Your Quiver of Packs...

9:26 p.m. on August 24, 2012 (EDT)
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So, I've recently gone through an upheaval with my backpacks...

Used to have 4:

A Patagonia Catalyst 1500 cu. in. frameless, everyday-use daypack (1lb, 12oz)

A Salomon Raid Revo 2400 cu. in. ultralight, frameless weekend-type backpack (16 oz)

A ULA Cataylst 4600 cu. in. internal frame backpack (3lbs)

An Arcteryx Bora 95 internal frame (9lbs!)

The Bora was my first real pack since the boy scouts, but recently I could never fill it up...

I almost always had extra room in the ULA too, when I wasn't overloading it...

The Salomon was always stuffed to the gills...

The Patagonia was too small for my backpacking style really, and was more of a day-use only pack...

I've always heard that "Your backpack should be the last thing you buy..." but I never really understood that until now, if I even understand it now...

I've sold, or am selling, all of the above backpacks, having never really felt that they fit my needs adequately. Sure, they worked well for a trip or two, but overall they were either too small or too big.

I've been searching for "just right" for a while now...

I think I may have now found it, but pray it's not one of those "the grass is always greener on the other side" sort of things...

I thought hard about my needs, my backpacking style, my personal philosophies. Recently, I've been really trying to reduce the amount of sh!t I own, so that's been a big factor...

I'm going with a modular approach now, with multiple pack-bags that work either alone, or in conjunction with an external pack frame. The frame I have now is the new KUIU Icon:

I also have their Icon 5000 cu. in. pack-bag, for extended winter trips, climbing trips, and just general high-volume needs. For the majority of my trips, though, I'll be using a custom, one-off cuben bag that I'm having Joe over at make for me. It'll basically be his framed 3000 Blast pack, modified to mount to the KUIU frame as well. Both of these pack-bags can also serve as compression bags too, sandwiching dry-bags or other bulky gear in-between itself and the pack frame. Then, for my 3-season ultralight trips and daypack needs, I have an MLD Burn on the way...

I know, kinda crazy, huh? I really thought quite a bit about this one though, pouring over my old trip notes, taking into account other gear changes. I'll have one less pack, and the one's I do own will be more versatile, better suited to my capacity needs, and lighter! However, like I said before, I can't help but think that I'm just hard to satisfy.

So, help me feel less self-conscious; tell me what packs you have in your stable...How often do you re-assess things? I haven't gone pack crazy, have I?

10:28 a.m. on August 25, 2012 (EDT)
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Your approach seems fine to me. Frameight feel like overkill for overnights, maybe, but I like to err in that direction.

2 packs that are 2300 cubic inches. One is a cold cold world ozone, 'frame' is a twice-folded foam pad. Summit pack/large day pack. The other is a mystery ranch snapdragon. Can carry up to about 25 pounds with the beefed up hip belt. Partial plastic sheet is the only frame. Fine for longs days or an overnight.

One is about 3900, Gregory baltoro. Weekends or longer if packing light. Heavy, totes 50 pinda or so. Primary frame is an aluminum bar, stiff 6000 series. About 2 years old, replaced a Dana designs bridger.

Large pack is a 100 liter mystery ranch 6000. Weighs almost 8 pounds, can carry about 80 (I rarely get above 60).

I have tried lighter options, but I usually buy durable, heavyweight backpacks with the goal of using them for at least 10 years.

11:43 a.m. on August 25, 2012 (EDT)
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I have two packs. A Camelbak Linchpin 32.5L and an Osprey Aether 70 (75L).

Between these two I can cover all of my bases.

The Camelbak is good for day hikes, and those light weight summer trips. It holds everything that I need to be comfortable for a 2-3 day summer trip, along with fly fishing gear.

My Osprey comes out for everything else. I can hold enough gear for a 2 week summer trip, or about a 1 week winter trip, and somewhere inbetween for other seasons. This is without strapping things to the outside, which would expand its capabilities.

Of all of my packs I like the Camelbak the best. I like the Aether, but I am looking for other alternatives that are larger and lighter. This is mainly due to me having a little one now that will soon be coming out with me so I will be having to carry more gear. I am looking at the Kifaru Ultralight series, the KU5200 to be specific ( I had the pleasure of borrowing the pack from a friend and I absolutely love it. I also had Kifaru send me a fabric sample and I have tried to destroy it with little luck. I have purposefully tried to snag it on thorns and rip a hole-doesn't work. I have taped it to my boot and drug my foot down the sidewalk-no worse the wear, and several other tests trying to make it fail. I am very impressed with it, and despite it's price tag may be making the leap here in the somewhat near future. I am very impressed with this 2lbs 13oz pack that can haul some heavy heavy loads without stressing the pack material or frame.(note i didn't say comfortable, because nothing is remotely close to comfortable at around 100lbs no matter the pack)


12:25 p.m. on August 25, 2012 (EDT)
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Ken, I have heard very good things about Kifaru packs. Yes they are pricey but then again what isn't nowadays when ya want a quality pack that is going to last?

