- May 24, 2017 at 2:17 pm #3469593
Dean F.BPL Member
@acrosomeLocale: Back in the Front Range
All above about the advantages/disadvantages of panel-loaders vs top-loaders is true. There is no doubt that a panel-loader makes organizing and accessing your things easier, but it does introduce a point of failure and is trivially heavier. Clearly, though, a lot of people get by just fine with their panel loaders. You’re just best off not skimping on an ultralight zipper, obviously. Get one that’s beefy and durable- which adds even more weight.
I hike with top-loaders, for these reasons and for the aesthetic simplicity. But when I’m living out of a pack while I’m doing other work (I’m in the military) I have a panel-loader. But it certainly isn’t UL, being 1000D and all.May 24, 2017 at 5:42 pm #3469620
Dan YBPL Member
safety pins for broken zippers(in an emergency)May 29, 2017 at 6:36 pm #3470389
Geoff CaplanBPL Member
@geoffcaplanLocale: Dartmoor, Devon
The risk of zip failure is real , so you have to consider the potential consequences.
On a city break – not such a big deal. Pop into a shop and pick up a replacement.
Five days from the next resupply – not so fun. Especially in the rain. And when you do hit a small trail-town then what? It could hold you up for days getting things sorted out.
The vast majority of seasoned thru-hikers go with top-loaders. There’s probably a good reason…May 31, 2017 at 7:06 am #3470642
Arapiles .BPL Member
I’ve always used top loading zipped backs because I hate the clips and straps that go with conventional top loading packs. Re panel loaders, the MS Ghost (which I have a near new one of) was a panel loader and didn’t suffer any issues that I ever heard of.Jun 1, 2017 at 8:44 am #3470834
Paul SBPL Member
The panel loader zipper creates another failure mode, and adds weight.
Here in the Pacific Northwest keeping things dry can be a challenge. So I line the interior of my pack with a 3 mil (thick) “Contractors bag.” Basically a 40 liter garbage bag that is pretty thick (you can use it for more than one season, very tough material). Anyhow, since everything in the pack is inside thew pack liner, having a panel loader would be kind of useless cause you can only access stuff in the pack line from the top of the pack.
So, for me, it ‘s top load only!Jun 5, 2017 at 11:04 am #3471604
Danny MilksBPL Member
@dannymilksLocale: SF Bay Area
I have a Mountainsmith Ghost that’s probably 12 years old. It’s a 50L panel loader with a big upside-down U-shaped zipper. I love it and use it on every backpacking trip. It’s great for when I get to camp and can access everything all at once. If it makes a difference, I always go camping with my wife and, for the last four years, with our kids. I haven’t had any issues with the zipper on this one.
I also have a Mountainsmith Spectre (85L pack) that I still use for mountaineering, and have used extensively for traveling, and it had a wonderful front access “J” zip. When done right, the front access is amazingly convenient.
Released from mod Q
RogerJan 11, 2018 at 12:27 am #3511754
Kelly GBPL Member
I had a typical top-loader for several years, the G-4. I found I didn’t like the big black hole for finding gear. I also never cared for the front and side mesh pockets – I didn’t like seeing gear or snacks on the outside.
The Arc Haul Zip has the clean look, volume, and accessibility I wanted. It is water resistant, though not guaranteed waterproof. I can plan what I normally need during the day, and those items fit well in the large front pocket. But, I don’t have to look at it all. I have dry-bags inside to protect my down gear and add water resistance, and cuben cinch-bags for less critical gear, so I don’t think that lack of a large compactor liner bag is a problem. I have a cuben packcover, in case of rain, adding a third level of water resistance.
I am cognizant of how I big I pack each bag of gear, so that I don’t stress the zipper. If the internal cross straps appear stressed, I adjust the bags.
I do find that my gear takes up more space, in the Arc Zip, than in the G-4. The 5 bags of gear create dead space between them. My next idea is to pack the bags a bit looser, so they compress together better.
