looking for the elusive, perfect 60 liter pack

1:15 p.m. on March 22, 2011 (EDT)
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i have three basic uses for backpacks - big daypacks for long hikes or overnights, the middle size 'weekend' at about 60 liters, and a large pack for longer trips and winter.  perfectly happy with the small and large options, but debating whether or how to replace my mid-sized pack - a dana designs/marmot bridger.  it's heavy for a 60 liter pack at 5 pounds, and the lid has a perpetually confusing set of straps that i still haven't quite figured out.  the lack of any useful side pockets is annoying.  i'm kind of used to that at this point, and it's a secondary issue, but usable side pockets would be nice.  it can handle 50 pounds easily, putting virtually all the load on my hips - suspension is a frame sheet, single aluminum stay, and twin flexed fiberglass stays at each edge of the framesheet.  foam on the hips, shoulder, back are relatively stiff.  it's a comfortable pack for the most part, but i'm not sure the split hipbelt is the best design - sometimes, it feels like it isn't distributing weight as well as it could.  highly durable - in great shape after a number of years.  mystery ranch makes a larger version of this, the Glacier, but it's larger, heavier, and more expensive than i want or need. 

for the most part, i don't carry 50 pounds in a pack this size, and i have tried on some more modern designs that are more comfortable.  so, i think about replacing it with something a little lighter, but still capable of carrying a decent amount of weight and handling abuse. 

i have pretty much ruled out lightweight backpacks because i like hiking off-trail - so granite gear and the lighter-weight REI, Osprey, Gregory packs are out.  there are solid gregory, osprey and arcteryx solutions, but they are just as heavy as the current pack.  i like the durability of alpine packs (wild things, cold cold world), but the lack of a frame probably doesn't fit my needs.  i'm intrigued by McHale but don't think i need to spend that much on a pack this size.

the subject of my latest rumination is the mystery ranch trance and the cilogear 60 liter worksack.  both have a frame/suspension that would be an able replacement, and both should be durable.  if the cilo had pockets, it would appeal to me more.

any thoughts about these? any suggestions of something else i should look at?   

1:53 p.m. on March 22, 2011 (EDT)
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...the lack of any useful side pockets is annoying.  i'm kind of used to that at this point, and it's a secondary issue, but usable side pockets would be nice. 

The lack of usable, accessable exterior pockets on so many packs is annoying and perplexing to me. Why do the pack designers hate the functionality of pockets so much? 

 I am currently testing the Revival 65 by Sierra Designs, and so far it is proving to be great. At 3Lbs 14oz, it is a bit lighter than your current 5+ lb one. It doesn't have closure side pockets, although it does have side bottle ones, and a large zippered front compartment.   

3:04 p.m. on March 22, 2011 (EDT)
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The lack of usable, accessable exterior pockets on so many packs is annoying and perplexing to me. Why do the pack designers hate the functionality of pockets so much? 

One word: zippers.

 

5:00 p.m. on March 22, 2011 (EDT)
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to clarify, i mean bottle pockets, not zippered side ones.  i tend to put my gps and some snacks there.  cilo does sell 'wand pockets,' removable, that might be useful. 

4:43 p.m. on March 23, 2011 (EDT)
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I just went out this weekend talking my cilo 45L worksack for a hike. Day 1 went half empty so I tied all straps etc and felt great. Then I filled it up for 2 days and some 6L of water and it work great. the 45L have a 25L extension, so you do get a 70L pack at the end, this is why I got it and not the 60L worksack that go with the extension to something like 80-85L and just like you, I was looking for a mid-size weekend pack. As for now I'm supper happy with it and can highly recommend it. First time fitting will take some time...if you want you can add the "wand pocket"...opss - you already noticed them...

BTW - I one's hiked with it carrying 60lb for 2 days and it felt OK...not bad for such a light pack

 

11:53 p.m. on March 23, 2011 (EDT)
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ULA Catalsyt.

2:49 p.m. on March 24, 2011 (EDT)
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you know, i tend to think of ULA in a similar vein to golite - a high ratio of volume to weight, durable materials, suspension that's comfortable to about 35 pounds, but not as comfortable as the weight rises further.  apart from preferences or fit issues between ULA and Golite, is that a fair assessment?

1:10 p.m. on March 25, 2011 (EDT)
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After trying one out that wasn't quite the right size in a Gatlinburg outfitters store, I was impressed enough with its construction and comfort that I've ordered a Mystery Ranch Trance XXX for similar reasons (off-trail exploits/ weekend trips). Will post pack after trying it out. I should have it Monday 3-28-2011 (if the UPS tracking is accurate). My opinion should come with the disclaimer that I've only ever owned an external frame pack so I won't have much to compare it to when reporting on it.

4:18 p.m. on March 27, 2011 (EDT)
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thanks - pls let us know what you think of the trance.

i tried on a bunch of backpacks this weekend, with the obligatory bags of sand.  i also re-rigged my current backpack - loosened everything, re-positioned the shoulder straps and hip belt, made sure i liked the subtle bend in the aluminum frame stay, then headed into the hills for a few hours.  trying to remind myself why i bought it years ago, what i like and don't like about it.

it turns out:

-after re-rigging the dana/marmot backpack i have, i like it enough that i'm not in a rush.  45 pounds, virtually no weight on my shoulders, mesh back panel & a partially perforated frame sheet translate into nice ventilation, and the hip belt feels fine so long as i'm not in a t-shirt and shorts.  still love the two big pockets on the back for rain shells & larger stuff.  i still don't understand why they didn't provide pockets that could handle anything other than a few tent or ski poles.   

-i don't like alpine-oriented bags for normal backpacking.  they don't feel quite as comfortable, nor do they do as good a job transferring the load to your hips.  i like the durability and versatility, still.  if i had to get an alpine bag, i'm pretty sure it would be the wild things andinista.  

-ultralight has a price.  the tipping point seems to be around 40 pounds.  couldn't try on a ULA, which i would have liked, but most of the others tend to sag and strain starting around 40 pounds.  shoot me, but i'm just not an ultralight kind of guy most of the time; and if i am, i'll probably stick with the 9 ounce golite ion i have used for overnights before.    

-end result? the backpacks i liked best were the gregory baltoro 65 and the osprey aether 70, a couple of established, second or third-generation standards.  i'm sure the mystery ranch trance would be nice too, but it's almost twice as expensive.  for the aether, i might consider trading up to the hip belt osprey makes for the Argons.  there is a reason so many people like these backpacks.  that i can get them for 20% off at REI is nice - particularly with the osprey, because i would need a store to heat-mold the hip belt.   

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