View Full Version : thru-hike pack access..also, gals, pack choice?

09-17-2010, 16:34
Hey! I'm new to this awesome website, and trying to get my act together for an AT thru-hike in '11.

I was wondering what you guys think about pack access for thru-hiking. I've got a front access daypack, and that's definitely my favorite feature. Though I probably won't get that lucky with my next pack, it seems to me that a 60L pack hauling all your stuff should at least have more than one top access point to help maintain sanity and keep cursing and ill-will towards your pack to a minimum. Comments, thoughts, expostulations?

Ladies, any recommendations on packs? Will probably carry avg 30-35 lbs on my thru-hike, I'm 5'3" and am leaning towards the Osprey Aura 65. Definitely want to stay in the 3.5 lb or less range.

Llama Legs
09-17-2010, 16:50
Osprey Aura 65

Saw many women using them "out there". Would be a great choice if you think you really need to carry 35 pounds. Work on that base weight !

09-17-2010, 17:12
I would suggest trying on packs designed for both women and men. I've hiked with women who found "mens" packs fit them better and men who found "womens" pants fit them better. ~ If you're looking at Osprey packs, you may want to look at the Exos 58 and it's two vertical zipper pockets.
"..it seems to me that a 60L pack hauling all your stuff should at least have more than one top access point to help maintain sanity and keep cursing and ill-will towards your pack to a minimum." - Agreed. Top loaders require users to pretty much empty their pack out to get to anything near the bottom. Some old Gregory packs had large front access zippers allowing access to anything without unloading them, but they were very heavy. Lots of threads on here about the advantages/disadvantages of internal vs. external vs. modular frame packs.

09-17-2010, 17:31
Just remember for every feature you keep ,you add weight.There are many lite weight packs discussed here on WB that you can keep sanity with & that weight less than 2 lbs.Keep in mind that all these ounces add up. Not to say the packs you mentioned are bad ,just that tradeoffs are always there in backpacking.

09-17-2010, 17:34
After a couple of days on the trail 'access' is not muh of a problem. You need to get at some things like water, camera, sun/bug stuff, jacket when you stop--that kind of thing. You get used to putting what you know you will need at the top or in a pocket. Exterior pockets and panel loading features are great, you just need to decide if they are worth the weight penalty for you. For the long haul, I opt for simplicity in everything.

A single large interior space with side mesh pockets and a large mesh pocket on the back are really all you need. Most light packs are built like this. Try to keep the 'big three, or four' down to as close as you can to 2 lbs each and your pack weight will be light and comfy.

I have a formula for deciding on new packs. I want the ratio of cubic inches to weight of the pack to be at least 75 ci per ounce, 100 is better. So a 1600 ci pack should weigh no more than 1 lb. If it weighs more, then it better have, and will have, a comfortable frame, hip belt, and lots of pockets before I would even consider it. So working the other way, a 3.5 lb pack should be about 5,600ci for me to be interested.

Whatever works for you--but less is more when it is less weight and more miles you want.

I have a couple of Osprey packs, I like them. You might want to look at the Talon 44.
Mine has a sleeping bag compartment on the bottom for access. I think this pack would be ok for a long hike, it holds a lot more than the specs would indicate, big enough for me anyway. The exos is light and has pockets.

09-17-2010, 18:27
exactly the valuable advice i was hoping for, thanks guys.

09-17-2010, 21:41
My wife likes Osprey packs, too -- they are one of the few to make a great shoulder harness for women. You might check the Exos series for a lighter pack that can still carry a decent load -- but make SURE it fits well.

Agree with grayfox that after a few days on the trail, panel access is overrated. In any case, I like to line my pack with a trash compactor bag -- and that sort of defeats the whole panel load idea anyway.

I like to have big outside mesh pockets on my pack. You might check the ULA packs as well as the Osprey.

09-17-2010, 21:59
i recommend ULA as well! maddog

09-17-2010, 22:44
now i feel like i can let go of the desire for a panel loading pack. i guess that leaves durability, comfort, and weight as the key aspects. oh wait...that's EVERYONE's concern, isn't it...

09-18-2010, 00:34
weight and comfort is. sometimes its not as fun if packs are durable because then u have no excuse for buying another one haha

09-18-2010, 09:04
The thing this brings to mind is waterproofing - the easier it is for you to access your gear, the easier it is for water to access your gear. A panel load pack obviously offers access advantages, but how much of this ease of access is lost when considering using a compactor bag or silnylon liner for waterproofing? Kind of wondering for myself as well. Anyway, just thinking out loud.

