Extra Large Packs; cheap ones vs mid range ones, in terms of overall quality for the price?

5:51 p.m. on July 10, 2009 (EDT)
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Hi, I'm presently trying to make up my mind about which pack to go with for a long trip I will be leaving for soon. I am on the fence about which extra large (90L- 120L/ ~5500- 8100cu) pack to go with in the low- mid price/ quality range.

After researching packs for the last few months - I came to the conclusion that the Kelty 50th Anniversary external frame pack (7200 cu edition) would probably be my ideal choice if I were able to find a used one on ebay or elsewhere- but I haven't been able to find any so far.

My next top choices were:

-2009 Kelty Red Cloud 6650cu (internal frame), around $140-$200, new (depending on sale prices)

-2009 Kelty Tioga 5500cu (external frame), around $115 -$190, new

Besides the Kelty bags, just about all of the extra large/ expedition sized packs that I searched through from the other reputable brand names - seemed to be out of my price range for what I am looking to spend.

I came across dozens of extra large packs offered by less well known companies, and usually at much, much cheaper prices, and having received decent reviews, but I just don’t know if I can trust some of them yet?

Most recently - I've been considering the massive packs offered by a company called "Cuscus", specifically their 8100cu /120L internal frame pack which sells for a comparably miniscule $49.95 (before shipping) and some dealers offer a free rain cover for that price, as well.

Their 6200cu is only $39.99, and it seems to be getting fairly good reviews (on Amazon, at least- even if it is a case of a "Wow, it was so cheap I'm just happy that it didn't malfunction within the first 5 minutes of use" type of psychological reaction/ effect with many of those positive reviews.)

My question is; how much of a difference will there likely be between the quality of, say, the Kelty 6650cu vs. these Cuscus packs? To what extent will it actually matter, as far as the chance of break down/ part failure - when dealing with packs that are below $200 to begin with?

I mean, I'd have to assume that if the Cuscus packs have lasted people entire trips without failing (as some reviews have mentioned), and, at the same time, I've read quite a few reviews of the Kelty 6650 mentioning straps break/ tear off, etc (just as can happen with any other bag given the right circumstances)...there must be certain aspects of these kinds of packs that offer little to no major quality differences between them?

I’m curious if the overall difference in quality is legitimately worth the extra $100-$150 in situations like this? (Given that they both use 600D polyester bag material - can the stitching and zipper quality really be all that much better or worse? Is not having front panel access going to bother me so much that I should spend more money to have it? Are the dimensional differences going to prove to be a “bigger” issue for me than I thought? ... These are the kinds of questions I’ve been asking myself.)

Comfort wise – the pictures don’t reveal enough to me to know if there would be that much of a difference between the two, other than the probable awkwardness of the extra pack width with the Cuscus 8100cu (23" vs the Kelty 6650's 18") when walking in tight/ crowded spaces (of course, buying packs over the internet without trying them on first to see how they fit -is always a crap shoot in that regard, anyway, no matter the cost/ quality.)

So, I was just wondering if anyone has any experience with testing and comparing packs that span the quality/ price range of the ones mentioned above - and if so, did it turn out that there were significant differences between them as far as you could tell? Was the higher cost really worth it for the more expensive one, or will just about all packs around that $50- $200 price range risk failing/ tearing within, essentially the same, maximum load bearing limit- making the extra expense unnecessary, in the end, anyway?

6:13 p.m. on July 10, 2009 (EDT)
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I should have mentioned this in my opening post -

I doubt that I will even be using whatever pack I get for long hikes where I'm going and what I plan to be doing there (I’ll have a smaller pack with me for that, if need be.)

For the most part, I need a large pack to carry all of my gear with me (which will include a bunch of fairly large/heavy woodworking tools) to my destination, and it will be used primarily as a basic transport pack while walking around with my full load in the Airport and then to and from my main destination once on the ground, upon arrival, and again for final departure.

The last trip that I went on - I took most of the same things that I will be taking again, this time, but I was using basic suitcase type luggage and a large duffle bag to carry everything on that trip. It was a real pain in the *** to say the least, and that's why I really want/ need a big pack to replace all of the stuff I was using before (although I might take the duffle bag again to put my backpack inside of when I check it into the luggage area, to lessen the likelihood of damage to my pack and the ~50lbs of stuff inside of it.)

Another side note about comparing the packs I mentioned ;

I do find it a bit strange that according to the dimensions given for each pack – the Kelty 6650/ 109L dimensions (39" x 18" x 16"- which comes out to around 11232 cu/ 184L directly converted ) are so much greater than those of the supposedly much bigger Cuscus 8100/ 120L's ( (23"(L) x 13"(W) x 34"(H) ) which comes out to only 10166 cu/ 166.6L when directly converted using a calculator.)

