New Pack Shoppin'

8:17 a.m. on May 30, 2012 (EDT)
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Hey all,

First time poster, long time lurker. This seems to be an excellent community, so I figured I should stop beating around the bush and just join already.

Cliffs-notes for my background; I'm a life-long camper and mountain biker, but only within the past 2 years have been doing any sort of backcountry travel. My outings usually consist of 1 to 3 night backpacking in all 4 seasons on the trails of southern Ontario.

My current pack is a Gregory Z-65, size large, which covers most of the bases I feel I need, except it just doesn't fit me properly. The torso length is too long and non-adjustable, so even when loaded sparingly (20-25 lbs) I end up with terrible aches and pains all up and down my back and shoulders. Therefore, I'm in the market for a new pack, and I'm hoping you guys can steer me in the right direction.

My thoughts for a new pack are:

-Around 70 litres capacity, with enough stability and padding to carry 40lbs. I am out with my g/f a lot and hike in all 4 seasons, so I need the capacity to get a big puffy winter bag in the bottom and well as the other paraphernalia that goes along with winter camping. My current pack sits around 72 litres, and everything fits with a bit of a squeeze, with a couple large things strapped to the outside.

-Adjustable torso length would be nice.

-Base weight for the summer is around 20 lbs, which goes up to 35 or so for the winter.

-Lots of pockets and compartments are ok, but I prefer a pack with no sleeping bag compartment. My strategy involves throwing all my sleeping gear (bag, pad, thermals, socks) into a dry bag and tossing it at the bottom of the pack. Most sleeping bag compartments I've seen aren't big enough to hold this package. Ideally, the main body will just be one big compartment.

-Weight of around 4 lbs for the pack, but if it carries the weight properly then heavier is acceptable.

-Good build quality. I'm a firm believer of the 'buy cheap, buy twice' philosophy.


Packs that have caught my eye so far:

-Mystery Ranch Trance XXX. Looks like it hits just about every bullet point but at 350$, on the expensive side. Reviews for MR tell me its worth it.

-Go Lite Quest (2011). Attractive capacity, weight, and price (hard  to beat at 79$ right now), but dubious durability.

-ULA Circuit. Their website says max load is 35lbs, which I can see myself exceeding in the winter.

-Osprey Kestrel 68.


Any other manufacturers I'm missing? As always, I'd like to try it on before I buy, but as long as the retailer has a acceptable return policy I'm fine with ordering online. I have a few big box retailers near me (MEC, Bass Pro, SAIL) as well as an indie store that stocks Osprey, TNF and Vaude equipment.

Thanks for your help!

8:21 a.m. on May 30, 2012 (EDT)
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Any by ULA Circuit, I mean ULA Catalyst.

9:13 a.m. on May 30, 2012 (EDT)
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as a brand, mystery ranch is well-designed and built to last.  different philosophy - expensive, but they will outlast several cheap backpacks.  torso is adjustable, and the trance seems to fit your desire for simplicity and your relatively light pack weight.

don't rule out the deuter ACT Lite 65.  the torso adjusts, the size & weight are in your range, and a few friends of mine rave about theirs.   

9:17 a.m. on May 30, 2012 (EDT)
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Well, for starters welcome to Trailspace!

Searching for a pack is a very personal thing, as you now well know some packs fit people great while the same pack might be unbearable to someone else.

The very best thing you can do is to take all of your gear to an outfitter and load up and try on as many packs as possible to find one that fits you well and is comfortable.

I suggest that you properly measure yourself for a pack so that you know what size you need. You say your current pack is 72 liters, i assume this is the XL size because the medium size of that pack is 65 liters hence the name z-65. An XL size is typically 22in+ torso length. If your torso isnt that long then that is why the back is definitely very uncomfortable for you. There are good instructions on the REI web site as to how to properly measure yourself.

I like to get packs around the 60-70L range beccause I like to only have one pack. And this size gives me ample room for quick summer overnighters all the way up to winter week long trips. I have the Osprey Aether 70 which I really like. Also remember that all packs are not measured 'honestly', by this I mean if the name is xxL it may not be that size really as they add in all the side pockets etc and there ends up being alot of wasted space. For example my Osprey Aether 70 is ALOT bigger than my old kelty coyote 4750(77L) because the kelty counts all the not so useful side pockets etc.

All of the packs you mentioned are good packs but for different things. Specifically the Golite and ULA packs are aimed towards the ultralight crowds, which is why most of those packs have a max weight limit around 30lbs or so. This is because they don't have a real frame for the most part, many of them rely on you using a piece of stiff foam etc as the frame.

Don't discount a pack with a sleeping bag compartment just because it has one. Most of the packs that have them have a removable divider inside the pack body. My Aether 70 is this way, as i don't really care for the compartment either I removed the divider and now use it as just one large pack body.

MR makes some good packs. I have a Camelbak Linchpin that has their futura harness on it that i got back in my military days which I absolutely love. I have heard nothing but good things about MR, only con, as you already mentioned is the high price tag.

