Aug 19, 2019 at 12:34 pm #3606696
I figured I would post here where it belongs……
I had the opportunity to test out a prototype “Flight” pack on a recent trip to the Sierra earlier this month. My trip took me on both the JMT and the Sierra High Route, so I was able to test the pack both on and off trail. I’m not sure the exact configuration of the final pack that will be offered for sale, but there was a lot to like about the prototype Flight that I carried.
It’s a 45-50 liter pack and the prototype was 2lb 3oz on my scale in X-21 with new Spectra grid pockets water bottle pockets and front “stuff” pocket. I’m not sure that is going to be the fabric it’s offered in, but it worked well. The frame is tubular aluminum but internal frame. It seemed like a cross between the larger SO frame and an Osprey Exos.
It’s a narrow pack and quite nimble especially compared to the Unaweep/Divide packs. I’ve scraped up my Unaweep crawling over large talus, and had no such issues with the streamlined and narrow Flight.
It had really nice built in hipbelt pockets and a four way adjustable belt. I really enjoyed the hipbelt pockets – the best I’ve used on any pack. They were pretty good size, more than enough for my Sony RX100 camera, but weren’t big enough to get in the way. They had large (#5 I think) zippers and were effortless to open and close with one hand on the move – something that isn’t so easy with many hipbelt pockets. The large front pocket – made out of the new Spectra fabric was very nice as well, perhaps not as much of a difference as the hipbelt pockets, but it seemed to be just the right size and made from a durable material. I have seen pack makers mess this up and SO certainly didn’t.
I think it’s a fantastically designed pack as is, and I think they are taking some of the feedback from testers and potentially tweaking a thing or two so I’m confident it will be a really good choice for a lot of people. The new Spectra fabric is potentially exciting in it’s own right, as I don’t think I have seen it used before. It has a tighter grid then the 1/4″ Dyneema grid, my guess is 1/8″ though I didn’t measure.
I know it’s a crowded market segment, but I think the pack compares quite favorably to other packs in the 2lb range. For comparison, I’ve owned an HMG Porter, Z-Packs Arc Haul, ULA Ohm 2, and SWD Long Haul 50 (my normal pack in this range).Aug 19, 2019 at 1:33 pm #3606706Alex WallaceBPL Member
@feetfirstLocale: Sierra Nevada North
Thanks for the review, Brad. Any idea when they’ll be available?Aug 19, 2019 at 2:00 pm #3606715
I’m not sure but I’ll ask. My guess would be spring for the spring hiking season. I’ll update here.Aug 19, 2019 at 5:32 pm #3606751
Update: November at the earliest
It sounds like they are still tweaking and experimenting with a few things. It sounds like they are looking into some intriguing fabric choices too.Aug 19, 2019 at 6:26 pm #3606757
I also tested out the flight pack and made a few notes I’ll share.
I love that you can take the side compression straps off. First thing I did was remove the bottom 2 allowing to fill up the water bottle pockets with no strap along the outside. The height is great!!!!! Not too short. Not too tall. The width is also great for this size pack. I have had shorter wider packs and they don’t work out as well. To me a taller narrow pack rides better than a wider and shorter pack.
Haul loop on top is perfect. In the correct spot and the correct size! There is also a haul loop in lower center of pack to help load up in vehicles etc.
The shoulder strap width is great on me. Hits my shoulders at a comfortable location. Not too wide a part or too narrows. The height was perfect for my 19″ torso length with no shoulder pressure.
The pack did not slip at all and was the most solid 2lb pack I have warn. It did shift if the wight was off balance but that is to be expected for a pack of this type.
The built in intrusion bar and pack frame was the prefect design to keep the pack contents stable and not picking into my back.
The belt pockets are very well designed snacks, phone and chargers, 38 Airweight revolver all fit in easily and easy 1 hand openingAug 20, 2019 at 4:45 am #3606826
I found more notes on testing out the flight pack I wanted to share. Some info might be of use to you guys.
To start off forward pull = what I want in a belt tensioning system. This pack was very pleasant to use because of this feature. Waist belt ability to hold the stable in your back without slipping was ultimately zero slip. This is also a make it or break it point for me. I was able to position the belt anywhere on my hips and it held firm with no slipping. The double strap compression design allowed me to adjust above and below separately and dial in the fit I wanted. I was really impressed in this simple belt to hold its location and do so without having to over tighten.
Waist belt ability to remain horizontal with no slack or “Uing” in the back.
