Cooler/Refrigerator Backpack and Selecting a Pack Online Without Fit

12:49 p.m. on November 4, 2010 (EDT)
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Due to dietary requirements I need a cooler type backpack that I can bring a whole days worth of food each day with ice.  I have not been able to find any locally to try on, and I need some information about selecting a pack comfortable for all day pavement pounding.

 

I have a few special problems, the first is I have bad disks in my lower back.  I would like to be able to keep the weight off my shoulders to some extent.  Not being familiar with backpacking at all, I imagine some kind of waist support is necessary, which brings us to a rather delicate problem- I have no.. um, backside.  It's bad enough that when wearing a beltpack I have to include suspenders, because no amount of tightness will keep if from sliding over my non-existant hips and backside.

 

I don't want some plate filled "picknic" pack either, I want a real, serious backpack, I just want it to be comfortable to wear all day.  How in the world I pick something like that online without being able to try them on is what I really need help with.

 

What features should I look for for comfort and support?  For my particular physiology?  Any "good" brands for lower back/no hips?  Frame/No Frame?

 

Worst case I can construct a cooler pack out of a standard pack (last resort), so any advice welcome.  I also welcome pointers to good full cooler pack products to check.

1:26 p.m. on November 4, 2010 (EDT)
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Don't even know where to start really. I can't think of a reason you would have to carry anything requiring ice, unless it's some form of medicine.

I often carry a small soft sided cooler inside of my pack with ice and beer, and sometimes food will find it's way in too, but beer is the most important to keep cold!

All backpacking packs are designed such that you carry the majority of the weight on your hips. All packs that I can think of have a hip belt. If you adjust a pack correctly, having no "backside" would not be an issue because the pack shouldn't be sliding any further down unless your shoulder straps are slipping by.

I your looking for a pack for "pavement pounding" you may be on the wrong website?

1:36 p.m. on November 4, 2010 (EDT)
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Try lining the pack of your choice with some blue sleeping pad foam.  A single layer should suffice; two layers is bomber.  You can cut and assemble this “soft shell” cooler and glue it together with silicone adhesive.  Or you can buy one of those soft cooler totes designed to take a six pack for stadium parties.  Or you can wrap your food in bubble pack used to cushion items shipped in the mail.  Or you can wrap your food in a down or fleece clothing article.  I have even resorted to carrying a twelve pack cooler on the top of my external frame pack, using straps I designed for hauling expedition loads to hold it securely in place.  There are so many options, use you imagination.

Ed

2:11 p.m. on November 4, 2010 (EDT)
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The waist/hip belt on packs is intended to ride on the upper arches of your pelvis (the "crest of the pelvis), so lack of a backside protrusion is not a problem with a properly sized backpack. If you have a "frontal bulge" (sometimes called a "beer belly"), so that the pelvic crest is completely buried, that could be a bit of a problem, though usually there is enough of the bone structure available to rest the waist belt on. The way to find out is to go to a good outdoor shop that specializes in backpacking (yes, I know you included the phrase "Selecting a pack online without a fit"). Proper fit in a pack, especially if you have back problems (and even if you did not mention that, to avoid future back problems), is so vitally important that it is worth traveling some distance if necessary to find a specialty shop.

In some of the day hikes I have led, I have had people who needed to have a supply of food and/or meds that had to be kept cold. Their solution was, as mentioned above, getting one or more of the fold-up insulated coolers and putting it (them) inside their pack. They had to carry a medium-sized backpacking pack to fit everything in (the medium to large capacity, quality backpacking packs do have properly designed waist belts, many being contoured, and in some cases being thermofitted in the shop to match your contours). The folks using this setup used "blue ice" packs rather than water ice (these are available at most grocery stores - put them in the freezer until heading out, and they can be refrozen many times - not as messy as having to deal with the melted ice water). One person used dry ice, since his meds needed to be kept at a below freezing temperature.

One other thing about some of the foldup insulated coolers - some are compartmented so you can keep the small snacks you need to get at more or less continuously in one compartment and the others (like meds) that you need less frequently in a separate compartment.

Ed's suggestion of getting one of the closed cell foam sleeping pads (about $10 at Target or Walmart) and cutting it to fit inside your pack is good alternative.

10:18 a.m. on November 5, 2010 (EDT)
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I your looking for a pack for "pavement pounding" you may be on the wrong website?

Well, I figure you guys/gals know packs- and go where you can't just pop in anywhere to get a burger and fries.  In addition to a really sensitive gluten allergy, I have other food allergies and am vegetarian.  It's more likely I'll find fiddle ferns where I'm going than any other snack that won't make me sick.

Basically I have to carry all my food and my wife's food, plus snacks, for an entire day.  I'm not going to go so far as to have a penny stove or anything, but it would be nice to have cold food and something safe that's not water to drink.  Disney World is a nightmare hellscape for me, and frankly I'd rather be in the desert. :D  Didn't mean to complain, but that's what is going on.

I am liking the DIY cooler pack ideas.  Not only can I get fit (near Denver so that shouldn't be a problem...) but I can customize the amount of cooler space and use it as an outdoor pack afterwards.

So, larger day pack maybe?  Good stores in Denver?

Thanks all.

12:36 p.m. on November 5, 2010 (EDT)
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Try Neptune in Boulder. Gary Neptune has an excellent shop with very knowledgeable staff (plus a fantastic exhibit of historical gear hanging on the walls that is worth the drive from Denver by itself). The shop is located not far from the CU campus. That's one of the best shops in the world, and the folks there are very friendly and helpful.

November 22, 2014
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