Feb 20, 2009 at 5:18 am #1234203
@auradarLocale: FL Panhandle (aka LA)
okay, I'm sure this has been disscussed numerous times. But again, I'm a newbie.
From what little I read, it seems the internal frame backpacks are the way to go. However, I did read one pro for the external backpack which was a con for the internal frame.
That was dealing with ventalation along the back. That really caught my eye as I live in the Florida panhandle. Very hot, very humid. For hiking in hot, humid conditions, does the venelation of the external frame backpack trump advantages of the internal? Or is the venelation not that much?
Keep in mind I need a backpack for me (6'2", 225 lbs) and my son (7, about 4' ???, 70 lbs)Feb 20, 2009 at 5:54 am #1479273
External frame packs are pretty hard to find these days, especially if you are looking for a lightweight one. But, there are some pretty successful packs out there right now that combine some of the features of internals and externals.
Osprey makes a couple ventilated packs, the lightest of those is the Exos line, the heaviest is the Atmos. The frame of the pack curves away from your back allowing for an air gap between the pack body and your back. The pack is held away from the body by the frame curvature and mesh fabric.
Personally, I tried the Exos 46 and returned it. I didn't like how springy the weight felt on my back due to a slight trampoline effect going on but the biggest problem was the frame curves in around my hips (ample) and caused some discomfort. But, several people are raving about this pack, so your results may vary.Feb 20, 2009 at 6:43 am #1479278
There aren't too many proponents of external frame packs on this site and most backpackers use internal frame packs for a variety of reasons I won't get into here.
It is true that most internal frame packs, especially a lot of the minimalistic and frameless packs discussed on BPL are just plainly going to provide less (if any) ventilation to your back.
If you want to check out a weight-conscious external frame pack that is touted by folks here at BPL take a look at LuxuryLite's modular pack – http://www.luxurylite.com/packindex.html. Do some searched on BPL and you'll find lots of info.
There are internal frame packs that do try to mitigate the ventilation issue by providing some separation between you back and the pack bag using various methods. Gregory's Jetstream series and Osprey Pack's Aether use curved frame stays and mesh to increase ventilation. Both packs are fairly well regarded but a little heavier than most of the packs you'll see in frequent discussion here.
Ultimately, you'll have to just get out and try a few packs to see what you like. If you have a local gear shop (like an REI store) that will let you try/rent or has a good return policy you would probably do best by test-driving a few different types, but you'll probably have some difficulty finding external frame packs to try out.
Comfort is subjective. Some folks don't mind or care about a sweaty back. Others can stand it. You'll more likely have to learn by trail and error.
One word of advice when selecting a pack- make it one of your last gear purchases. That way, you can be sure of getting a pack with enough volume for your gear. Research the other major items first (sleeping bag/pad, cookware/stoves, clothing, etc). One bonus you have in Florida is that you won't likely need as bulky a setup due to warmer temps.Feb 20, 2009 at 8:06 am #1479293
I love externals. Just don't tell anyone, because it hasn't been cool since the 80's, and it's all about the marketing. If I really want to carry a lot of weight and not get hot, I use my Kelty 50th Anniversary. Hard to find, and expensive when you do. You can buy an external for so little money on EBay, you should get one just for fun. Look for a Jansport with the lever arms on the hipbelt. I guess if I really wanted to fit in with the cognoscenti and not get too hot, I'd use my Exos 58.Feb 20, 2009 at 8:26 am #1479306
I have a Kelty 50th anniversary external, too, and love it! I rarely use it as I'm usually in the mountains but I will be using it this summer on a trip with my son and grandson.
They're going to do this trip a la Survivorman so I will be hauling enough stuff for them……just in case. ;-)Feb 20, 2009 at 8:39 am #1479313
"If you have a local gear shop (like an REI store) that will let you try/rent or has a good return policy you would probably do best by test-driving a few different types"
Just what did you have in mind by "test-driving" a pack and then using their "good return policy"? If the plan is anything other than returning it such that the store can still sell it as new, I have a really big problem with the plan.
