Jan 20, 2011 at 7:50 pm #1268018
I am getting into the whole lightweight backpacking scene and am looking at getting one of the most important pieces of gear, which is the pack. I have a couple I have been looking at, but I haven't quite decided on which would be best for me. I'll list the few I have been looking at, give my pros and cons, and hear what y'all have to say. If you have any other recommendations, I would be more than happy to hear them.
First up is the Granite Gear Virga. Pros: Second lightest of the three I'm looking at. Good size. Cheapest of the three at around $100.
Cons: Not really any external pockets, just one big main compartment. Water bottle holders are a little weird with the compression straps going right over them. Hip belt being just webbing. Have heard it is only good for around 20 pounds.
Second is the GoLite Jam. Pros: Looks pretty comfy. Has hip belt pockets. Can comfortably carry around 25 pounds versus 20. Has front pocket. Really tough material. Popular pack, which makes me think GoLite is doing something right.
Cons: Heaviest of the three. Second most expensive at about $150 retail. Some review of current model aren't so good. They say the Jam2 is better than the current model.
Last is the MLD Exodus. Pros: I really like this pack the best. It is the lightest of the options and has good functionality with the mesh pocket in front and the large side pockets. The fabric is also super tough.
Cons: The one con I have with the pack is the price. At $185, it is kinda out of my budget.
What I want to know from you is how you think these three packs compare against each other in your opinion. Should I wait to get a few more bucks to spend on the Exodus? Should I try and pick up a used jam 2, or just get a new Virga? Any and all help is greatly appreciated.Jan 20, 2011 at 7:56 pm #1686478
What most folks will tell you on these forums (I think, going out on a limb here) is that your pack is one of the last things you should buy. Buy your other gear first — shelter/sleeping bag-quilt/etc — and then get a pack that will accommodate that gear, with enough room to accommodate winter gear if you're going with one pack for all seasons.
And all the packs you listed are fine packs.Jan 20, 2011 at 8:25 pm #1686487
@foundLocale: Sacramento, CA
Having had all three, I'd buy the Exodus. And it's not perfect.Jan 20, 2011 at 8:31 pm #1686489
Ben 2 WorldParticipant
@ben2worldLocale: So Cal
Curious, how heavy is your expected load? As above, it's subjective, but for many people, frameless packs work best for loads at or below the low 20's (including the weight of the pack itself).Jan 20, 2011 at 9:04 pm #1686503
My goal baseweight is 179.1 ounces, or about 11.2 pounds. That is factoring in a MLD exodus pack.
Also, as to buying the pack last, I agree with that and think it is a good idea. I am buying a tarp soon, an Oware 8×10 flat tarp. I know what sleeping bag I want (Montbell UL Super Spiral Down Hugger #3). So really, the only thing I have left to question is the pack. Everything else is pretty much taken care of. I just have to come up with the funds to get everything I want.
So, the Exodus is worth the extra money? I figured it would be. The "you get what you pay for" slogan seems to be pretty true in just about every situation.Jan 20, 2011 at 9:09 pm #1686509
As long as a frameless pack fits you with respect to torso size and with respect to the placement and width of the shoulder straps, there is very little difference in carry under 20lbs. For the most part, a book bag is a book bag. The differences to note are more from the perspective of materials and features.Jan 20, 2011 at 9:21 pm #1686512
For me, frameless packs are a very different animal compared to framed packs. The comfort of a pack being something that can make or break a trip (or the backpacking experience as a whole) makes pack selection uber important.
Though I have never tried any of the packs you've listed, they are all well received on BPL. What it comes down to is comfort, comfort, comfort, and that's the tough thing about trying some cottage gear.
I'd recommend, as Douglas pointed out, to try and dial in the rest of your kit. Then you'll know how much space you'll need in a pack, how much weight you'll be carrying, and what features you might want.
If at all possible, try to find a gear retailer near you that sells frameless packs, and has a good return policy. While I do not advocate taking advantage of fantastic return policies like REI's, I personally think its ok to try something out as long as it sees minimal use and absolutely no damage. Gotta bring it back like new. Anyways, get a frameless pack, load it up at home and wear it around the house. Or maybe take it for a walk down some trails–again, being careful to keep the pack in a new, returnable condition.
