is a good pack possible for only $150 or less?

1:44 p.m. on March 23, 2004 (EST)
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okay, i know that most of you will chime back that when you base a purchase on price point, you get what you paid for!!

but reality is we all have budgets whether 50 bucks or 500, and mine is 150 for a pack. this will be the first pack i have bought (the rest were rentals). the most i have gone out is for 6 nights, but more likely my trips are 3-4 nights. i don't need fancy gadgets.

are you going to tell me that unless i have 200+ bucks to burn then i will be a hopeless hiker bitchin on the trail about how useless and uncomfortable my cheapo pack is!! please tell me it ain't so!! :)

1:57 p.m. on March 23, 2004 (EST)
(Guest)

Many Factors Here

Uuuuhhhhh, instead of getting into the entire conversation of worthwhile packs for less than $150.00 (which, by the way, there are many), have you looked into the packs that you rented? Did any of the models meet your needs and if yes, then are they less than $150.00 when new? What features did you like when you rented? Are you willing to purchase used gear? (Some good deals come up for lightly used gear. I just bought a used WM Megalite for $180.00 in great condition that costs over $300.00 new from WM (what with price, taxes, and shipping.)) Want weight do you anticipate carrying and during what seasons? Post with a few more specifics and the gurus of this website will be able to help you better (I am but a simple learner)

2:13 p.m. on March 23, 2004 (EST)
(Guest)

Re: Many Factors Here

paul, thanks for your attempt here to respond to my feeble post! *disclaimer: i am newbie, so please pardon my feeble posts!*

i rented from rei. the packs did not make me a happy camper, but i also believe that what i packed and how i packed had more to do with my unhappiness than the pack itself. i have learned alot about what useless stuff to keep at home. regardless, they certainly didn't fit correctly, the straps were too big on my shoulders and i constantly had to lift my hip belt up despite all the adjustments and even then it didn't work out.

as for weight - how the heck do people figure this out if one doesn't own a scale? i know that sounds stupid, but dragging all my stuff to my gym just to weigh it doesn't sound appealing. is that my only option?

spring, summer, fall hiking, moderate level.

4:30 p.m. on March 23, 2004 (EST)
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Re: Many Factors Here

Hey, Mimi, don't let Paul fool you with his "just a learner". He knows a lot and gives good advice. Besides which, we are all learners, even us Old GreyBearded Ones (OGBO for short) who have been in the woods and hills (and deserts in my case) for many decades. And furthermore, new stuff keeps coming out all the time, some of which is a great improvement.

As Paul said, think about the packs you rented. What did you like/dislike about them (you said several things in your post just above)? This will tell you a lot about features to look for in the pack you buy (don't like the shoulder straps? look for straps that have variable spacing, curved sideways to fit your body shape, etc. hip belt problems? could be the problem is torso length, lift straps lacking or not right, basically REI didn't fit the pack to you when renting it).

You didn't say your size (tall? short? long/short torso? your width - people who do gymnastics or weight training often have broad shoulders, which means a wider shoulder strap spacing, where someone small-framed will need a narrower spacing to keep from having the shoulder straps slide off, and no, a sternum strap doesn't cure that properly). There are size adjustable packs, but proper fit is vital to comfort and load-carrying capability. External frame packs are available under $100 that have a pretty wide range of adjustment. Most internal frame packs have a small range of adjustment, but in either case, you should start with something close to your size, then do the adjustments (rather, the shop should have an experienced pack-fitter who will do the adjustments - proper fit in packs is as important as in your boots)

Another important point is the kind of hiking you do. Is it on good trails, cross country, fairly flat, lots of steep climbs, .. ? If you do good trail, fairly flat for the most part, then an external frame pack will be more comfortable and can carry a heavier load. Externals are also much cooler on your back, especially in hot, humid weather. On the other hand, if you do a lot of off-trail stuff, especially including scrambling up steep slopes, then an internal frame is better (and it is warmer on your back in winter).

As for load size - you can get a bathroom scale that will work pretty cheaply. weigh yourself without the pack, then put the pack on and weigh again. The difference will be within a pound or two, even if the scale is off by a fair amount on your actual weight. But you can come close to guessing the weight by looking in catalogs for the gear you carry - sleeping bag, sleeping pad, clothes, pack stove, pots, food. The thing you want to know when buying the pack is the weight range (the actual weight will vary by a huge amount, depending on the trip and stage of the trip).