Now, I know that linear pack dimensions are not meant to be used as a precise way of accounting for a packs overall volume – but for there to be that much of a difference – it makes me wonder if the Cuscus people are actually inflating their volume ratings dramatically to boost sales– assuming people won’t actually compare the dimensions between other similar capacity packs out there.

Even when looking at their rating of 120L for their 8100cu pack - when converted directly to Liters with a calculator -8100 cu actually equals 132.7L instead of the 120L they rate it at? Am I missing something here?

1:00 p.m. on July 11, 2009 (EDT)
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649 forum posts

I have a Kelty Tioga 5500 and its huge and highly adjustable and the center divider form the upper bag to the sleeping bag compartment zips out of the way so you can use the pack bag as one compartment if that helps you. If you are planning on carrying bulky heavy items I would suggest a external frame pack. Also Kelty has a good reputation and takes good care of its customers for life.

2:58 p.m. on July 11, 2009 (EDT)
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I also have the kelty tioga 5500 and like it. I bought mine online. I always figure if I order something online and it gets to me and I don't like it or it doesn't fit correctly, I will just ship it back.

6:44 p.m. on July 11, 2009 (EDT)
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649 forum posts

Kelty Tioga series packs

In 2009 Kelty (in all of there infinite wisdom) discontinued the load lifter strap assembly. But has reintroduced them on the 2010 model. Now for the good part if you have a 2009 model and you call the warranty department (866-349-7225) they will send you a retro kit for your pack free of charge and free shipping as well. Included will be 2 pins & split rings, the top strap mount and 2 shoulder straps. This kit is parts from the new 2010 series pack's they were sending out parts off the older series of packs and the straps were the wrong color & shape and also the shoulder straps were shorter.

Kelty made a mistake and now they are fixing it all at there cost. That's the way all company's should be.

9:47 p.m. on July 11, 2009 (EDT)
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I think this has more to do with internal Vs external frames. Internal frames must fit you right from the get go. While external you can adjust to you. Also from what your saying you might have to strap some stuf onto the frame.I've got both and the external frame gives me more flexability. For instance, Lets say I have a lady friend that wants to go with me. But she only has a small day pack. I can strap on her sleeping bag and a few other things. With my internal I cant do this. Plus I think you can buy a very nice external frame for less than a good interal frame pack. Without trying a internal for a while I would go with the external. Just my .02 worth.

5:38 p.m. on July 20, 2009 (EDT)
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Thanks for the replies, everyone. Yeah, I really would prefer an external frame pack over an internal frame, but I can't really find any really big/ lower cost ones (nothing close to the 8100 CI internal frame one as linked to above, at least- even though I'm kind of doubting that it is actually that big.)


If I could find the Toiga 5500 for a good price, I'd probably get it even though it's a bit on the small side compared to what I was originally hoping for.


The problem I'm having with finding a Kelty Tioga 5500 for a good price - is that I need it to be sold through ebay just to have a chance to buy it, really (and they almost never show up on ebay). Otherwise, the shipping costs to deliver to Canada from the other websites that also offer paypay (I don't have a credit card)- usually makes the whole thing way overpriced in the end. Ebay is the only site that I've found so far, that lets me use an alternate shipping address to ship items to my friends USA address to save bigtime on shipping costs.

This is why I'm thinking I might just go ahead and try ordering one of those $60-70 Cuscus 8100cu inch internal frame packs. Even if it ends up being fairly poor in quality, it won't be so bad since it was so comparably cheap to begin with (assuming I won't be able to find a Tioga 5500 for anywhere less than $150-200 when all shipping costs/ currency conversions are accounted for.)

Also, as I said, I won't be using whatever big pack I end up with - for any serious hiking - I'll use a smaller pack for that if I need to. If the cheaper/ bigger Cuscus pack turns out to be fairly decent, even if a bit uncomfortable- it will still have been worth it for what my needs are. So I figure it's worth a shot.

6:07 p.m. on July 21, 2009 (EDT)
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If you want comfortable & cheap, Outdoor Products brands are OK.... www.campmor.com . You can also get a deal on Jansport Big Bears at www.sunnysports.com

1:10 p.m. on July 24, 2009 (EDT)
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I have a cheap OP pack a friend of mine took to India for 3 weeks and it survived just fine. Not sure what size-maybe around 3000 ci.

Pack sizes will include outside pockets too, so it's hard to exact computing based just on given dimensions.

If you sold on an external frame pack, you might want to look at Luxury Lite packs-they are not cheap, however. They look like a frame with three cylindrical bags stacked on it. Oddlooking, but people who have them really like them.

For what you are doing, I'd just get a big duffle style bag with wheels. I have one and it works great for air travel. I'd much rather pull that through an airport than be wearing a huge, heavy pack-much easier on my back. I think mine is made by Delsey-cost about $150 at a big luggage store.

July 21, 2018
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