Aug 8, 2020 at 1:15 pm #3669921
This might be an odd topic for a fastpacking forum, but hear me out…
Several years ago, my wife was diagnosed with MS. We are an adventurous family (we lived on a sailboat for 4 years with our two daughters when they were 6 and 8 and basically circumnavigated North America via the Panama Canal except for the icy bits) and started backpacking with our kids when they were infants. So you can understand that an MS diagnosis was a real blow for my wife and for us. Long distance backpacking and difficult terrain is no longer possible for us as a couple, but we remain determined to still get out for multi-day backcountry trips.
Although from the west coast originally, we currently live in Norfolk, VA (that’s where we were when we ended our sailing trip so we just moved ashore there and have been here for 15 years). So the Appalachians is the backcountry in easy reach for us.
I’ve scouted out various routes that I think we can do together, but we have established that carrying weight has a significant negative impact on my wife’s gait and hiking range and, therefore, we need a solution for her to carry the absolute minimum that she might want with her for easy access on the trail. Basically, water, some snacks, and a windshirt say. (We already have a solution for me to carry the additional other weight in the form of a very capable McHale backpack.)
I believe that packs for fastpacking and trail running have been evolving rapidly and according to some of the BPL podcasts I’ve listened to, there are interesting hybrids emerging.
I’m now doing research on what a good solution might be for my wife and obviously am thinking that the BPL community would have some good recommendations.
Thanks for listening! Looking forward to hearing thoughts, ideas, and recommendations.
MichaelAug 8, 2020 at 2:25 pm #3669927David ThomasBPL Member
@davidinkenaiLocale: North Woods. Far North.
Since you want to minimize her carried weight, well, let’s minimize it.
THE lightest pack I’ve used on the trail (or in town) are the travel packs that fold to the size of a large lemon, cost $15, have no structural elements but only weigh 2.5 to 3 ounces. And since she’ll only have a pound or two in it, the lack of frame or padded straps is fine, IME.
They’re all over eBay. Search for “travel pack” or “compact pack” or “lightweight backpack”. Look at the gallery of photos and look for the human hand holding a little, stuffed item. The eBay ones out of China have the advantage of free shipping but the downside of 1-2-3 week delivery time.
Cutting some CCF foam to custom fit the back of the daypack adds 1.5-2 ounces (but doubles as a sit pad) and keeps a water bottle from bumping into your back. Or folding a sleeping pad can do that with no added weight/gear.
Leaving a puffy or quilt un-stuffed inside, nicely fills the volumes, gives it more form, and prevents things from shifting around.
I use them for SUL dayhikes and for added volume on a family trip (back when the kids were pre-schoolers) or for the 1-2 days after a big resupply by wearing it backwards on my chest, which also balances my load more front-to-back.
I’ve used those and other, larger, minimalist backpacks for transporting volume on the backs of little people. Because when one adult is carrying gear for 3-4 people, yes, weight is an issue and UL gear and philosophies help a lot, but VOLUME is also an issue and thankfully, low-density volume can be passed off to others without slowing them down.Aug 8, 2020 at 4:11 pm #3669984Mike MBPL Member
REI also has a series of travel packs, their Flash packs are on the light side and offered in a couple of different volumes.
I agree with David 0n using a ccf pad with any of these light packs, gives them some needed structure and everyone needs a sitpad :)
What running packs typically offer over daypacks, is a vest/harness like shoulder setup- letting you put various items (water, snacks, phone, etc) at hands reach w/o taking your pack off. They also carry better too when moving fast or over technical terrain- which might not be germane for your planned useAug 8, 2020 at 4:53 pm #3670013
@MikeM, that use case of not having to take a pack off to get to those exact things you call out is the one I want to explore before committing to a direction/purchase. Are there any particular running packs that are known to be high on the utility, comfort, quality, and, of course, weight scales?
