Paradox Packs Evolution pack system review

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Home Forums Campfire Editor’s Roundtable Paradox Packs Evolution pack system review

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    Stephanie Jordan


    Locale: Rocky Mountains

    Companion forum thread to:

    Paradox Packs Evolution pack system review

    David Ure


    Dave, are there lighter and smaller bags that they will be offering? They are huge. Or is the idea to use your own bag. Not a Member, sorry.

    David Chenault
    BPL Member


    Locale: Queen City, MT

    Since I finished writing the article Paradox announced a number of revisions in the current packbags, as well as several new ones (both in size and material). I imagine Kevin T will be along to provide the latest on that front.

    That said, with the excellent compression system having a too big bag is less a downside here than it usually is.

    PS Hunter Scott Reekers wrote a good comparison of the Paradox, Kifaru Bikini/Highcamp, Mystery Ranch Metcalf, and Stone Glacier Solo. The article is currently on the front page of

    Nathan Coleman
    BPL Member


    Dave thanks for your effort. I'm a bit surprised at how much you were able to figure out just from seeing a pack, which speaks to your knowledge base.

    We have made a couple changes since Dave got his pack. First we added a stiffener to the top of the 4800. Second we changed the foam and the cut just a bit in the harness. Where before the harness was "ok" in my book now it gets to good or even very good.

    IMO a harnesses' main duty is to go unnoticed. A great hipbelt is noticed and focused on, but all a great harness needs to do is play second fiddle to that great belt. I think we've achieved both of those.

    For 2014 we expanded the pack bag line to include a smaller roll top of around 3800 ci and a larger Day Talon of around 1800 ci. We are also offering side zippers as standard with the option for no zipper. We have also developed a pocketed top lid that will work with any of our pack bags and adds around 600 ci.

    This isn't new for 2014, but we are offering a pack bag made from a heavily coated 200d nylon that is 5 oz and $50 lighter than our X-PAC bags. While not completely waterproof, our testing proved it to be essentially waterproof in rain but that will only last as long as the coating.


    Philip Tschersich
    BPL Member


    Locale: Kodiak Alaska

    When do you think the 2014 products will hit your website?

    Do you think you could provide more, and more-detailed images of the products on the site? It is really hard to tell anything about the pack designs from the images there.


    Tad Englund
    BPL Member


    Locale: Pacific Northwest

    Dave, thank you for this thorough review, though given the late hour, I found it a little soporific while reading some of the technical aspects of how to use the compression straps . As always you continue to increase my vocabulary. It was an enjoyable read.

    Given the “minimalist-ness “of this pack, the simple design and relative common materials used; I was aghast at the price of this pack.
    I guess fit and comfort come at a exorbitantly high price.

    A Wilson
    BPL Member


    Locale: Earth

    A worthwhile option would be a separate attachement for bear canisters, and a correspondingly smaller main pack, to sit on top, or underneath. You might grab some PCT and California business.

    Nathan Coleman
    BPL Member


    The new products should be available with pictures within a couple weeks.

    The bear can idea is a good one I think. Our pack as it is will carry a bear can in several different ways but perhaps a dedicated system is worth some thought.


    kevin timm
    BPL Member


    Locale: Colorado (SeekOutside)

    Thanks for the great review Dave, that must have been a big undertaking and you force me to learn new words as well :)

    The new products should hit the web site next week hopefully. We need to get the media and photos together on them and it takes a little time.

    The lighter pack material, is essentially waterproof and pretty durable, although not as durable / waterproof as XPAC, but it will compare favorable to most lightweight pack fabrics. It does save weight, and can bring a 4800 style bag to the 3 lb mark. It is also slightly less expensive.

    Here is a list of what is new
    – 3900 CI Roll Top
    – 6300 CI Roll Top
    – Day Talon 1800
    – Pocketed Universal Top Lid

    We also will be doing some custom pack bag options as well, in sort of a "custom shop" . If you want Cordura, it would be a custom shop, or if you want Cuben, it would be custom shop option.

    We also have made adjustments to the harness as was alluded, and I would consider it very good myself. We added a stiffener to all roll top bags, and changed a couple minor details (mainly over the top straps) on the roll top bags.

    I suspect with the larger day talon, you can use a bear canister underneath the day talon. The larger day talon functions a bit more like the partial pack bags that were common on many externals.

