View Full Version : More pack talk

08-30-2015, 12:44
Okay folks, it’s time for another discussion about packs.
Recently, I posted here about problems I was having from the hip belt on my REI Flash 62 slipping (getting loose) while I walked. That problem was solved by returning it to the store. Other than the hip belt problem I liked the pack, but I am not sure it would be the best choice for a really long trip. Like an AT thru-hike for example. I have really shaved down my gear, both in weight and amount, but I have doubts about the ability of a pack the size of the Flash 62 to carry everything needed at the beginning and end of a thru hike. And, in complete fairness to REI, so do they. The Flash is not marketed as a pack for extended trips.
When I bought the Flash last spring I had no reason to believe that I would ever be able to do more than one or two week trips, and for that the Flash should have done just fine. No need to carry extra “town” clothes or more than one extra pair of socks. Confine the hiking to warmer weather and be able to get by with a down quilt, maybe a fleece pull-over, and Frog-Togs. The bulkiest item in the pack would be the food bag.
Then, back near the end of July, I reached the breaking point with my employer, and, with no job waiting in the wings, and no savings to speak of, quit my job of over eleven years. The original plan was to get another job at a greatly reduced income. However, by filing for Social Security, applying for VA benefits, and cashing in an annuity to pay off credit cards, I find myself in the position where a thru-hike in 2016 is going to be very doable – at least financially.
And, unlike a week or two and then back home, a thru-hike is a tad different.
You will have to have something to wear in town while trail clothes are being washed. At the beginning and end of the hike you will need heavier i.e. bulkier clothing. And there are a few places where it will be necessary to carry more than three or four days of food between resupplies. You need a pack that has a bit more volume.
I have pretty much narrowed it down to two choices.

Hyperlite Mountain Gear 4400 Southwest
ULA Catalyst

I lean toward #1, because, although I plan on keeping weight down as much as possible, there may be times – like water scarcity or poor local food choices – when it will be hard to not get in the 40 pound range. The only problem I see with that pack is that it looks like full volume be a foot or more above my head. The only problem I see with the ULA Catalyst, is that if I found myself in a situation where extra weight for a few days was unavoidable, it might be an uncomfortable few days. Anyway, opinions by users of either of these packs will be appreciated.
Both of these packs have a major plus for me over most, if not all, of the offerings from major retailers. They are made in the USA, and I will be supporting a small business owner instead of a clueless board of directors and stockholders who have no problem sacrificing quality for the bottom line.
Remember when The North Face was synonymous with quality?

Another Kevin
08-30-2015, 18:58
I don't think I've ever encountered a pack where the "shrug and retighten the hipbelt" routine wasn't needed at least a few times a day. Nylon stretches when it gets wet, as tends to happen when you sweat into it. Which is something that people are prone to do while humping a heavy pack over mountains.

I'm wondering a little bit at the asserted need for a 70-75 litre pack. I know that I managed to load out for a six-day food carry in the Adirondacks in October quite comfortably with a 59+5 litre pack, and I'm a largish guy. That's with a 20 degree down bag (long), a Therm-A-Rest self-inflating pad (full length), a TarpTent Notch, a fleece suit, down sweater, tuque, gloves, Frogg Toggs. Dry baselayer for sleeping. T-shirt and briefs. (These went unused - the weather wasn't suitable.) Two pair of socks for hiking and one for sleeping. Water shoes (there was a ford in my future). Silnylon bucket and pack towel. Toiletries. Ten Essentials. And I carry a couple or three pounds of various toys. No need to discuss what they are here.

This also makes me wonder about the need to carry a 40 pound load. My Big Three total almost exactly 8 pounds, my base weight is about 15-16. Food and fuel for six days (first breakfast and last dinner in town) is about 11 pounds, and a couple of litres of water is four and a half, so 31-32 pounds is about the max I carry in three seasons. And I'm by no means an ultralighter! The times of scarce water, when I might be carrying an extra 2-4 pounds of that, are the times when I wouldn't be carrying my puffy, would (if I were a thru-hiker) be using a summer-weight bag, and might just sleep in T-shirt and shorts and carry only one baselayer, so that kind of balances out.

That said, I'm pretty much resigned to the fact that I'll be wearing damp socks at least some of the time (no help for it with the mudholes of the Adirondacks!) I got sleet off and on through the October trip, the nights were surely below freezing, and I stayed reasonably warm. (Except for the time that I fell in the river, but that's another story entirely.) And I'm resigned to the fact that I may be sitting around a laundromat wearing nothing but a rainsuit.

I've since replaced the too-heavy pack I used on the October trip. (The advantage of the old pack: it had been less than $70 at an REI garage sale.)