–MVFeb 20, 2009 at 9:03 am #1479321
@ngatelLocale: Southern California
There are some other internal frame options. The Deuters and REI Venturi's both have mesh panels. I have one of each. Are they cooler than an external? In a sense, no. I still occassionaly use my beloved external Kelty Serac with a full length bag. The mesh on it is only about 6" tall, so that is the only thing touching the back (rides on the mid back) plus the hip belt rides on the lower back. But the pack is heavier, causing you to use more energy to carry it.
The biggest thing is to get your pack as light as possible. With a 7 year old you are not going to travel a lot of miles, plus you will carry all the shared items like stove and shelter. A 7 year old can carry a pack with just the sleeping bag. This will save you a lot of volume in your pack. You can still go ultralight with a large tarp for shelter. Since you are hiking in warm/hot weather, you don't need much clothing in the pack.
Also, if can get your pack weight below 20 lbs, you don't have to carry it on your back. You can carry a frameless pack like a book bag on one shoulder, switching it from side to side as you walk. So I would get one of the larger frameless packs and keep the weight under 20 lbs. Now you have a pack you could use for solo trips in just about any weather, because it has enough volume to carry winter equipment. You might look at some of the ultralight packs with removable stays for a frame. Use the stays if you are cimbing Mt Ranier in winter or something similar, and take them out most of the rest of the time.Feb 20, 2009 at 9:10 am #1479323
@kegelhoffLocale: Southern Cal
I will check in the garage tonight and see if I have my son's older external frame pack that might be perfect for your son. If I can locate it I will give it to you for free! Great little starter pack and I'm guessing your son won't be carrying much weight any way. Let me know if you might be interested.
KevinFeb 20, 2009 at 11:20 am #1479351
@redleaderLocale: Luxury-Light Luke on the Llano Azul
For the past four years I have been carrying the Luxurylite, external frame, pack. It is adjustable to fit both you and, most probably, your son. I am 5'9", 220 lbs. Susan is 5'0" 105 lbs. We both carry LuxuryLite packs and love them. Of all the packs I have carried in the past 42 years, this pack is the best, and most comfortable; whether loaded for a day hike or a ten day backpack trip. I highly recommend this pack.
Bruce Warren offers a lifetime warranty and stands behind his products. Every time I have required his help he has responded immediately.
LuxuryLite Packs on the PCT, for a 10 day trip. My friend Mike, on the left, is using Susan's pack, and it fits him perfectly.Feb 20, 2009 at 9:17 pm #1479486
I have never been completely sold on a pack after trying it on at the store. It has to be on my back for three or four days straight on the trail before I can determine if it will work for me. So to me there is nothing wrong with returning a pack you end up not liking. The way I see it that good return policy not only protects the customer from less than satifactory gear it is also there to make sure they dont have to spend a fortune on packs they do not like just to get the one they do.
Usually when you return something to REI and it shows some use they declare it damaged and they don't return it to the shelf.Feb 20, 2009 at 10:08 pm #1479501
I used to have a external frame pack: a Kelty Trekker, it was okay but I like an internal frame. They are lighter and more stable. Anyway, a few years back I was planning a section of the AT. I was using a Gregory G pack and the guy I was hiking with had a old Kelty Tioga. But what was strange is he had much lighter gear than I. Pop can stove, UL down bag and UL pad, sil tarp, trail runners. So he was really into the UL thing. I almost begged him to try out a few of my packs before we left but he ended up using his external frame. Some people just like them, thats all that really matters isn't it?Feb 20, 2009 at 10:56 pm #1479509
Yes, the main advantage of externals concerning us ultralighters is their ventilation. There have even been people making their own ultralight externals:
When I was yet but a baby by lightweight backpacking standards the only pack I had was an external frame made by some brand called Himalayan. That pack must have been 20 years old but I got it for $5 at Goodwill for my very first scouting pack. It weighs 2lbs. 6oz. (I just weighed it) but is very airy and holds heavy loads well. I even used it on my first 'lightweight' trip with only 26lbs(FSO) in it.
So again externals are not a bad choice if you don't expect too much rugged and dense vegetation. IMHO, they are actually pretty comfy even with light loads.
-EvanFeb 21, 2009 at 12:37 am #1479523
Add one more vote for the Luxury Lite. Great ventilation over your back, straps are held off your shoulders, and the cylinders are fantastic as stuff sacks and to keep your various gear isolated and organized. No matter what you do with an internal frame pack and ventilation scheme, in the end, something will be pressing against your back.Feb 21, 2009 at 9:09 am #1479553
Sorry to sound confrontational, but I feel quite strongly about this point.