    There are ways to reduce cost and weight. You can use a cuben dry sack style pack with just the suspension and a base talon and be in it less than $400.00 and closer to 2.5 lbs.

    David Chenault
    BPL Member


    Locale: Queen City, MT

    Thanks Tad. I'll beg your and everyone's forgiveness for being so long winded on the technical aspects of the frame, but given how different it is from anything else out there, and how subtle the best parts are, I had no other choice.

    BPL Member


    I wish this pack was easily available to try on – the hipbelt looks great. I also like that xpac is offered and how the bag attaches to the frame. Larger pack volumes are relatively cheap with respect to weight and they provide a lot more versatility with a good compression system, so good job Paradox Packs. I see some good markets for this pack as you described – family haulers, water carriers, people with bad backs, bear canisters, hunting, etc – but I suspect for most BPLers, the Evolution is overkill.

    I would have a hard time picking this pack over my HMG 4400 SW (which weighs under 2 lbs) since my loads rarely reach the 35-40lb range. I simply don't need a frame which can carry 150 lbs. If, however, there was a less beefy version of the Evolution frame meant for only 60+ lbs that brought the total frame + pack bag weight down to 2-2.5 lbs, then I suspect it would appeal to a much wider customer base. Just my opinion though.

    spelt with a t
    BPL Member


    Locale: Rangeley, ME

    I have no need for a pack to haul 80 lbs, but I really enjoyed learning about it anyway. That the hipbelt is sold separately tempts me to dust off the unfinished external drybag hauler I have in the closet.

    BPL Member


    Tad Englund (bestbuilder): I guess fit and comfort come at a exorbitantly high price.

    Well, you are talking about a speciality product here Tad.

    If you compare the Paradox to the KUIU Icon, which uses a carbon fiber external frame/harness, or the ZPacks Arc (which also uses an external carbon fiber frame), or the Luxury Lite StackPack (which uses a Carbon/Aluminum system)… I think it is fair to say that Seek Outside has this backpack priced at a *very* competitive price range for the niche market that it/they fall into.

    +John Abela

    Adam Klags
    BPL Member


    Locale: Northeast USA

    Am I missing something here? UL at almost 4 lbs? The pack looks solid, well made, and worth it if you really need to carry up to 80 lbs but I don't think that anyone carrying up to that much weight should be having discussions about ultralight… There sure must be a niche category of hunters or something here that the pack would be great for, and I have no reason to knock the pack in any way at all. I just think its kind of silly for it to be talked about and tagged as a "UL" pack. It is designed for carrying heavy, not light, loads, correct? Anyone carrying a 20-30lb load in a 4 lb pack is just not really thinking with a UL mindset either. And I'm not judging, I just think these labels need to have some meaning, if people intend to use them at all, right?

    BPL Member


    "Am I missing something here? UL at almost 4 lbs?"

    Well, to be fair, the pack weights listed are:

    Frame = 37oz
    4800 VX-21 Packbag = 13.3 oz
    Total = 53.3 oz (3 lbs, 5.3 oz)

    Karl Kerschner
    BPL Member


    If BPL is going to review framed packs then I submit that comparable McHale packs merit a review. McHale has provided these same features in more sophisticated forms for decades, and during at least the last decade, while using ultra-light and ultra strong materials. His designs have evolved with backpacker requirements and newer materials.

    Rick Adams
    BPL Member


    To be fair, i have not read the review, but i do own the pack and have a few miles on it. I thought the price was a little high before i bought it but went ahead anyway as it's competitors are higher. It appears labor intensive to make, i'm sure that impacts the cost. I like it because it works, i typically carry 30/35lbs for a lot of reasons, food, water, fishing stuff and other peoples things. To me, base weight is a bunch of bs, i've not once carried just base weight as i like to eat and drink. I go with ul stuff so i can help the other folks i'm out with. This pack does not have cheap stays or a plastic framesheet that collapses easily. It does not have a lumbar style hipbelt that prevents a full wrap. It's design works, particularly the hipbelt which doesn't slip like most others I've used, particularly when lubed with sweat. The frame is obviously solid. I have mixed feelings about the pack bag and am currently using a 65L drybag instead. I plan on making a couple different bags to entertain myself. The design lends itself to MYOG stuff, pretty easy to make any bag you like if you don't need to worry about a frame, shoulder straps and hipbelt. Further, Kevin and staff clearly care about their customers experience. The product is ++ and I believe they are dedicated to addressing customer wants. This pack is for those that are more concerned with having the best experience vs the lowest spreadsheet numbers.