Honestly, If I was in the market for a new pack Kifaru would be very high on my list of potentials just from the feedback I have read from owners/users.

I am honestly somewhat surprised that they haven't been brought up when the conversation surrounds quality packs such as McHale, MR, or other high end expedition sized load monsters.

This might be a pretty good thread topic here. Although I haven't seen them mentioned here at TS there has to be someone in the land of tents & packs that have some type of experience w/them...

4:29 p.m. on August 25, 2012 (EDT)
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Kifaru packs are not quite in the same league as Mystery Ranch. No comparison to Mchale, of course. Mchale packs are full custom.

I continue to read about users switching from Kifaru to MR on hunting forums.

5:25 p.m. on August 25, 2012 (EDT)
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i was initially intrigued by Kifaru.  Its founder was originally with Mountainsmith, which was a very good backpack company a long time ago.  The brand was ultimately sold & lost its luster, not unlike what happened when dana design was folded into marmot. 

An ex-military friend, avid hunter and hiker, got a Kifaru pack a while back.  he ended up getting rid of it.  he thought it was overpriced and that it didn't carry weight nearly as well as it should have.  he ended up with a mid-sized arcteryx bora instead, which he thought was much better.  i trust the man's opinion and have been happy with mystery ranch.  i suspect i would be happy with mchale, but i decided at some point that i'm don't really need custom (limmer, mchale) and the added quality and expense. 


12:23 p.m. on August 26, 2012 (EDT)
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Yeah, I had done quite a bit of research on the Kifaru and MR frames, and came to understand that the KUIU would likely be best for my needs...the frame and suspension come in at 3lbs, while being able to support those monster loads we all dream of...with the cuben pack-bag from Joe, I'll have an incredibly supportive, plush pack system that'll still weigh under 4 pounds. 

If you're looking at MR, Kifaru, and McHale, you owe it to yourself to take a hard look at the 2012 KUIU Icon line...I'll post some pics of the system when Joe gets done with everything.

2:37 p.m. on August 26, 2012 (EDT)
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Looked over the Kuiu website and for the life of me can't understand why he doesn't list the pack and frame weights on his site.  I'd be very wary of someone selling packs without the weights listed.  Maybe I missed it?

And here's another thing---why do the big pack makers like Mystery Ranch and Kifaru and now Kuiu gravitate to the hunters and meat-haulers?  And why in the world would I want a camouflaged pack?

3:24 p.m. on August 26, 2012 (EDT)
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Yeah, those are really good questions, Walter...Here's my speculation...

These pack makers chose to make a product--maybe based originally on their own, personal needs--and they understand that they also need to "brand" it. The backpack-hunter crowd, as I understand them, are a no-nonsense bunch...hence the frequent references to rule #5 (

For them, (and you and me, likely) the ability for a pack to not fail under extreme circumstances--like carrying a 120lb load of bone-out Elk meat, or a full trad rack plus sub-zero winter kit--is more important than the weight of said pack. The ability to do these things for years on end without attention or special consideration is more important as well. The ability to do it in relative comfort is more important. In fact, I'd guess that a pack's weight is more like 10th or even 20th on their list of considerations...

If one markets their packs to this crowd, then, a given pack's weight isn't all that important. (One can find the weights of the frames/pack-bags in a few threads within the forum section of their website.)

As far as the camouflaged thing...for big-mountain sheep hunts (and many backpack-hunts, really), one often has to track their prey for countless miles over many days, with little or no cover...under these circumstances it is beneficial to "break up" every little bit of one's profile.

KUIU offers their ICON frame suspensions in a grey color as well, and their ICON pack bags can be had in a grey/ranger-green colorway.

4:36 p.m. on August 26, 2012 (EDT)
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Just about to a fourth or is a fifth, once I get it I will post them all

5:55 p.m. on August 27, 2012 (EDT)
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have an old kelty west coast external frame 5400 CI 5lbs

an rei internal frame for overniters 3000 CI 3lbs

a Camelback fourteener for dayhikes - nothing recent or hi tech about my packs!

1:33 p.m. on August 28, 2012 (EDT)
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Family Guy said:

Kifaru packs are not quite in the same league as Mystery Ranch.

I continue to read about users switching from Kifaru to MR on hunting forums.

 Agreed, and yes, that has been my experience also.  Like anything, there are die-hard Kifaru fans, but also like that anything, there is a significant segment of die-hards who are caught up in more than the materials.  They like the branding.  They like the marketing.  etc etc.  A LOT of people like Kifaru for reasons other than the quality of goods...but their steadfastness comes out in defense of the quality of goods.  One thing that does seem to stand true is that they make a really nice belt.  You'll read great praise about the comfort of their belts, and there are hunters who use Dana Design Loadmaster externals with Kifaru belt substitutes.

Personally, I could never get any Mountainsmith pack to carry well and thusly considered them 2nd or 3rd tier.  They were one of the first couple of pack manufacturers I tested, and they scored much lower than packs like the Lowe Contour IV.  And they were heavier than just about any other pack I tried, too.