I would not really concern yourself with the brand as much as if the pack is comfortable, fits you well, and handles the desired load well. For mainstream packs I would say your looking at Gregory,Osprey, Arc'teryx, Deuter, Kelty, ULA, Golite, Granite Gear, and probably a few others. Then you have the Mystery Ranch and Mchale packs which are in a league of their own.

I agree with you to buy from a reputable company with a good return policy, especially if you can't try on the pack locally and have to order it online.

 

12:19 p.m. on May 30, 2012 (EDT)
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Are you dead-set on a new pack, or would you consider buying used?

As for new, maybe throw the Arcteryx Bora 80 into the running.

8:56 p.m. on May 30, 2012 (EDT)
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It doesn't matter what we think is a good fitting pack, we don't have your shoulders, back, hips or body.  The best advice is touch it before you buy it, and preferable load it up and wear it a few hours before committing to the purchase.

Ed

9:36 p.m. on May 30, 2012 (EDT)
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http://www.rei.com/video?videoId=1l1TsGXydWU I would have my torso length measured from a proper outfitter. The  REI video shows how they measure it. After you have your length I would look at the volume and what type of duration you plan on useing your pack in the future..Duration = number of days or month's in a rowe. Then properly fit the pack to you and as (ED) has said bring your winter gear with you since it's probably the most and heavyest to fill said pack up and walk around to truly get the feel.

9:32 p.m. on May 31, 2012 (EDT)
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leadbelly2550 said:

as a brand, mystery ranch is well-designed and built to last.  different philosophy - expensive, but they will outlast several cheap backpacks.  torso is adjustable, and the trance seems to fit your desire for simplicity and your relatively light pack weight.

don't rule out the deuter ACT Lite 65.  the torso adjusts, the size & weight are in your range, and a few friends of mine rave about theirs.   

 Another vote for the Deuter ACT Lite 65.   For me it fit the bill for a larger pack.  Mine weighed in at 3lbs, 13 oz out of the box.  Not light weight but considering it was 2 plus pounds lighter than the pack it replaced, I have been very happy with it

10:47 p.m. on May 31, 2012 (EDT)
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Is there a diagram or well-written explanation for the Deuter packs anywhere online?  I can't find one.  I don't understand what kind of suspension system they have.

12:54 a.m. on June 1, 2012 (EDT)
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Ed has it correct, the only way to know for sure is to load a pack up and wear it.

So find a reputable outdoor gear retailer near you.  REI is okay, but depending where you live there may be other nearby shops that provide a better overall service.  For example, I live near Phoenix, and if I really want something that really fits correctly I'll bypass REI and go to the Arizona Hiking Shack or drive to Tucson and visit the Summit Hut.

Plugs for my favorite nearby shops aside, plan to make an entire day of a pack shopping trip.  Grab all your gear and go visit you preferred retailer.  Get fitted (torso measured), select the few packs in stock that are allegedly adjustable and look to generally work for you/your style.  IGNORE THE BRAND, TRY ANY THAT MIGHT DO THE JOB.  Get it adjusted to fit, load up your stuff, tweak the adjustment and start walking around.

And then with every, and I mean every quirk, annoyance, pinch, etc. grab your salesperson and have them tune the adjustment to make the bad stuff go away.  You'll need to do this for 2+ hours with every pack you try on.

And NEVER buy something that is close.  Keep shopping until you find something right.

Point being, only by putting your stuff into a prospective pack, and wearing it for a long while on your back can you possibly determine what works.

This will be worth the time and effort involved.

5:47 p.m. on June 3, 2012 (EDT)
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whomeworry said:

It doesn't matter what we think is a good fitting pack, we don't have your shoulders, back, hips or body.  The best advice is touch it before you buy it, and preferable load it up and wear it a few hours before committing to the purchase.

Ed

 +1

9:09 a.m. on June 4, 2012 (EDT)
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Oh my, tons of good information here. Looks like I'll be taking a trip ye olde local gear store to try a few things on. I'll let you know how it goes. Thanks again everybody.

1:27 p.m. on June 9, 2012 (EDT)
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I have/had a few different packs: Osprey Aether, Mystery Ranch Prime, Gregory Z,  Osprey Talon, Kelty Super Tioga (external frame), Mountainsmith, etc., but one of my favorites and cheapest is my Kelty Red Cloud. It's very adjustable (it took time but I sure got it right). It's huge, but compresses well and has a ton of pockets and lops for attachment. I got mine for $90. One of the cheapest packs I have bought but it works for me. It takes a lot more abuse than I would have expected. Very durable. 

I do like a lot of North Face packs (I know, lots of people don't like TNF but I find their stuff to be of good quality. I love their tents as well). The North Face Zealot 70 looks very sweet and would like to have one one day. Check it out. The Crescent looks like a nice TNF pack as well.

But as mentioned, go with what fits well for you. Backcountry.com has the BEST return policy on the planet. I've recently returned stuff to them and got my CC credited before they even got the items back by using their UPS label.

Good luck.

November 26, 2014
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