Apr 12, 2009 at 5:57 am #1235524
I am a BACKPACKER magazine subscriber, but I take issue with their latest failings on ultralight packs. Before I send them a letter and put a full rant up here and on my blog, I'd like to confirm what my gut and experience are telling me.
The mag's piece (May 2009, pg. 59) implies that ultralight packs are ultrafragile and prone to seam blowouts, either from tugging on compression straps, jamming too much stuff in your pack or carrying too much weight.
So, have you ever blown a a seam on an ultralight pack? If so, what happened? What seam on what pack?
Thanks.Apr 12, 2009 at 6:35 am #1493400
@rinconLocale: Desert Southwest
Never, but I am pretty careful with my light weight gear: I try not to over stress things. On the other hand, I can see somebody reading a review of an ultra-light pack in BP magazine and deciding to take their bowling ball along with them. Perhaps BP is being cautious as well as serving their advertisers.Apr 12, 2009 at 6:58 am #1493402
@benwoodLocale: flatlands of MO
no never, i have a GG nimbus latitude, and i have put plenty of pressure on the compression straps. i also have bushwacked through some pretty rough stuff here in NM that i thought for sure would tear the pack if i caught it to hard, but alas the pack still looks new.
i think backpacker magazine is so mainstream they don't know what to do with something, non-traditional, non-big marketing, non-advertising in their mag. there is a computer printer in the gear guide – seriously?
personally, i'll leave my printer purchases to the guys at best buy, and come here for honest gear testimonies.
although, i do read the mag from time to time.Apr 12, 2009 at 7:15 am #1493403
@foodLocale: Colorado Rockies
I hike occasionally with BSA. Kids can foul up a shot-put with a rubberband.
Maybe BP magazine knows their subscribers lack the finesse to use UL gear.
I consider my UL gear very durable, but I will NOT loan it to a scout.
Seam blowouts are caused by poor quality sewing, NOT lightweight fabric. My Six Moon Designs, Gossamer Gear, zpacks and Moonbow Gear have higher quality sewing than Kelty or MountainSmith.
Rant on brother. Call and ask the UL gear makers how much warranty service they have to do. My guess is that it is a fraction of the mass market rate. Innuendo that is not fact based destroys BP credibility.Apr 12, 2009 at 7:16 am #1493404
@mad777Locale: South Florida
I have packs from ULA, Golite, and Granite Gear that BP mag would consider fragile and I stuff 'em hard and yank on the compression straps to create an unyielding structure. No problems ever with seams or straps coming undone.
Go ahead and write your letter Matt!Apr 12, 2009 at 7:38 am #1493408
I have had two separate incidents. One was on my ULA Circuit. It popped a seam where the backpanel sews into the pack. This happened while packing the pack. The second was with the ULA Relay – at the top where it is cinched. Both issues did not affect performance. Mind you, I would not have had this isue with my Arcteryx but of course at much greater weight.Apr 12, 2009 at 8:25 am #1493412
Ben 2 WorldParticipant
@ben2worldLocale: So Cal
I venture to say the great majority of Backpacker Magazine readers are 'traditional' backpackers. Gearing to that audience, I think it would be irresponsible to omit the warnings that ultralight packs can suffer damage from "jamming too much stuff or carrying too much weight".
Most hikers — and esp. beginners — have no clue just how compact and light UL gear can be. But reading about these "new fangled" UL packs, some might just rush to buy them — without any thought to changing out some of their traditional bulky and weighty gear first!Apr 12, 2009 at 8:57 am #1493417
Maybe they're basing their opinions on some old Fanatic Fringe packs.Apr 12, 2009 at 9:04 am #1493418
> But reading about these "new fangled" UL packs, some might just rush to buy them — without any thought to changing out some of their traditional bulky and weighty gear first!
I think that is probably the real issue. The UL pack should be the last piece of the puzzle, not the first.
My heaviest pack (Granite Gear Virga)would probably be considered by them to be ultra-light. I use it daily, for my workout runs, weighted down with jugs of water. Severe bouncing of too much weight on an almost daily basis for a couple years has not phased it in the least.
I currently use a Gossamer Gear Murmur or Whisper on all my hikes, with no seam (or other durability issues) at all.
Before that I used a Fanatic Fringe Thompson Peak with no seam issues. I had a draw string grommet blow-out which was addressed by a free update (consisted of gluing the 2 piece plastic grommet).
Over all, I call bs on Backpacker magazine in general, but I do think that jamming too much bulky gear and too much weight in an UL pack is a recipe for failure and an invalid criticism of a pack, and should be condemned as misuse due to exceeding design parameters.Apr 12, 2009 at 10:29 am #1493430
@dubendorfLocale: CO, UT, MA, ME, NH, VT
I recently experienced a failure of one of the load lifter straps on my 2008 Golite Pinnacle. In fact, it tore right off at both ends. Took it to Golite, and they immediately identified some issue with the initial stitching, said it was all covered by the lifetime warranty, and they would double check all the other seams before sending it back fully repaired. Thank you Golite for a very pleasant experience!
