Frameless Backpack Suspension Systems
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Nov 19, 2003 at 10:42 am #1215633AnonymousGuest
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BackpackingLight.com Web Site Development DepartmentJan 9, 2004 at 3:45 pm #1334436
>> Interesting to see how poorly the Katahdin performed in the tests…This makes me wonder how well the test data relates to the real world comfort and performance…my gear compressed around the tent poles serve to make a VERY solid structure
I do not dispute your findings at all. The important take home from this is that how you pack your pack makes a big difference. The minute you changed your packing technique to deviate from the test packing technique described in the load suspension articles, you deviated from test conditions and thus, results are no longer comparable. What the test conditions are able to show, is that for a moderately dense load where base soft goods densities are the same from pack to pack, one pack maintains torso stiffness better than another. That’s it. It is a testament to a pack’s design if it scores well on these test. It is not a guarantee that it will carry well for all people all of the time. Nor do the tests guarantee that a poorly performing pack (in the tests) are going to carry poorly for all people at all times – your Katahdin experience validates that. I think that the test data does suggest that packs that perform poorly in test conditions need more attention on the part of the user in order for them to carry well on the trail.Feb 10, 2004 at 12:24 am #1334461Justin GunnMember
I am an ever evolving lighter-and-lighter-weight backpacker who purchased one of ULA-Equipment’s custom P-2 packs with much satisfaction. However, since having lightened my load significantly of late, I find that the P-2 is far too large of a bag. Especially for 2-3 season use.
Well, Brian Frankel at ULA-Equipment looks like he may just have done it again. With his soon to be released Fusion pack, he essentially introduces a main pack bag (not including collar or external pockets) around 800 cu smaller than the P-2. This new bag utilizes a sleeping pad for the suspension much like the GVP G-4, but suplements this with a carbon fiber hoop-style frame. It will reportedly come in right around 2 lbs. and carries up to 30 lbs. without getting huffy. I can’t wait to try one with the new Therm-A-Rest Prolte 3 Regular (I’m 6’3″).
Brian tells me the packs should be available by March 2004 and I will certainly share my impressions back here at BackpackingLight.com once I receive mine.
Always searching for the latest-greatest-lightest-weightest!Feb 22, 2004 at 5:33 pm #1334474Fred EngelMember
Splitting 1″ hairs and weight transfer.
The original article states,
>>”The iliac crest is about one inch higher than >>the point at which the centerline of a pack’s >>hip belt should rest”
This tells me that the centerline of the belt is lower than the iliac crest.
This post states,
>>2) the big one – that the ideal position of a >>hip belt is having its centerline about an >>inch above the iliac crest.”
This tells me the opposite of the original statement?
I have noticed that a wide padded hip belt formed in a semi circle when flat ends up with a truncated conical shape when curved. With the narrow end upwards this tends not to slip and snug better over the iliac crest. Additionally, a wider belt with stiffer foam, or a layer of plastic, seems to “transfer” load where as a flimsy narrow belt tends to “hold” the load via constriction and not by transfer.
Any similar or differing observations?Feb 28, 2004 at 10:35 pm #1334475Nate PMember
[snip]Feb 29, 2004 at 12:04 am #1334476
Sorry, Fred. Typo in my original post. I’ve corrected the post.Feb 29, 2004 at 12:13 am #1334477
Sorry, Fred. Typo in my original post. I’ve corrected the post.May 4, 2004 at 8:29 pm #1334492AnonymousGuest
I use a Z-Pad because it conforms to the backpack shaspe well for supportJun 3, 2004 at 10:15 pm #1334501AnonymousGuest
Have you received and used the Fusion pack yet?
