Jan 12, 2014 at 12:11 am #1312027
J Dos AntosParticipant
@damagerLocale: Redwoods of Santa Cruz Mts
I was poking around the McHale packs website and came across Dan McHale's thoughts about the current state of UL backpacks, especially frameless packs. I figured many BPLers would find his comments to be … interesting, to say the least. I'm including a link to his Secondary Menu Index (since his website can be confusing to navigate). The letter section is the first link. I'm sure I'll enjoy reading BPLers' comments and responses.Jan 12, 2014 at 12:53 am #2062623
Thanks for pointing out that commentary. I have to say it's nice to hear another person with lots of experience in the backpacking business basically spell out my own thoughts on the matter of backpack functionality vs. weight.
I have never understood the practice of essentially eliminating a backpack's ability to carry weight comfortably solely for the sake of saving 3 lbs or less. If there is a better example of "stupid light," I don't know what it is.
I have personally never been able to carry more than about 13 lbs on my shoulders for long periods of time without getting severely uncomfortable. I simply have no idea how people can stand carrying this much or more weight with a frameless pack for long periods of time. Ugh. No thanks.
I'll keep my 3 lb pack that can actually support weights up to 35 lbs comfortably (read: on my hips) and allow me to pack my gear however I want.
I always marvel at the SUL guys carrying tiny, frameless backpacks. More power to them, I just don't ever see that working for me.Jan 12, 2014 at 1:11 am #2062624
"I have never understood the practice of essentially eliminating a backpack's ability to carry weight comfortably solely for the sake of saving 2 pounds or less."
Based on the word _solely_, I think you do misunderstand what is going on. I think many of us here completely avoid the 35 pound load.
For a total load of 20 pounds, I have no trouble at all with a sub-1 pound backpack.
Or, I could get a 3 pound pack that allows me to carry 35 pounds? No thank you.
–B.G.–Jan 12, 2014 at 1:19 am #2062625
Like you, I try to avoid a 35 lb pack like the plague, but even with your 20 lb load, I'm miserable carrying it in a frameless pack. If you are comfortable, more power to you!
My point was that I simply can't get my overall pack weight below 13 pounds (including fuel, food, and water), even for 1 night trips, so a frameless pack will never be comfortable for me; therefore I need a pack with a decent frame… one that just happens to be able to carry 35 lbs comfortably, even if I'm never carrying that much.Jan 12, 2014 at 1:27 am #2062626
[With 20 pound load] "I'm miserable carrying it in a frameless pack."
I'm sorry. Are you over 40 years old? Have you considered hiring a personal trainer?
–B.G.–Jan 12, 2014 at 2:20 am #2062627
"I'm sorry. Are you over 40 years old? Have you considered hiring a personal trainer?"
No, and no.
I'm not sure why you would assume that everyone is comfortable carry 20 pounds on their shoulders during a 12 hour hiking day. Can I do it? Yes. Is it comfortable? No.
I'm glad it works for you, but it doesn't work for me.
Sorry that's hard for you to believe.Jan 12, 2014 at 2:36 am #2062628
For the past three years I have been using an SMD Swift without hip belt or stay and keeping my loads below 21 lbs. I experience slight fatigue in the shoulders after mile 15 or so, but it works for me at age 43 with no exercise regime to speak of and a terrible diet exacerbated by alcoholism.
Everyone is different. We can't all be comfortable with the same gear, be it cooking system, shelter or sleeping gear. I found that hip belts created a lot of discomfort for me even when I was lighter and fitter, never thinking that they could be dispensed with. I've been much happier without both my traditional 40 lb pack weight and the constriction of a hip belt. I usually go out with barely adequate shelter and insulation, for a worst case scenario, and feel fine with it. I probably won't die backpacking and a little suffering isn't any more than our daily lot.
As has been so often said, hike your own hike and find what works for you. There is no need to feel pressured to conform to one set of lightweight goals and there is no grading that is relevant. Get outside and enjoy yourself as much as you are able in the way that you see fit.Jan 12, 2014 at 2:36 am #2062629
"I'm not sure why you would assume that everyone is comfortable carry 20 pounds on their shoulders during a 12 hour hiking day."
I never made that assumption. You are jumping to conclusions.
I came about during the Truman Administration, so I am no spring chicken. Maybe the pack comfort thing comes from getting older and meaner.
Rather than for me to try to find out what load is comfortable or not, I simply keep my total pack load around 20 pounds. Then of course I am carrying an additional 10 pounds of camera gear around my neck.