"I have never been completely sold on a pack after trying it on at the store. It has to be on my back for three or four days straight on the trail before I can determine if it will work for me. So to me there is nothing wrong with returning a pack you end up not liking. … Usually when you return something to REI and it shows some use they declare it damaged and they don't return it to the shelf."
I know that some people do this, but I am amazed to find anyone publicly admitting doing so.
I very very strongly disagree with doing as you describe, and believe it is a cynical abuse of the system. The rest of us should not have to pay the higher price required to cover your indecision and personal testing.
Wear it around home all you like, but if you are going to return it for anything other than a manufacturing defect, it should be such that they can, and will, sell it as new. If it is more worn than that, you have bought it.
–MVFeb 21, 2009 at 12:48 pm #1479585
@ngatelLocale: Southern California
I have never done this either.
However, the expertise of sales people at places like REI is nowhere near the level that existed 30 years ago. If you spend a couple hours selecting gear based on the recommendations/expertise of the salesperson, and it is bad information based on your wants and needs, then yes you should be entitled to bring it back.
Keep in mind that many retailers want you to purchae the most expensive item, because it has more profit margin. It is just like buying a car. You may just need the base model, but they are going to try and sell you the model with all the bells and whistles, because it gives them more gross profit. Just a fact of business today.
The best method is to educate yourself ahead of time. And that is not easy. Heck even here on BPL, differences of opinion are noted on every thread when it comes to gear.Feb 22, 2009 at 2:07 am #1479726
@adrianbLocale: Auckland, New Zealand
If it's hot and humid and you're walking, your back is going to sweat even if you're carrying nothing.
I'm just surprised that a sweaty back is really a consideration in choosing a pack, it's never even occurred to me.Feb 22, 2009 at 2:32 am #1479727
@carazLocale: bay area
"Wear it around home all you like, but if you are going to return it for anything other than a manufacturing defect, it should be such that they can, and will, sell it as new. If it is more worn than that, you have bought it."
You are wrong my friend,
If it is damaged you can still return it. If it is not as new you can still return it. I worked for REI, I always did my best to outfit customers with the products that would best fit their needs, however REI has and does stand behind a 100% satisfaction garuntee, that if for any reason a customer is not satisfied with a product REI should happily take it back. You do not pay any higher price, REI still offers everything at a better than competitive price than other retailers. So don't be afraid to try stuff out people.Feb 22, 2009 at 9:13 am #1479749
No, you misunderstand me. I understand that REI will take the item back. I am, however, firmly convinced that to do so is wrong.
REI, to its credit, is bending over backwards to ensure customers are satisfied. I appreciate that policy, and I hope that they continue it. I strongly believe that customers have the obligation to respond by not taking unfair advantage of the policy, though.
Taking something home, having second thoughts, and then returning it is fine. Taking your time and leisurely trying it out in a way that does not destroy its newness and then returning it is fine. Being able to thoroughly examine something in the relaxed atmosphere of your home, and then returning it is fine. Do these things and be glad for REI's generous return policy.
But to take something out for four days or more on the trail and then try to return it is a perversion of the system, even if REI will allow it. Taking advantage of REI's policy to return used gear that has no problem other than you have decided you do not like it is wrong (even though REI may allow it).
As to a "better than competitive price" — sorry, but not these days. REI sells most things at MSRP. Things are often cheaper elsewhere. I have not noticed that REI sale prices are better than elsewhere, either. REI used to occupy a unique notch — but those days are long gone. (I remember when it was a Seattle-area store, with mail order for the rest of the country. My COOP number is low 5 digits.)
As to the rest of us not paying more — TANSTAAFL. He has caused an economic loss (the item is no longer as valuable as it was; his refund will be in excess of the value of the item) — and someone eats that loss. Perhaps fewer evening events. Perhaps charging for things that used to be free. Perhaps smaller dividends for members. But the money that was lost on that unfortunate transaction has to come from *somewhere* — it does not come out of thin air.
Furthermore, he has had an economic benefit (both the use of the item and the knowledge gained) and is unwilling to pay for that. Why?