I’d love to hear how its doin!Jul 17, 2004 at 3:39 am #1334506
I apologize for the pun (for those of you old enough to remember the song.) I’d been quite happy with my Granite Gear Vapor Trail pack and the 13 pound base load I was carrying (including a T-rest UL 3/4.) But, for the last 6 months I’d been trying out the Granite Gear Virga with a folded Z-Rest 3/4 as the frame. (I picked up the pack in an end of year sale for about $60, so what did I have to lose except a pound?) It worked quite well at loads under 20 pounds, though my shoulders were a little tired – but not sore – at the end of the day. Finally, though, my 54-year-old hips convinced me that I needed to use a more comfortable sleeping pad. I had tried the Ultralight 3/4 as a frame in the Virga, but didn’t find it at all comfortable. So, I decided to go back to my old Vapor Trail/Ultralight pad arrangement. When I dug it out, it was inserted into a Lite Chair kit (from an outdoor concert.) A light bulb went on: the kit has stays; why not give the pad/chair combination a whirl as a frame? The stays made all the difference – just leave the pad in the chair, inflate it slightly, and insert it down the back of the pack, with the stays rolled in just enough that the pad is the width of the pack’s back. (Put the stays on the inside, not directly along the back of the pack.) With this arrangement, the Virga rides as well as the Vapor Trail, and I’ve recently been trying it at 25+ pound loads, with no loss of comfort. I haven’t yet decided whether it’s more comfortable with the “thick” end (where the pad doubles over to insert into the chair bottom) as a lumbar pad or a shoulder brace – I’m kind of leaning toward the lumbar pad. But, for the same weight as the Vapor Trail plus 3/4 T-Rest, I get a pack frame that doubles as a chair! Is it the absolute lightest load? No, but the extra pound is well worth it for me – and I’m still at a 13 pound base weight for a summer trip.Aug 2, 2004 at 5:36 pm #1334509connie dodsonMember
I think a cut-to-size “sitpad” or an insulated winter backpacking cooking surface “sleeping pad” would provide shape and protection from hard objects inside these packs.
I just roll my Aritach ¾ Skin Mat tightly, and stuff, in the inside pack main compartment. I would consider using the rolled and compressed sleeping pad to balance a heavy object in an opposite side exterior pocket.
I have seen comments elsewhere, hikers like double padding under hips and/or shoulders.
Maybe these packs pads could be the “supplemental” sleeping pad, or the “accessory” pads I have described?
I would rather see some air-core type material padding, and such, providing some air circulation and drying, because rucksacks are inherantly sweaty on the shoulders and torso.
These products would provide “form” and serve a very, in my opinion, useful purpose.
I also believe the shoulder straps are often too wide and set too wide on these packs. This is not only a complaint heard from women.
I would like to see Metolious Rope Ranger rope bag shoulder straps on more of these lightweight rucksacks, for “lightweight” loads.
I haven’t weighed my Deep Water rescue rope, carried in my Metolious Rope Ranger rope bag, but I do know it is no “featherweight”!
I just got an email back, from Metolious. They do sell the shoulder straps as a separate item, for $7. Wow. My GoLite Breeze pack will be all happiness!
Now, where do I purchase the lightweight air-circulation “padding”, like on the GoLite “Infinity” pack?!Sep 18, 2004 at 10:28 pm #1334516AnonymousGuest
What about the coeficent of thermal mass loss and friction????Oct 15, 2004 at 2:21 am #1334542carlos fernandez rivasBPL Member
@pitagorinLocale: Galicia -Spain
I have a golite jam and used one 1/2 artiach light plus mat (80gr) I used the mat in folded an roller mode but finally I made a plastic frame (less than 100 gr) and i fell that is much better solutionOct 17, 2004 at 5:36 pm #1334549Jay HamMember
carlos fernandez rivas – It is difficult for a foam or self-inflating sleeping pad to provide the same level of support as a rigid frame, whether it be a plastic framesheet or internal stay. I have been experimenting with both the Gossamer Gear Mariposa and Six Moon Designs Starlite. Both of these packs use the sleeping pad as the frame, but also have removeable stays. Without the stays, both perform much better with closed cell foam than with the self-inflater. Bummer, because I really prefer to sleep on a self-inflator. The stays solve the problem, for the most part, but I really enjoyed the idea a few posts ago by Glenn Roberts, who used his sleeping pad chair for a virtual frame. That is pure ultralight thinking at its best. Why carry the extra weight of a frame when a camp chair can serve as both a frame and chair.Nov 3, 2004 at 4:27 pm #1334621
Jay – thanks for the kind comment. However, in the interest of intellectual integrity, I’ve got to come clean and admit that, after a few more months of trying this system, I’ve irrevocably reverted to my Vapor Trail. At loads of 15 pounds, the Virga and chair kit frame worked fine. At 20 pounds, I found two irritants: first, that heavy a load meant I was either carrying a lot of bulky cold-weather cold, or carrying a week’s worth of food and a change of clothes (for that middle-of-the-week cleaning.) Either way, I found the Virga just wasn’t big enough to hold everything without filling the extension sleeve – which detracted from the balance, and also meant I found myself walking a little hunched over all day (there’s a really good picture of this phenomenon, featuring a Virga pack, in Karen Berger’s Hiking Light Handbook.) My shoulders ended up a little tired as a result (not sore, just tired) – something I never experienced with my Vapor Trail.
