May 16, 2014 at 3:49 pm #1316893
I'm a 5'3" 100 pound woman. I've been working had to get my base weight down over the past few years (I was raised by a mountain rescue guru to bring everything I could ever need, so it's been a major mindset-change.) I'm down to a base of about 14 pounds, which includes a hammock/tarp/quilt set (which I've been fanatically researching and reducing), and clothing for my local Pacific Northwest conditions (cold and wet..I probably have some room to go here.) It also includes a few luxury items I'm sure I *could* do without but I'm not quite ready to part with (iPhone & extra battery, quality point & shoot camera…) I think the one biggie I have yet to tackle is a pack.
I'm currently using the Deuter ACT light women's pack, which weighs 54oz. I haven't taken the scissors to it yet, as I'm not convinced I can cut that much weight from it, and wonder if selling it as is and changing packs is a better option. This pack is SO comfortable that I'm really hesitant to let it go for something without a frame and good hip belt.
A good, padded, well-fitted hip belt still seems crucial to me. I prefer to cary most of the weight in my hips and very little in my shoulders. So a pack that doesn't get the hip belt fit right and let me get most of the weight in the hips is what I imagine I want. I'm guessing most other women also want the weight in the hips. But in researching ultralight packs, I haven't found any women-specific models or ones that seem to address this issue.
I'd love to know what other women use and prefer. Is the hip belt concern as real as I imagine?
Also, where do people go to try on some of these ultra-light models for fit?
Any suggestions for the tiny hikers will be appreciated!
Seattle, WAMay 16, 2014 at 3:57 pm #2103069
Elena LeeBPL Member
@lenchik101Locale: Pacific Northwest (USA)
I live in Seattle and have used Osprey Talon 33 (5-2 and 115). I do have small equipment though and everything I carry fits in (base weight of 10 pds). I've attached some extra cords on top in case i wanted to expand the carrying capacity. I've modified a pack a bit to remove extra slings, pockets, etc. I love the frame, the pack is super comfortable even though it's not technically "ultralight".May 16, 2014 at 4:27 pm #2103089
Well, firstly, I'm amazed that Elena can backpack multiple days with a 33 liter pack. Wow, rock ON, girl! When I lived in the northeast, my daypacks were larger than that!
Now, for the rest of us…
Dawn, I'm assuming that you're using the women's Deuter 60+10 Act Lite, that the capacity of the pack is about right for your gear, and that you want a FRAMED pack to transfer the weight to your hips. If that assumption is correct, a UL pack will only be 1-1.5 pounds lighter than your Deuter, at a cost of $230 – $250. Worth it? Only you can say.
There are very few places that actually stock "cottage gear" packs, so unless you live in certain areas of the country (Denver, San Francisco, L.A., Seattle) you will probably not be able to try on the pack before you buy it. That said, if you order a "standard" version of a pack and it doesn't fit you, most cottage gear companies will allow you to return it (in new condition) for a full refund (you pay return shipping).
So how do you know if it's going to fit? You don't 100%, but cottage gear manufacturers will be happy to talk to you – at length – on the phone to help ensure that you'll get a good fit. Obviously, they want you to be happy with their packs.
Very few cottage gear companies make "women-specific" packs, but many of them have options for their "unisex" packs that will help a woman get a good fit. In particular, most make "S" straps to accommodate a woman's chest, and many have dual hipbelt adjustments, which help "fine tune" the fit on a woman's curvier hips.
Take a good look at the videos on the websites for, in particular:
– Six Moon Designs (esp. the Fusion 65, which is a fully-adjustable pack like the Deuter, and weighs 2.5 lbs)
– ULA (Ultralight Adventure Equipment), esp. the Circuit or the Catalyst
– Gossamer Gear, esp. the Mariposa.
I think watching those videos and reading the spec.s on those websites will give you a much better idea of what you can get. There are MANY other choices if you want a smaller pack — but that will depend of what type of backpacking you're doing, in what weather/terrain, and how long your trips are.May 16, 2014 at 4:36 pm #2103094
Thanks so far! My current pack is the 45+10 and for my current gear and length of trips it seems about right. At about 3.5 pounds that seemed super light compared to my old pack, but when I look at ultralight models around 2.5 pounds, it seems I could get significantly lighter; 2 pounds seems like a big difference.
I too *wish* I could get into the Osprey 33, but that seems unobtainable without ditching my hammock…and that would make me sad.
I'll totally check out the links/packs you've suggested!May 16, 2014 at 5:13 pm #2103112
@cameronLocale: Idaho Falls
My mom loves here Ospray Exos 46 you might check out the 58 liter version. Also you might check out the Exped Lighting 60, womens models seem to go on sale more often.
I imagine the top pocket of your pack is removable you could take that off to save a few oz. For a 14 pound kit a 3.5 pound pack isn't horrible, if it fits I'd be careful replacing it.May 16, 2014 at 9:10 pm #2103213
I'm 5'-2" and weigh 115lbs.