    Brad Rogers
    BPL Member


    Locale: Southeast Tennessee

    I second Mchale. BPL's own Ryan Jordan used a McHale for years.

    R K


    Locale: South West US

    It'd be interesting to see a pack of this class used to push the limits of backpacking. The Arctic 1000 started off with 55 lbs. How much further is possible with another 45lbs of food? I remember the founder of Golite attempted something like this but gave up early on in the journey.

    Edit to add: Nice review! Thanks for the write up.

    Dale Wambaugh
    BPL Member


    Locale: Pacific Northwest

    Looks like an interesting design that has good potential for adaptation to truly UL oriented packs. Ultimately it is far outside the pale for UL use and the cost is near equal to my entire kit.

    It's nice curiosity and study in design, but worthy of UL consideration? I think not. My cira 1980's Jansport is within a few ounces of the same and far less expensive. Has Cottage Gear Stagnation driven BPL to reviewing such products?

    David Chenault
    BPL Member


    Locale: Queen City, MT

    I specifically addressed the meaning of "ultralight" in the article. Those who persist in seeing this as a numbers only issue will continue to not have my sympathy.

    Jason McSpadden
    BPL Member


    Locale: Rocky Mountains

    Jeez! Didn't you nay sayers read the review? David writes the following, "At times even the most indoctrinated lightweight hiker will need to carry a heavy pack. Zeno’s rule of ultralight backpacking states that an infinite number of infinitely light things will be infinitely heavy. Food comes to mind, as does insulation for cold temperatures, and technical equipment such as mountaineering, packrafting, or skiing gear. Combine any two of these things, and the weight adds up fast. Hauling meat out after a successful backcountry hunt is another instance when even the most intentional load can be enormous."


    "Before I proceed, further, let me define a few terms. I prefer to think of ultralight not as defined by a certain weight threshold, but as a guiding principle for design and the evaluation of it. If a product has been ruthlessly stripped of excess parts (i.e. weight) to the furthest limit of practicality, it is ultralight. This term must then be thoroughly contextualized to have any meaning as sensible weight reduction in one application would be an act of the self-immolating ideologue in another."

    I'll take David at his word in that one of the acceptable definitions of ultralight is simplicity. I think this is a fascinating review about a product, (which I knew nothing about), that could help me enjoy The Great Outdoors more than I currently do. This pack seems to have the flexibility to carry just about any size load comfortably. I find David's expertise and experience helpful in making my future pack decisions.

    In my mind he seems to be writing that he may been in the process of discovering, to paraphrase Tolkien, "one pack to rule them all."

    Sam Haraldson
    BPL Member


    Locale: Gallatin Range

    Thorough, scientific gear reviews of this caliber are why I continue to visit Backpacking Light week after week after week.

    At least one hunting-specific review of the Evolution should be up on the greater internet by the time you read this.

    Dave, has this article surfaced yet, and if so would you please share the link?

    peter vacco


    Locale: no. california

    " Those who persist in seeing this as a numbers only issue will continue to not have my sympathy. "

    true fact, eh.

    now, on to bending those 7075 stays .. ya'll don't need a vise (of whih i own an extremely nice one), because what they make for bending pack stays is a tool called a "picnic table".
    picnic tables bend pak stays hella excellent. AND, you have a handy place to stack all that un-ul caca while you're creating your latest version of perfection.
    some discretion is advised, in that a healthy stay is manly enought to lift the more questionable picnic table planks if one is not careful. but just use good manners, and everything works out for the best.

    in the world of higer weights, all is exatly as the author states : one must be of appropriate oondition (and attitude) to tote big numbers. a trendy pack alone is not going to cut it.

    great review !
    i have been wondering is these things were going to work, or were another "cheese shop" sort of an affair. can't wait to test haul one.
    now, will one be at the west coast GGG ?


    Misfit Mystic


    Locale: "Grand Canyon of the East"

    Hi Sam,

    I think it was mentioned above, but earlier I read a review on Well done, quite informative, although the pack tested was a pre-production model. It seems that Dave and these reviewers, noting the same potential improvement to the shoulder harness, are the impetus behind the updated harness on production models. It's definitely on my wish list; seems a great tool for trail work, where I might need to pack in a chainsaw or such.



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