Second, for cold weather, I found the Vapor Trail not only held all the clothing I took without using the extension sleeve, but the backpad made a great pad extender for my 3/4-length Thermarest. To obtain the same full-length effect using the Virga in cold weather would have meant using a full-length Thermarest. This would pretty well eliminate the weight advantage, and made the space problem nearly unsolvable.
I prefer to have only one set of gear, usable in all conditions (I hike in Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana; climate simply doesn’t force drastic enough changes in gear between summer and winter to justify multiple gear sets – except for sleeping bags.) Also, seeing unused or lightly used gear on my shelf drives me nuts; I always can find some poor unsuspecting Boy Scout that can use it to get hooked on backpacking. (My own little personality quirk.)
Objectively viewed, the chair kit system works; I’ve simply decided that I’m not going to use it for some fairly subjective reasons.Nov 18, 2004 at 6:21 am #1334653Jay HamMember
The Granite Gear packs are slightly deeper than some, contributing to the need to lean forward slightly to balance the weight.
I think your rationale for going with the Vapor is well justified. When I talk to people about lightweight backpacking, they almost always focus on the pack saying “I wish I had a lighter pack”. However, when I take account of their other gear, the pack is the least of their worries. If you’re really going to do some trail miles, a slightly heavier, but more comfortable, pack (with ultralight stuff inside) may make all the difference. I get much poorer sleep when I’ve carried an ill-fitting pack all day, lowering my potential mileage and enjoyment the next.
As far as the chair kit, you might consider replacing the framesheet and padding in your Vapor with it. This may actually end up weighing more; but, sometimes its nice to have a chair along.
JayNov 27, 2004 at 3:16 pm #1334671
When I got back from my last trip with the Vapor Trail, I noticed a problem: the webbing portion of the hipbelt (attached to the buckle) is separating from the padded portion: the fabric is completely worn through on one side, and nearly so on the other – right along the stitch line that joins the two. It appears to me that the fabric it attaches to is simply too lightweight (the durability of silnylon under stress has always worried me. I had a Gregory G Pack that had both shoulder straps start to separate from the pack at a seam after only one weekend trip.) I had only used this pack for about 25 days over the year I’ve owned it, and I don’t treat gear roughly. So, I’m pretty sure it’s a gear problem, not operator error. I suspect the stress of a tightened belt was too much for the seam.
In fairness to Granite Gear, when I contacted them they admitted that they had had similar problems reported from others, had redesigned the belt, and would be glad to replace it free of charge. I haven’t sent it in yet (been on vacation), so I don’t know if the replacement will be any better.
By the way, I was telling my son about this problem. He has a Granite Gear pack (I forget what model – it’s not from their ultralight series, but is very similar in design and construction although the materials may be a little heavier.) He told me he has a similar problem, after even less use, with a shoulder strap attachment. He hasn’t contacted them yet.
I’m seriously toying with the idea of backing off a half-step from ultralighting, and using a Dana Designs Bridger; it would still only raise my total load to 22 pounds, would give me a little more capacity (a near-problem on a weeklong fall trip to Isle Royale), and based on my experience with Dana packs, would be bombproof. I had a friend who recently used one to thru-hike the AT, and his still looks like new – that “testimonial” is also a factor in my tentative decision. If I do decide this, my Granite Gear packs will still make ideal packs for the Scouts I’m helping to teach to backpack.
I’ll let you know what I think of the new hipbelt.Dec 16, 2004 at 9:23 am #1334830
I received the new version of the Vapor Trail hipbelt a couple of days ago. (VERY speedy turnaround on Granite Gear’s part – kudos to them.) They now secure the webbing to the padded portion with a crampon-patch kind of material. It appears more substantial, but I won’t get to try it until spring. Looks like a good improvement, however.