Another loss to the rest of us — REI does not sell much that is ultralight. With people taking advantage of their return policy such as we are discussing, I would not either. Selling gear you have to be careful of would be far too expensive, because of unfair returns. Now *there* is a loss — REI is convenient and I get my dividend, but few of my purchases can come from there these days.
No, I remain convinced that trying to return items in less than new condition (unless there is a manufacturing defect) is a perversion of the system, is wrong, and costs the rest of us.
Please accept your personal responsibilities and do not do that!
–MVFeb 22, 2009 at 11:16 am #1479781
@sbhikesLocale: Santa Barbara (Name: Diane)
I had never seen anything like the Osprey packs when I bought mine. I had not bought a backpack in decades. It's a pretty clever design and I found it very comfortable against my back.
But I used the air pocket to store my camelback bladder so I've never experienced the benefits of a pocket of air against my back.
I often wondered if having a bag of water against my back helped regulate the temperature against my back since it's not going to get any hotter than my body temperature and sometimes be a little bit cooler than my body temperature.Feb 22, 2009 at 11:29 am #1479784
@rezniemLocale: San Francisco
You are forgetting that REI has a "satisfaction guaranteed" return policy. This means that if you are not satisfied with the item you purchase, they will take it back at full-price. How can you know if you're satisfied with an item unless you USE it in a real-world setting? What if you buy a sleeping bag only to find out that the zipper breaks, rips open the fabric and spills expensive down on your first night of a three-night trip? You won't return it?
I have returned a pair of shoes I wore on a hike around the city. These shoes were very expensive and sold as "top-of-the-line" and they hurt my feet after a mere hour wearing them. There is no way I could have found that out at the store, and unfortunately, they became "damaged goods."
Two things to remember about your economic argument:
1. REI doesn't swallow the loss. They sell the gear in a used gear sale and probalby recover most, if not all, of the cost of the gear.
2. REI has set this policy in part to attract customers. As such, their gear is not as cheap as in other stores without the policy. But, we don't know how many customers are attracted to REI because of this policy over/against the cheaper online competitors without it. (It may be that the policy pays for itself, in other words, by increasing sales and revenue flow.)
3. The expense operates like an insurance policy for gear failure. (And when you shell out big bucks for shoes or a bag or pack, you may want this insurance). If you do NOT want this insurance–SHOP ELSEWHERE. Get deals on closeouts online and deal with whatever shortcomings your gear may have. When you chose to pay for more, you get more. In this case, the option to return an item you are not satisfied with.
So, in conclusion, don't blame those people who chose to take advantage of REI's policy. They did not create the policy and are at no fault for the higher prices. Since they are paying the higher prices too, they are paying for the policy and then using it when they see fit. Would you expect someone to pay for a benefit and then not exercise it?Feb 22, 2009 at 12:05 pm #1479788
Now that the thread is sufficiently hijacked…
I agree that I am willing to pay more in order to have the insurance that I can return items that I can't or won't use. I love REI.
I have a scenario that I think would be interesting to discuss, as I am still unsure what the correct course of action was on it.
A friend of mine had had the same pair of hiking boots, bought from REI, for 4 or 5 years. The tread was well worn and she'd been many miles in them. The trouble was she had only ever taken at most 3 night trips in them, and at the end of each and every one of those trips she had developed tendonitis in her achilles, with the onset beginning as little as one day in. She just thought this was part of hiking. She tried to return them when I pointed out that boots shouldn't do that and was rebuffed by a young sales representative who didn't say they wouldn't take them but made her feel sufficiently guilty (you've had them for 4 or 5, etc) to leave. Do you think they should have taken the boots?
On a separate occasion I was at REI trying on boots to replace my previous hiking boots (pre-BPL days) and mentioned to the sales rep (who had worked there for a decade or more) that the shoes had caused circulation problems after a day of hiking, but that they would go away over night. The rep told me to return them. I didn't think this was a serious problem of the boots and I thought that it certainly was in the realm of reasonable problems to have after a day of hiking, but the guy insisted that I should return them. He said that the policy is to keep the costumer satisfied, no questions asked. When I protested, he said that a guy who had bent a kayak in half came to return it and they accepted it, no questions asked, so I should be able to return my boots.