You said your trips have been up to 6 days or so, but mostly are a couple days. A 4000 cu in pack should be plenty big for a summer trip anywhere in the US, and even 3-season. I get along with 3000 cu in for week-long trips in the Sierra and Rockies in summer. As Paul said, there are lightly used top-quality packs in that range that you can get for less than $100. One place to check is with your friends and co-workers who have kids in scouts - people often overbuy for their scout, who loses interest after a couple years, so they have some really good gear for sale cheap (and yes, the right size, too, since parents too often buy an adult-sized pack expecting the kid to "grow into it", which they don't because they have a bad experience trying to carry a pack 4 sizes too large. The only problem with buying a used pack is that you don't have a professionally trained fitter available. But stores sometimes sell off their used rental gear.

Hope this helps a little. Tell us more about your backpacking.

5:55 a.m. on March 24, 2004 (EST)
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Yep. Look into the Eureka/Camp Trails packs.

I have a Camp Trails Wilderness internal frame pack that extends to a 7200 cubic inch capacity and has a removable fanny pack, plus a "kitchen organizer". Very well designed and made.

I truly love this pack and paid $114 + shipping.

8:48 a.m. on March 24, 2004 (EST)
(Guest)

Re: Many Factors Here

hi bill! WOW!!! thanks so much for all your words! i loooove OGBO :)

well, i definitely think that rei didn't fit me correctly. couple that with a newbie's ignorance (like, let's take 2 lbs of trailmix on the trip because hey i might get hungry and i come out of the woods with 1.9 lbs of trailmix because i didn't eat any of it!!!) made for very hard hiking. i have definitely learned my lesson about what NOT to pack.

that said, most of my hiking is on good trails but climbers. i live on the east coast and most of my hikes are short. last year was my first trip hiking on the west - out for said 6 days - and boy was i shocked! the terrain was so much more difficult.

so i now realize that getting a good pack is priority for me this year. i've also decided (talking with some other OGBOs) that i will increase my price point if necessary. i'm looking at a couple that around 200. if i can snatch a good sale then it will be even better. i'm sure as i do more research and go try some on i will have even more questions.

BUT! i do have one question for you now - you say that you've hiked in desert. how the heck does one carry so much water? i'm dumbfounded... or naive at best. i've been advised one gallon per day per person. if i'm out for only 3 days that's 21 lbs of water! i've only hiked in areas that had water sources so i have no idea how to manage carrying so much weight in water. any suggestions/advice?

9:52 a.m. on March 24, 2004 (EST)
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Yep...try a Serratus...

Quote:

okay, i know that most of you will chime back that when you base a purchase on price point, you get what you paid for!!

Available through MEC.

www.mec.ca

Brian in SLC

10:08 a.m. on March 24, 2004 (EST)
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"The Secret Knowledge of Water"

Quote:

BUT! i do have one question for you now - you say that you've hiked in desert. how the heck does one carry so much water? i'm dumbfounded... or naive at best. i've been advised one gallon per day per person. if i'm out for only 3 days that's 21 lbs of water! i've only hiked in areas that had water sources so i have no idea how to manage carrying so much weight in water. any suggestions/advice?

Book by Craig Childs. Excellant read. Shows you really how much water is available in the desert.

You don't carry that much water. Plan your trip to refill at available sources (potholes, cisterns, springs, etc). I've carried as much as 5 liters on a mid summer hike here in Utah, but, drank 14 liters the same day (114F in the flats). Or, go when its cooler.

Brian in SLC

10:16 a.m. on March 24, 2004 (EST)
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Re: "The Secret Knowledge of Water"

thanks brian, i will definitely check out that book.

since you say you're in utah, i'm hoping that you may have some insight on bryce canyon. i was hoping to go mid-july. i know that isn't ideal time, but i'm visiting a friend and that's the only mutual time we had. i've looked up the stats on weather and realize i'm going during the hottest month, but can you tell me what it is "really" like out there? i was hoping to do part of the under the rim trail.

12:26 p.m. on March 24, 2004 (EST)
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Water, water, everywhere

As Brian said, no, you don't carry all the water with you. You plan your trip around the waterholes, and you do most of your hiking during the cool parts of the day. I got a lot of my knowledge of desert travel by growing up on an Indian reservation in a small village, where you were into the desert within a hundred meters of the house. I will admit I don't quite understand, as an adult, how we kids used to play hard, bicycle hard, run hard in 120+ deg F heat, but we did.