You'll see pretty quickly if frameless packs are for you. There is something to be said for the suspension of framed packs, even though they weigh more. If a 20 oz. frameless pack feels more uncomfortable than a 3 lb framed pack, then there's nothing wrong with the framed pack. In fact, you'll probably enjoy backpacking more. And it is also entirely possible that you can put together a super light kit and thoroughly enjoy a frameless pack.
Good luck!Jan 20, 2011 at 9:38 pm #1686519
I have a 2010 Jam and I find it to be excellent to just below 25 pounds with the hipbelt. I've trimmed the weight to just under 24 ounces so far (without the pad) and still have the hipbelt, compactor system on the bottom and side compression straps. You can generally find one on sale for under $100 with a little bit of patience (I paid $85 for mine off of Geartrade.com). If paying $150 for it… I'd go MLD instead.
That said, 25ish pounds is only possible with careful packing. You basically have to pay close attention to where and how you place your dense items in the pack so you can make use of them as a pseudo frame when hiking. There are some good threads on these forums discussing doing just that.
Basically there's more to it than just using your sleeping pad rolled inside to create structure. Ideally you'll want to back it up with other items so it can't collapse in the middle. If you don't have the items to do this then I would assume you're under 20 pounds and it isn't as much of an issue.Jan 20, 2011 at 10:04 pm #1686526
You should be able to pick up a used Jam for under $100. I actually have three of them. I have been too lazy to sell either my extra 2008 (lightest weight, no hip pockets.) or a 2009 with hip pockets. If you decide to go with a Jam and want the older lighterweight models send me a PM. Both only have a single trip on them.Jan 21, 2011 at 6:53 am #1686579
@joegeibLocale: Delaware & Lehigh Valleys
I've had both the GG Vapor Trail (my wife had a Virga), and a GoLite Peak (Wife has the Jam). I'd go with the GoLite Jam (or older Jam2), basically for the reasons you listed above too. While list price is higher, you can probably get it on sale at REI, EMS, or even on CampSaver (where I got my Peak for 30% off).
I ditched the Vapor Trail because of the bottle pockets, overly padded back and belt, and no other pocket. Wife got rid of Virga especially because of the lacking hipbelt, and my reasons above. GoLite seems to be a good mix of hipbelt, comfort, pockets, and options.
That being said, I am intrigued by the MLD (Burn or Prophet), but I am happy with my GoLite.Jan 21, 2011 at 7:40 am #1686599
fit is everything … just try each of them on with the load youll have and you decide pretty quickly
once youve tried em on then decide on all the other stuff such as feature, weight, etc …Jan 21, 2011 at 8:31 am #1686622
@shortbusLocale: So Cal
Dont forget Golite 40% off sale is still underway. Punch in code DSW10 at checkout and it drops the Jam to $90. Im going this route, as most of my kit is dialed in for spring, and a Jam should easily accommodate my gear.Jan 21, 2011 at 8:53 am #1686632
@footeabLocale: Pacific Northwest
As far as I am concerned function in a pack far outweighs its weight OR cost.
Function. Can you access sunscreen, camera, food, water without taking the pack off? IE HIPBELT POCKETS!!!! Or a top pocket that is accessable by dual buckles you can detach by reaching over your head?
I cannot stress how useful and functional hipbelt pockets are. Especially for a long distance hiker. Now if you are loligaging for a weekend… It matters not a whit what your pack is. Neither does the weight or size of the pack either in that case.
If you are a weekend warrior only. Cheapest pack is best which probabaly means slightly heavier and larger as its more functional for a variety of different trips.Jan 21, 2011 at 8:55 am #1686633
@footeabLocale: Pacific Northwest
I would look at ULA packs as well. ULA.com They are anywhere from frameless to light frames good to 35lbs. Have hipbelt pockets.
