Frameless Backpack Suspension Systems

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Home Forums Campfire Editor’s Roundtable Frameless Backpack Suspension Systems

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    Glenn Roberts


    Locale: Southwestern Ohio

    Paul: No, I was using the Long size – same as my Vapor Trail. As I think more about it, I can think of a couple of possibilities:

    1. The waist belt wasn’t supporting the weight in quite the manner that a padded belt does, and may have collapsed slightly. My reaction to that slight collapse may have been instinctive: shorten the shoulder straps and/or pull in the load lifters, both of which would drag the belt upward.

    2. The belt doesn’t have the trim straps found on the Vapor Trail. As a result, the pack itself may have pulled downward, pivoting the front of the belt upward.

    3. In loading the pack, I may have allowed the pad/chair “frame” to move slightly, making it either too high or too low relative to the belt, and throwing the load off enough to move the belt.

    It wasn’t a drastic riding-up. I would notice, after half an hour, that the belt that started out on my hips was now about waist-high – about where I wear my belt on dress slacks (and no, I’m not quite old enough where that means “just below my adam’s apple”!!!)

    Good info on the UV filter – not sure I’m ready to go there yet (don’t trust battery-driven and chip-controlled devices in the backcountry if I can avoid it – probably just more old-fart syndrome.) Let us know how you like it after a few more trips – after all, by fall my wife will start bugging me for a Christmas list…

    Glenn Roberts


    Locale: Southwestern Ohio

    OK, let’s flip-flop one more time. Since my previous post, I still couldn’t shake the idea that the Virga should work. I went back and analyzed my load – and noticed that I was using a Prolite 4 pad, lightly inflated, instead of the Prolite 3, barely inflated, I usually used. Folding that thicker pad put the stays right in the center, and further from the back of the pack – pretty much undoing the whole effect. I found, too, that the pack I was using was actually too large (how ’bout that, Paul??); the size medium fit much better, and I haven’t had any more problems with the hipbelt trying to ride up. (I think, on the large size, it tried to ride down, so I’d haul on the shoulder straps and it would then appear to ride up. Tightening the shoulder straps also explains the sore shoulders.)

    I also tinkered with some different gear (REI Minimalist bivy, Granite Gear White Lightnin’ tent, and Z-lite pad folded two sections wide as a frame), which brought my base load down to 10 or 11 pounds. (The tarp/bivy combo I mentioned earlier was a mistake: it was the Silshelter and Silbug liner, which weighed the same as the Hubba tent and was a little bulkier.)

    All of this, plus a little patience, paid off big. The Virga is now just as comfortable as the Vapor Trail, and is now my pack of choice. The Vapor Trail was used to tempt a buddy to “see the light;” he’s now down to an 18 pound base load, and looking for more cuts.

    Thanks, everyone, for your patience and support – and excellent advice – while I zeroed in on my own lightest set of gear. It’s not THE lightest, but it does the best job of combining light weight, simplicity, ease of use, and comfort that I’ve found.

    Glenn Roberts


    Locale: Southwestern Ohio

    Yet another waffle, after several more months of experience with the Virga (and a little side detour with the Mariposa, which I could never quite make work.)

    For most trips, I’m going to revert to my Vapor Trail. The Virga will carry a 20-pound load in reasonable comfort, which is a blessing and a curse. For long-weekend, fair-weather trips in well-watered country, my load tops out at around 15 pounds, which includes 3 pounds of food and two pounds of water.

    However, when I go longer, or in cooler weather, or have to carry an extra quart or two of water (or a combination of the above), it’s all but impossible to keep my load under 20 pounds – and the Vapor Trail is noticeably more comfortable with loads of 20 pounds or more.

    A couple of additional comments: I’ve also reverted to carrying gear I’m happy with, which doesn’t always mean the lightest gear. For example, as part of my foray into Gossamer Gear, I tried out the SpinnShelter. It’s a really nifty shelter – but I never found that I could use it as effortlessly as I use my Zoid 1. The Zoid 1 is side entry – less hassle to get in and out. The footprint is perfect for putting my Vapor Trail (empty) in the foot, Prolite 3 Short in the head, and getting a full length pad that won’t slide around as the result. Couple it with the MSR Dromlite filled with air as a pillow, and I’ve simply got the most comfortable bed I’ve ever had in the backcountry. That same choice of personal preference over theoretical “best-ness” carries into other areas, such as kitchen and water treatment, where I also chose slightly heavier items simply because I like them better.

    I’m not knocking those who are willing to place light weight over ease of use or comfort – in fact, I’ve learned a lot from them; the Vapor Trail kit I carry now is about 4 pounds lighter than it was a year and a half ago as a result of what I’ve learned here. But, for me personally, backing off a half step seems to be the way to go.

    If anyone needs some ultralight gear, say, to make a thru-hike happen or to get someone into the sport who wouldn’t be able to otherwise, let me know. We can probably arrange it so my excess gear gathers trail dust instead of house dust.

    Jeremy Cleaveland
    BPL Member


    Locale: Exploring San Juan talus

    Golite Gust (really heavy, I know…) w/ 3/4 Ridgerest rolled and packed and when I'm guiding (heavyweight) backpacking I use my Cilogear 60L pack with the frame removed and the 3/4 ridgerest rolled up and packed. both work well for their applications. interesting findings!

    Derek Goffin


    Locale: North of England

    I find the most comfortable rucksacks to be the Aarn bodypack type. If packed correctly nearly all the weight can be transferred to the well designed hip belt, leaving the shoulders to just stabilize the load. Whether this level of comfort is worth the weight of backpack plus front pockets of up to 2 kilograms depends on how much weight you are carrying.
    This article by Ryan must have made some assumption that it is best to carry some weight on the shoulders as without well loaded front pockets, the shoulders must at least hold the rucksack forward.

    What I am saying is, there is another level of comfort above a rucksack whose frame has not yet crumpled. In my opinion that is a poor definition of optimal.

    Research in England quoted shows that body packs need less energy to carry them although the tests were with a load of greater than ultra light levels. 25 lb I think. Extrapolation would show that above about 9 kilo load it is more energy efficient (and I feel comfortable) to carry the extra load of a bodypack. Rather than a 1 kilo lighter rucksack

    Steven Demsky


    This might be a bit late, but:

    I was curious how the steel discs are attached to back panel, specifically their distribution/orientation for different weights and whether the duct tape prevents any and all shifting of the discs or just shifting in one direction?

    Are there any images available of this packing procedure?

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