The vast majority of my backpacking friends of similar age have no problem carrying 20% of their body weight with lightweight backpacks. Some do 30%. I can no longer carry 45%. I guess I should have enlisted as a Marine.
–B.G.–Jan 12, 2014 at 2:41 am #2062630
Derek, I found your words of August 19:
"If you want to nail me on anything, this is it. When a pack gets over 15 pound, then I immediately want 80% of the pack weight on my hips. That's just me, and I realize that I'm probably in the minority when it comes to this."
There is no problem with being in a minority. I think we have a 12-step program for this.
–B.G.–Jan 12, 2014 at 3:10 am #2062631
Sometimes I do wonder if I'm in the minority of all backpackers by having this issue of not liking a lot of weight on my shoulders, or if I'm just in the minority of backpackers who also happen to be members of this forum. In the end, of course, it doesn't really matter, since it wouldn't change my own reality one way or the other.
I will say that I do like to unbuckle my hip belt a few times every hour while backpacking to give my hips a rest for a few minutes at a time… Though after about 5 minutes of this, I'm always ready to get the weight back on my hips.
Maybe this is unusual? Maybe not?… No idea. It's just the system I've settled into after many years of backpacking and I'm happy with it. To each his/her own right? Hike your own hike and all that.
It still doesn't mean I don't admire all you guys who can get by without a hip belt or much pack support. It's pretty cool to see, IMO, but probably not something that I think will ever work for me.Jan 12, 2014 at 6:51 am #2062643
I'm 23, in aggressively good shape, and I can't keep a 20lb pack on my shoulders for longer than 5 miles without feeling a lot of discomfort. I use a 3lb backpack with a foam backsheet, a plastic frame, and a substantial hipbelt because without it, i'm miserable.
The SUL'ers are more vocal, but a lot of people on the forum use more substantial packs and just carry less.Jan 12, 2014 at 7:03 am #2062645
I own a McHale pack that could carry 100lbs and also own a Zpacks Blast at 8.6oz. Frankly, I'm glad to have both in my arsenal.
There are times, especially in very cold weather, that I could not possibly get all of my gear and clothing into my Blast. I'm thankful to have my McHale pack which handles weight like a Ferrari handles a high-speed curve. With ease and comfort.
My winter hiking is of limited distance and usually an overnight. I would not want to hoist around the extra weight for a long duration.
Every other time I hike I always use my ZPacks Blast. It is delight to have such little weight and I having always felt fresher at day's end with it. I've been bitten by the UL bug and just simply better enjoy my time hiking with less weight to carry on my back.Jan 12, 2014 at 7:11 am #2062647
I'm almost 60. Routinely do 10 miles per day with frameless pack. I vary between more weight on shoulders and more weight on hips. Start out with 20 pounds. Last summer I did 13 miles a day for 6 days.
Rarely are my shoulders sore. My left ankle gets sore because of long ago injury. Maybe a knee a little. Those are my limiting factors. And at end of day I'll be generally exhausted but this gets better after day 2 and 3.
I remember "bad old days". Kelty framed heavy pack. My shoulders got very sore.
Mostly, I have no desire to put in more mileage. I like to "smell roses". Hang around camp. Walk around a little and explore. Sip adult beverage. I guess I just have a lazy streak in me.Jan 12, 2014 at 7:25 am #2062650
I much prefer to carry weight on my shoulders if I can. I find hipbelts constricting and prone to chafe etc. This might not be the most technically efficient approach, but I find the walking more enjoyable.
Up to 20 lbs, I only use my shoulders (I leave the hipbelt unbuckled). From 20-30 lbs I normally hike with it on my shoulders, but I do up the hipbelt for 20 minutes every couple hours or to let my shoulders recover. Above 30 lbs the hipbelt stays done up.Jan 12, 2014 at 7:49 am #2062657
Hipbelt is good because it prevents load from shifting sideways. But I can fasten hipbelt loosly.
I guess 20 minutes every couple hours is getting close to what I do. Maybe half the time I share the load, 25% of time mostly on shoulders, 25% of time mostly on hips.
