Aug 14, 2013 at 1:29 pm #1306536
Jeff La FrenierreSpectator
Hi everyone. I've been lurking here for a while now and have really appreciated the fantastic insights you have collectively offered as my wife and I make the transition to being much more weight-conscious about our gear. We are preparing to purchase new backpacks and would appreciate any specific advice/warnings you might have given our specific needs/circumstances.
First, my wife. She is in her early 50s and is starting to have persistent problems with arthritis in her knees (which is what has finally precipitated our gear transition). In the past, she has typically carried a pack of around 30 lbs (including consumables, for 3-season mountain trips of 1-2 nights). Now, having purchased a pad, returned to an older down bag, and purchased a new Tarptent Double Rainbow (for now, she carries the tent and I carry the food/camp gear), her base weight EXCLUDING backpack is 13 lbs. Her current pack is still way too heavy – an ArcTeryx Bora 75 weighing in at nearly 7 pounds including cover. The problem for her is that she absolutely loves the comfort of her Bora 75, and wants be be sure that her new pack has the same quality suspension system to which she is accustomed. Thus, many ultralight bags that otherwise might be appropriate for her base weight are not something in which she's interested.
My case: my pack has, in my serious photography days, been over 40 lbs. Now, with new quilt, a high-quality food dehydrator, and a much more minimalist attitude, my base weight EXCLUDING pack is 16-17 lbs, with consumables adding another 8-10 lbs. I also have an extremely comfortable but overly heavy pack – an Osprey Argon 85, also ~7 lbs – and am nervous about any reduction is suspension luxury.
At this point, my own three contenders are a ULA Circuit, a GG Mariposa and an Osprey Exos 58. I'm leaning towards the ULA since reviews suggest its a bit more hardy and has a double-strap waist belt. The wife is less certain about what she wants. The GG Gorilla or Exos 46 seem to be the best choices for her specifications. Her natural tendency is to go back and find the lightest ArcTeryx (an Altra 48 at ~3 lbs) since she likes her current suspension system. She does like to bring extra clothing, which is why we probably want to stay in the 40-49 L capacity range (thus the Ohm, apparently ULA's smallest full suspension pack is probably too big at ~60 L).
In any case, our objective is to get her total weight down to 15-20 lbs, all inclusive, and mine into the 25-30 lb range (I'm 10 years younger and don't have the knee issues). We aren't trying to go Ultra Light as we do like our luxuries (books, enclosed tent, etc). Also, we always carry our Bear Vault (450 or 500, depending on trip length). We actually would like to start doing longer trips, her knees be damned, and will be doing a 4 day section of the Northville-Lake Placid Trail in the ADKs in late Sept. A possible JMT is being discussed for 2014.
Thanks everyone for sticking with me through this tome.Aug 14, 2013 at 1:57 pm #2015271
Here is another pack you should consider for your wife, the review is by Will Rietveld he spent 12 years as a gear reviewer and outdoor writer for Backpacking Light.I will be 50 later this year and have osteoarthritis of the knees, for a solo trip lasting 3 days including everything but water(that means all my food and fuel is included)is 12lbs, the lighter I go the easier it is on my knees.I really love this pack,but a pack and its fit is such a personal thing and she will need to try on different packs to see what works best for her.Other packs I own include GG Gorilla,HMG Windrider,a BPL pack no longer made and the ULA Curcuit.For yourself you will get many suggestions and Elemental Horizons Aquilo received a Highly Recommended on its review here and it's Measured volume: 4090 cubic inches (67 L), includes pockets and extension collar and it's Measured is weight: 29.5 oz,this info was included in the review.Aug 14, 2013 at 2:23 pm #2015279
@eagleriverdeeLocale: Eagle River, Alaska
From everything I've read on the Osprey Exos line, they would be on my short list as well. So would the GG Gorilla.
Personally, I found great comfort using an older Granite Gear Vapor Trail- my loads are up to 30 lbs, and I've found this pack to be insanely comfortable with very cushy shoulder straps and hipbelt. You might want to consider the current version, which is the Granite Gear Crown (Ki version for women).
Someone had a Vapor Trail for sale on Gearswap last week, last I saw it was still there.Aug 14, 2013 at 2:39 pm #2015284
@detroittigerfanLocale: Ann Arbor
First of all, the Ohm is definitely NOT a 60L pack, at least in terms of comparing it to other packs. All of the ULA pack volumes are overstated, imo. For a realistic comparison against other packs, use the "main body" plus "ext collar" number. So, for the Circuit, 2400+500=2900 cubic inches = 47.5 liters. The Ohm (2100+500=2600) is comparable to a 40-42L pack. I carry a Circuit and it holds a hair more than my son's Osprey Talon 44.
The Circuit is a great choice, imo, for someone wanting some sort of frame and a "real" hipbelt, but still have pack with UL sensibilities. I love mine. My total pack weight usually falls in the 20-25 lb range but it has handled up to 30lb really well. If your wife is wary about giving up the Bora suspension, I'd choose the Circuit over the Ohm.
