I cant find a new pack that I like………….a bit of a rant

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Home Forums Gear Forums Multiple Use Gear I cant find a new pack that I like………….a bit of a rant

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  • #3597647
    BPL Member


    First post, been lurking for years, joined up today.

    I use 4 packs; a ULA and a teton from amazon, both about 65L, a ~10 year old gossamer gorilla, and a Kelty redwing from the 90s that’s about 50L. the Kelty is *by far* my favorite, but i can’t find a replacement like it.

    New packs have a sack-shaped design where the main compartment is effectively a cylinder that opens at the top. This means digging through a hole to find my stuff. I end up unpacking every night and re-packing every morning. Most importantly, the weight centers further away from my back, lowering my performance on the trail.

    The kelty has a wrap-around zipper at the far-edge of a rectangle-shaped main compartment. This means that I can open the pack like a suitcase and grab what I need, everything is laid down in one layer. Once closed, gear gets flush with my back. With the weight centered just 4 inches behind me, there’s no pendulum-effect while I clamber over stuff. I squirm through narrow sections more reliably. Bonus points for always getting past carry-on at the airport. Sugar-on-top: it doesn’t fall over when I lean it up against something.

    I understand the benefits of the top-opening design: more waterproof, lighter, durability, no zipper to fail…

    I don’t care! The performance of the Kelty in the wilderness is superior!

    It also comfortably carries 30 pounds… not bad for a 3 pound pack from the 90s, and thats about all you can fit in 50L anyway. The ULA is maxed out at that weight.

    Help? Is anybody out there making a wide, shallow zip-open pack?




    W I S N E R !


    ULA Camino 2 comes to mind:


    Geoff Caplan
    BPL Member


    Locale: Lake District, Cumbria

    You want to search for “panel loader backpack”.

    Kelty still make a 50L panel loader called the Redwing:

    James Marco
    BPL Member


    Locale: Finger Lakes

    HMG makes one, too.

    Panel loader, Clam shell, wrap-around, etc. Different terms for the same thing.



    BPL Member


    I also find hiking packs quite annoying, rummaging around a big floppy cylinder in hopes of feeling for that item that fell to the bottom. I do usually pack pretty minimally and end up using most everything in the evening anyway, but then all my stuff is strewn about. At home I don’t mind a bit of a mess, but I get very particular about keeping my shit in order while camping and I end up spending a lot of time moving items around.

    Perhaps a pack with many pockets would help. I love my Jansport Right Pack (your basic school-style backpack) so much I even hiked Corcovado with it, but it’s a tad small to carry a tent and quilt and lots of food.

    BPL Member


    On a side note, why is it so hard to make cheap, strong, light “backpacking” backpacks?

    Compare my cheapo Jansport to that HMG fancy-pack.
    Same weight.
    Jansport is 4x cheaper
    Jansport is probably 4x more durable.
    Jansport has 82% more internal volume.
    Jansport opens wide and has a lot of organizing pockets.

    I just got a multi pack and a shoulder pouch, so maybe I’ll start using the jansport more for backpacking.

    Bruce Tolley
    BPL Member


    Locale: San Francisco Bay Area

    Above someone referenced the SMD panel pack.

    Marmot also makes a panel pack, the Graviton 34 liters at about 2 lbs.
    I do not own one but considering a purchase to haul camera gear plus backpacking gear.

    Diane “Piper” Soini
    BPL Member


    Locale: Santa Barbara

    What happens when the zipper fails? At least with a top-loading pack there’s no zipper to fail on you.

    Nick B
    BPL Member


    Locale: Kalifornia
    AK Granola
    BPL Member


    For me finding a new pack was the easiest piece of gear to upgrade, after purchasing and returning  a few, and trying on every pack REI sells, fully loaded.  But my old pack, a panel loader, weighed 7 pounds, so no love lost there! I did like the pockets and compartments, but I’ve trimmed down my gear list so much – thanks to you all! – that I can easily find everything in my new, one compartment packs. I did add hip belt pockets to my Granite Gear Crown, so that phone, map, snacks are at hand. My new Granite Gear Blaze is pretty much perfect as far as organization goes. I did go back to a bit heavier pack with the Blaze, but it fits the Bearikade nicely and carries better up to 30 pounds. My rule now is not carrying over 30; arthritic joints don’t appreciate heavier loads!

    On your points, and my comments are for both of my packs:

    Yes, I do unpack everything every night, because I use everything I bring, every night or day. I have gotten used to the packing and unpacking, and it goes quickly now. I love the lack of zippers, and both packs are very waterproof and don’t soak in water on the fabric.

    Packed correctly, my pack does not fall over when set on its bottom. And if the load is packed well, and I use the side cinch straps to tighten it down, there is no pendulum effect while wearing it.

    Would just having less stuff alleviate the need for multiple compartments for you? It’s a different way of doing things, but it might work if you make some other changes too.

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