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What are people's packs of choice for trips like a walk along the AT? I'm in the market for a rucksack style pack. Is there any thing I should look out for? I've heard good things about ULA, but less good things about GoLite. Comments please.
I haven't tried the ULA, but I have tried the Golite, my own homemade, and the Gearskin. I honestly prefer the Gearskin. I wrote a review of it under Gear reviews here or you can see it with pictures on my site:
If you're interested in considering a more "traditional" offering, I've heard a lot of good things about the Mountainsmith Ghost (http://www.mountainsmith.com/product/details.jsp?prodId=3), a Backpacker Magazine Editor's Choice which weighs in at 2 lbs. 6 oz. with a 3100 cu. in. capacity.
I used a GoLite Speed for around 500 miles on my thruhike and really liked it. I actually ripped a whole in it and they sent me a patch kit nextdayair. The zipper broke on the "brain" and they gave me a new at trail days. Good customer service.
I also tested a new pack for Granite Gear which will be coming out this winter. Its called the vapor, weighs 2lbs and has somewhat of a frame. Its silnylon so no need for a pack cover. It was a good pack as a prototype and will be really good once they have all the "bugs" worked out and have it in production.
LOVE my GoLite Gust. Capable of huge volume, comfy, tough. I also like my North Face "Kletter" sack. A bit heavier, but a good value. Both of them max out at around 35 lbs for comfort, and 25 is best. Check out the Backpacker review of the Gust on their website; I'm pretty sure it's there. Backpacker.com
My husband used the Mountainsmith Ghost (2 pounds something ounces) and I used the Osprey Aether 60 (3 pounds) and both were more than adequate for 30 pounds or less, they held together well and when we did have a minor problem with the Ghost (one of the frame suppors popped though its lining) Mountainsmith sent us a pack in Front Royal, on the trail, for free, while we sent his back to be repaired..something to be said for outstanding customer service.
Jumpstart's comment on customer service merits its own thread...I've started it: Customer Service and Good Gear
I've decided that if I'm going to go lightweight, I'm going to jump in feet first. Since my current small pack weighs 4 lbs, changing over to a Ghost doesn't save all that much for the monetary outlay. One of the Trees (youTree) this summer had a ghost and the loved it. The other Tree (meTree) started with a Gust and got rid of it in Hot Springs for a more traditional Mountainsmith. Both were lightweighters. I'm looking for a pack in the 1.5 lb or less range. The ULA stuff seems to be pretty well liked. I've thought about the Breeze, but am not sure that I can keep the weight to under 20 lbs all the time. For example, I've got my eyes on the PCT in the future, and carrying 6 L of water in the desert will push weight above 20 lbs.
I used a 3500ci MountainSmith Mountain Light pack on my 2000 thru-hike. It weighted in at just under 4 lbs and served me well.
Since then I have used a GoLite Breeze for over 500 miles of backpacking and dayhiking. My longest continuous trip was a 4 day trip. I took enough food for 6 days because I wasn't sure what my daily mileage would be and there were no opportunities for resupply. I think with food and water it max'd out at around 27 lbs. The weight wasn't that much of a problem for my shoulders. At over 20 lbs I do tend to notice the shoulder strain some. My buddy used his Breeze last year on his PCT thru-hike and said that at times he was a little over 30 lbs when he was in the desert. I believe he said that was a little uncomfortable at first on his shoulders, but that his shoulders toughened up after a while and that it wasn't that bad. GoLite use to state that the maximum carry weight was 30 lbs but that it was more comfortable for loads of 20 lbs or less. I really like my Breeze pack. It is light weight, the net pockets are wonderful and I like the freedom of not having a hip belt. The lack of a hip belt makes it easier to walk with a normal gait, twist around obstacles and remove/put on your pack (this makes crawling over/under blowdowns and other obstacles much easier). I even attach PowerAide bottles to the front shoulder straps with shockcord and use them to hold drinking water...this acts as a counter balance to the weight on your back and makes the whole pack 'ride' better. It is also my pack choice for dayhikes, I use two sections of a zrest for a back support and put most everything else in the mesh pockets...it is lighter weight and more comfortable than any of my other day packs.
I guess what I am trying to say it to not rule out this pack because sometimes your pack weight will exceed 20 lbs. When I did my thru-hike I would shift the weight between my shoulders and my hips by making adjustments to my pack, but I think for me, I was usually more comfortable with more of the weight on my shoulders. If you don't feel comfortable unless most of the weight is on your hips, you should take that into consideration and probably stay away from packs that don't have a hip belt AND A GOOD WEIGHT TRANSFER SYSTEM.
