Light weight pack for a long haul...

11:48 a.m. on September 13, 2012 (EDT)
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So I am projecting to do a long distance trip a bit later down the road(I will leave that one for another discussion as I get closer to my departure.)

With that being said I am juggling the idea of going with lighter weight gear.

I have most of what I am going to take but there are a few items that I still need to snag up.

One of which is a lighter pack.

I love my Argon 85(aka Big Blue) but at over 6lbs it is kinda pushing what I want to haul on my back for this type of mileage/distance(awesome week+/winter pack though.)

So with that being said I would like to explore UL packs(60L or more.)

I do prefer a backpanel so I would prefer one that has one. 

I have been looking at full Dyneema(not grid) packs from McHale as well as ULA's Catalyst. 

I know there are probably a ton of cottage companies out there that I may be unaware of and thought that you all could maybe help me get dialed in a bit more in regards to viable options.

I am looking for suggestions as far as quality, layout, and performance goes.

I will take care of the whole fitting thing on my end through correspondence with the company directly. I have done this a few times and the REIs here only carry so much.

This whole UL thing is completely new to me.

I don't mind spending the coin if the quality is there. 

Thanks in advance.

12:29 p.m. on September 13, 2012 (EDT)
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The ULA Catalyst is a primo pack. I had one for a while, using it for many trips. The suspension is amazing for a 3lb pack. It holds lots of gear and carries 45lbs extremely well when you need it to, and with the compresensive compression system, also works very good for lightweight weekends. Bear canisters fit inside side-ways easily. If the specs fit what you think you'll need--and it looks like it will--I'd highly recommend the Catalyst.

...ULA's customer service is also top-notch, and their packs hold their value, too; used Catalysts regularly sell around $200.

12:38 p.m. on September 13, 2012 (EDT)
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Thanks for the input pillowthread. I have seen quite a bit of glowing feedback in regards to the Catalyst.

Owner feedback goes a long way with me. 

How was the durability on the pack you owned? 

Thanks again man, much appreciated.

2:31 p.m. on September 13, 2012 (EDT)
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ULA makes a quality product Rick... I bought my Catalyst after chatting with pillowthread on here.I got to try on one from a friend and it worked. I also used it for what your thinking and it's my go to pack...Durability is good..

 

2:46 p.m. on September 13, 2012 (EDT)
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I am still gonna use my Argon for winter trips(my kit is just way too big to fit in a smaller volume pack) but I intend on building a UL kit as well. 

3:35 p.m. on September 13, 2012 (EDT)
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I had a Catalyst.  Nice pack but it does not compare well to the Mchales that I have owned.  The fit and finish of the latter is substantially better and the packs will simply last longer from a durability stand point.  My Catalyst (and Circuit) showed considerable wear after only a couple of years of moderate use. 

As far as carrying ability.  Again, really no comparison.  First, your Mchale is custom fitted to your body type and that includes everything from the belt and shoulder harness to the shape and length of the stays (which are of much stronger aluminum than what is found on the Catalyst but yet just as light).  Dan can make you a pack that is well under 3 pounds and could carry well over 60 lbs in..uh...comfort.  The suspension with the P&G has no equal in the market.  The load lifters actually work and do what they are supposed to do without binding of the shoulder straps.  Brilliance, I say.

But...it comes at a cost, of course. 

However it is not like you would be getting something for nothing - vastly better carrying ability, durability, custom fit, custom fabrics, and custom options.  A Mchale will last a lifetime.

You bought the Soulo for a reason.  Why skimp on a pack?

4:22 p.m. on September 13, 2012 (EDT)
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Rick,

FWIW, guess I’ll be the voice of dissent here: I’ve tried on the Catalyst in the store with both the S straps and J straps and found it to be particularly uncomfortable for my body type. There is an outfitter close to me that carries them and I was able to try on various sizes and with both strap configurations. What I finally deduced was that I somehow fall between a small and medium and could not get a good fit with either. That being said, the ULA packs are seemingly regarded as “the goto” pack for thru hikes. But as you know, fit is key.

You might also give at look the Mystery Ranch Trance (4.2 pounds) which is their take on a thru-hiking pack but is quite heavy compared to most popular options like the ULA brands. I obviously love mine. J

I saw quite a few Gregory Z packs on the AT this year too but I don’t care for them personally (the lumbar support digs in on my “flatter than a normal person” lumbar area), but it’s something to consider.

The more I use my newish Gregory Savant the more I like it. It’s a tad small and weight limited for a thru-hike in the colder weather but worth a look.

 

7:03 p.m. on September 13, 2012 (EDT)
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Thanks for all of the feedback so far. It is much appreciated and I am looking into all of it. 