Overall I prefer the Zip so far.
KellyJan 14, 2018 at 6:08 am #3512347
Sam FarringtonBPL Member
@scfhomeLocale: Chocorua NH, USA
I’ve made several panel loaders. But the inverted U zip covers only the upper portion of the pack, so that the lower part of the pack is sewn and completely sealed. This way, the stuff bags can also be compressed in the lower half of the pack without over stressing the #5 zips, which are the water proof type. Also, there are flaps over the zips as you would see on a pack with non-waterproof zips. There has been no zip failure or leakage through the zips. The upper third of the packs has inner pockets for water bottles and misc. small items. Here’s a pic of a prototype with the top inner pocket removed. I’m working on one with Easton .340 alloy tent tube instead of carbon, as the alloy can be prebent for an hour-glass or butterfly shaped frame; thus creating less weight overall compared to beefing up the carbon with filament wound fiberglass tubes and alloy fittings:
Unfortunately, I’ve never seen a commercial product with all the above protective features, so it is not surprising that folks sacrifice easier packing and access for top loaders.
Jan 19, 2018 at 3:08 am #3513189
- This reply was modified 6 months ago by Sam Farrington.
Daryl and DarylBPL Member
@lyrad1Locale: Pacific Northwest, USA, Earth
I used panel loaders for a couple of decades and really liked them. When I went to a myog top loader I made the bag with a fairly large circumference to replicate some of the panel loader’s ease-of-entrance.
Here’s some circumference comparisons:.
**Jan Sport panel loader zippered entry = 54″ perimeter total ( 13″ x 14″) (These panel loaders typically zippered only a portion of the pack bag’s full dimensions)
*McCale Top Loader = up to 50″ (or more probably)
*My myog top loader pack = 48″ (This is big enough to put 2 or 3 of the largest bear cans in the pack bag sidewise)
*Hyperlite Porter Top Loader =37.5″
I use these figures to illustrate the point that the panel loader ease-of-access doesn’t have to be totally abandoned when going to a top loader. The McCale and myog gear pack bag circumferences are closer to panel loaders than they are to the popular Hyperlite top loader (and others).Jan 21, 2018 at 2:25 am #3513474
@hknewmanLocale: Western US
After liking the original Vapor Trail (2006 model) foam frames pack but not their multi roll-top closure, … I bought their panel-loading Latitude Vapor 3800 Pack to get to fleece and storm base layers fast. OK, but everything had to get packed in one of 3 or so stuff sacks to minimize falling out (Granite Gear put some internal straps to secure the stuff sacks). Sold it after a couple years sporadic use as I just felt uncomfortable with the light zips, not knowing if my belongings were strewn for miles behind me. I switched to a U-zipped Osprey travel bag for non-backpacking trips with heavy duty zips and stay with top loaders for 2-season trips.
I could see a top J-zip or something similar for winter trip access to more clothes, but, like Sam F., I’d want the bottom with no zipper to cram the sleeping bag into.Jan 21, 2018 at 2:43 am #3513475
D MBPL Member
@farwalkerLocale: On a trail
I have first gen ULA Camino. My husband used it for some overnights locally and loves it. I’m an artist so I have to carry pochades and tripods with oils and pastels which can be heavy and the pack handles it all well. The panel zip opening is perfect for loading and unloading painting supplies and sketchbooks. BUT I would never take it on a long hike or thru hike even though I know some have and the zipper shows no signs of failure.Jan 22, 2018 at 1:36 pm #3513675
I used panel loading packs in the 1970’s, including one 2.5 mos long trip on the AT.
Personally I prefer a single “Bloody Great Sack” with no zippered access to the main compartment, and have zero use for other designs. It’s far easier to pack a single sack than a panel loader as you can jam gear into every corner while not compromising zippers. KISS. I feel this is especially important with smaller, lightweight packs where it’s important to utilize ever square inch of space.
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