During my last two trips into the Smokys I hiked with the hipbelt undone. I actually liked it, much to my suprise. For some odd reason, my shoulders would not hurt much during the day, but when I got into camp, I could feel a bit of tenderness where the pack straps were.
Are there any durability issues to worry about with the GoLite stuff? I know the packcloth is pretty lightweight, and so has to be treated a bit gently, but what about seams, etc? The netting?
One year of pretty hard use with a GoLite Gust, no problems with seams or anything else to date.
recently picked up the breeze on sale. very nice needlework, looks strong enough to put up with a lot of abuse. have not used it for other than daybag yet as my homemade bag had larger mesh pockets and more volume. i use gatoraid bottles(32 oz.) for water and after stuffing all my gear into the breeze it is next to impossible to get them into the mesh side pockets. a couple 20 oz. bottles would probly work fine. i love the mesh back pocket as a place to store damp things( tevas, ground cloth, etc.) i wil use it for backpacking sooner or later but i really have to get the bulk of my gear under control first.
I am getting the feeling that the lighter one goes, the less important the fit of the pack. However, the better your pack fits YOU, the better, I guess it will comfortably carry any reasonable weight. Now, if you want one that will really fit YOU, hand made to your order and custom made to your measurements, instead of just purchasing one of the other brands mass-produced,"off the rack", Check out McHale at:
It has some pluses over the mass-produced models. First it may outlive you. Second it will fit. In fact he will not even build one till until after he speaks to you a few times. He is a small, hand-made custom shop. And if you want the best there is, Dan McHale is the one to talk to. If you feel you are worth it, give his site a look. There is another thread on this forum which gives a little more info about him. Believe me, his packs are awesome. If you do decide to get one, get one a little smaller than you think you need, because his stated measurements are actual. Most others are exaggerated and you probably need less ci than you think!
I could go on and on.
A thru hiker I walked with for a bit (DaddyMention) had a McHale pack and absolutely loved it. I've shied away from a McHale, though, mostly because of price. The idea of shelling out $300 for a lightweight, no frills pack just feels a bit wrong for me. I'm only looking for around 2500 ci (current pack is 2700) with some external mesh pockets (mine has none). The thing I like about the ULA is that you can get a hipbelt for it. This would be useful, I think, for times when resupply points are far separated (not much of an issue on the AT) or water spots are separated by 20 or so miles. The rest of the time, like on most of the AT, I could leave the hipbelt in a bounce box.
I am developing the opinion that a custom McHale would shine where more weight were carried than a "lightweighter" would carry. Below 30 pounds I suspect that even Grandma Gatewood's handmade, denim laundry bag would suffice, thrown over first one shoulder, then the other. That said, I believe it may matter little what you use, because the degree of comfort[pain?] from a lesser fitting one would would be small, in comparison with comparing packs of the Terraplane X category, carrying 50 or so pounds each.
I know that one time when comparing packs carrying 45-50 pounds, the Mchale really outcarried, by a wide margin, the Terraplane X. But now that my pack weight with food, water for 5 days is 29-30 pounds,, I am feeling that it matters little what i haul it in. But I sure am attached to it and every stain on it is honorably earned
Good luck, though
ive been using a kelty flight this year and love it it gives you plenty of options you can strip it down to just packbag with straos or a full suspention. i carry mine with the side pouches and hip belt weighs in at just under four lbs. i tried the breeze and it was just to small. ive heard good things on the gust but have yet to try one.the gear skin sgt. rock has sounds neat.i had moonbow sew me a tarp/tent and cant say enough about the quality they are top notch. i chose the flight because of the price $110 bucks at campmor.but i think any of the really lite packs give up some quality for weight savings. jigsaw
After looking over some of the packs at the Gathering this weekend, I bought a ULA Zenith. This is a rucksack style pack similar to the G4. It appears to be a bit stouter, however. It has a small-ish hipbelt. Price was $125. I won't be able to take deliverly for a month or so. Will report back after I've taken it out for a few thrashings.
ULA also had two other style packs on display at the Gathering. The P1 is a larger, heavier pack with more options on it and the P2, a burlier, more technical version of the P1 with a framesheet and a single (I think) stay. Both looked pretty good. The P1 and P2 can be customized rather extensively which, of course, adds weight and cost. The website is www.ula-equipment.com.