The design of the lumbar pad is very minimal protrusion yet it sits firmly at the top of your buttocks and doesn’t feel too bulky at all. I am not a fan of lumbar pads in the least and if I had to use one so for it would be one of this size. It sat where it was supposed to and did not move around are cause any discomfort while on the move. The lumbar area sits uniformly 10″ across and utilizes the full pack bag width to support the weight of the pack.
Shoulder strap comfort
The shoulder straps were the most comfortable type I’ve worn in s long time. They are not at all too wide and we’re very comfortable. They wrapped around and held firm to your arms and did not run in any places at all. I didn’t have a sternum strap on the pack I tried out and could have put on but didn’t find I really needed one to correct any fit so no need to worry about that. The strap construction didn’t have that “too floppy” feel that I don’t care for at all.
The D ring was a nice addition and I used it to attach my GPS for tracking my hike.
Pack bag material.
What can I say? I’m a huge fan of XPac material. It is as durable as I need and not having to worry about a rain cover seals the deal and I have not looked back since using packs with XPac material. One feature of the material I love that I don’t see anyone mention is that it is easier to dig into and pack because it doesn’t “grab” when loading up as much as cordura does. It doesn’t immediately flop in the way when digging into the pack like cordura does. The material being lighter and slicker was a surprise to me when I first began using XPac material packbags that I found a big feature I liked.
Height of the fixed shoulder straps for torso length. I have a torso length of 19″ and I used the 24″ pack frame height. It was spot on in my fit and did not have any downward pressure on the tops of my shoulders at all. I really liked the no fuss feature of this particular pack design. Literally like set it and forget it.
The width of the space where your neck fits between the straps was perfect for my shape. I did not feel any touching of my neck by the straps or feel that they were too wide and want to pull them closer together.
Side water bottle pockets
I missed being able to reach back and get my water on the move but at the same time the pockets could be used to hold more items more securely being taller so I understand the main purpose of these pockets. And they did what they are supposed to do excellent! They were stretchy enough without being too tight but held the contents securely without worry of loosing anything.
Outer mesh pocket
I can say I’m jealous of the size of this back mesh pocket! My mesh Talon is the only pack I have that can out perform this mesh pocket. This size is tall and I love that it can carry a ton and not be too floppy or saggy that it needs compression straps to manage the items.
Frame ability to contain load in the pack bag shape.
The frame was the biggest surprise as well as the intrusion par inside the bag. The frame held the pack perfectly open and to form along the width and height of the pack. It did not deform or collapse in any way when compressed. It did its intended job 100% percent. Held the contents stable for this minimal pack very well. It was noticeable that the pack was able to slide side to side when the weight was unevenly packed like 1 bottle of water only on 1 side but that is the tradeoff for a minimal frame and lighter weight pack system.
Intrusion bar ability to prevent items being pushed into your back and protruding into you as you walk. This I think may win the MVP award for this type of pack. Literally 0 items poked into my back. Of course incorrect packing could cause this but man what a great feature!
Pack bag size and shape.
The size of this pack matches the intended pack weight that is expected to ride comfortably. Any larger and someone will easily over load the system and needs to have s different pack. Any smaller and you can’t use for trips very easily. It is a good size for the intended weights and shoulder strap width. Any wider and it would also be more subject to off center pack weight and shift on you when loaded with the weight differently from one side to the other. This width keeps the center of gravity managed nicely. I was pleased st the volume and my fair weather set up fit in just fineAug 20, 2019 at 1:33 pm #3606856Jeffs ElevenBPL Member
-B.G.- says: ‘waist’
I got you, BobAug 20, 2019 at 2:01 pm #3606863
Ha ha. Auto correct gets me every time.Aug 20, 2019 at 2:11 pm #3606867
I was able to reach the left water bottle pocket but not the right. I’m not the most flexible person so I imagine most people wouldn’t have an issue. I tend to be really picky about water bottle pockets and did provide some comments, but using a 24oz Smartwater Bottle and my left hand, they ended up being OK. I’m not sure why I couldn’t reach with my right hand, but obviously I must be less flexible with that arm.
The front “mesh” pocket wasn’t really mesh, but a spectra grid and I really liked it.
Word is they are exploring some other exciting spectra options for fabrics as well.Aug 20, 2019 at 5:46 pm #3606890Alex WallaceBPL Member
@feetfirstLocale: Sierra Nevada North
Thanks again, Brad. I appreciate the insight. Please do keep us updated if you hear anything.