09-18-2010, 11:41
i recommend ULA as well! maddog

If I were in the market for a new pack, the ULA would definitely be the one. Whichever one is the next to the smallest and has a suspension system would be my choice. I can never keep the names straight. If your stuff will not fit in 50 liters, then you have too much stuff. I also agree that access is not much of an issue. You learn very quickly where everything is, and how to get at it. When you get your gear down to a science, you can unload and load your complete system in a jiffy. It's not only about the weight, but also the number of things you carry. To boot, the ULA packs are not that expensive, as new packs go. Of course, I'm a cheap-skate.

litefoot 2000

09-18-2010, 11:48
It's the Ohm, with a main body volume of 2100 cubes.

litefoot 2000

09-18-2010, 13:38
I have a 50 liter now, and I know I won't able to get by with it - especially the first 1-2 months. i wish i were that savvy, but 'ultralight' is definitely not a modifier for ol' bandit. 'slow' definitely is a more appropriate modifier.

after all the ula enthusiasm i've been seeing on the forums, i'm really excited to try on some ula packs. luckily i'm going down to san fran in a couple weeks, i'm going to make a trip down to santa cruz to try on some ula packs. - the circuit, in particular, looks like a good fit for me.

seriously though, are there any smaller women out there who use ula's? i know big tough men/women carrying ultralight gear are fond of them, but are they also a good fit for short little gals carrying heavier loads? (30-35 lbs, no more)...guess i'll find out in a few weeks.

also, instead of lining the entire pack with a trash bag, i usually put groups of things in their own trash bags - the extra dry clothes bag, the wet'n'nasty bag, the food bag, etc. that way if one bag gets an unnoticed hole, then the rest of the bags are still dry. seems like that would be the way i keep doing it on the at.

09-18-2010, 17:08
are there any smaller women out there who use ula's?

Um, yeah, forgot about that. My wife has tried several ULA packs and hated them -- but that was in a store, not on the trail. She found that the shoulder harness dug into her neck, and the overall feel wasn't all that great. I love my Ohm, though.

Of course your mileage may vary -- I've seen several women on the trail using ULA packs. They are very well made.

09-18-2010, 17:18
My wife likes hers... She's 112 lbs dripping wet and has no trouble with a pack weight of 20 lbs.

09-19-2010, 22:54
Try packs that aren't women's specific. So much of that is marketing. When I'm worried about durability, I use one of my ULA packs. When I'm less worried and want superlight, I use one of my Gossamer Gear. Buy either, you're helping make a payroll in the USA. Call either, and talk to the owner.

09-19-2010, 23:32
yeah lots of gender items are just marketing, a company doesnt want to be the only one that doesnt "appear" to have womens options. one of the best moves i ever made was starting to use womens deodorant. most mens kind stinks (old spice comes to mind), while womens dont stink, they just work. came real close to buying womens leki poles also, but decided against it because although i am open minded, i couldnt bring myself to buy poles with the name "diva" in it. probably wasted the extra 15 dollars getting the mens, but theres a limit i guess

09-20-2010, 15:35
I am currently thru-hiking sobo (started august 1st) and am by no means an ultra-light hiker, but all my gear easily fits into my Osprey Talon 44. I started out with a huge 92 liter pack and now I would not personally reccomend a pack over 44 liters(except maybe the osprey exos 58 due to its light weight) exspecially when traversing the tough terrain in Maine and NH. 32lbs without ultralight gear and with about 2.5 liters of water is def possible. Being only 5'3 I would think that you wouldn't be to happy carrying over 35lbs? I love the ULA circuit, but nobody up here had them in stock....ULA Circuit or osprey talon, either one I believe is a great choice and pretty light.

The Talon has great access!!! The external storage pocket up front holds my toiletries, head-lamp, Jacket, Denatured alcohol, Vitamins, snacks, towel, etc....the side compartments hold my 3 liter bladder and 1 liter bottle....the brain holds my books(3), cell phone, wallet etc... The main compartment can be accesed from the top or bottom;) and holds the remainder of my gear, the brain of the pack is also removable to save weight.

