Back panel questions (bending stays….form fitting panels)

3:01 p.m. on March 8, 2011 (EST)
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Greetings all,

Like many others I’ve noticed on this forum, I’ve been backpacking for quite a while with an external frame pack (Kelty Trekker 3900). I bought my Kelty pack for a spur of the moment trip; my primary criteria at the time was that the store was open after I got off work and the guy said it was a good pack. I knew nothing about packing / trekking when I bought it (not that I’m particularly knowledgeable now….)

So now after many years, miles and enjoyment I’ve decided to try an internal frame pack for various reasons. The primary reason is that I’ve begun to really enjoy off-trail exploits and the Trekker will go out of it’s way to snag a branch and make me look more comical than I do normally.

I’m not really a gear head and have found myself overwhelmed with all the choices.

I thought I wanted to get a lighter pack (existing pack is 5.8 lbs empty), but all the lighter packs I’ve tried just don’t seem to have good support in regards to transferring the load to the hip region. I’ve tried the Osprey Atmos 50 (was able to take it for a 15 mile day hike, total weight about 32 lbs) and had a miserable/painful experience with it. I heavily considered a Deuter Futura Vario 50+10 which I liked very much but found just too hard to pack (despite a supposed volume of 60 liters, it did not easily hold the same stuff that the Atmos did).

So at this point I’m looking at the Gregory Baltoro 70, Osprey Aether 70, and the Kelty Lakota 65. Sorry for the long intro…

The Lakoata seems to fit pretty well but when I lean forward past a certain point the single stay presses into my back. Can this stay be bent to prevent that? If so, by who? I’m not very mechanically inclined but can follow instructions.

On the Aether, I like the features of the pack, but the back panel seems pretty uncomfortable. How long does the materiel take to conform to your back?

I kinda liked the ULA Catalyst (at least it’s light weight) but again the back panel seemed so very rigid that it’s hard to imagine how that could ever be comfortable.

I would welcome any thoughts on these topics.

1:32 p.m. on March 9, 2011 (EST)
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Dual stays might be better. A pack with a single stay at 70 ltrs is going to have to be better designed than one using dual stays. FWIW, Chris Townsend, the UK's leading backpacking expert, recommends the Gregory Baltoro 70, which has a single stay.

If you bend the stays they must conform to your back when standing fairly straight - bending them to be away from your back when reaching forward is problematic and may affect the pack's carry detrimentally. Packs with an air-gap are a different story but they can feel 'odd', pack gear more awkwardly and transfer too much of the weight to the lower torso.

Bending stays requires two people and a lot of patience if you have a shape that is 'not average'. Someone may have also trodden on the pack you tried on in the store and found uncomfortable.

Some packs' closed cell foam can need breaking in, hard to say though.

***

Here are the top backpacks in CT's list in TGO magazine from May 2010:

Golite Odyssey, Golite Jam, Gregory Baltoro 70, Lowe Alpine Expedition, Pod X-pod, Lightwave Ultrahike 60, Lowe Alpine Zepton.

Ethical Consumer/Ethiscore rates Osprey, Gregory, Lightwave, Lowe Alpine highly, well above the other, bigger outdoor brands. Golite and Pod probably the same but they have not been assessed to date.

Hope that helps your choice. Try locally first.

6:50 p.m. on March 10, 2011 (EST)
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Thanks for the response Pathloser....just got home with the Baltoro. I gave up on going light. I'm in my mid 30ies and at this point I don’t mind an extra pound or two to be comfortable. This pack really seems to carry and fit very well. I've some anxiety over the slight creaking noise it emits when fully loaded but it is actually quieter than my old pack so I'm going to go with it. I plan on taking it the Smokies for a big day hike Saturday and see how it does with a full load. I think I will ask others here in the forum about the creaking and see what some of their experiences have been.

3:55 a.m. on March 11, 2011 (EST)
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I think that's a good choice, probably what I would have gone for. I don't think 2.5 kilos is un-light for a 70 litre rucksack that carries so well (my 80 litre pack is near 3 kilos!) and should last you many years of serious use. Pain is much worse than a few hundred grammes because the fabric is not super-high tech etc.

I have always had some kind of 'creaking', in my large rucksacks. I start to hear it about ten miles into the trips, remember that this was something I vowed to fix, then stop hearing it or it disappears until the next time. I also have some winter boots that creak and soon I imagine my knees will be joining them.

Probably Gregory the manufacturer will be able to advise you or try some kind of silicon lube spray, perhaps, that is used on plastics?

2:30 p.m. on March 11, 2011 (EST)
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My pack that size (about 60 liters) has a single stay and a plastic frame sheet.  it maxes out, for me, around 50 pounds, and i generally carry a fair bit less than that.  it isn't ultralight by any means, weighing in around 5 pounds.  (it's a dana design/marmot pack, no longer made).  the single stay hasn't been a problem for load-carrying. 

the new sierra designs revival has a single stay and an interesting frame sheet concept - top and bottom frame sheet pieces, at the top and bottom, with the middle area open, just the single aluminum stay.  i haven't seen one or tried it on, but the 2-piece frame sheet design supposedly allows much better movement.  might be worth a look, weighs in under 4 pounds. 

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