Brian, Thanks for sharing your notes. Very helpful. The more I hear, the more interested I am. Especially since I have a similar size torso (19 1/4″) so if I do end up trying one, it should fit well in that respect.Aug 20, 2019 at 6:46 pm #3606894
A little manufacturers notes.
We did on a couple packs make the bottle pockets different to see if anyone noticed a difference. I will check if the one Brad tested was one of them. It may be as simple as that.
So far, testing comments have been pretty consistent even across pack bag styles. Of course there is some subjectivity when it comes to weight ratings and stuff like that.
KevinAug 20, 2019 at 7:35 pm #3606898
If it helps Kevin, the bottom of the pockets on my test pack were pleated.
Weight rating is quite subjective, and I tend to be low compared to most manufactures ratings. My typical week load is ~25lbs and I started with just north of 26 in the Sierras. I did load it up with 30lbs for a test hike prior to the Sierra trip and it carried 30# better than my Arc Haul or SWD Long Haul 50 would have. To me if I was going to carry over ~35lb, the Unaweep or Divide would be a better choice. I think you would be hard pressed to get over 35lb of gear in a Flight size pack anyways.
My impression would be that the frame itself of the Flight would carry plenty of weight, my guess is that it’s weight carrying capacity would exceed that of the rest of the suspension.Aug 20, 2019 at 8:58 pm #3606907
You got your pack back Thanks
On weight carrying , we sort of define it as “a user with reasonably good fit should be able to attain some shoulder lift and the belt should stay pretty solid ”
I’ve done direct comparisons with several packs in the 40’s and it did it better than any I had except the pure hunting style packs. That being said, I think most people given the choice would move to our bigger packs in the mid 30’s unless scrambling was a big part of it … however, I also would not fear personally having to stick 50 or 60 in it for a couple / few miles.
Our goal is really to build a pack that does mountain related backpacking / scrambling etc really well short of real load hauling. In other words a great compliment to our other pack line.Aug 20, 2019 at 11:07 pm #3606920Ken ThompsonBPL Member
@hereLocale: Right there
”-B.G.- says: ‘waist’”
I thought for a second Bob Gross was backAug 21, 2019 at 2:40 am #3606960Adam KilpatrickBPL Member
@oystersLocale: South Australia
Same!Aug 23, 2019 at 1:45 am #3607238
Here are some picsAug 23, 2019 at 2:21 am #3607241JohnBPL Member
@johnnyh88Locale: The SouthWest
That’s a nice-looking pack. And some beautiful scenery.
Does the pack hold a bear canister well?Aug 23, 2019 at 11:49 am #3607267
The pack will carry a bear can (Bearikade Weekender) vertically in the upper half of the pack. The pack isn’t deep enough to carry one any lower, at least without taking the horizontal cross bar of the frame out (I didn’t try so I can’t comment one way or another). The Bear Vault BV500 is slightly narrower and taller, so I don’t exactly how it fits, as I didn’t have one to try, but I imagine it should be similar.
The canister was packed in there tight so the can had a visible bulge in the back of the pack that looked like it would be uncomfortable, but the way the frame arches away from the back a little bit, it turned out to be a complete non issue.
I did suggest they make the circumference of the top half of the pack slightly larger to better accommodate a bear can, but the prototype worked ok with a can.Aug 23, 2019 at 1:30 pm #3607269
In their heavier packs they suspend the waist-belt from the frame, which people like a lot judging from the reviews.
With this pack, they seem to feel that’s overkill and are sticking the wings to the pack with hook and loop under a lumbar pad, if I’m understanding right. This loses the direct connection of the belt to the frame.
If you’ve used both, how do you find they compare for comfort and effectiveness?Aug 23, 2019 at 2:12 pm #3607280
I have used both. For heavy loads, it’s no comparison, the Unaweep style suspension (also used on the Divide and Gila) is far superior and is by far the best load hauling suspension that I have used. It punches way above it’s weight class and I’d put it up against any other pack for heavy loads.
