Long lasting and durable pack

10:08 p.m. on August 10, 2010 (EDT)
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I have found it is getting close to being time to retire my 25 year old Wilderness Experience pack. I have literally abused this pack for many years and now the abuse and age are finally catching up with it. However, having relied on this pack for so long, I now find myself a bit ignorant about the quality of the current packs on the market. Is there currently anything on the market that comes even remotely close to being able meet this quality?

I was at REI today and was not very impressed with what I saw. Most seemed poorly constructed and made of cheap material. There was a Black Diamond I liked for $300 that looked well built and the material was thicker than most others...

Any suggestions?

My Wilderness Experience is an internal frame with about a 3800 capacity.

7:01 p.m. on August 11, 2010 (EDT)
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My partner has a Gregory Whitney and this seems to be a very well made pack but is a bit heavier than some of the other packs available. I just purchased the Arc' teryx Ultra and was at first taken back by the very minimalist construction. I just had to keep in mind that it is a lighter pack with absolutely no bells and whistles other than the rotating hip belt and shoulder strap adjustment system. I was at first a little hesitant about dishing out so much cash but I deal through a very reputable company (MEC) and they told me that as long as I kept my receipt that they would replace it at any time if something happened to it during it's life time of normal wear and tear.

10:02 p.m. on August 11, 2010 (EDT)
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...Most seemed poorly constructed and made of cheap material. There was a Black Diamond I liked for $300 that looked well built and the material was thicker than most others...

There has been a huge improvement in the materials used in outdoor gear in the past 10-20 years. As the discussion of the Kelty Cloud notes, there a number of fabrics that are close to Spectra and Dyneema in strength, though not as expensive (some have Spectra or Dyneema thread gridded through them). The wear qualities are much improved over the fabrics used when your pack was made. Thicker does not necessarily mean better, with some of the modern, very thin materials being an order of magnitude better wear and strength than what was available at the time your old pack was made.

If you get packs from Osprey, Gregory, Marmot, Black Diamond, Arc'teryx, MacPac, and the other quality manufacturers, you will find them lighter for the capacity and more durable than your old pack. However, remember the standard caveat for packs and boots - go to a shop with a trained, experienced pack (boot) fitter and work with them to get a pack that fits your torso, learning from them how to adjust the pack for your load. Test the pack by loading it to the weight you intend to carry and walk around the shop (preferably up and down stairs as well) for a half hour to be sure it will fit. A good shop will work with you on this, and your back, shoulders, and legs will thank you profusely.

7:00 a.m. on August 27, 2010 (EDT)
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Definitely try on packs locally. I tried on about 5 packs and immediately scratched 3 off the list because of fit. Another got scratched off after weight was added. I didn't commit to buying the remaining pack until I brought my base gear setup in and loaded the pack for proper balance. That is sometimes hard to do with the weights in store. I ended up getting an Osprey Exos 46.

3:32 p.m. on August 27, 2010 (EDT)
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this post gave me deja vu to my first internal frame pack, a large (about 5000 cubic inch) wilderness experience pack, red and blue. 25 years is a lot of service to get from any hiking-related gear.

the Osprey Aether 70, the Gregory Baltoro 70, and the Arc'teryx Altra 65 all have about the same capacity, and all weigh about five pounds. these are not ultralight backpacks - the fabrics are strong and durable, and they are usually made well. they will perform well, even after years of abuse. All three have some means of customizing the fit of the hip belt, a feature not available when you last purchased a backpack. The Aether hipbelt can be heated in a special oven and custom-molded to you at the store; the Gregory and Arc'teryx both have adjustments to tilt the hip belt for a better fit. All should be widely available to try on. as Bill observed, trying them on, carrying them around a store with significant weight in them, and working with a knowledgeable person who can help adjust the pack for you are all invaluable.

For what it's worth, there are a few small manufacturers out there who make backpacks in small quantities, worth thinking about. the advantage is that these companies have high construction quality, great design, and people who will provide a lot of attention and guidance by phone about choosing sizes. the downside is that you can't try these backpacks on in a store. at a minimum, have someone in a store measure your torso length before buying a backpack from these, so you at least get the right size.