Compared to many UL gear manufuacturers, of course, Golite is very large, but I think it gets to the point- in general, it is easier and more convenient to interact with UL manufacturers when you want to learn about their products or discuss repairs/defects than with larger companies. I mean, when I email arcteryx, the owner of the company doesn't respond!
There is tons of great gear out there, and I don't mean to make any hard and fast generalizations. My problem with the issue of "durability" is that people often mean very different things when they use it. In mainstream backpacking, durability means, "I want to be able to misuse this product in the worst way possible with little knowledge of its function or proper care." In this case, durability describes the ability of gear to counteract the user's negligence, their lack of knowledge or care. Now, people who use "durability" in this way almost always see it as only and ever a good thing: the more durable something is the better. Nothing could ever be too durable (of course, these might be the same people who buy a bomber bulltex jacket and never maintain the dwr, clean it, etc.). UL backpackers know that every object which weighs something has both pros and cons, and making something weigh more that it might otherwise has both pros and cons.
When some people say they are "hard on gear," it is because of the way they use it. Therefore, when they say they need something to be durable, they are referencing a particular need which they must anticipate as part of safe practice. However, when I read in the REI consumer comments section that people are "hard on gear" with the implication that I should take this as a sign of their incredible toughness rather than their ignorance, it gets on my nerves.
What is great about BPL is that people here understand there is no such thing as the BEST tent or the BEST jacket. There is no single unitary standard through which to evaluate all gear choices. BPLers know that gear choices are best made relative to a particular anticipated use. They know that some products may be more or less durable, and they can make informed choices taking into account durability, as well as numerous other factors, when choosing gear. If something is less durable, but offers numerous other advantages (say, Frogg Toggs), people on this site will modify their practices with the inherent limitations of the gear in mind rather than complain that when they accidentally put their rain pants on a mountain goat, the pants did not hold up well.
So, anyhow, I think that when mainstream hiking magazines gripe about durability without reference to any other criteria, and without discussing the cons that might come with a "durable" piece of gear, they do a real disservice to their readers and to the mountain goats who might one day sample their readers' gear.
JamesApr 12, 2009 at 10:40 am #1493431
@thinairLocale: 6237' - Manitou Springs
Yes. Like the last poster the straps have pulled out on my Golite Pinnacle.Apr 12, 2009 at 10:43 am #1493432
Last summer in the midst of the Hundred Mile Wilderness on the AT, I felt like I had to keep tightening and tightening my waistbelt on my PBL/ ULA Arctic. I couldn't seem to get it to offer support. I took a look at it when I pulled into Chairback Gap shelter and I was shocked to discover that my hip belt (the entire "wing" was pulling away from the back panel – it looked like the entire seam never quite caught (allowance too small), and I was about 15 minutes from waist belt less. Not good.
I was able to repair the failing seam with dental floss and have had no more worries since, but I double checked every seam on that pack when I got out of the woods. I was shocked that something so critical could blow considering the relative light weight of my load (28 pounds on on day 1 of the trip incl food and water) – relatively light compared to the loads carried on the Arctic Traverse anyway.
I otherwise have noting but great things to say about the pack, and so it must have simply been a manufacturing mistake. I will say this, it definitely pays to check things over thouroughly. If I would have investigated when I first started cinching rather than just kept walking, my repair would have been minimal reinforcement rather than major fix at the end of a very long day.
LoganApr 12, 2009 at 11:02 am #1493438
@mcjhrobinsonLocale: Waaay West
i took my gossamergear mariposa plus all over with me (from cali to the keys and all in between). ive loaded it to the gills and its never busted a seam or failed me in anyway.
i must add though that i dont throw my pack down on the ground, i dont sit on it, or pack it incorrectly. i take good care of it and it takes good care of me.
Backpacker should be ashamed to put down ultralight packs. although im not really surprised since recently they only review the same 5 brands they've become a marketing machine. one of the reasons i dont even touch backpacker anymore.Apr 12, 2009 at 11:13 am #1493441
@joegeibLocale: Delaware & Lehigh Valleys
Be careful what you wish for. I don't want to discourage you from "enlightening" the people at Backbreaker Mag, but have you considered the consequences of more UL gear press in the magazines?
Most of us here on the Forums revel in the fact that we can call or email an UL cottage producer and get a response from the owner, or how quickly some orders are received, or just overall excellent customer service.
Imagine now if thousands of other BP magazine readers read more press about these UL manufacturers, and start buying more gear. Everything that we're used to could change.
Maybe some UL makers don't want the increased press, sales, and exposure, as they like the way their operations are now. Joe V. says that ZPacks is a hobby – does he want it to be full-time? Would Brian at ULA be able to take a month off to hike if volume increased dramatically? What would lead times at MLD or Big Sky be if their sales increased? Some of these manufacturers might not want to have to deal with a larger operation.