The problem is the frame and suspension components weigh a certain amount so you can only get packs down so light with them (seems to be the 2.75-3lb range) and they don’t do as well with smaller packbags as the frame is rather wide. While some UL’ers have a place for a larger, nearly 3lb pack, I used my Unaweep 4800 on an 11 day backpacking/packrafting trip, and on a 14 day backpacking trip (both without resupply), the majority of UL backpackers trips require carrying food for a week or less, and therefore are much smaller and lighter loads than what the Unaweep was designed for (it’s roots are a hunting pack to carry elk quarters, etc). I also carried the Unaweep 4800 on a 2016 week long trip in WRR where my starting weight was 25lbs. It was a little overkill for such a light load and volume, and though it’s quite a nimble pack for it’s size and weight, it’s not as good as a smaller, narrower pack crawling through car size talus. When I returned to WRR in 2018 to do the WRHR, I chose a smaller, less substantial pack (Arc Haul) as my startling load was around 24lbs.
The Flight is an attempt to cater to that market, which is most all UL backpackers. They were targeting something in the 2lb range that’s a much smaller volume and suitable for week long lightweight trips in the backcountry. The Flight is targeting users of packs such as the HMG 3400, ULA Circuit, Osprey Exos, SWD Long Haul 50, etc.
If you are looking to routinely carry loads of 40lb or more my suggestion would be to go with the Unaweep style SO pack. To be honest, I assume you would need the volume anyways, but even if you didn’t the suspension of the heavier SO pack is just getting into it’s element then.
I’d go with the Flight at 30-35# or below normal load and the Unaweep for weights above that. At weights above 30-35# the additional suspension and load carrying capacity is worth the additional pack weight. For loads below that the Unaweep is overkill and can feel just a little bulky with weights below 30#. The Unaweep is a pack for expedition style trips, while the Flight is for week long trips like the WRHR or SSHR,Aug 23, 2019 at 11:27 pm #3607369
Thanks Brad – extremely lucid and helpful!
I’m prototyping my own pack based on some ideas from the Aarn bodypacks, but attempting to overcome some of the disadvantages. My last major decision is the suspension, and as you say, the Unaweep seems to be the gold standard for bigger packs at a very reasonable weight.
I want something that could handle quite long unsupported legs without going quite as far as the Unaweep. I’ve seen a couple of MYOG using a simplified Unaweep-style approach (full-wrap belt suspended from a cross strut at the base of the frame) but using flat bar rather than tube. Much easier to make, and a bit lighter too, especially if you sew the shoulder straps into the bag. By the time you factor in the weight of the lumbar pad and the hook-and-loop for the Flight, I doubt there would be much difference.
I’d pretty much decided on the “Unaweep lite” approach when SO came out with the Flight. So it’s a bit disconcerting to see that they’ve adopted a different approach to the suspension. They’re pretty smart folks, so perhaps they know something I’m missing. Guess I’ll just have to prototype both…Aug 24, 2019 at 2:36 am #3607378
A quick note:
Our larger packs that are used for longer thru hike style adventures, often we end up sending out a few belts during the trip as people loose weight. One of our reasons for this approach in this pack was that the belt has several inches of adjustability behind the lumbar pad. Basically it can move 1 – 1.5 sizes. For users in the lighter range, this helps fit a lot more people easily. At the lighter sub 35 weights, this pack carries really really well IMO and I can carry more but it shines IMO.
Now concerning load carriage using the Unaweep approach in smaller width is not a problem , but using it with smaller framing becomes challenging in the long run.
One of things / surprises with making packs for a larger audience is the surprising amount of corner cases. Our reliability track record is real good, but there are strange use cases and stuff that pop up that we never really imagined when we designed the original pack and did a lot of field testing. It is sort of the nature of the beast .Aug 24, 2019 at 10:17 am #3607397
Many thanks for the insights.
I’ll very rarely be carrying more than 35lbs and usually much less, so from what you’re saying the double wing should be good enough. And as you point out, having an adjustable belt is a big win for long trips.
From what I can gather from his cryptic website, McHale’s using a similar approach for packs designed for this weight range. Like you, he only uses the full-wrap belt for his load haulers.
So I guess I should take the hint from the two best makers on the market and start with the simpler double wing. I can always fall back on the full wrap if I’m not happy with the result…
Do you have any tips for transferring the weight from the stays to the belt? Can you get away without a direct connection, or is it better to figure out a way to slot the stays directly into the belt?Sep 26, 2019 at 1:28 am #3611733
Here are some more pictures of the pack.Oct 21, 2019 at 9:40 pm #3615063jimmy bensonBPL Member
Brad, revisiting this thread as I am in need of a bigger volume bag – currently at a 40L and considering several bags that are higher volume (Circuit) including a SO Divide. Whats the volume of the pack you tested? It looks massive – 60L? I feel like my sweet spot is at the mid-50s liter (eg HMG3400) size.
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