Trying to find the perfect backpack

2:34 a.m. on March 20, 2013 (EDT)
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So I'm looking for a lightweight (2-3 lbs) backpack that's 40-50 liters with some kind of frame system in it that'll comfortably carry 25-30 lbs. If I get above 35 lbs, I'll use my bigger pack. 

So far I've tried the REI Flash 50 (http://www.rei.com/product/830582/rei-flash-50-pack-special-buy), a Golite Infinity, and the Osprey Talon 44. Osprey's tend to fit me pretty well so I had high hopes for the Talon but it feels like it pulls on my left shoulder for some reason, as though I've got the pack out of balance or the left strap is shorter. I sent it back and got the smaller size - same problem, oddly enough. Neither the Flash or the Golite seem to fit quite right either. All 3 work pretty well, but I'm still searching for the perfect feel.

I'm thinking now about the Osprey Exos 46 or maybe the Atmos 50. I also might try the new REI Flash 45 but am figuring that the Flashes just don't fit my body quite right.

Any suggestions or thoughts are greatly appreciated!

7:59 a.m. on March 20, 2013 (EDT)
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Is cost an issue? I ask because there is a couple of cottage manufacturers making packs that would suits your needs. In no particular order, you could check out....

Zpacks Hyperlite mountain gear Cilo gear

I'm personally doing my research now on a 45L nwd pack from cilo gear. So much versatility, so little weight!

12:09 p.m. on March 20, 2013 (EDT)
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You seem to be interested in osprey packs, or maybe thats what is available. The only pack they make that I like, fits your criteria, i think, its their kestral line. Im partial to gregory packs, but the kestrals fit me well.

3:03 p.m. on March 20, 2013 (EDT)
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Jake W said:

Is cost an issue? I ask because there is a couple of cottage manufacturers making packs that would suits your needs. In no particular order, you could check out....

Zpacks Hyperlite mountain gear Cilo gear

I'm personally doing my research now on a 45L nwd pack from cilo gear. So much versatility, so little weight!

 Keep in mind that Cilogear packs are technical packs.  They're designed to do a job, but being on the trail for long periods and hauls in greater comfort probably isn't one of them.  Admittedly, I don't own a Cilogear pack, but I have used other technical packs in the past with similar designs, and they lacked the comfort that the backpacker-design packs provided.  And I'm certainly not knocking Cilogear in any way.  Their testimonials speak for themselves.  It's that obsession with weight that can confuse purposes of gear.

4:12 p.m. on March 20, 2013 (EDT)
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You might check out the Gregory Savant line which is somewhat similar to the other packs you described. I own the men’s Savant 48 and I like it; the side mesh pockets are a bit flimsy and I’ve only used it maybe a dozen times, but so far it’s good. The specs indicate a maximum load of 30 lbs. ; I’ve had 40 in it and it was OK but certainly less comfortable. The medium 48 weighs 3 pounds 5 ounces which is slightly above your spec,  but worth a try…

http://www.gregorypacks.com/products/mens/technical/303/savant-48

12:25 p.m. on March 21, 2013 (EDT)
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Good luck.

2:52 p.m. on March 21, 2013 (EDT)
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langcow said:

... Osprey's tend to fit me pretty well so I had high hopes for the Talon but it feels like it pulls on my left shoulder for some reason, as though I've got the pack out of balance or the left strap is shorter. I sent it back and got the smaller size - same problem, oddly enough. Neither the Flash or the Golite seem to fit quite right either. All 3 work pretty well, but I'm still searching for the perfect feel....

 When you bought or tried the 3 packs, how did you buy them - mail order, off the shelf at the store, or with a trained and experienced packfitter? A trained packfitter will spend time going through the adjustments, then have you load the pack with weight (sandbags usually at the specialty stores) and have you walk around for at least a half hour, including stairs (or some stores have a pile of rocks, real or simulated) to mimic going up and downhill on realistic terrain.