Anyway, first strategy if you are hiking in the March through November time frame is to start your hike before dawn and shelter by noon at the latest, then maybe some more hiking in the last hour before sunset. High desert, like Utah or northern NM, is a little different, since you dehydrate a bit more quickly at altitude, but basically the same idea. Another strategy is your clothing. This is the one place where cotton is good, since it holds water (your sweat) that can evaporate, providing cooling. The clothing should be loose, full coverage, and light color (look at Arabian robes, although as a kid we always wore jeans, which are pretty dark - loose jeans, not the painted on high fashion variety). Do have some warm clothes, though, since the temperature drop overnight is very large, due to the low humidity, sometimes 50 or 60 deg difference.

As Brian says, there are lots of water sources in the desert - springs, wells, rivers and streams, plus little potholes in the rocks and ways of getting water from the plant life. Plan to refill at every waterhole, since the next might be dry or a long way off. Well, there are fewer rivers these days, thanks to all the dam projects. Even by the time I was 10yo or so, the Gila River, about a mile from my house, was dry most of the year, except for flash floods. Oh, yeah, it does rain, especially during monsoon season (mid summer into early fall, in Arizona and New Mexico), so you can catch the water. One time we were backpacking in Bandelier and found one of our intended springs had dried up. We continued on to our intended campsite with diminishing water (we had filled up at the river - Bandelier borders the Rio Grande Gorge) and set up camp knowing the next water was a couple miles further on. The typical afternoon thunderstorm came up, so we set pots, water bottles, and all containers we had to capture the rain. That gave us several more liters in short order.

When you make your midday stop, set up a tarp to provide shade with ventilation, and pick your shelter site judiciously. Don't sit out in the sun. If possible, go with an experienced desert rat.

Obviously, the web is not the place to learn desert travel, but maybe these hints will help. The book Brian recommended is a good one, and there are others. If you can go with an experienced person, you will learn faster. Hey, if you go to Utah as you said, maybe you can get Brian to take you canyoning. He knows lots of good slots, er, spots, and spends a lot of time in Canyonlands, Arches, Brice, Zion, that area.

1:44 p.m. on March 24, 2004 (EST)
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Bryce...

Quote:

since you say you're in utah, i'm hoping that you may have some insight on bryce canyon. i was hoping to go mid-july. i know that isn't ideal time, but i'm visiting a friend and that's the only mutual time we had. i've looked up the stats on weather and realize i'm going during the hottest month, but can you tell me what it is "really" like out there? i was hoping to do part of the under the rim trail.

I don't spend a ton of time in Bryce. Mostly skiing in the winter (fabulous!). Its high (altitude), so, is usually much cooler than the other national parks in Utah (Canyonlands, Arches, Capitol Reef especially, and Zion down low).

Bryce is kind of a "drive by" park (road along most of the length of the park). The trails there are pretty shorty, and the park area is kinda smallish. You can see most of the neat rock formations from the road.

I think I've done the trail you mention (but on skis), has a bit of shade, goes by Thor's Hammer, down from the rim, then across, then up. Very neat-o scenery. The fragile multi colored rock formations are stunning. But, its not really a destination type hiking or backpacking area. The other parks (and monuments) are. See www.mtncommunity.org, click on forums, click on canyoneering for a recent example (last weekend in Zion).

We beat the heat in Utah in the desert by finding deep slots and water. Which, is way more abundant than at first blush.

Start early in the am (pre dawn even) and finish before 10am or noon, should be fine.

Brian in SLC

2:29 p.m. on March 24, 2004 (EST)
(Guest)

thank you bill and brian!!!

wow. this forum might not be the busiest or the flashiest, but you have both proven that it is the most generous and informative! i truly appreciate both of you taking the time to so thoughtfully answer all my questions.

as for my original question about $150 packs, i think i will just go to the store and see what fits and feels best and make my decision that way. i've found some that i like from preliminary research (of course, they're more like $200) and we'll see how that goes.

and we probably won't be backpacking in bryce. i'd rather do zion but it's just too hot for me. i'm only starting to plan, so i have some more ideas like the weminuche wilderness for backpacking and then keeping bryce as a stopover on the drive to california.

BUT! brian - i thought you'd like to know that bill so graciously volunteered your canoeing expertise for when i'm in utah!! :)

3:05 p.m. on March 24, 2004 (EST)
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Canyoning...not Canoeing!

Kinda funny....

I used to canoe a bit, but, have forsaken the water sports for climbing, skiing, canyoneering...just not enough time to do everything...

Not canoeing, but, check out:

www.canyoneeringusa.com

Good info in there.

Cheers!

-Brian in SLC

3:47 p.m. on March 24, 2004 (EST)
(Guest)

Re: Canyoning...not Canoeing!

too funny! what even made me think of a canoe??

thanks for all your help!

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