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  1. #1
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    Default Backpack Selection

    Hi all, Not new here, but this is my first post. I've taken the advice from many and have gathered most of the gear I'll need for backpacking.

    Over the years I've done quite a bit of backpacking, albeit many years ago. I'll turn 70 in a few weeks and I want to get back into it. 40 years ago I backpacked a section of the AT, did the Pictured Rocks trail in Michigan's UP a number of times, and did the trail along Superior in the Porcupine Mountains.

    I've also extensively motorcycle camped to Alaska, Saguenay Fjord and and Newfoundland. Also, I've spent many years sea kayak camping in Michigan, Canada and Greece.

    All that being said, my backpacking experience was with a 60 lb. load with an exterior frame backpack. When starting to put my gear together, I was pleasantly surprised at the light weights I was seeing in the modern backpacking world.

    I also have a couple of physical limitations to deal with -- knee (torn meniscus) and back operations.

    Here is my list of gear I've accumulated. I plan on doing no more than 4 days at a time next summer.

    Gear I Have
    Sleeping Bag Nemo Salsa 2.1 lbs.
    Sleeping Pad Nemo Astro 1.0
    Tent Nemo Dragonfly 2p 2.5
    Med Kit BC Edge 0.2
    Cook Kit Optimus Solo 0.4
    Chair Trekology 2.0
    Toiletries 0.5
    Headlamp Black Diamond 0.2
    Clothes 2.3

    Gear to be Aquired
    Rain Gear Packa 0.7
    Hydration Platypus 3 ltr. 0.1

    Total Weight minus pack 12 lbs.

    My question is, which packs should I be looking at for my backpacking adventures. I'm looking at 4 day trips right now, but I'm not ruling out longer trips in the future.

    I'm planning on spending an entire day at REI trying out different packs. I'll have a dividend amount that should cover the pack at REI, so I'm planning on buying from them.

    The packs I'm considering right now are the Osprey Kestrel 48 (tried on and really liked), Osprey Atmos(tried on and didn't like -- but may be different with a load) and 65, Osprey Aether 60, Gregory Zulu 55 and 65 and the Deuter Futura Vario 50 + 10. I'd like to keep my choice under 4 lbs. I know the Deuter is more than that, but it comes so highly rated that I think I should consider it.

    I'd like a pack with both top and panel loading. I really don't like packing and repacking and I think some kind of access to the main part of the pack would help in that regard. Comfort is also really important and is why I'm not thinking about ultra light packs.

    Any suggestions will be much appreciated. I know there are many other packs out there. I may also be missing the point on other items I've listed. I also have thick skin, so all comments are welcome.

    Thanks in advance,

    KorKoro

  2. #2
    Registered User Pastor Bryon's Avatar
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    I own a Kestrel 48.

    What I like
    - Comfort - it rides well. The first day I hiked with it I stopped to adjust the straps and adjustable torso about 10 times. Since then I've never had to touch it, so once it is dialed in for you, you're good to go
    - Organization - lots and lots of pockets
    - Bottom opening - I like the ability to access things in the bottom

    What I don't like
    - Lots and lots of pockets - helpful for organization, but almost too many pockets - sometimes I forget where I put certain things

    Just my 2 cents. The weight of it is nice, it has taken a decent beating and help up well, and rides well.

  3. #3

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    Cant go wrong with ULA. Affordable, durable, pretty good CS.

    I now carry a zpacks arc blast and have enjoyed it a big more but it was a bit more pricy
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  4. #4
    Registered User colorado_rob's Avatar
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    Given your criteria, I think you'd be happy in the Aether, or some other similar Osprey pack. I've used the Aether (a larger one, an 85 I think) on many a long mountaineering expedition with WAY more gear/weight than I could carry in my UL Zpacks Arc Haul (a great pack for up to 30 pounds or so, but fails in your storage criteria).

  5. #5
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    Keep in mind choosing a pack that can handle a bear canister if you plan to hike anymore of the A.T. I wish I had done that before I began my thru hike.