I’m a lifelong distance runner but only an occasional recreational trail runner, mostly because I don’t have access to any running trails at the moment.Aug 8, 2020 at 6:07 pm #3670026Mike MBPL Member
I’ve tried several running packs, the two I’ve held on to are both by Ultimate Directions- their Fastpack 15 for a long day in the mountains and their Fastpack 35- for one or two nights. Both carry nicely and I like the way they are laid out. Both have a ton of miles on them and have held up very nicely.
There have been a lot of recent additions that I haven’t tried- Black Diamond now carries a couple that look pretty interesting and lots of folks like the Salomon line- I haven’t tried either.Aug 8, 2020 at 6:10 pm #3670028Ito JakuchuBPL Member
Ultimate Direction, Nathan, North Face all have good vests and most important thing is how your wife feels when carrying it.
I think most out of the way, almost clothing like quality would be one of the Salomon running vests, like the Salomon S Lab Sense.
If your wife is looking to carry some water and essentials like a wallet, phone and wind shirt, glove, some snacks and an emergency blanket this would be great.
Or if looking for more volume or secure closing perhaps look at the Adv Skin 8 or 12 vests.
An alternative would be to look at a hipbelt, and stash essentials in there. Perhaps in combination with a vest.
Fit and comfort to your wife being more important than features looks or weight if you ask me. Good for you guys to try and enjoy being out there together. Hope it works out.Aug 8, 2020 at 6:22 pm #3670032Ito JakuchuBPL Member
nmAug 8, 2020 at 7:29 pm #3670039Nick GatelBPL Member
@ngatelLocale: Southern California
First of all, let me commend both you and your wife for such a positive attitude towards MS. I have a couple friends who developed this awful disease and have learned that many with MS often struggle with it from a mental standpoint.
The important thing is to figure out what kind of a pack will work and be comfortable for her.
My first thought is along David’s: a stuff sack with two straps. Simple and light. I have used them and they can slide around and put weight on the shoulders.
Mike’s suggestion of a REI Flash 18 is one I would seriously look into. I use the Flash 18 for most of my day hikes. I actually wore one out a couple years ago and bought a new one. The current model looks the same. Some highlights:
- weight is 9 ounces.
- has a sternum strap and small hip belt.
- has a sleeve for a water hydration sack and a hydration port for a drinking tube.
- has a thin foam back, maybe 1/8″ of an inch, which is not removable,
- the shoulder straps are not padded, but there is a sleeve in the upper part of the strap where a piece of foam could be insert, although I think the sleeve is meant to route a hydration hose. This part of the shoulder strap is probably where it would lay on top of your wife’s shoulders.
- There is a large volume front pocket that has an 8 inch vertical zipper for access.
- The top closure is kinda funky and one has to figure out how to pull it open
Ito pointed out several brands of trail running vests. I’ve never used one so I cannot comment, other than your wife might them more secure on the body. On the other hand, this may be something she hates. She needs to try on a few.
REI, along with the Flash 18, carries a lot of running vests and I think there is a REI near Norfolk. So I would take a trip there and try out some packs — bring all the stuff she plans to carry with along (of course you could fill the pack with similar items from the store’s stock). Take a good close look at the Fast, as I think it might be perfect, if she likes the fit.Aug 9, 2020 at 6:47 am #3670071PaulWBPL Member
@peweg8Locale: Western Colorado
Have you looked into fanny packs? When I want to go as light as possible, but still bring a few things, that’s what I use. I also frequently alternate wearing it in front especially if I’m out all day.Aug 9, 2020 at 11:35 am #3670109
@Here: THANK YOU, everybody. This is my very first post to BPL (although I’ve been a lifetime member since the site launched) and your responses are incredibly thoughtful and generous. I’m a regular at the Virginia Beach REI so heading out there with my wife and trying some things on is the obvious next step.
The other MS variable we have to work around is that the therapy she’s on is actually an immunosuppressant (it basically wipes out her B-cells). So we are also taking a very conservative approach to virus exposure risk. But the REI is large with a lot of air volume, and they’re being diligent about keeping down the number of customers and laying out hamster trails throughout the store that people are supposed to follow to promote physical distancing.
I’ll report back what direction(s) we end up going and the results!
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