Anyone familiar with Cilo Gear's full Dyneema Work Sacks(below:)

http://www.cilogear.com/nsearch.html?section=&query=dyneema+work+sack&searchsubmit=Search&vwcatalog=yhst-72629531875391

Pretty pricey($1500 for a 75L.)

7:46 p.m. on September 13, 2012 (EDT)
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Cilo Gear packs are really fine, but specifically tailored to a mountain climber's needs...hipbelt is designed to ride high, out of the way of a harness; hipbelt is very minimal; no outside side "water bottle" pockets; other things too...

7:51 p.m. on September 13, 2012 (EDT)
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That's what I have been hearing. So that one is out of the conversation.

Keep em coming.

11:25 p.m. on September 13, 2012 (EDT)
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Not a cottage company but check out the Golite Quest 65 or 80L pack. 3#12 and is adjustable for torso and shoulder fit. Call them and ask questions (I know that you will). I've had great experiences with my Golite Pursuit pack. This pack is on sale direct for $99-$109! Not necessarily in te same class as the McHales and Mystery's, but could be an option to consider... Golite's direct sale model is something to be celebrated and affords us a lot of value for the money.

11:32 p.m. on September 13, 2012 (EDT)
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Thanks for the input XterroBrando, I will look into those as well.

I have to say I have an appreciation/respect for GoLite now that they eliminated the middleman mark ups and sell direct to the consumer base.

Giving a bit back to the folks that ultimately pay your bills is a nice gesture in regards to customer appreciation imo.

Kudos to GoLite for doing so.

11:57 p.m. on September 13, 2012 (EDT)
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I wonder what's going on with Golite. Last year it seemed like every other hiker was carrying one of their packs. This year I might have seen a couple in 30 days of hiking... Though I saw lots of Ospreys, a few Gregory, a few Deuter... And a handful of others. Some of the UL'ers packs were hard to identify, though, because they tended to run by with a panicky look of urgency on their faces :)...

Now Golite has only one ultralight pack on their site - the Jam - and all three sizes are sold out.

12:15 a.m. on September 14, 2012 (EDT)
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The jam is actually three models. The 35L, 50L, and 70L.

12:28 a.m. on September 14, 2012 (EDT)
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Right, those are the three sizes I mentioned.

7:47 a.m. on September 14, 2012 (EDT)
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Granite Gear Blaze or Nimbus would be in the territory your checking out. Don't have first hand knowledge of these packs..Outside named Nimbus one of it's year award winners...

11:53 a.m. on September 14, 2012 (EDT)
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"Now Golite has only one ultralight pack on their site - the Jam - and all three sizes are sold out."

Sorry about that but your comment above wasn't clear that you were talking about the capacity of each pack.  It read as if you were relating to the torso sizes of only one pack which made sense as the Jam packs come in short, medium, and large torso sizes.  The pack also comes in three capacities of 35l, 50l, and 70l.  In effect, over 9 different configurations. 

 

 

 

12:04 p.m. on September 14, 2012 (EDT)
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denis daly said:

Granite Gear Blaze or Nimbus would be in the territory your checking out. Don't have first hand knowledge of these packs..Outside named Nimbus one of it's year award winners...

I have been looking into GG products as well Denis. 

So many choices. :p

12:10 p.m. on September 14, 2012 (EDT)
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No worries, i see what you mean.

Or, in other words, they currently have zero ultralight packs available for sale.

Estimated arrival is mid November.  I suppose with the new lower direct sale pricing they can't keep up with the demand...

12:22 p.m. on September 14, 2012 (EDT)
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Would you be intetested in a mr pack that isnt a ul but a bombproof instead? Ive got a mr bridger assault pack, I think its 60 or so liters. I can ship it to you if your willing to pay the shipping of your choice. It doesnt fit me well, ive been thinkin of selling it but im on the fence. If you liked it I would sell it to you. It has the futura yoke I think, its a medium but they are sized really large, it says the medium fits from five eight to six four I think. You would get to test drive a mr pack for the cost of shipping, its in nearly mint shape with only a little trail dirt. If you are used to carryin that osprey monstet it will feel like a ul pack. LOL

12:47 p.m. on September 14, 2012 (EDT)
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I really want to go UL on this one. This is gonna be a really long haul(months.)So I kinda want to get my load a bit lighter for a trip of this nature. 

I mean I could take my Argon and just compress the daylights out of it but as I stated above the pack itself still weighs in at over 6lbs.

Thanks for the offer though. 

I can guarantee that if you put that pack up for sale someone will jump on it. 

MR makes an awesome product. 

2:37 p.m. on September 14, 2012 (EDT)
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RE: Catalyst durability...