Proper fitting of a pack is as important as fitting boots. From your description, it sounds like you did not work with a trained and experienced packfitter. Pack size is important, which includes not only torso length, but spacing of the shoulder straps, and size and shape of the waist strap, along with proper adjustment of the waist strap, shoulder straps, lumbar straps, and load lifter straps. There is a proper order to do the adjustments as well. 

5:43 p.m. on March 21, 2013 (EDT)
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you would do yourself a service by trying them all on, packed with some weight.

i have to agree about cilogear backpacks.  similar category to cold cold world and wild things gear packs - they are designed and intended for climbing, as in rock or ice climbing.  while they are all excellent in their own way, none of them are really intended for traditional backpacking, and you might find their suspensions uncomfortable. 

i reviewed a Lowe backpack for trailspace that fits your demands in terms of size, frame, and capacity.  you need to buy the correct size, but the torso length has a 2-3 inch adjustment that is nice.  check it out:

http://www.trailspace.com/gear/lowe-alpine/airzone-pro-4555/#review27119

 

 

9:25 p.m. on March 22, 2013 (EDT)
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Hi guys - thanks for all the advice. I think this weekend I'll try to take each one out with 20-30lbs for a short hike so I have a better comparison in my recent memory.

To answer your questions - I live in an area with a couple of good outdoor stores, but no REI locally. There is one 4 hrs to the South and one 4 hrs to the North, and I get to each one fairly regularly, but by that I mean a couple times a year, not once a month or anything like that. I originally ordered the large Flash 50 and took it on a short overnighter. Overall it seemed to work pretty well but was maybe a little big. The worst problem was that I'd have to cinch the belt to the maximum it would go in order to fit my waist as it's built for chubbier people than me. I then ordered the medium instead but haven't backpacked with it yet. I took both of them with me recently to the REI down south and had the pack guy check the fit for me. I'm in between sizes with a 19" torso and they both seemed to fit ok, but maybe the medium is a bit better - I'll need to go on an actual hike with it to see. I think I might give the large to my dad for his birthday.

Similar to the Flash, I've backpacked with the Talon 44 and it was good except for the weird pulling sensation on my left shoulder. I can't understand why it feels like that - I've never felt that with a pack before. I sent it back (it was a medium/large) and got the small/medium instead, because once again, I'm sort of in between sizes. I've taken it out on an overnighter and it had the same strange feeling pulling on my left shoulder. Very strange, but now I know it's the pack design and not some weirdness with the specific pack I received.

If I remember correctly, I've backpacked once with the Golite too, and I don't remember any specific issues though there's no simple way to tie my foam sleeping pad to the bottom of it, and the padding is pretty sparse. I got it off Craigslist from a guy that works at the local outdoor store and he helped me check the fit. 

Right now with my dividend and the 20% off coupon at REI, it seems like a good time to try the Exos or maybe some other pack, but I do think I ought to give all of these a comprehensive testing this weekend just to be sure.

7:49 a.m. on March 24, 2013 (EDT)
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Not exactly cheap, but the Kifaru KU series are great packs. they have 2200 , 3700, and 5200 ci sizes I think.

5:37 p.m. on March 24, 2013 (EDT)
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I've been testing out a Black Diamond Axiom 40  over the winter and its been sweet.  The reactiv suspension really shines when bushwhacking or going over a lot of uneven terrain like when tracking, it doesn't restrict lower body movement like most other packs do.  I load 30+ pounds in it regularly and it rides like a dream.   I'm looking forward  to trying some multi night, lightweight, off trail, trips with it this summer.  

Good luck on your quest,

8:50 a.m. on March 25, 2013 (EDT)
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Langcow,

 

I saw that you mentioned that you were thinking about the Osprey Atmos 50. I have the Aura 50 (women's). It is very well balanced. I do not notice any pulling of any kind. The suspension system is wonderful and it rides very comfortably. The only thing that I don't like about it is that it doesn't expand out very much, so it is kind of akward loading up bulky gear. The top pocket on the lid is also rather narrow. Other than that though, it is a really solid pack.

Good luck!