By the way, if you didn’t like the lidless pack, GG now makes a lid compartment that retrofits to the Vapor Trail and Virga. I’ve ordered one from BackcountryGear.com; I’ll try to remember to let you know how it looks.Jan 22, 2005 at 8:08 am #1335237
Well, I found a Dana Bridger on sale, ordered it – and am sending it back. It’s too fiddly to get a precise fit (I eventually managed to), and even though it’s a good fit, it’s not “ooh, that’s nice!” fit of the Vapor Trail. The Bridger has some nice features, including the lid pocket, but the minimal gain in functionality (for me, maybe more for you) just isn’t worth the extra 3 pounds of weight. The Dana “fuzzy” shoulder straps and back pad also irritated my shoulders and back (as in itching and burning sensation.) Finally, the Dana doesn’t nestle up against the bottom of my Thermarest 3/4 to make it a full-length pad the way my Vapor Trail does.
By the way, the Vapor Trail hipbelt update seems to work – it features a crampon-type patch where the fabric meets the webbing, and the fabric seems a touch heavier.
Re: the Lid add-on top compartment for the Ultralight series. It’s a neat little top compartment, just big enough for a map and compass, and a couple of snacks. It slips over the load lifter straps (thus doesn’t float very well when the extension sleeve is filled), and loops around the top center compression strap. This means it has to be “un-looped” as opposed to unclipped to open the pack – a little bit fussy. Haven’t made up my mind about this one yet.
By the way, if you need a little extra space in the Vapor Trail (say, for a week-long cold weather trip, where you’re carrying extra clothes), you can create workable “side pockets” by adding a short webbing loop and tightener to the unlooped end of a Granite Gear Air Space (cube-shaped) stuff sack. Just run the side compression straps through the loops, tighten, you’ve got a nice zippered side pocket. A pair weighs about 4 ounces.Jan 29, 2005 at 12:27 pm #1335329jeremy liebermanMember
I read you comprison of the Vapor trail and Gregory g-pack. Do you think you’ll be doing a retest with Gregory’s redesigned Gpack? Thanks, JeremyFeb 1, 2005 at 2:08 pm #1335494
No, I don’t think I will, for a couple of reasons. The pictures I’ve seen of the new one still show that round “rucksack” look that I felt pulled me off balance. Also, I didn’t notice that they had added compression straps (though I’d have to look again to be sure.) Without them, I couldn’t fill the pack and get the center of gravity right. (the weight of everything else tends to compress the 900 fill down bag, and sink to the bottom.) So, doesn’t seem they’ve solved that problem, either.
Most importantly, though, the Vapor Trail fits me like a glove; far more comfortably than the G-Pack, even. It’s got me so spoiled that I’ve lost interest in finding something better. (Though I may play with my Virga and a really, really light load this summer, just for fun!)
For what it’s worth, I ran into a fellow at Isle Royale who was using an old-style G-Pack and was quite pleased with it.Feb 2, 2005 at 11:03 am #1335518jeremy liebermanMember
Thanks for the thoughts. I mentioned the G-pack because I just read the latest Backpacking, and they called the new G-pack there favorite ultra-lightweight pack of all- citing its ability to turn a 30 lbs load into a 20lbs load? Also they claim its got some sort of new system that clamps the pack to the small of the back in a new way?
Glenn have you tried Backpackinglight’s recommended pack, the Go-lite Infinity?Feb 4, 2005 at 9:37 pm #1335557
I read that, too. I’ll be interested in seeing one in the store.
Also, I’ve seen the Infinity but wasn’t intrigued enough to try it on. I don’t know why, but it just didn’t grab me for some reason. (Kind of like the Mountainsmith Ghost – everyone says its a great pack, but I just never felt the urge to pull one off the rack and try it on, and for no particular reason.) Both may very well be excellent packs.May 12, 2005 at 6:16 am #1337257
I’ve previously posted about using a chair kit and thermarest as a virtual frame inside a Virga pack; I’ve also indicated that I probably wouldn’t switch permanently from my Vapor Trail. I recently had a chance to try both packs, side by side, over the same trail on consecutive days.
I was leading a troop of Boy Scouts on their first backpacking orientation – we were planning a six-mile hike, and allowing all afternoon for it, on an easy trail with a couple of small hills in it (just for fun.) The park we were using was half a state away, but I caught a break: I was working in the area two days before our trip. I took a day off, and went on to the park a day ahead of the Scouts. I decided to use the time to decide, once and for all, whether I wanted to use the Virga or the Vapor Trail.
