33 forum posts
Have not posted in a while so I thought I would revisit an old debate and stir up some discussion. I recently found a Kelty 50th Anniversary Pack and a Kelty Continental Divide Pack, and I bought both as they were inexpensive, and both looked almost new. The CDT pack actually had the owner's manual still attached. As you may recall the 50th Anniversary pack weighs in at 6'10" and has several components that can be removed to lower the weight to 4'10". The CDT weighs in at about 7'10".
Having purchased the two packs I thought I would do some testing. I loaded up 60' in an old Dana Terraplane and carried it over 3.5 miles on a rolling track near my home. As expected, it carried well, and while not something I would normally do it felt good. Even after all these years the Dana packs still have load carrying capabilites that compare to more modern packs.
Over the next few days I repeated the same test with the two Kelty packs. Both carried the weight well, and for me they subjectively felt better than the Dana; more importantly, they allowed me to stand straighter. Both these packs emulate some of the characteristics of ain internal frame pack so there is minimal load sway.
Well, the above results were fine, but I normally do not lug 60' around; my 7 day pack weight is around 32' using an Osprey Atmos 65. So, I then took my normal pack weight and loaded it into the two external frame packs over the course of the next few days. I then walked the same course and compared the feel of the packs and the comparative completion times. I finished the course faster while walking with the Kelty packs, and each felt better than any of the lightweight packs I have (REI Flash 62, Atmos 65, pre2005 Aether 60).
The course included a combination of on and off trail walking, and 6 short but steep climbs.
Despite the higher overall pack weight due to the extra weight of the Kelty packs the external frame packs were clearly more comfortable, Accordingly, I am coming back to the idea that pack weight is less important than is often asserted. I know that Dan McHale has said the same thing, and based upon my results I am inclined to believe him.
When I hike I usually due between 20 -25 miles each day, and I am fairly spartan, but I am not an ultra-lighter. I have gone down that road and my experiences were fine, but my enjoyment level was lower. I like to use a hammock rather than a tarp, etc., and I like to carry a book or two to read. What really led me away were the times I needed to cary additional weight due to a water need or conditions; the lightweight packs each grew increasingly less comfortable as I added weight.
My premise then is that a beefier pack, loaded with a light load will generally be more comfortable than a lightweight pack loaded with the same load and that this will remain the case as conditions require more weight. Consequently, it seems to make sense that a bettor suspension will normally always trump a poorer one and that it is worth the additional weight.
I was tired of the commentary on Bear Gryllis, so feel free to direct your wrath towar dme.