I found the durability on my Catalyst to be very adequate. I used it for probably about 40-ish days/nights in total and the only hole that developed was a little nick in the 3-D spacer mesh back-panel from a spirited branch that found me when I was off-trail "bushwhacking" one day. Though I didn't experience any wear on the bottom of the pack, I suppose some have, as ULA has since upgraded the bottom of the pack to a black 500D Cordura fabric.

So long as you're not throwing your pack down on talus and then regularly sitting on it during rest breaks, you'll likely find the durability adequate as well...

2:38 p.m. on September 14, 2012 (EDT)
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Look at Kifaru packs. their 75l weighs about 3 lbs. 

7:46 p.m. on September 14, 2012 (EDT)
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Rick the GoLite Quest is in stock and for a 80L at 3.12lb that is dang light.  The Quest 65L is also in stock, 3.10lb.

At $110 or $100 for the packs they are a great buy for the money you have to spend.  I really like the tent I got and have been looking at there packs, but with the lack of hiking this summer it's hard to justify another new pack!

Call the stores in Colorado, the in-store sales reps are much more hands on then the 800 sales people.  Not that they are bad, but they are looking at a computer screen rather then the product.  I have yet to have anyone give me crud about calling a store even though I am not in their area.  

If you get one and then decide you don't want it, it seems it would be fairly easy to sell it.  Hint Hint.  :)

Wolf

8:58 p.m. on September 14, 2012 (EDT)
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I looked at those packs in Pheonix and they are probably being sold at the right price. The shoulder padding is really short and the suspension is pretty minimal. No interchangeable suspension parts. Quite heavy for the capacity as well and I only say that because they appeared smaller than their quoted capacities. They used to have the Torreno series that was excellent but discontinued them. Rumor has it they are coming back for 2013 (including the lightest freestanding tents on the market).

9:14 p.m. on September 14, 2012 (EDT)
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Rick, have you checked Mountain Laurel Designs?

10:11 a.m. on September 15, 2012 (EDT)
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I know you said you would get into detail about your trip later. Can you let us know where your going. Sorry to hijack your thread buy curiosity got the best of me.

1:14 p.m. on September 15, 2012 (EDT)
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hotdogman said:

I know you said you would get into detail about your trip later. Can you let us know where your going. Sorry to hijack your thread buy curiosity got the best of me.

Nope, I'll never tell.... :p

Oh what the heck, I am going to make a trip to Georgia and hopefully end up somewhere on some big ol' rock in Maine.

I am starting the planning way early and trying to approach one thing at a time. Kinda just makes things a lot less jumbled. 

I could post "thru-hiking the AT suggestions" but then I would be left dissecting all of the feedback which could potentially make things somewhat cantankerous.

If I approach one item at a time it makes things so much simpler. 

I guess the "part time professional crash test dummy" thing has taken somewhat of a toll on my motor skills so I try to keep things simple. ;)

I have quite a bit to get in order so that is why I am starting the planning early.

I just didn't want to open that "can o' worms" too soon and get smashed in the teeth with all kinds of info.

(Can't send the one lonely brain cell I have left into overdrive. :) 

I believe I most certainly have the skill set to complete this solo. I am just getting myself dialed in on the knowledge aspect of the trail. 

Plus I have to make sure my wife will have a nice security blanket as far as financial resources go, so on and so forth. 

She is quite supportive. 

This is step one as far as the long trips go for me, the CDT will be next. 

Hey ya only live once... 

6:53 p.m. on September 15, 2012 (EDT)
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Rick:

There is a group of folks fabricating tents, tarps and packs from cuben fiber.  Very light, very strong.  You might surf the net for their blog site.

7:23 p.m. on September 15, 2012 (EDT)
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I have heard mixed feelings on Cuben fiber from prior threads here. Pretty pricey too. Then again so is Dyneema. I will definitely look into this.

Any chance ya know the names of any of these sites?

8:10 a.m. on September 16, 2012 (EDT)
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www.zpacks.com

 Joe use's zCuben finer in his packs and tarps...He's a triple crown hiker...I looked into his tarps for my trip them went with a Tarptent.That weighed 1.5 pounds....

3:01 p.m. on September 16, 2012 (EDT)
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Joe is good people; I've had him make me many things, and he's more than happy to custom-tailor items to your individual specifications. He makes a couple of framed backpacks, and though they don't necessarily have padded backpanels, he can incorporate a sleeve into the back such that you can insert a folded Z-rest (or the like) which works in conjunction with the carbon stays to create a very capable padded frame...

Also, Rick, you might want to check out Hyperlight Mountain Gear, here:

http://www.hyperlitemountaingear.com/packs.html

Their Windrider is well-reviewed, and though I haven't carried one, I hear it does many of the things a Catalyst can, at over a pound less weight.

And we go further down into the rabbit hole...

