loc: Idahoo
At the top of your price range is McHale packs. They have packs called the Little Big Packs. I have one of their larger packs but it sounds like you get a lot for your money with one of these smaller ones.
Catch & Release unless you are starving!

#94437 - 04/17/08 03:38 PM Re: Oh so many packs to choose from... [Re: Jimshaw]
finallyME Offline

Registered: 09/24/07
Posts: 2710
Loc: Utah

OTOH I'm one of those with an extremely large expensive 29 ounce 6500 inch backpack.


Why you always trying to show that you have the BIGGEST pack? <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/confused.gif" alt="" /> <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/wink.gif" alt="" /> <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/wink.gif" alt="" /> <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif" alt="" /> <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif" alt="" /> <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif" alt="" /> <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif" alt="" />
I've taken a vow of poverty. To annoy me, send money.

#94438 - 04/23/08 03:30 PM Re: Oh so many packs to choose from... [Re: finallyME]
johndavid Offline

Registered: 04/23/08
Posts: 260
Loc: jersey city NJ

This is MEC Brio... a great pack for $89 Canadian... almost as good as the stuff available for 2x price or more.

It comes in three toros sizes, which is critical for many people.

If we're talking lite gear, then a 40+ pack is very appropriate. They make a similar pack at 50+ liters for slightly more money. I find the design is slightly too narrow for the volume. It is remarkably narrow, relative to other packs on the market. This could be good for skiing and climbing.

I think 50 liters is same as 3000 cubic inches.

I've got the MEC Brio 50 L + sack. It's good size for several days or more in summer. Overnights in winter is okay too. If you like to bring lots of stuff, or don't want to be attentive to packing then it's too small.

I think the 40L is a more optimal size for summer backpacking of up to a few days if you are being thoughtful.

If I'm throwing stuff quickly together for me, my girlfriend and her two dogs....and bringing stuff I don't necessarily need or even want....... then I use a 7000 cubic inch pack even for overnights.

Edited by johndavid (04/23/08 03:39 PM)

#94439 - 04/23/08 08:57 PM Re: Oh so many packs to choose from... [Re: jgrey]
300winmag Offline

Registered: 02/28/06
Posts: 1342
Loc: Nevada, USA
My "winter" pack is my 1990 Dana Terraplane, a heavy 7.5 lbs.! I used to think it was the best pack going. It IS comfortable and large, at 6500 I keep the pack in a pulk that I made. Skiing W/ a heavy pack on your back is not good.

But my summer pack is an REI UL 60 Cruise, large. At 3 lb 4 oz.and 3,900 cu. in. it's just what I need for a 5 to 8 day trip. I "cheat" and add REI side pockets (3 oz. ea.W/ straps) on the longer trips. This makes the pack versatile B/C I can unclip the pocket straps & leave them for 2 or 3 night trips. This pack will carry up to 40 lbs. but I'd recommend less for week long three-season trips. Just leave your "unnecessaries" behind. Take Karadyn tablets or a SteriPen instead of a water filter, use the lightest canister & burner, alky stove or ESBIT tab stove instead of a liquid fuel stove. Take a tarp & groundcloth or a single wall tent like a TarpTent.

Yes, there are lighter packs but I prefer the aluminum stays of the UL 60 and its MANY other great features. Packs without stays (using, generally, a folded closed cell sleeping pad as a "stay") inevitably will not transfer weight properly to your hip belt with any load over 15 lbs. In an hour or so they let the weight sag.

Beware of packs that are made of silnylon ripstop. They are fragile. Dyneema cloth is far better for a pack that will, even with care, get scratched, scraped, drug and dropped.

Ya gotta decide what seasons you'll backpack. Then choose the proper pack.


Edited by 300winmag (04/23/08 09:08 PM)
"There are no comfortable backpacks. Some are just less uncomfortable than others."


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