Mystery Ranch makes high quality backpacks - tough, comfortable, well-designed. I have an expedition pack and a large daypack from them and couldn't be happier with them. Mine are on the heavy side - my large (6000 ci) pack is nearly 8 pounds. Considering how long most well-made backpacks last, I think it's well worth it. the Trance is comparably sized and priced to the packs above, and a little lighter weight. the Glacier, not pictured here, is a heavier, more traditional, and more expensive pack with similar volume.

CiloGear makes backpacks that are more oriented toward climbing than traditional backpacking, so you may find this less appealing. the frame/suspension on them is less robust than any of the backpacks described above, for example. However, you could consider this brand a compromise - while they aren't the best for carrying a lot of weight, these are an excellent quality product made of the kinds of high-durability materials Bill mentioned above. they also have somewhat better mobility and flexibility - this one would be an interesting option if you are intrigued by moving toward a slightly lighter-weight product, yet still want high quality, and an excellent choice if you do any mountaineering. It can also hold up to 90 liters in a pinch yet be constrained, with straps, to serve as a smaller summit pack or large day pack.

10:38 a.m. on August 28, 2010 (EDT)
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For the size range you mention, I would buy a Mystery Ranch Glacier over ANY other pack available, except a custom McHale. I have had eleven packs from Dana Gleason of MR since 1978, sold one, one was stolen and now have nine. I have owned, used, fitted and sold a wide variety of packs and still have my original 32 yr. old "Bomb" pack from Dana and it has been used hard, yet, is in amazing condition.

I have broken and worn out a few packs, as well and I see no valid reason to buy cheap "offshore" gear which must be replaced every couple of years. Mystery Ranch has a crew of SERIOUS climbers, skiers, hikers, hunters and they DO what they talk about, so, they know what a pack must be to function well over many years of heavy use.

Yeah, I am an enthusiast and have been for a long time, I have never been to their Bozeman facility, never met any of them in person, but, they have given me outstanding service, superb products and they can fit you over the phone.....I won't even consider another make and might buy one more pack from them.

1:15 p.m. on August 28, 2010 (EDT)
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Thanks for all the great input...

The CiloGear does sound interesting and worthy of more research.

12:25 p.m. on August 29, 2010 (EDT)
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I have a 45L WorkSack by CiloGear and am very happy with it - am using it for 3-4 days hikes as I don't climb but I just found it to be simple, very well made, fit well and carry well. Right now I'm on a 6 months trip to Central Asia and Western China and went with my bigger pack - Arcteryx Naos 85. I like this one a lot but more then one's I found myself hoping I had a 60L WorkSack with me as I found it to be more to my taste - the fact that there is not much to it - less it more kind of thing.

I never lay my hand on a M.R pack but everything I hear about them sound great. I sure going to buy one one day but I think that the differences are big and you will get something that is more solid but also bulkier...

2:00 a.m. on August 30, 2010 (EDT)
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The same pack for 25 years? What fun is that?

1:33 p.m. on August 30, 2010 (EDT)
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The same pack for 25 years? What fun is that?

Actually I greatly enjoy not having to buy a new backpack every couple of years like my friends seemed to always have to do. Plus, it is a waste of money and resources getting new packs all the time that will just eventually end up in a landfill somewhere... I could always count on my pack to perform as it was designed in any environment I traveled. It is imperative that you can count on your gear to work, especially if you travel deep into the backcountry. My pack is an excellent example of great American workmanship and quality.

Here it is at 25Yrs old


If you look at the hip belt you will see the only tear the pack has, and its not actually a tear but where the stitching came undone.

3:38 p.m. on September 9, 2010 (EDT)
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I have tried many of the big name packs- Osprey, Gregory, etc....My older Gregory Deva 60 is a great pack, but on the heavy side. I tried Osprey, but they just don't fit right. I finally ordered a ULA- they come in lots of sizes, and are well built, lightweight packs that many thru-hikers use. Prices are reasonable, and they come with several removeable options. Check them out= you can even call them and ask questions in advance.

11:19 a.m. on September 10, 2010 (EDT)
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Can you get the Wild-X repaired? Still looks in decent shape.

July 24, 2014
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