    Personally, I would rather err on the side of too much volume especially if you don't like the process of packing. You can always cut volume on a big pack, but there is only so much you can fit in a small pack. Of course there is always the option of tying gear on the outside. However, that technique usually ends up providing "trail magic" for hikers passing you or following you when your gear falls off.

    Don't put too much stock in the REI employees. There are some good ones, but from first hand experience, some of them don't know what they are doing ... even if they claim extensive back packing experience. Take your time and wear prospective packs (loaded) around the store for a good while. Also, consider warrantees. Osprey has an excellent return policy.

    Packs are very much a personal decision. What works for one hiker could be a disaster for another.

    Nice to hear you are getting back to the trail!

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pastor Bryon View Post
    I own a Kestrel 48.

    What I like
    - Comfort - it rides well. The first day I hiked with it I stopped to adjust the straps and adjustable torso about 10 times. Since then I've never had to touch it, so once it is dialed in for you, you're good to go
    - Organization - lots and lots of pockets
    - Bottom opening - I like the ability to access things in the bottom

    What I don't like
    - Lots and lots of pockets - helpful for organization, but almost too many pockets - sometimes I forget where I put certain things

    Just my 2 cents. The weight of it is nice, it has taken a decent beating and help up well, and rides well.
    I was at REI about a week ago and tried on a Kestrel and Atmos 50. I was very pleased with the Kestral as it fit very well. I was disappointed with the Atmos. I've read so much about the comfort of the Atmos I thought it would be great. But, on me, it just didn't seem to fit that well. My main concern with the Atmos 50 and Kestrel 48 is whether or not they have enough volume. As stated, I don't like packing and repacking and I would think these two may take a little more effort to pack. I don't have a lick of experience with modern packs. Unlike my previous external pack where I looked like a Gypsy wagon going down the trail with all kinds of things hanging from the pack, I'd like to keep everything in the pack as much as possible.

    KorKoro

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by colorado_rob View Post
    Given your criteria, I think you'd be happy in the Aether, or some other similar Osprey pack. I've used the Aether (a larger one, an 85 I think) on many a long mountaineering expedition with WAY more gear/weight than I could carry in my UL Zpacks Arc Haul (a great pack for up to 30 pounds or so, but fails in your storage criteria).
    I'm going to consider the Aether. However, it's probably the heaviest pack on my list.

    KorKoro

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Slumgum View Post
    Keep in mind choosing a pack that can handle a bear canister if you plan to hike anymore of the A.T. I wish I had done that before I began my thru hike.

    Personally, I would rather err on the side of too much volume especially if you don't like the process of packing. You can always cut volume on a big pack, but there is only so much you can fit in a small pack. Of course there is always the option of tying gear on the outside. However, that technique usually ends up providing "trail magic" for hikers passing you or following you when your gear falls off.

    Don't put too much stock in the REI employees. There are some good ones, but from first hand experience, some of them don't know what they are doing ... even if they claim extensive back packing experience. Take your time and wear prospective packs (loaded) around the store for a good while. Also, consider warrantees. Osprey has an excellent return policy.

    Packs are very much a personal decision. What works for one hiker could be a disaster for another.
    Nice to hear you are getting back to the trail!
    I'll take all the advice I can get from the REI folks. I'm going there with all my gear, pack it in and take a walk around the store. The closest REI is about 250 miles away. That's why I'm going to spend the whole day there.

    KorKoro

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gambit McCrae View Post
    Cant go wrong with ULA. Affordable, durable, pretty good CS.

    I now carry a zpacks arc blast and have enjoyed it a big more but it was a bit more pricy
    I've talked to the ULA folks. If REI sold them, they would be on my list. If I decide not to go with REI, they'll be on my list for sure. Also, I'm taking a motorcycle trip out west this coming may. A visit to Logan, UT and ULA could be arranged easily.