I know lots of people with Catalysts, and they all love them. If I had gone the ULA route - and I seriously considered it - I'd have gotten that rather than the Ohm, because there's likely a bear canister in my future. I wound up getting the Granite Gear Crown VC 60 instead, because I suddenly found myself with an REI gift certificate, and wanted to get something REI carried.

So... the Catalyst is a great pack, and should be ample to your needs, but I'm wondering a little whether you might be overpacking a few pounds. The 4400 cubic inch pack with the dump-truck load capacity seems a bit overkill for three seasons.

08-30-2015, 19:16
I really like the four buckles on my Catalyst hip belt. 4 buckles with 4 tug straps. You can pull them all at once as if there were just two as on conventional belts, or pull them individually to fine tune. The roomy hip belt pockets are another plus IMO.

08-30-2015, 19:52
From what I've read, the average pack size seen on the AT and PCT is about 50 L. I frequently carry a 48 L Osprey Exos, and find that it is more than enough room for me for up to a week in pretty much any season. Used for a 5-day ski trip last winter, with tent and synthetic sleeping bag (not ultra-light), prepared for lows down to 0*F, I started out at 35 lbs and the Exos was truly full with one small bag attached to the outside of my pack. Other than that winter trip, I have never fully filled my 48 L bag or carried (in the last few years) more than 35 lbs with a weeks food and a couple liters of water.

With a down sleeping bag and even just moderate effort in gear reduction, 50 L kept under 35 lbs is probably about average on AT or PCT. I suggest ignoring anyone that is even hinting at a > 65 L bag for a thru-hike.

08-30-2015, 19:55
I have an HMG 3400 Windrider and it was more than large enough for my thru attempt and I actually could of gotten by with a 2400 instead. I can't even imagine a 4400 and what in the world it would take to fill that up.

08-30-2015, 20:09
I have an Osprey Exos 58 and a HMG Windrider 3400. I find the Exos much easier to pack with the same gear, though I don't understand why. Perhaps the pockets but I think it is the shape of the pack. The HMG seems to be smaller at the bottom where the Exos seems to be bigger at the bottom. I can carry the HMG for a week with comfort. The Exos hurts my hips and lower back after 3 days.

I wrote to HMG and asked how much weight the Windrider could carry. The answer was 45 lb. No way I'm going to carry that much.
I think the difference between the Southwest and the Windrider is the Windrider has mesh pockets.

So far I have no experience with the Ula Circuit.

08-30-2015, 21:40
I don't think I've ever encountered a pack where the "shrug and retighten the hipbelt" routine wasn't needed at least a few times a day. Nylon stretches when it gets wet, as tends to happen when you sweat into it. Which is something that people are prone to do while humping a heavy pack over mountains.

Agree, but in the case of the Flash I was lucky to walk on easy trail for a couple hundred feet before all the weight was on my shoulders. The left side loosened, and the right side twisted so that it was impossible to get it tighter and very hard to get it loose when I wanted to take the pack off. In contrast, this afternoon I did two laps (a tad over four miles) of the last trail I tried using the Flash on, wearing my old Gregory Baltro 65 that was loaded with the same gear that was in the Flash. I did not have to retighten the hip belt one time. Yesterday morning when I gave the Flash one last chance I had to retighten multiple times in less than a quarter mile.
Regarding capacity.
Currently, the bulkiest item is probably the sleeping bag. Big Agnes brand, not sure of the model. It was heavier than I would have liked (I am a bit on the large side. I was not able to fit in the other smaller/lighter bags I tried) but still lighter and less bulky than the Holubar bag I carried in 1975. The tent, a Six Moons Designs product fits in the side pocket of the Baltro. I had to strap it on the bottom of the Flash. The other gear is a small one pot cook set, Pocket Rocket (possibly to be replaced with a pop can stove), 3/4 pad of a half pound or less, fairly spartan first aid kit, (I know I have probably needed one at one time or another - I just can't remember when) and a few other odds and ends. I could probably fit bag, tent, cook set and other essentials in a day pack. It's the food and extra clothing that fills space so fast.

08-30-2015, 23:25
Have you found the 15 mpd resupply spreadsheet on the WhiteBlaze home page? You don't need to carry a ton of food at one time.
It sounds like you need a new bag or quilt at the start and finish. Mail drops can be used to swap warmer gear for summer gear in the middle.
I own a 63 liter Jensen pack and I have a hard time filling it up and I have tried. I do have a 2 pound long and wide bag that compresses fairly well, but not like a sub-2 pound bag or quilt. My tent doesn't pack as small as yours either but it goes in the pack too.
Town clothes? Not really needed.
I can't believe the Flash couldn't be repaired or replaced.
Catalyst or 3400 Southwest. Those are on my short list. I'm too old to get my money's worth from a McHale pack and I would like something lighter than my Terraplane.
Good luck.


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