I think this represents the position of the older generation, or the generation of REI staff with more years under their hipbelts. It is representative of a professional integrity that makes me want to go back to REI even after discovering MLD, ULA, GG, BPL, etc, because I know I won't be screwed with. THat isn't to say that there isn't misinformation or traditional backpacking dogma, but I prefer to think it is without malice. The trouble with such integrity is that it does open the company up to exploitative customers, but it is all the more impressive that they maintain the policy in spite of that. I'm sure people have been exploiting the policy since the REI Co-op was started and the fact that they haven't changed the policy as a result convinces me of their integrity.
However, I am worried about a shift towards profit, as indicated in the unpleasentness of the younger sales rep with my friend. Maybe that was a justified response or an isolated incident, I do not know, but I hope for great things from REI as they've become lighter over the years.Feb 22, 2009 at 1:19 pm #1479812
 On re-reading this, I see that it is far longer than intended. My apologies, and I'll do better from here on out.
Thanks for your thoughtful reply. I understand your points, although I do not completely agree with some of them. Let's explore the limits a bit. I must say … this is getting to be more of a discussion that I originally expected.
First of all, I see what should be returnable as gray — not black-and-white. For example, if I was sold a stove and assured that it would simmer well — there is no way to confirm that without trying it (at home or otherwise). If the stove turns out to not simmer, then I would feel I was misled and could return it. Note that is something I had no way to discover while leaving the item in new condition. (Assuming they did not have demo unit I could try — if they did, then I should have taken advantage of that.)
Another example — I cannot look closely enough at some things without damaging the packaging (e.g. shrink warp). I have no problem with damaging the packaging and then returning the product if I do not like what I discover. It is unreasonable to package things such that I cannot understand all I need to about the product before buying it.
Your zipper example — I do not have enough information. It depends on whether the product was defective or not. I can imagine a defective or inferior quality product, in which case I have already agreed you should return it. OTOH I can imagine that I forced or otherwise abused the product, in which case I would certainly not be justified in returning it. The fact that people would make such a return ("I'm not satisfied — I broke it, so it's not strong enough") is a good example of why REI cannot sell ultralight gear :( But the original example was more like deciding after the trip that you just did not like the sleeping bag as well as you had hoped you would. I do not believe you should return it for that reason — you could, and should, have figured that out without going on the trip.
"How can you know if you're satisfied with an item unless you USE it in a real-world setting?" Well, several ways. Read, explore on line, published reviews, get opinions from people you respect, see others using it, inspect it carefully, think and analyze, try it out in controlled settings, ….
It seems to me that, basically, the question comes down to where you set the limits. Should I feel free to return something that wears out after 5 years, because I expected it to wear 10 years? Should I return something that fails because I abuse it — for example I pitch an ultralight tarp such that the wind can catch it and tear it? How about if I catch my crampon in my gaiter and tear my new gaiter — should I feel free to be dissatisfied with the gaiter and return it (assuming the gaiter was not sold to me as crampon-proof)? Should I return a garment a six months or a year later because I have gained / lost weight, and it no longer fits as well as I want it to? How about when I have been using my purchase for a few months and then something newer-and-better comes out, making me dissatisfied with what I already bought — should I return the item I bought? How about if I bought a Firesteel and then discovered that it does not throw as many sparks as I hoped, and it is harder to light my stove with it than I had expected?
Just where do you think the limits should be? Surely you do not think there should be no limits, do you? Surely, at some point, the purchase must be final (barring subsequent discovery of a manufacturing defect).
As to the shoes — "top of the line" does not really matter unless they fell apart (in which case they were defective, and I have already agreed should be returned). Perhaps your shoes were in fact top of the line — different shoes are best for different people; they just may not have been right for you. More to the point, how hard had you tried to be sure they were right before wearing them in your city hike? How much had you worn them around the house before that city hike? Up and down some stairs, etc? That is the traditional way to be sure about new shoes. Are you saying that you could not reasonably have detected the problem without wearing them outdoors? Since you detected the problem in mere hours outdoors, I would think it is likely it could have been found indoors first. (Granted house wear is probably not a lot of help for such things as downhill ski boots or plastic technical climbing boots.)
Used gear sale — yes, they recover part, but not all, of their loss. I doubt it is "most", and certainly not "all". They may recover most or all for those few items they are able to move into their rental inventory (if they do that).