For a regular manufacturer, try the GoLite 50L Jam in size small. It weighs just under 2 lbs. this new unisex Jam is the same as the old women specific 50L Pinnacle, which I have been using for the past 4 years and still love. My base weight is just under 9 lbs, but I have carried almost 30lbs of water, food. & gear quite easily in it.
If you want custom, about the only cottage shop that makes packs to order for individual customers is ZPacks. Joe and his crew are a pleasure to work with and will make you anything you want. I just got a new custom fit Arc Blast and I really like it. It is rated to carry up to 30lbs and it weighs 1 lb.
Most of the other cottage guys, like SMD, MLD & GG, are really small manufacturers that make packs in batches so customizing beyond standard sizes isn't an option.May 16, 2014 at 9:19 pm #2103215
Sharon J.BPL Member
@squarkLocale: SF Bay area
Just a quick caveat about the SMD fusion – you would need *really* broad shoulders to fit the yoke; at least, the straps were much too far apart for me. I'm just shy of 5'6", and of average proportions. The hipbelt is great though.May 16, 2014 at 10:39 pm #2103228
Great specific suggestions, thanks! Just the kind of info I was looking for.May 17, 2014 at 4:12 am #2103257
Donna CBPL Member
@leadfootLocale: Middle Virginia
I have had a Deuter, Jam, Pinnacle and now the Circuit. Deuter was overkill for me….the Jam and Pinnacle were great until I needed to carry heavier weight over 25 lbs and found it bothered my shoulders. I now use the smaller Jam for overnight summer jaunts where I can go sub 10 Lbs, got rid of the Pinnacle and use the Circuit as my go to pack. I love that thing. I have the curved shoulder straps. The hip belt is just fine…very comfortable with double adjustable straps.
Just because a pack is 2 lbs, doesn't mean your base load will be heavy too. I can use the pack and still keep things low depending on the length of trip. Six days in Glacier and I was 24 lbs with food.
HMG makes some nice packs, too.May 17, 2014 at 5:52 am #2103267
@ken_bennettLocale: southeastern usa
I finally got my lovely wife into a ULA Circuit, after her decade-old Osprey Ariel bit the dust. She has been trying on lightweight packs for years and never found one that fit — they all seemed to have very wide straight shoulder straps that dug into both her neck and her chest, and hip belts that met in the middle without tightening. (Yes, these were "small" packs.)
The Circuit is the first one that she's used that has a great shoulder harness system (the S-curve straps), and a hip belt that fits properly. It fits much like her beloved Osprey but weighs almost 2 pounds less. On its maiden voyage a couple of weeks ago, she didn't mention the pack at all except to note that it felt great the whole time.
Not sure about the sizing of ULA packs for you — but the folks there are pretty good at customer service and pack fitting over the phone.
Good luck.May 17, 2014 at 7:27 am #2103298
Michelle ABPL Member
I'm tiny as well (4'11") and I use the zpacks arc blast. You choose the torso size and hip belt length. I've carried up to 25lbs no problem. They have a return policy if it doesn't fit. It has good support and frame for a 1 lb pack.
Previously I used the older rei flash , which was around 2.5 lbs.May 17, 2014 at 9:06 am #2103323
You asked where you could see and try on all the cottage industry and other UL packs we've been discussing. One such event is the ADZPCTKO held at Lake Morena Campground every year. Google it. This is the Kick-Off for the PCT thru-hiking season and happens every year at the end of April. You just missed it.
If you are not in a hurry you could go next year. There are other UL meet ups in different places thru-out the year , but I 'm not sure how many if any vendors show up like they do at Kick-Off.
Also at 14 lbs, your base weight is still high enough that it's considered lightweight , not ultra light, which is sub-10 lbs. No judgement! The good news is that you can still get the rest if your gear weight down a few lbs before getting a new pack.
Remember, you should buy your pack last. You may even find you don't need as much volume as your gear gets lighter and smaller. My suggestion is to review your entire kit and look for ways to drop another 3 lbs or so before you buy a new pack. Look at the gear lists posted here for ideas. I know many, like mine, May be out of date, but you may still get some good ideas.May 17, 2014 at 9:29 am #2103332
Dawn, some of the suggestions people have made are for frameless packs. If you are really interested in transferring pack weight to your hips, you'll want a pack with a frame. That said, there are still numerous choices from a variety of manufacturers, but the framed/frameless issue is something you should take into account.May 17, 2014 at 10:29 am #2103340
stephen korpiBPL Member
@skmountainshop-netLocale: Portland Oregon
At the shop I work at, we've had a lot of luck with the Hyperlite Mountain Gear Windrider. Their small fits smaller than most packs. You could also try the Granite Gear Blaze AC Ki is very popular, and is women specific.May 17, 2014 at 11:59 am #2103370
Donna CBPL Member
@leadfootLocale: Middle Virginia
ULA packs are not considered frameless, just in case you wanted one that wasn't. I think they have a carbon rod and hoop for structure.
Good luck with your search!May 17, 2014 at 1:18 pm #2103406
So many good suggestions.
I'm definitely going to take my time and use what I have this season and see how much lighter (& less bulky) I can get my base before the pack purchase. Meanwhile, I'll keep researching all the options you have given. I really appreciate the small details (like shoulder width, frameless vs frame, etc. ) Very helpful!May 17, 2014 at 1:43 pm #2103415
Dawn, you sound very wise!