    KorKoro

  10. #10
    Registered User Pastor Bryon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by KKORO View Post
    I was at REI about a week ago and tried on a Kestrel and Atmos 50. I was very pleased with the Kestral as it fit very well. I was disappointed with the Atmos. I've read so much about the comfort of the Atmos I thought it would be great. But, on me, it just didn't seem to fit that well. My main concern with the Atmos 50 and Kestrel 48 is whether or not they have enough volume. As stated, I don't like packing and repacking and I would think these two may take a little more effort to pack. I don't have a lick of experience with modern packs. Unlike my previous external pack where I looked like a Gypsy wagon going down the trail with all kinds of things hanging from the pack, I'd like to keep everything in the pack as much as possible.

    KorKoro
    The straps on the bottom of the Kestrel are handy for adding something on the outside. I used it for my sleep pad. It could hold an empty bear canister if needed. I'm like you that I like to keep everything on the inside, but the straps of the Kestrel do give you the possibility of adding a few lightweight items on the outside without it flopping around.

    When you pack it at REI, try first packing it by placing items in the outer side-zip pockets and then adding stuff in the main compartment, then redo it by placing items in the main compartment and then adding stuff in the outer sides. How you pack can affect how things fit.

  11. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by Pastor Bryon View Post
    I own a Kestrel 48.

    What I like
    - Comfort - it rides well. The first day I hiked with it I stopped to adjust the straps and adjustable torso about 10 times. Since then I've never had to touch it, so once it is dialed in for you, you're good to go
    - Organization - lots and lots of pockets
    - Bottom opening - I like the ability to access things in the bottom

    What I don't like
    - Lots and lots of pockets - helpful for organization, but almost too many pockets - sometimes I forget where I put certain things

    Just my 2 cents. The weight of it is nice, it has taken a decent beating and help up well, and rides well.
    +1 : I tried both the Kestrel and the Aether. For me the Kestrel is a much better fit and carries more comfortably. The Kestrel belt is better padded and more comfortable. For your gear and expected sections, I think the 60L or larger are overkill.

    Above all, try all your canidates, load them (carry your gear in the store to use), take your time making the best fit and comfort for you. A pack that may be a little heavier but that carries more comfortably will feel lighter at the end of the day.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by theoilman View Post
    +1 : I tried both the Kestrel and the Aether. For me the Kestrel is a much better fit and carries more comfortably. The Kestrel belt is better padded and more comfortable. For your gear and expected sections, I think the 60L or larger are overkill.

    Above all, try all your canidates, load them (carry your gear in the store to use), take your time making the best fit and comfort for you. A pack that may be a little heavier but that carries more comfortably will feel lighter at the end of the day.
    Good to hear about the Kestrel. It punched all the buttons for me and I like the idea of a smaller pack. It'll be interesting to find out whether or not I can, easily, fit all my gear in it.

    The longest trip that I'll take this summer is the Pictured Rocks trail in Michigan's Upper. It's 46 miles. I used to do it (in my 20's and 30's) in 3 fairly easy days (except one time when a raccoon ate all my food half way through the trip). I'll be taking 4 days this time. It's a fairly easy trail that's mostly flat. It runs along the cliffs and sand dunes on Lake Superior.

    KorKoro

  13. #13
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    I have two packs, one a heavy Deuter that fits well, and is large enough for cold weather trips or longer trips when I need more stuff.

    The second is the Kestrel 48. It's well made, and does indeed have a lot of pockets, which I like! Makes it so much easier for me to go directly to an item instead of digging and searching through half a dozen stuff sacks. The downside of the Kestrel is that it's harder to fit stuff inside. Normally I'm hiking with my husband and he's carrying shared equipment like the tent, stove, water filter (while I'm carrying all the food). If I hiked alone, I'd almost certainly be strapping that tent (or perhaps a smaller one) to the outside of the pack.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by illabelle View Post
    I have two packs, one a heavy Deuter that fits well, and is large enough for cold weather trips or longer trips when I need more stuff.

