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OK, after using (aside from various day packs) only my old Kelty D4 external frame pack since ... well, "a long time ago":), I'm probably going to take the plunge and try the world of internal frame packs. I understand the pros and cons of each. And, frankly, an external frame pack is pretty convenient with its various pockets and frame-mounting of items. But, geeze, the one I have is just so danged uncomfortable! At best, it's "tolerable". Eventually, on almost any significant hike, it's "I hate to end my hike, but how soon can I get this thing off me".
Interestingly, this decision comes at a point where I've been taking big steps to reduce my pack weight. The D4 weighs about 4.5 lbs. I haven't found a single internal frame pack out there that meets my criteria that comes close to that weight.
Here are my criteria:
- I'm 6'0, with just 32" inseam, so I've got short legs and tall torso. And my waist is about 32-33", so I most likely need a large pack with a medium belt. So any pack needs to be able to accommodate this. (I bet if i were starting over, and buying pack the way I am now, instead of my Dad in 1978 saying "the Kelty is sturdy, buy that one", I'd find the D4 doesn't fit me).
- I abhor top-loading-only packs, especially some of the very tall-skinny internal frame packs. The pack MUST have front-access at a minimum. This rules out every "ultra light" pack I've seen.
- I strongly prefer to have lots of external pockets for "little stuff". This rules out the majority of the internal-frame packs I've seen.
- A true wrap-around waste belt, nicely padded, is a firm requirement. Likewise with Nicely padded and contoured shoulder straps.
- I carry a camera tripod with me, so a convenient and quick-access method of storing it outside the pack is a requirement. Carrying it in loops at the pack bottom is not feasible, as setting the loaded pack down on top of my "light-weight" (by non-ultralight standards) carbon fiber tripod & precision ball head, in the dirt and gravel, is not an option. So the pack needs to have a way to fasten the tripod, preferably vertically, to the side or back of the pack. The back would be better, to avoid uneven weighting.
- I strongly prefer to keep the weight as light as possible. I've managed to get my current loaded pack weight (including food for 3 days, 3L water, and camera gear (8lbs now) down to 45 lbs ... from over 70. I hate to start adding back on. At the same time, looking at what I carry now, and short of giving up my tent, food, water, and bear canister, I can't imagine I can do much to make it lighter. Well, and i typically carry the camera outside the pack, so the 45 lbs is "total carry", excluding clothes & boots I'm wearing. The pack, at least in summer, would be around 40 lbs, but heavier in colder weather.
- my usage will be typically weekends (e.g. 2 days, 1, possibly 2 night), with occasional 3-day weekends, and even less frequently, longer trips on vacation. However, aside from food/water, I'm not seeing how trip length significantly changes what I'll carry. Weather, however, does...
- my backpacking will typically be "3 season Sierra" ... hot, dry summer days, cool nights, and in the off seasons, cool days, cold nights, with rain, or even some snow, possible. The off season could also mean hiking in damp humid weather.
Based on these criteria I've narrowed my selection down to the Gregory Baltoro 70 and the Osprey Aether 70. I'm leaning strongly towards the Gregory, based on reading many reviews, for a few reasons:
- it's consistently reviewed as being super comfortable
- it has a fully opening front as opposed to the Osprey "J access" zip
- it has better external pockets
- it has a better padded and contoured waist belt
- it's apparently better at carrying the kind of weight I carry
BUT ... it's 12 oz heavier than the Osprey, and 1.25 lbs heavier than the D4...
The proponents claim a much more comfortable pack, even if a bit heavier, is better. I'm inclined to agree. But it flies in the face of all I've done to reduce my overall pack weight.
What do you all think? Have I overlooked anything? (yep I realize I need to actually try them on, loaded with my gear :) ... that's the final step before the cash register, so I haven't gone there yet :).
If you read this far, thanks! :)
... feedback 'preciated...