9:18 p.m. on September 16, 2012 (EDT)
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For a Thru, the Porter or Porter Expedition might be a better choice. Still under 2 lbs.

6:40 p.m. on September 17, 2012 (EDT)
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Rick-Pittsburgh said:

..Any chance ya know the names of any of these sites?

Sorry, did not note the names of the blog site, but found it using cuben fiber as the keyword search criteria.

Ed

8:31 p.m. on September 17, 2012 (EDT)
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If you'll be carrying 25 pounds or less I'd recomend the Go Lite Jam 70 liter -

Not that I have all that much experience with all sorts of backpacks mind you - But this summer I also decided to "get light!"

I've been carrying a 75 liter karrimor jaguar since the mid 80's and it really was time for me to get a new pack anyway. My wife has an REI Morningstar that works just fine ( although if it were me the top flap/pocket would drive me nuts...) but it is on the heavy side. So after much looking about I found the 70 liter Jam on sale early this summer and got two.

These packs are huge, especially for ultralight rigs. One has to be carefull not to overload them, but they are great for bulky items. The only reason I got the 70 liter packs was because they were out of everything else, and Go Lite insisted the compression straps used on the 70 liter pack would allow more compact loads to be carried as easily as the smaller packs do.

 

Oh, that's also one of the six-ounce Go-Lite umbrellas my wife is using while hiking along in the rain -

Having tried the umbrella thing now I'd take one along on any thru-hike. 

 


image.jpg

The 70 liter Jam is a huge pack -


image.jpg

This shot of me scooping water from a tiny seep also happens to show the suspension system of the Jam.


image.jpg

It's pretty comfy, but note that it isn't adjustable for height. You got length adjustments on the hip belt and shoulder straps, and that's all folks! So make sure the pack is sized for you. I got a "long" one after measuring my torso, but I think I should have gotten the next size down.

I pull the hip belt just as tight as it can go - I have a 30 inch waist, am 5'7", and 140 pounds.

The pack weighs just under two pounds, but I gather dedicated ultralighters can easily carve a full pound off the weight of one of these, starting with the hip belt. For me, the jurry is still out on the hip belt. On a recent trip I experimented with using the hip belt and not using it - And I found the hip belt does take weight off your shoulders even without much of a fancy frame in the pack 

The reason our packs looked so stuffed for what was just a weekend trip is because both our packs have a full sized Wal-Mart foam sleeping pad in them. Coil the pad, put it into the pack and uncoil it.

Now put everything you want to tote along inside the circle of foam pad.

These pads are light, cheap, and warm but they certainly are bulky. But it sure did stiffen the pack. We could easily do away with the backboard the Goliote comes with using this packing method.      

The 70 liter pack has compression straps along the sides, but it also has a hook and loop arrangment along the bottom to pinch the outside and inside bottom of the pack tightly together, really reducing the volume. Great for long trips where you are carrying allot of food at first, but several days down the trail need to compress the bottom of the pack to keep your remaining weight where it should be.

The packs are well made of good materials and are simply designed. I like that, and have always prefered the "Bloody great sack" ( as Colin Fletcher wrote )  sort of backpack. 

I sorta do wonder about how well the mesh side pockets will hold up in the long run, but others seem to say they do alright.

 

The Jam has a big conventional zippered pocket at the back, unlike the big mesh pocket of the Gossomar Gear G4 and the original Ray Jardine backpack.  I have mixed feelings about this. On one hand I have found that pocket darn handy -  Maybe to handy, and have wound up cramming in more odds and ends than I really need to -  

And I like the idea of being able to stuff a wet tent fly or tarp into the big back mess pocket of the original ultralight packs, so I don't have to stuff wet gear inside the main pack, with my dry clothes and food.

I didn't go with the G4 because the Jam has that hip belt. But if you can keep the weight to twenty pounds or less, I'd think about the G4.

I reckon I could do 30 pounds with the Jam if i had to carry lots of food, but it's best at 25 and down. I reckon one might push the G4 to 25 pounds, but I think that it's probably best below twenty.  

Kinda depends upon what yer base weight looks like it will be.

  

 

 

11:24 p.m. on September 17, 2012 (EDT)
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Family Guy said:

I looked at those packs in Pheonix and they are probably being sold at the right price. The shoulder padding is really short and the suspension is pretty minimal. No interchangeable suspension parts. Quite heavy for the capacity as well and I only say that because they appeared smaller than their quoted capacities. They used to have the Torreno series that was excellent but discontinued them. Rumor has it they are coming back for 2013 (including the lightest freestanding tents on the market).

 There are no interchangeable suspension parts, but they do have torso adjustments, which is pretty impressive considering the weight and handling capacity of the pack. Wanted a Terrono the first time it came out, so if that comes back I'm stoked. Also excited to see the next generation of tents.

 

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