    The second is the Kestrel 48. It's well made, and does indeed have a lot of pockets, which I like! Makes it so much easier for me to go directly to an item instead of digging and searching through half a dozen stuff sacks. The downside of the Kestrel is that it's harder to fit stuff inside. Normally I'm hiking with my husband and he's carrying shared equipment like the tent, stove, water filter (while I'm carrying all the food). If I hiked alone, I'd almost certainly be strapping that tent (or perhaps a smaller one) to the outside of the pack.
    Thanks for the advise. The Kestrel is at the top of my list right now. I don't have concerns that my gear won't fit, but I have concerns about how easily my gear will fit. First I'll have to find out if my gear fits. Second I'll have to see how a loaded Kestrel will carry. So far it's been the best fit, but I haven't load one.

    KorKoro

  15. #15

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    [QUOTE=Slumgum;2259213]Keep in mind choosing a pack that can handle a bear canister if you plan to hike anymore of the A.T. I wish I had done that before I began my thru hike.
    Do tell. I had heard in another thread that trail officials in North Carolina were considering requiring bear canisters on sections of the AT there. After reading over a hundred posts from hikers who slept with their food, hikers who always hung their food and hikers who used a canister, I never heard what the decision was from those trail officials who were considering the canister requirement. Anyone got a link?

  16. #16

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    Today's packs are all so good, that you can't lose. Unless IMO you get an ultralight pack and overload it. If there's any doubt about pack weight, get a beefier suspension system. Your shoulders will thank you.

  17. #17

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    If you do end up considering options other than REI, the circuit would handle that gear well at a reasonable price. You could consider e-mailing ula and seeing if they have any discounted end of season packs. I got mine for $130 straight from them when the normal price was $240 at the time
    My stuff weighs a bit less (no chair being a big difference), but I carry the circuit in the winter with more than you listed, and I find it is quite comfortable. The exterior side and mesh pockets fit whatever you need access to, with other misc stuff right at the top of the bag

    From the ones you listed, your plan of trying them all out is good. That's what it's all about. I know right away with many packs that they wouldn't work for me

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by orthofingers View Post
    Do tell. I had heard in another thread that trail officials in North Carolina were considering requiring bear canisters on sections of the AT there. After reading over a hundred posts from hikers who slept with their food, hikers who always hung their food and hikers who used a canister, I never heard what the decision was from those trail officials who were considering the canister requirement. Anyone got a link?

    I can't find anything either. IIRC it was proposed for sections of the AT plus Panthertown. FWIW, the requirement that IS in place is for Shining Rock Wilderness, Black Balsam, Samís Knob and Flat Laurel Creek Areas of the Pisgah Ranger District, Pisgah National Forest:

    https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/nfsnc...stelprd3832543


    Agree that it's likely an inevitable requirement; future pack purchasers would be wise to take this into consideration. To me the only remaining question is whether certain brands will be required or disapproved, based on local bear cleverness in getting into them. I thought for sure that the report of two BVs being compromised in Grayson Highlands would end up striking that/those models from any approved list, but I've not heard anything more about it. Maybe the report could not be corroborated, IDK.

  19. #19
    Leonidas
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    Quote Originally Posted by Time Zone View Post
    I can't find anything either. IIRC it was proposed for sections of the AT plus Panthertown. FWIW, the requirement that IS in place is for Shining Rock Wilderness, Black Balsam, Samís Knob and Flat Laurel Creek Areas of the Pisgah Ranger District, Pisgah National Forest:

    https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/nfsnc...stelprd3832543


    Agree that it's likely an inevitable requirement; future pack purchasers would be wise to take this into consideration. To me the only remaining question is whether certain brands will be required or disapproved, based on local bear cleverness in getting into them. I thought for sure that the report of two BVs being compromised in Grayson Highlands would end up striking that/those models from any approved list, but I've not heard anything more about it. Maybe the report could not be corroborated, IDK.
    This is just what I remember hearing about those incidents. I recall both incidents mentioning that the BV was not actually closed completely. May not be the case.
    We will see if either of ours get compromised this year when we hike that section.
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