Really you can't pick a pack online though, you need to go out and take all of your gear with you to an outfitter and then after stuffing everything in try the pack on.....that's the only way to truly be happy with your pack IMO.

P.S. with all my gear, not ultra-light, 5-7 days of food and with 3.5 liters of water my talon weighs in at 33lbs.

09-20-2010, 22:34
HomewardBound, I hope you're enjoying your hike, and happy trails!

When it comes to womens/mens packs, I tend to agree - pick whatever feels best. I'll keep an eye out for men's packs as well with the advice you guys have given. Though some brands change more than just the color when they design for women - you can see differences in intended torso lengths, width and shape of shoulder straps and their placement (intended for more narrow shoulders vs mens), and hip belt padding, shape, size, etc.

I worked at an outfitter and encouraged people to try packs and other gear intended for the other sex quite often. The hardest part was mentioning it to them, I was always internally cringing in anticipation of their reaction. Most people were receptive though.

IronGutsTommy, I personally think you'd have looked even tougher with diva poles. :D

09-21-2010, 00:38
I prefer the simplicity of a simple trash-can type lid. The pack is loaded with no more than 6 items, easily emptied and loaded. Some of the 6 items are bins or bags containing smaller items. This keeps things organized, and light and simple.

1. Blue foam pad.
2. Bivy with sleeping bag and sleep clothing.
3. Food bag or bin.
4. Mesh laundry bag with spare clothing when dry.
5. Clear bag or bin containing miscellaneous small items not in use.
6. Poncho tarp folded at top.

Red Hat
09-24-2010, 18:12
I have an Osprey too, but this year I went with ULA. I own both the Catalyst and the Circuit. You can't go wrong with ULA, even if they only come in green.... (that kept me from purchasing them for several years since my gear is red and purple, lol...)

09-27-2010, 16:25
i love the mismatched colors of the standard hiker.. function before fashion i always say
"coming down the catwalk, Iron Guts is wearing the Calvin Klein chickmagnet vest in blaze orange with a blue osprey pack onsomble and pink suzan g komen diva poles"

09-27-2010, 17:55
I have an Osprey too, but this year I went with ULA. I own both the Catalyst and the Circuit. You can't go wrong with ULA, even if they only come in green.... (that kept me from purchasing them for several years since my gear is red and purple, lol...)

You realize you can dye those, don't you? Maybe not purple and red though. I've seen pics on BPL where a guy did it. They looked much better black.

09-27-2010, 22:02
Osprey Ariel 55 w/out the lid, have had it for four years, thru'd w/it. Love it.

Sassafras Lass
09-28-2010, 12:36
Bandit, I've got an Osprey Aura 50 in Medium, Brown Sugar (incidentally I'm selling it as the torso's too long for me!) that I loved - it had every feature I wanted and didn't weigh a ton. I'm 5'6 and will lose about 30 lbs before we go, but I'm still a medium-sized person, still have an hourglass figure (though my stem is more thick than needs be :D) so was very surprised that a medium pack wouldn't fit me. I then learned that it has nearly nothing to do with your height or weight but so much more to do with your torso length.

I've been lucky enough to buy everything sight unseen so far - didn't try a single thing before buying it, and so far the only thing that's burned me is the pack.

Well, after ordering a pack that didn't fit quite right, I spent the money to travel to Chicago for the day this past Sunday and visit REI, Moosejaw (AWESOME customer service!), and Uncle Dan's (they've moved 3 blocks W of Wrigley, btw). Tried on about a dozen packs, and I found that the Gregory Jade 50 fits me as perfectly as possible.

Admittedly, I didn't want to try a Gregory because they aren't produced in America anymore. But being comfortable for 2,200+ miles overrides my patriotic sensibilities, unfortunately.

And I tried everything - Go-Lite, Deuter, Osprey, Arc'teryx, you name it. I SOO wanted to like the Deuter, and honestly besides the Jade they had the most comfortable hipbelt design, but the torso length just wasn't short enough. And even though I really like my Aura 50, I tried it in Small and the shoulder straps pressed tightly against my collar bones that within 5 minutes I knew I could never walk more than half an hour with it.

I would absolutely get to an outfitter or two and get yourself properly measured - many of them have brand-specific measuring devices (I know Osprey does, anyways). You can measure yourself at home as well, but it has to be done a few times and with care, otherwise you'll end up like me and get a pack too tall to be comfortable for you.