I don't want to be "the last one in paradise", but overexposure of UL cottage manufacturers may change the experience we're accustomed to.
We seem to have found a gem here with BPL and the UL gear out there. Yes, we should be sharing it with people, to make their life "easier", but the supply side might not be able to keep up with the demand.
Just a (long-winded) thought.
Can anyone tell that I'm working on my thesis today?Apr 12, 2009 at 11:22 am #1493444
> …have you considered the consequences of more UL gear press in the magazines?
You know, I was kind of thinking the same thing.Apr 12, 2009 at 11:41 am #1493448
Who do you think pays for more ads, UL gear makers or the larger more conventional pack makers?
That said, my ULA Catalyst had a blown seam from the store, but I never fixed it since it was just a single seam on the elastic side mesh pocket, not a structural seam.
Also, the guy that fitted the Catalyst for me said they had a had run of Vapor Trails. Apparently you want the straps on the front and it tears right out along the seam. That is a major structural failure.Apr 12, 2009 at 12:06 pm #1493452
@mn-backpackerLocale: Land of 12,000 Loons
Heh… Backpacker is the gospel of backpacking, doesn't everybody know that? If they make negative comments on gear, it MUST be true. I can think of some recent examples.
Look, it's a fun mag to read though, because there really isn't much of an alternative. But, their gear reviews are normally 3-10 sentences, and honestly not that insightful. Well all know there are better places to get info, such as the real world, or from other users. That's why we have the G-Spot. I would never trust a Backpacker Magazine gear review to be relevant to the type of backpacking most of us do.
A friend of ours updates our subscription every year for Christmas as a gift, so I don't mind that it shows up every month. I do enjoy reading it.Apr 12, 2009 at 12:25 pm #1493456
Never blown a seam, I have a mariposa plus and I could stuff a horse in it if need be. I'll stick up for backpacker mag, I read it every month and while it's main focus is not ul I do find relevant info. It's gear reviews are a good starting point but I'd always check with BPL and ya'll in the G spot first.Apr 12, 2009 at 12:36 pm #1493460
@joegeibLocale: Delaware & Lehigh Valleys
If not anything, their trips, tips, and food info are great.Apr 12, 2009 at 3:04 pm #1493478
Woubeir (from Europe)Participant
Interesting to read this. Same thing happened to my Artic Dry pack: the seams of both wings started to fail during a trip last year. The seams failed up to a certain point and then didn't get worse anymore.
Still haven't repaired it but I was thinking of contacting Brian first for some advice. I seem to remember that ULA packs are designed to be carried a bit higher with the hipbelt carried around the waist and not around the hipbones. Not sure if this is true but if so, I wonder if carrying those packs around the hips pushes the underside of the wings too much to the outside, putting too much stress to the seams.Apr 12, 2009 at 3:17 pm #1493484
@sbhikesLocale: Santa Barbara (Name: Diane)
Last year I met Nimblewill Nomad on the PCT. He said he was carrying some kind of Gossamer Gear pack that even Gossamer Gear said would not survive the PCT. From what I heard, the pack did survive, although when I spoke to Nimblewill he said he was babying it.
I met another guy on the PCT last year whose pack did have seam issues. I forget what kind of pack. He said it was because his load was so light he liked to brag about being able to just pick it up by one shoulder strap and swing it on to his back. He was trying to stop doing that as it had become a bad habit. He had repaired his pack with dental floss.
My own pack was one advertised in Backpacker. No seam issues, but the hip belt pocket zippers broke within the first few days.
I have seen some ultralight sites say something like "if you are wondering if this is the pack for you, it isn't." Even they know that their gear isn't made of the same materials as "bomb-proof" ultraheavy stuff.
I'm finding as I replace more and more gear with the lightest I can afford or make that my gear is becoming less durable overall. But in some way, it makes sense to me. It seems fitting. My gear shouldn't be bomb-proof. I'm just taking a walk, not going to war. It fits my philosophy about backpacking. Not scary, not man-against-nature, not a John Krakauer story, not even an extreme fitness experience. I get it that rocks are abrasive, bears have claws, chaparral rips and tears, wind blows on ridges, dew and cold air settle in meadows. I can work with that. I don't have to fight it.
This isn't a philosophy I see echoed in the pages of Backpacker or in our culture over all.Apr 12, 2009 at 4:00 pm #1493488
I'll drink to that!Apr 12, 2009 at 4:35 pm #1493493
@raymondLocale: SE US
I have had two issues – one with a shoulder strap which had to be repaired and the other with a haul loop coming unstitched. I returned the hail loop because it was a brand new pack.Apr 12, 2009 at 4:38 pm #1493494
Agreed, Cheers!Apr 12, 2009 at 5:07 pm #1493499
@mn-backpackerLocale: Land of 12,000 Loons
Diane… I agree – eloquently stated! You nailed it.
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