I had 18 backpacks.  I sold six.  The remaining range from collectibles from the 70s to load monsters from the 90s.  I still haven't purchased a pack made in the 2000s.  I like the idea of a modular, adaptable pack and bringing that mass down to a single pack.  To be honest, I'm not sure what I NEED anymore.  I know what I like.  I know that I like what I have remaining.  I'm an unmotivated ex-record collector with a ton of vinyl (in weight, not hyperbole).  A dozen packs doesn't look or feel like overkill when I consider the albatross of that collection.

At first, I was hearing not so kind things about the construction and prices of the KUIU, so it is nice to hear good things about a new upstart company.  I'll be watching them closer from now on.

4:46 p.m. on September 5, 2012 (EDT)
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Zeno Marx said:

At first, I was hearing not so kind things about the construction and prices of the KUIU, so it is nice to hear good things about a new upstart company.  I'll be watching them closer from now on.

Yeah, I have read the accounts of the first-gen frame flexing more than one would like it to at loads above 70lbs, but KUIU has really listened to the feedback and has stiffened up the 2nd-gen 2012 version quite well. It'll now haul those dreaded 100+ lb loads when asked to, and it still comes in at 3lbs.

When I account for the shaped, ergonomic design of the frame and suspension, as well as the modular capabilities, I knew I had a winner. The founder of the company, Jason Hairston, started Sitka gear, so he had a considerable amount of startup capital available when getting KUIU up to speed...I think it's amazing how dialed-in the 2012 Icon is--and in only 2 years!--when compared to the other offering in its class.

I'd love to hear some first-hand accounts of in-field performance of the Kifaru Ultralight packs from Trailspace members.

7:23 p.m. on September 5, 2012 (EDT)
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You are way off on the weight of those KUIU packs. More like 6 pounds for suspension and bag. Not even close to 3 lbs.

7:44 p.m. on September 5, 2012 (EDT)
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Family Guy said:

You are way off on the weight of those KUIU packs. More like 6 pounds for suspension and bag. Not even close to 3 lbs.

The frame/suspension alone is a tick over 3lbs. (49oz.)

The weights for the 3000 & 6000ci pack bodies are not listed.

The 5000ci comes in at 3.2lbs(51oz) and the 7000ci comes in at 3.4lbs(54oz.)

7:49 p.m. on September 5, 2012 (EDT)
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Exactly. Unless I have missed something on the specs.

Or maybe he is referring to the Kifuru packs.

7:55 p.m. on September 5, 2012 (EDT)
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The frame with the the 5000ci pack body weighs around the same as my Argon 85(6.2lbs.) The Argon has a little more interior volume(close to 200ci.)

9:25 p.m. on September 5, 2012 (EDT)
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Yeah, the 3lbs I referred to was for the frame and suspension only, as Rick clarified (...thanks Rick!).

9:28 p.m. on September 5, 2012 (EDT)
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10:20 p.m. on September 6, 2012 (EDT)
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Current pack list includes:

'07 Camelbak Rimrunner - goto bag for all day hikes.

'07 Gregory Palisade - never use it anymore, ought to donate it to a museum.

'10 Kelty 2650 (now the "44") - great bag for overnighters and as luggage on planes.

'11 Kelty Lakota - my favorite bag for longer walks.

Just did a 10 day no re-supply walkabout (actually 12 days but the first couple were spent getting used to altitude) with this thing last month in the vicinity of Lassen Volcanic National Park, a lot of which was on fire.  Great trip, nature at work and so forth, ash layer on our tarps (my son and I, he's 30) like snowfall some mornings but we had the whole ecosystem pretty much to ourselves.  Apparently everybody else went instead to Disneyland.  Good for them, lucky for us. 

Really good pack, no complaints on the quality and I only spent $110 on the thing, free shipping, no tax.  'Course back in the day I used to spend a ton of money on a pack, every chance I got, but that's not really necessary anymore as I will never haul 50 pounds ever again because I don't have to, because gear has come a very long way toward the Light and it's all getting lighter, and smaller, every year.

Whatever, that Lakota really worked!  For a 66 liter bag, made of reasonably durable materials and competently put together, 4 pounds is acceptable weight.

I will tell you that making a Kelty fit means taking the time to bend the stay to merge with the curve of your torso and to land that lumbar pad exactly where it needs to be.  Takes a while, but it makes all the difference.  Just follow the instructions for fitting that comes with the bag. 

The load-carried started out with right at 40 pounds with a base weight of 19.  Yep, hammock and tarp and Caldera rig, the only way to camp below tree line, home-dehydrated rations (finest kind); and the occasional fish on! lightened the load and the spirits - I always carry a small spinning outfit if there is even a remote possibility of fish.  You can't catch 'em if you don't wet a line.  Required equipment, the 11th Essential.

There it is, I don't need another pack, happy enough with what I have. Way happy.



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