backpack size vs. trip size

10:55 p.m. on June 10, 2010 (EDT)
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howdy yall!

i've been on a few hiking trips but no overnight stays since i've last been on here. but my dad signed me up for NOLS-Wind River Wilderness trip. Where we will be spending 28 out of 30 days hiking 120 miles / fly fishing / and rock climbing!

The backpack requirements is 5500-6100, my current pack is at 5000. I would like to know if i upgrade to a 5500 or even 6100 will be fine for 2-3 night trips or an overkill? and by overkill i mean, uncomfortable on your back because of an unequal distribution of weight.
(I believe this is the one I would be buying)

Renting is an option, but I would like to have this in case i do take a trip to the lease for a week or two. i know my papi would not like to spend another 250 for a giant back pack in our garage the majority of the year. I ask for this help so i can determine whether or not to sell my NEVER USED Kelty Red Cloud 5000 st on here.

thanks for help!


side note: i'm from texas, even though this year stayed cold for a month or so longer than usual, I will not always need layers of clothing! but i would like to travel! :D

4:03 a.m. on June 11, 2010 (EDT)
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If you packed smart you could easily make use of the 5000ci more than likely. You might have to strap some bulkier items like sleeping pad on the outside. However, you could also return your other pack if it has never been used and just buy the larger one to begin with.

I have a kelty coyote 4750, and it works fine for me for 3+ day trips. If I strap anything at all to the outside I can easily carry much more food, to extend the trip. It all boils down to the size of your gear. I recommend taking all of your gear to the store and load up the pack your thinking about getting to see if it fits well and if the pack itself is comfortable and fits you well.

Hope this helps some, goodluck and have a great trip!

6:54 a.m. on June 11, 2010 (EDT)
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I’ll keep my rant brief..
I would be much temped to stay with your Red Cloud, it is a great bag. It is a wee bit small for week long trips in the cold, but is more than enough for weekenders in warm weather. Check the gear list NOLS specifies for the program you are considering, and see if you can pack it all into you current bag, and still have sufficient room for food. Personally I don’t think they will be able to tell the difference between your 5000 or the larger model of Red Cloud, since you are just under their volume criterion. (If asked for the model/size just say you don’t know, it was a gift.) You can compensate for the reduced volume, using the money saved buying another pack by purchasing quality down items that compress to smaller volumes than their fleece and wool counterparts.
End of rant!

If you still insist purchasing another pack:
The size pack you are considering will be fine, provided the design fits your body. The most important thing that the pack rides comfortably. This is a personal determination – it is unwise to go based only on others’ opinions – and this must be judged by shouldering the candidate pack at the load weight you anticipate, and walk around with it for an hour (minimum), with two or more hours preferable. Keep in mind as you shop around, your camping interests may change over time, so you want a bag that will accommodate your changing interests.

Develop an eye for quality construction. Study some top of the line packs from Lowe, Osprey, Gregory, Kelty, Deuter and Black Diamond. Note how seams are constructed, the use of bartack stitching, and fabrics utilized, especially in stress prone areas, such as where shoulder straps attach to the pack, seams along the bottom of the bag, etc. Look for these workmanship details in your candidate bag. I like a pack that is assessable; the NOLS model you are considering appears limited in that department. Make sure compression straps effectively adjust for a wide range of load volumes. Look for something with several gear assess options (e.g. through the top, from the back, separate sleeping bag compartment, additional gear stash compartments). I also look for external lashing points where I can attach gear to the outside of the pack, such as ice tools, crampons, sleeping pad, skis snowshoes, etc.). I would avoid the allure of the ultra light siren song, when selecting a large pack, since it is difficult to obtain proper support and durability in a design that uses minimal weight materials.

While you are considering an internal frame pack, do not sniffle at external frame packs. Generally a properly fitting external frame pack will shoulder heavier loads more comfortably, but internal frame packs are better suited for off trail excursions or snow trips where balance is more crucial. I own both types of packs and use the type most appropriate for the trip under consideration.

Lastly determine the manufacturer’s service policy, since you will own this bag for a long time and eventually will need to replace worn out elements of your pack, shoulder straps for example. I recently replaced a sixth set of shoulder straps on a pack I bought back in the 1970s, something probably not possible had I chosen an off brand or a brand that has since gone out of business. Remember this is a major purchase; a pack is a critical piece of your kit. While it is tempting to get something because it is a “good deal” cost should be secondary to comfort, quality, and utility. It sucks spending $400 on a pack, albeit it fills your needs, but sucks worse to spend $200 on a bag you loathe to strap on your back. You may own this bag for a life time; invest accordingly. There is probably several articles elsewhere on this web site that dwell on pack selection issues.