5:57 p.m. on March 25, 2013 (EDT)
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The Exped Lightning might be worth looking at...I have not tried it but it looks intriguing....their philosophy was to make a good suspension that could carry weight and then lighten the packsack.

9:19 p.m. on March 25, 2013 (EDT)
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Hi guys - thanks for all the info and advise. Ashleigh it's funny that you mentioned the Atmos because I think I might be leaning towards that one since it can apparently handle a bit more weight.

I'm also curious about the new Granite Gear Leopard 46 but it's brand new so not many reviews on it yet. I like that you can replace the backpanel with an air-filled insert which simultaneously reduces the pack weight and increases the pack's carrying ability.

12:40 p.m. on March 27, 2013 (EDT)
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I don't believe there is a perfect anything in the way of equipment, although some are better than others.  A pack is very personal so I would not trust others to make these decisions for me.  What matters is that you like it.

10:09 a.m. on March 29, 2013 (EDT)
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Packs can be tough to buy without trying them on. Last year I was searching and searching for the perfect pack for me, and decided on a Gregory. When I got to the store and tried it on, no matter what model, they didn't work for me (with weight in them). They are good, quality packs but it all comes down to the fit. I found them to have to much lumbar support, and felt they pulled the weight away from me (with the air flow space on the Gregory Z). But that system really works for some (or they wouldn't be so popular right?)

I had an Osprey Talon 44. Good pack, frame was not that bad, but It didn't work great with over 25 pounds. The Aether is great. I had the older 60 model that had only top opening, was narrow and a tight shove it pocket. I prob would have been fine if I went for the 70 (a little wider and bottom opening as well). But it was a comfi pack.

I ended up with a great North Face (Zealot 70) pack that fits perfectly, and has the features I like. Its on the heavier side but its worth the extra weight to fit me so well.

So my point is that its all about you, especially the way it fits and sits on you. Also, what features it has. Take advice, but you really have to try the pack on. If going to purchase online/without trying it on first, be sure to buy from someone with a good return policy (and price matching). moosejaw.com and backcountry.com are good for both instances. A friend of mine bought 3 different packs because he was unsure. Returned 2 with no problem.

Good luck.

8:42 a.m. on March 30, 2013 (EDT)
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You might want to look at the Elemental Horizons Kalais pack. It has gotten good reviews for comfort and utility and is in the weight and volume range you mentioned. It can be purchased with a removable hoop stay. I have one on order but won't actually have it for a few weeks. I'll do a review of it once I have put it through it's paces.

8:59 a.m. on April 1, 2013 (EDT)
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TheRambler said:

Not exactly cheap, but the Kifaru KU series are great packs. they have 2200 , 3700, and 5200 ci sizes I think.

 Sorry, but I really struggle with seeing the value of the KU series packs by Kifaru.  $560 for these packs?!? For the regular backpacker?  Are you kidding me?

One of my McHale packs was less than $500 and it was custom made!

I recently bought an Osprey Xenith, a full featured pack, and their most expensive pack in the biggest volume is only $379.00.

I just don't see these Kifaru packs as being a good recommendation for anyone outside of the hunting community, and I really doubt they can haul 150 lbs in comfort.

Do you personally own one of these KU packs, or are you going off of what you have read about them?

10:44 p.m. on April 1, 2013 (EDT)
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i have to agree about Kifaru, Mystery Ranch, McHale backpacks for someone who is looking at fairly lightweight backpacks as good options.  These are all premium, expensive, and in the case of Mystery Ranch, quite heavy for your stated use.  

Unless you do this all the time, have a whole lot of spare money, or plan to tote a ton of weight, stick with the options you have already looked at & focus on how it fits and feels - which you are already doing, sounds like.  

(full disclosure, i own and use two Mystery Ranch backpacks regularly - the snapdragon and the g6000.  great backpacks if you anticipate carrying a lot, using them a lot, and want something that will last a long time, but necessary? nope.)

2:50 p.m. on April 10, 2013 (EDT)
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Seems like the REI Flash could be a great pack, for the money especially. I looked at them a few years ago and liked them. I would hope they are even better now.

July 24, 2014
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