If you're keeping your Deuter for this season, give serious consideration to Luke's suggestion of removing the pack's top pocket. You'll probably get a 5-6oz weight reduction just from that (!) and it will prepare you for UL packs (which don't normally have top pockets).May 17, 2014 at 2:45 pm #2103431
@rcaffinLocale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
> This pack is SO comfortable that I'm really hesitant to let it go for something
> without a frame and good hip belt.
The really big danger comes when someone lets ideaology trump practicality. Of course there are lighter packs around, but many of them will not suit you. And the phrase 'suit you' is what you really need to focus on: how happy you feel at the end of day 5 of the trip. If you have shaved 8 oz off your pack weight but have acquired aching shoulders from your new lighter pack, have you improved your life?
I will argue that pack comfort should (easily) outrank pack weight as a criterion. I will add that this is even more important for females, especially small females.
CheersMay 17, 2014 at 4:11 pm #2103452
Peter BakwinBPL Member
My petite spouse has used the Jam a lot and is happy with it generally (for a frameless pack). But, the small size Jam (older model) does not fit a bear can well. She ended up getting a GG Mariposa to fit the can & for the superior suspension. She has not backpacked with it yet, but reported good results from a test hike. She also considered the Arc Blast, which I have & like a lot, but she went with the Mariposa because of the shorter lead time to get it as well as the fact that the Arc Blast is a little more "fiddley", and she hates fiddley.May 17, 2014 at 4:44 pm #2103460
There seems to an assumption that a frameless pack will automatically be less comfortable or not carry weight as well or not transfer weight to the hips as well as a framed pack. Nothing could be further from the truth!
Obviously fit and weight transfer are critical characteristics to consider for any new pack choice. I would go so far as to say my frameless packs all fit and carry weight far better than the framed packs I've used. I have GoLite 50L Pinnacle and 35L Jam and Gossamer Gear Murmur and Hyperlight. All are extremely comfortable and carry well. As does my ZPacks ArcBlast thus far.
So don't get hung up on needing a frame to avoid having sore shoulders or back. That's not really true. If the frameless pack you choose fits you properly AND you keep your base weight down, you'll be fine. That really is the whole point of the ultralight goal after all.
There will always be an occasion where the combination of fresh multi-day resupply and long waterless section will push your total pack weight towards 30lbs. Every frameless pack that people have suggested you look at will support that carry. But 30lb total pack weight should not be your norm, so don't sweat that number too much.
Again, best of luck.May 17, 2014 at 6:47 pm #2103486
Elena LeeBPL Member
@lenchik101Locale: Pacific Northwest (USA)
True it would be hard to carry a tent shelter and 5+ days of food and supplies in an Osprey 33. A male friend of mine uses Exos and he's got similar frame to mine. I do have a Golite Pinnacle for climbing trips and my main motivation for buying it was more space good weight and affordability. However, if $ isn't an issue, i would recommend against it. It doesn't have the best of hipbelts, the chest strap doesn't feel the same as Osprey (the boob issue), and it does sag if you you are not zen packer. I would look for smth that has a stiffer frame. Actually, if I were in the market for one, I would seriously consider a modified Arc Blast from ZPacks.
Good luck!May 17, 2014 at 8:09 pm #2103500
"If you have shaved 8 oz off your pack weight but have acquired aching shoulders from your new lighter pack, have you improved your life?"
And if the extra 8oz causes extra aching knees and legs?
I always see people quick to jump on this train like it's something novel, when really they've just forgot the point of packing lighter. You call heads, I'll call tails. Frameless packs are a key development point (and maybe the last) in the ultralight repertoire. It'd be a shame to see someone come so far as paying to post to this site only to be run off by a post like this.
To be more constructive: my wife (5'3" 105ish, very small shoulders) also uses a small Talon 33 to great effect.May 17, 2014 at 8:21 pm #2103504
Anthony WestonBPL Member
@anthonywestonLocale: Southern CA
Don't cut your pack, sell it as is. I've chopped up packs only to be disappointed.
not enough weight saved to make up for the loss of function.
Buy a zpacks arc blast. I have a damaged spine and I can't put any weight on my shoulders and the zpack blast allows me to put the full weight on my hips, as long as you don't go over 18 lbs total weight; it works great! Let them know you need a custom tiny size and they will make it.
ZimmerbuiltMay 31, 2014 at 1:39 pm #2107525
I bought the Six Moon Designs Fusion 65 because I was interested in the hip belt, the suspension and the pack weight. When I received it, the harness (what they call the "yoke") did NOT fit at all — it was clearly made for the male anatomy.
I didn't even want to try putting weight in the pack with a harness that fit me that badly, so I developed a MYOG hack that replaces the SMD harness with that of a women's pack.
Details in a separate MYOG forum thread…Jun 1, 2014 at 7:32 am #2107682
mik matraBPL Member
@mikmikLocale: Brisbane AUSTRALIA
LOL……where are you taking her? :)
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