9:51 a.m. on June 11, 2010 (EDT)
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Sounds like you are about to do a great first adventure going out with NOLS for 28 days. I used to want to do a trip with them, but have since done many of my own trips of such length.

I would recommend contacting NOLS and asking them about your 5000ci pack and if they think you need a larger pack. Being they are the ones taking yo they would be best to ask.

Good luck, getting into a lifelong hiking lifestyle sound great to me, I have had lots of fun going out the last 34 years on my yearly adventures.

11:13 p.m. on June 11, 2010 (EDT)
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thank you all for your replys!
the course does require a 5500-6100, so id rather not risk hauling up that huge bag for nothing!
from reading what yall have said, and thinking about what i will be using my bag for i realize that i do not need a 6100 quite yet! Also for proper fit most people around 5ft8in or so found my bag perfect for them, which I am right around! maybe once im in college, i'll be readdy to upgrade!
any recommendations for strapping on stuff to the exterior of my bag?
thank you all for your help once more!

10:28 a.m. on June 14, 2010 (EDT)
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2 main ways i attach things to the outside - bungy cords and webbing straps with quick-release buckles. i tend to like the webbing straps better because i hook them through a loop on the outside of the pack and forget about them, until i need them. the hook ends of bungy cords tend to catch on things and are pretty sharp. on the other hand, you may prefer having bungy cords due to the elasticity - webbing straps occasionally loosen up, which is a nuisance. REI sells different lengths and widths of webbing straps with plastic buckles already attached; bungy cords are everywhere.

12:26 p.m. on June 14, 2010 (EDT)
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It mostly depends on what you need to be carrying, I can take a 5-7 trip and fit everything in my pack that is about 4800 cubic inches, and can do an overnighter in as little as a 1600 cubic inch pack (strap a tent poles and sleeping pad on the outside). It really depends on the size of your things and what you need to bring along, I have pretty lightweight stuff that can be really condensed down.

11:27 p.m. on June 15, 2010 (EDT)
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In general the closer to your spine you place your heavy items, the less strain you will feel shouldering your load. If hiking on a trail I try to place the heaviest items high in my pack, so it takes less bend from the waist to place that weight over my hips in a balanced position. If I am trekking off trail, positioning the heavy item low in my pack improves the dynamic balance needed when going cross country by lowering my center of gravity.

Accounting for the above considerations, you will want to strap only the lighter, least massive items to the outside of your pack. Sleeping mats and sleeping bags are good items, due to their low weight per cubic inch of volume, granted most hikers prefer to stow their sleeping bag in the bottom compartment of their pack. You may also consider lashing clothes you may during rest periods or rain shell garments, thus making them readily available. In any case items with high weight to volume ratios such as cameras, water bottles, etc, are better stowed closer to your spine than outside your pack.

As for where to lash items, the Red Cloud is limited, given its basic design. One thing you can do is extend the compression straps that hold the top compartment on the bag, stowing gear in the gap this creates. You can also loosen the side compression straps, and stuff items between the pack and the side straps. Another trick would be gerry rigging a nylon belt strap to run across the pack’s back pocket, threading this strap through the upper side compression straps on each side of the pack, then setting up a second belt strap in a similar fashion, to run between the lower side compression straps. Use these two straps to lash down items you want to lash to the back of your pack. Consider passing these straps through the daisy chain loops sewn on the pack’s back pocket to further immobilize lashed down items. Another solution would be to create some leather lashing points (a square piece of leather with two slots cut in the middle so you can thread a nylon strap through) and have your local shoe cobbler/luggage repair sew these lashing points onto appropriate positions on the back of your pack. Make sure the designated locations are a heavy fabric designed for handling stress, such as cordura, and not a light weight material likely to fail under such circumstances, such as rip-stop,. This will cost about $20 for four lash points, and the cobbler may even provide the leather for this purpose.

12:26 a.m. on June 16, 2010 (EDT)
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649 forum posts

Im not going to tell you what pack to buy because I cant. You should be properly fit for a pack by a professional. Also as far as how big of a pack you should get It depends on what gear you are packing. I have a 82L / 5000ci pack and I can pack for a five day solo trip I say solo because there is no one to split up the gear with I have to carry every thing and I have a lot of room left over. But every one brings different gear so if you pack you pack with the gear you are going to or want to bring and go from there.

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