If her total pack weight really does get down to 15-20 lb, she could probably go with something something smaller than the Circuit. That said, when I do light overnights, I find myself taking the Circuit anyway even though I have a lighter 35L pack.Aug 14, 2013 at 2:50 pm #2015288
The 2013 GG Mariposa is an amazing pack. I can't say enough great things about it. Some of the standouts are the aluminum stay (assuming you put a pad/mattress in the sleeve), the load lifters, the amazing amounts of storage. This pack is so comfortable, I hardly ever feel that I'm wearing the pack. Definitely invest in the hip belt!
The load lifters alone are a great reason to get this pack over the Gorilla. If you are going to be doing longer hikes and want to be packing 5-7 days of food at a time, you'll appreciate the extra space and the ability to get the pack closer to your body instead of slouching.Aug 14, 2013 at 3:05 pm #2015294
@dwambaughLocale: Pacific Northwest
I use an Exos 46 and it works great for me. I have no problem using a pack that is a pound heavier if it works, but that means whatever goes in the pack is thoroughly on the UL side of the fence. Many draw the SUL line at sleeping pads and insect nets, but there's no reason not to follow all the other tricks and techniques for getting things as light as possible. With a digital scale and an eye to detail, there's no reason you can get a base weight below 12 pounds.
I assume your wife is using trekking poles. If not, they are very effective for hikers with knee issues and I can't emphasize using them enough.
Definitely work on the clothing list. IMHO, getting an UL clothing kit together is one of the most difficult parts of an UL gear list as there are so many variables in conditions and user tolerance. Read everything you can find on layering schemes and give it all a good testing on day hikes and around town.Aug 14, 2013 at 3:46 pm #2015309
I have an Exos 46 and it's worked well for me. For 46L You get a lot of storage options that make it feel much bigger. Yeah, it has a lot of loops and straps but I've found them to be useful at times. The belt could use a little more substance. It's definitely one of those love/hate it deals. If it fits well, you'll love it. With 2 people going on weekend outings, you probably won't need anything bigger given you don't have a lot of other bulky gear. An Arc Blast would be an option if you want an insanely light framed pack.Aug 14, 2013 at 4:57 pm #2015328
I strongly recommend you look into Pacerpoles for your wife. The mechanics of the arm / leg stride is different than traditional trekking poles (check out youtube vids) and made a noticable difference for me with knee strain. Need to order online as they are only sold that way, but you will not regret this purchase.
Also must give props to the GG Gorilla. Loved it enough to just purchase a Mariposa for fall / winter duties.Aug 14, 2013 at 5:34 pm #2015339
A few suggestions: For knee problems, consider knee braces. My wife has had knee problems for a while and just got a pair. She loves them. There are lots of different types of braces; some are designed for athletes after an injury (and have a metal frame that restricts movement) while others are basically neoprene with a hole in them. I'll let you do the research, but I think there are designations for the various types (level 1, 2, etc.). A metal frame would be overkill.
For packs, consider just staying with what you have. Yes, those are heavy packs, but they have really good frames and more importantly, you really like them. For example, a 20 pound load with a good frame is much better than a 15 pound load that just doesn't seem to carry quite right.
That being said, 7 pounds is a very heavy pack, by modern standards. Which leads me to my second suggestion: just go with a new, ordinary, internal pack that you can find at REI. Avoid the bells and whistles, but get one that has a solid frame. I personally went from a 7 pound Gregory pack to a 2 pound Granite Gear, but it would have been safer to go to a 4 pound Gregory. Basically, what I'm saying is that if you go into REI and try out packs, most will be significantly less than 7 pounds.
The other thing worth noting is the Internal Frame State of the Market Report that was done a little while ago here. I would definitely read those reviews and focus on frame and frame comfort, rather than weight savings. In my opinion, your goal should be to find a pack that is just as comfortable and just as capable of carrying a similar load, but significantly lighter. Since your current pack weighs seven pounds, I don't think this should be too difficult.
In general, keep trying to chip away at pack weight. It doesn't hurt to take some time, put everything on a list and post it here (in the gear list forum). You will get a lot of suggestions that won't be for you (if you really want to carry a teddy bear, then you will carry a teddy bear — weight be damned). But there is always someone who has wanted to bring a similar item, and it is worth considering the ways in which they lowered the weight of it (e. g. inflatable teddy bear).Aug 14, 2013 at 5:43 pm #2015344
@ouzelLocale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
"it is worth considering the ways in which they lowered the weight of it (e. g. inflatable teddy bear"
Now don't be getting Doug going on inflatables again. ;0}Aug 14, 2013 at 6:24 pm #2015360
I would say the lightest most comfortable pack you can afford.
I am also shopping.