I don't find hipbelt constricting. The hip bone is one solid piece so it's okay. A strap around chest is constricting because my chest expands and contracts when I breath.Jan 12, 2014 at 7:58 am #2062659
I'm in the Derek, Max and McHale "camp" philosophy regarding this as well.Jan 12, 2014 at 8:05 am #2062662
I've never been able to carry even ten pounds on my shoulders without discomfort. My hips, on the other hand, can take way more weight than I should carry. So perhaps for me it is a function of where I have padding, and where my body is more sensitive to pressure. Back in my Jansport days, I would actually get numb on both clavicles after a trip, and that was with a hipbelt, albeit one that didn't transfer all the weight properly. I am working my way down the pack weight ladder, but haven't done a trip with my SMD Starlite yet; I have a Luxurylite that so far is the lightest comfortable pack for me, at probably the same weight as the Starlite.Jan 12, 2014 at 8:22 am #2062664
This conversation seems to be being conducted as if there is a dichotomy between framed packs which transfer weight to the hips and frameless packs which put all the weight on the shoulders. This is not the case in my experience.Jan 12, 2014 at 8:24 am #2062668
@drusillaLocale: Wild Wild West
Dan is probably the most knowledgeable resource we have and deserves respect. If YOU can deal with UL packs where and how you hike then great. To each his own. I live in the desert, I MUST carry water so as much as I wanted to make the UL packs work ( I invested in three) they just could not deliver for me so I got a McHale (used) and will probably get another (custom) for smaller loads. I too come from the Kelty Tioga days….and remember the pain while doing the CDT in 1981… I hope to never have to endure torture like that again! 3,100 miles of my hipbones being ground to nothing and my shoulders damaged is not amongst my fond memories of that hike. My McHale is like heaven compared to that.Jan 12, 2014 at 8:59 am #2062680
Each person and pack are different – no one solution is best for all cases
If I can use a 1 pound pack rather than a 3 pound pack and hike my hike comfortably, then that's a good thing
I think BPL is not about getting the recommended solution, but a bunch of ideas, some of which I find useful. Sometimes I'll dismiss an idea but later, it becomes useful either because I think about it differently, or my conditions change.
Someone had an equipment list with a 0.85 ounce Sansa Clip MP3. Another person suggested they ditch it because it weighs too much (I think maybe it was philisophically against electronics). My take-away was, a sub 1 ounce MP3/FM receiver??? Amazing!!! I got one and have been using it ever since. Great idea!Jan 12, 2014 at 9:20 am #2062686
@kalebcLocale: South West
I couldn't read all of it, too long, needs to be in bullet points. So in a nutshell, he is saying that UL packs claim they could carry 25-30 pounds and they cannot comfortably…. I find this true too, duh. Who ever argued that a frameless pack should be used to carry 30 pounds?
Next time I plan to hike in a Coors Light 32 pack with me, or summit a 14'r in the winter with a NF VE-25 I will consider a McHale pack.Jan 12, 2014 at 9:37 am #2062690
"Who ever argued that a frameless pack should be used to carry 30 pounds?"
Few would "argue" that point. Perhaps for the majority it would be foolish approach. But there are a few who do it, and do it comfortably.
And hopefully we can respect their choices and their capabilities.Jan 12, 2014 at 11:12 am #2062721
"I think BPL is not about getting the recommended solution, but a bunch of ideas, some of which I find useful. Sometimes I'll dismiss an idea but later, it becomes useful either because I think about it differently, or my conditions change."
+1Jan 12, 2014 at 11:39 am #2062726
@valsharLocale: San Francisco Bay Area
Each person is going to be different in terms of what they feel is comfortable for THEM.
We all come here to get tips, guidance, advice on ways to lower our pack weight with the idea that we will actually go on a trip and simply enjoy the outdoors.
Rule one….be comfortable or to at least be willing to accept a level of discomfort so long as it does not hinder your ability to backpacking.
So if someone needs/wants to take a lightweight, framed pack so they can get out on the trail, so be it.
Hike your own hike as they say.
But more importantly, I hope that we are all taking the gear porn talk here and then actually putting it to good use and hitting the trail.
I'd rather see a traditional backpacking with a heavy load on the trail and enjoying the outdoors than just spending countless hours researching lightweight gear and not hitting the trail.
Which reminds me…I better plan a trip.
The ratio of my time looking at gear vs. time on the trail is starting to look REALLY bad! LOL.
TonyJan 12, 2014 at 12:56 pm #2062754
@bookLocale: Northern California
I grew up with the mantra: weight on the frame, frame on your hips. Part of the idea is that your leg muscles are far more powerful than your shoulder/back muscles, and so better able to carry weight. I'm sure that others will dispute this notion in one way or another. Be that as it may, I'm still uncomfortable carrying weight on my shoulders/back/spine. I need the full weight transfer to my hips. I've been unable to find a frameless pack that does this efficiently.
I'm curious how many people have ever actually used a framed pack? They're barely in production; old style framed packs are often poorly designed. I believe that there would be a market for light weight affordable fully framed packs, which are doable. I mean about a 2 lb. pack.
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