I took each pack on an identical hike, though the time to complete the hike with the Virga was only about half what the Vapor Trail was. (I took a couple of long breaks, and didn’t push the hike; the extra time with the Scouts was for teaching the use of stoves and filters on the trail.) The load in the packs differed only on 3 items (other stuff I was trying to decide about.) The Virga’s load included a Clikstand stove/Evernew pot, Katadyn Mini water filter, and tarp/bivy combo for shelter; the total load (including food, water, and fuel) was 16 pounds. The Vapor Trail’s load included a Pocket Rocket/Titan kettle, MSR Miniworks water filter, and Zoid 1 tent; the total load weighed just over 19 pounds. Both packs held the full load without using the extension sleeve, and both were equally easy to pack (though it takes a little care to keep the virtual frame in place in the Virga until you get the sleeping bag and tent loaded, which locks the pad into place.)
What I found was that the heavier Vapor Trail was more comfortable than the lighter Virga.
The Virga was fairly comfortable; the stays in the chair kit, plus the lightly inflated pad (a little less than it will inflate to on its own, without blowing into it), provided a very good level of support, and nothing poked or gouged me. However, I did find that the unpadded webbing hipbelt kept riding up (there’s a switch!) and interfering a little with the transfer of weight to my hips. Although I was never uncomfortable during the hike, it felt good to take the pack off at breaks. At the end of the hike, I was surprised to find that my back and shoulders ached a little – not horribly, but noticeably. (A couple of Motrin handled it just fine – no lingering effects next morning.)
The next day, I carried the Vapor Trail. Though the load was heavier, the pack was never uncomfortable. The nicely padded hipbelt continues to amaze me: it fits well without constricting, and really doesn’t slip down like other belts. The incredibly comfortable back pad transferred the weight to my hips very effectively, and nothing pokes or gouges me through that wonderful back pad. The pack was barely noticeable; I even forgot to take it off during the break where we taught them about water filters! At the end of the hike, when I took the pack off, my shoulders and back were not in the least bit tired – it was like I hadn’t been wearing a pack at all.
So, based on these results, I donated the Virga pack to the troop. I figure that there will be that one boy who will want his own gear, and will be excited about experimenting with ultralight. (Did I mention that I’m not using the merit badge handbook, which is woefully out of date? Instead, I’m using the Fieldbook, recently revised, which includes a fair amount of lightweight guidance, and am teaching them mostly light- and ultra-light technique.) The Virga will be a great first pack for that Scout, and I can supplement his gear with the tarp/bivy combo (which I’ve decided is not as convenient as the tent), the Katadyn filter (again, convenience wins out over weight), and a stove (the jury’s still out over which one I prefer. I’m sentimentally attached to the Pocket Rocket, since it’s been with me on some great trips to Isle Royale and other places, but the Clikstand is a really, really nice stove.) It will be a good start – had my first ultralight pack been the Virga instead of the Vapor Trail, I might never have bought the Vapor Trail.
Final verdict: they’re both good packs; the chair/pad combo makes a very workable frame for the Virga. However, since I’m already spoiled, I’ll stay with the Vapor Trail.May 12, 2005 at 10:13 am #1337268paul johnsonMember
@pjLocale: LazyBoy in my Den - miss the forest
Good info. Thanks.
Re: your observation of the Virga’s hip-belt riding up. Was the Virga’s torso length too short for you? This could cause this problem. Not sayin’ it was in your case, but I seen this happen for the the reason I stated.
Speaking of convenience, I recently purchased a UV water purifier (you must prefilter through a bandana, pack towel, or cheesecloth, etc until it is clear – I do this anyway when using AqM – don’t like “chunks” in my water). With 4 Li AA batts, good for 65 liters I think, it only weighs 5.5 oz. Yeah, it’s more than the 1oz AqM re-packaged kit I normally carry, but you can drink the water right away – that’s the nicest part. Treatment time is ~60sec for 16oz of water & ~90sec or so for 32oz of water. Kills viruses, bacteria, and protozoans (including spore-formers, e.g Cryptosporidium). Temp of the unit & the water being treated is impt. Neither can be too cold. Warm the unit next to the body & the water should be above freezing. It’s microprocessor controlled & adjusts treatment time based upon the unit’s temp & the h2o temp.
I haven’t “chucked” the AqM yet, but the convenience of the UV purifier is nice.
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