Right now I have a MYOG framed cuben pack at 12.5 oz but delicate, a stripped out JamII 50L that weighs 18 oz and a jam 70 that weighs 31 oz, and an older Kelty Alpine pack and I am still shopping for something better.
The Zpacks Arc Blast seems to be holding the comfort SUL 50 and 60L spot right now at 16-17oz and $280, but probably worth every penny. I have not tried one yet but will ASAP.
Golite Jams are on sale right now for a reasonable amount, but if you go over 20# not that comfortable IMO.
With 1/2 a rainbow and a light down bag or quilt, a light pack like an arc blast and xLite pad you should be able to go under a 6# big 4.Aug 14, 2013 at 6:32 pm #2015364
@cameronLocale: Idaho Falls
If there is a 3 pound Arc Teryx pack she likes I'd say go with that. If it saves 4 pounds that is big improvement and other options will only save 1 pound.
If you want to go lighter I'd start with an HMG Windrunner or Porter. They will have a more solid suspension system then most 2 pound packs.
Another option is the Exped Lighting pack (it comes in 45 liter and 60 liter versions). Just over 2 pounds and it carries weight very well.Aug 14, 2013 at 6:58 pm #2015369
@pnwhikerLocale: Pacific NW
You might consider something like the Zpacks Arc Blast. It is similar in design to the Osprey packs. The cost may be an issue, however, since they are cuben fiber. I have both a Zpacks Arc Blast and a Zpacks Zero. The Arc Blast is really a comfortable pack. And, you simply won't find a better company to deal with than Zpacks.Aug 14, 2013 at 7:41 pm #2015377
@danepackerLocale: Mojave Desert
Look for my "Medium Light" post here. Right now it's on page 2 of GEAR. I go for comfort of lightER weight and comfort.
>enclosed tent, not tarp & mosquito inner
>light internal frame pack, not saggy framless pack
>prolite mattress, not higher, noisy Neoair
>light but supportive hiking boots and shoes (Merrill Moab)
>3 cup aluminum pot & lid W/ZipLoc 'fridge bowl & plastic cup not Ti mug alone
I am looking hard at buying the new 2013 Osprey EXOS 58, size large. That way I can use it for winter instead of my 7 1/2 lb. Dana Terraplane. It will be just right for summer with a bear can and nice for winter with side pockets added.
So keep comfort in mind. Remember, you sleep 8 hours and it needs to be comfortable. Yes, a down bag with a half zipper saves a tiny amount of weight but you can't open it up like a quilt on hot nights or vent the foot area. Those things become important. S skinny bag saves a bit of weight but you can't wear insulated clothes like a down jacket inside on a 15 F. night.Aug 14, 2013 at 9:37 pm #2015407
@stingray4540Locale: South Bay
Have you considered an external frame? I know it's not "ultra" light, but at 3 lbs. the jansport scout is pretty comfy. Bonus is you can usually score one on Craigslist for $30.
Less than half the weight of her current pack, and you can replace the bag with a lighter one, or just use stuff sacks.Aug 14, 2013 at 10:03 pm #2015412
@jakesandwichLocale: S.F. Bay Area
Another +1 for the Gossamer Gear Gorilla. I got one recently, and for loads of about 20 pounds, it rocks. I was worried about it not having load lifters, but to my surprise it doesn't really need them. They also have a good return policy if the fit doesn't work for her.Aug 14, 2013 at 10:52 pm #2015419
Try em all on in a store with the gear u will be carrying … Walk up and down the stairs
If u order online keep he tags on … And be prepared to pay return shipping if it doesnt work out
For your weight fit is everything
;)Aug 15, 2013 at 9:03 am #2015485
If price is not an object, consider HcHale. One of his LBPs would shave at least 3 lbs. off your total weight while still having an awesome suspension system and high comfort levels.Aug 16, 2013 at 10:16 am #2015827
Jeff La FrenierreSpectator
Thanks, everyone, for your ideas. In the end, we've decided to order our top two choices each, test them both (including on a stairmaster), and make the final decision from there. My wife decided to test a GG Gorilla and an Elemental Horizons Kalais and I've selected an Elemental Horizons Aquilos and a ULA Catalyst. I suspect we'll be happy with either of our choices; they all sound like excellent packs.
Thanks, too, for the pole/brace suggestions. I've passed those on to my wife.
I'll post a full gear list in that forum in the coming weeks and I'll look forward to your further comments.Aug 16, 2013 at 6:37 pm #2015946
@heyyouLocale: Cutting brush off of the Arizona Tr
As both of you lose pack weight, neither will need the suspension that is on a 7# pack. How much less suspension, is very personal. The process will be like buying shoes, try all you can. I second the REI suggestion for their easy return policy, especially if you live near one of the stores.
I buy used gear here at Gear Swap with the expectation that I can sell it for near what I paid for it, minus the equivalent of a rental fee.
Good luck on your quest. Lighter weight gear is what has kept this retiree on the trail.
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