You will note that nearly all guys who hiked the PCT/AT and then create packs ALLLLLL put hipbelt pockets on their packs. ULA/GoLite etc.Jan 21, 2011 at 9:01 am #1686635
Hipbelt pockets are unnecessary weight. Just put what you need in your short or pant pockets. BTW, the belt pockets on say, a Jam or ULA CDT won't even accept a full size Oh Henry. Can you believe it?!?Jan 21, 2011 at 9:17 am #1686641
@rcowmanLocale: Canadian Rockies
added weight and redundancy. I would bet on all your gear most people have over 10 pockets easily on just their clothing. add, pack pockets, and additional pockets and stuff sacks, that a lot of organization…Jan 21, 2011 at 9:38 am #1686648
I understand the argument as to using pants pockets instead of hipbelt pockets, but I disagree, at least for long distance hiking. Within a couple weeks, anything with any weight or hard edges will wear through the pockets, and produce a big hole. Then you can't put anything in there anymore.
Also, the hipbelt pockets sit in a position that moves the least of any part of the body while hiking. If you put things in pants/shorts pockets, especially ones farther away from the center of your waist, you have to move those items more. This wastes energy. For example, if you put your camera in a lower cargo pocket, that hangs above your knee, you'll swing that camera around a lot more while hiking than if it were in a hipbelt pocket.
I just use a light fanny pack turned around to face the front. Works well.Jan 21, 2011 at 9:50 am #1686656
@sixguns01Locale: Somewhere. Probably lost.
Find one that is comfortable with all your gear in it. I'd buy from REI and try it out for the weekend. If it sucks, then bring it back and try again. That's what I did to find the right shoes.Jan 21, 2011 at 10:01 am #1686664
Wastes energy? Dude – get to the gym and lift some weights! (kidding)
I find the pockets on many UL packs to be quite small anyway as mentioned previously, to the point of almost being useless. YMMV.Jan 21, 2011 at 10:26 am #1686672
@sixguns01Locale: Somewhere. Probably lost.
I miss the old days of external packs (not the weight) and their exterior pockets. For me, it was the best way to keep everything organized and very accessible. When I switched to Internal packs, I picked up ones that had external pockets. As time moved on so did the external pockets and bags became more and more huge buckets. With the lighter UL packs, pockets are darn near extinct.
I love the hip pockets on my Pinnacle. Holds my Leatherman Squirt, rice-crispies treat, Advil, other random small stuff. Stuff that may have been bouncing around in my pants pockets for miles upon miles.
Yes, I wish they were a bit bigger, but wouldn't that make me want to pack more stuff? Think about it.
Have funJan 21, 2011 at 10:32 am #1686675
never use em myself … mainly because climbing packs dont have em … they get in the way of your harness and racking
what i wouldnt mind trying is the shoulder strap pockets like the aarn … since i often clip my water bottle to the daisy there on moderate climbs
in general though … i find that the more pockets you have the more cr@p you bring … using a simple tube pack forces you to think about everything you bring and how to pack itJan 21, 2011 at 10:38 am #1686678
The momentum of the mass in your pants pockets change as you walk.
Cargo pockets are worse.
There is less momentum change for the same mass carried in a hip belt pocket, saving you energy.Jan 21, 2011 at 11:52 am #1686711
@danepackerLocale: Mojave Desert
My REI UL Cruise 60 came W/ no side pockets.
I added REI's aftermarket side pockets (sadly no longer sold by REI). They came in sets of two, a right and left pocket and added 400 cu. in. each. Other companies still sell aftermarket side pockets.
The extra 800 cu. in. plus attatching webing straps was worth the extra 5 oz. Now I can place First Aid bag, toilet gear, stove gear and potty bag in the pockets for fast access and have more main pack room for long trips.
MORAL: If'n ya like the pack's fit then modify what you need to make it work for you. Put on a better waist belt, add a different lid, sew loops for re-routing your hydration hose, etc.
On a winter pack I even added aluminum stays and a new belt.Jan 21, 2011 at 12:42 pm #1686724
I attached four bottle pockets onto the hip belt of my 2008 Jam2. These can each hold a liter of water, food or small misc. stuff. Between these and the two side pockets I rarely have to take my pack off to get to anything I need.Jan 21, 2011 at 12:52 pm #1686733
"The momentum of the mass in your pants pockets change as you walk."
How much are you carrying in your pockets? Is your pack full or do you NEED all of the 'stuff' at a ready hand?
Oh, and please post the double blind studies of such effect on biomechanics.
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