REI has set the policy — true, REI has set a generous policy. There is an implicit deal: in return, the customer needs to behave responsibly, and not abuse the policy. Too many customers abusing the policy would be a good way to get it more restricted. I firmly believe that there must be *some* limits to my ability to declare I am not satisfied and get my money back — so I'd like to know what limits you think a customer should observe.
Insurance policy — I am not arguing with returning gear that legitimately fails — i.e. is properly used and still fails when it should not. That sounds like a defect to me. I am also not arguing against returning gear that a sales person mis-represents to you. But not if I abuse the gear, I did not look into it well enough before using it, or if I simply change my mind. And I **certainly** cannot condone purchasing an item, expecting using it on the trail to be part of the decision process as to whether or not you end up keeping the item.
"So, in conclusion, don't blame those people who chose to take advantage of REI's policy." The operative issue is what "take advantage of" means. If it means to avail themselves of good protection from defective products or sales people, then I entirely agree with you. Unfortunately, in some cases, I believe the interpretation is closer to the undesirable "to take advantage of someone". Doing so just because they can is the type of attitude that leads to the restrictive policies and rules we all dislike. Ones that look as if a lawyer wrote them. Better that we all behave in a reasonable and responsible manner to begin with.
Basically, there have to be limits to the policy, and I would like to hear what you think they should be. Customers should take some responsibility themselves, and I would like to hear what that should be. Customers expecting perfection is unreasonable, and returning gear because they are "dissatisfied" with less than perfection is not a realistic way to do business.
One final thought — I see the REI policy as a generous one that is intended to shield the customer from defects and problems. To the extent it is used for that purpose, I like it and I have no objection to a customer using it. My objections come from seeing customers believe that the policy should transfer all risk of making a decision they may later regret and all risk of the customer making a mistake to REI as well. I simply do not believe that the policy is intended to assume those risks. Customers need to take responsibility for their own decisions.
— MVFeb 22, 2009 at 1:26 pm #1479813
I guess I need to apologize.
I originally just made what I thought was a throw-away remark, and that started the hijacking.
Once it escalated, what was the proper thing to do? Is there a straightforward way to split a thread?
— MVFeb 22, 2009 at 1:38 pm #1479815
@jdw01776Locale: Southeast Texas
You could always start a new thread in the Chaff section…Feb 22, 2009 at 2:01 pm #1479820
@carazLocale: bay area
They will take on and adapt to fit the need of the members on bpl.
To the original poster, it will be very hard to find any external frame with weights as low as the lightest offerings from zpacks, mld, gossamer gear, etc. Those that are will be more expensive and still 2 or thress times the weight. Osprey and gregory 0ffer vented back panels and if they fit will be a nice compromise. If you are intent on going "ultralight" any of the smaller internal frame packs will save weight and money.
To the thoughts on the policy. I no longer represent REI so can only offer what I believe to be the reality of the situation. While working there I learned that less than 1% of items were returned. Those that were make it to a used gear sale. Those used gear sales attract a huge ammount of revenue in new item purchaces after they are in the door.
The employees may have a personal problem with the return but as a customer you don't have to put up with that. If you are a coop member it means its your store. The returns policy generates so much money that it will never change. To question the company's stance on the subject is to question the company's judgment to serve its owners and attract new members. For every item you buy within a store, barring electronic and certain other high end items, you are paying at least twice what the store paid for the item. For a dedicated person with the malicious intent and will to exploit and hurt REI's livelyhood will never take away more money than they have invested in the system. The most they can hope to do is damage as many products as possible before law enforcement is asked to step in. REI makes money, if it stopped making money there would be change. The reason being that at the end of the day it is a corporation with the ultimate purpose of returning a profit to its owners. The policy attracts more money than it will ever lose and so it is there to be used in whatever capacity a customer/member sees fit. On a personal note I have returned a number of items I have not been satisfied with. I have spent around 7k at the store and returned around 1.5k in merchandise. All items returned were pieces that I decided I would rather have the money than the piece and so was not satisfied. Through the used gear sale REI was able to recoup at least half of that money. Using the gear sale as a lost leader REI will attract new members who in turn will spend more money than they had intended too on all the wonderful gear this world holds.
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