The Quiver Quantified (backpacks for the woods, part 2)

M and I currently own nine packs.  When I collected them all from corners of the house a while ago, she was surprised it was so few.  I say we, and she uses some of them plenty, but let me be honest: I’ve been the prime mover behind acquiring every one of them.  As part of my examination of packs, I thought I should round up all my packs, weigh and photograph them, discuss their purpose, and note why they’re still around.  Because while we have nine packs today, I’ve sold, given away, or built and then torn up at least a dozen more in the past year.

The Micro Packs

L to R: Osprey Hornet 24 (size M/L), Black Diamond Bullet (circa ’03), and Black Diamond Bbee.

The Bullet (15 oz) and Bbee (11 oz) are the smallest packs in the house, small enough that they don’t always get the job done even for day hikes.  When they are big enough they’re great, as both sit innocuously between the shoulder blades and dead with scrambling and bushwacking with ease.  The Bullet is fatter and shorter, the Bbee thinner and longer.  They’re both about the same size, but shape is highly relevant with packs this small and each will carry a load the other cannot (ex: the Bullet will fit a full sized avy shovel, the Bbee is more stable while mountain biking).  I cut the Bullet’s 1″ webbing belt off years ago, while the Bbee has a nice removable one.  The Bullet is 100% Ballistics nylon, and has survived some serious abuse in tight slot canyons with no complaints.  The Bbee has nicer, shaped and lightly padded shoulder straps and a lightly padded back panel.  Both are great, and will be around for the long haul.

The Day Packs

Lowe Alpine Lightflite 25, next to the Bbee.

The Hornet 24 (21 oz) and Lightflite 25 (14.5) are seemingly redundant packs.  The Lightflite is bigger, much moreso than the claimed sizes would seem to indicate, and has a teardrop shape which makes it an exceptional mountain biking pack.  The Hornet has a fantastic compression system, and this and it’s tight shape make it a bit more versatile.  The above weights reflect some hacking off of minor strappage on the Hornet, and the substitution of the Lightflite’s stock straps for those from another pack (for details you’ll have to read my forthcoming BPL bikepacking articles).  Both are good packs, the Hornet probably the better of the two, it being a very good if rather expensive daypack.

We’ve got two more daypacks, a Cold Cold World Ozone (33 oz) and a old Black Diamond pack (23 oz) whose name is escaping me at the moment.  Both were used extensively as canyoneering packs, and show it.  The Ozone is like the Bullet full Ballistics, and the weight above includes big drain grommets, lots of aquaseal and contact cement, as well as a mode to make the lid removable.  It doesn’t get used much these days, but will when we return to canyon country.  The poor BD pack is currently a harness pack, more as an experiment then anything.  It has a great basic harness system and may get reborn with a new pack bag at some point in the future.

The Bigger packs

The Black Diamond Demon (size Large, 42 oz after mods) is the newest pack in the family, right along with the latest incarnation of the all pack (20.5 oz as pictured above).  It’s the sixth major revision of the pack discussed in the first post in this series, after the last one just didn’t work out.  The fit was off and it was too close, size wise, to the North Fork pack.  I removed the aluminum stay for this weighing, and cut two inner pockets out of the Demon and trimmed the waist, shoulder, and load lifter straps.  It’s still a porker, due to both the full Ballistics construction (love that fabric!) and the beefy framesheet and full back padding.  I got this because it looked intriguing (market research), I wanted a beefy pack for hauling ski junk, and M needed a backpacking pack which had a stouter hipbelt and better load transfer.  As many women do, she prefers to put the overwhelming majority of the load on her hips, and because she wears her waistbelt lower on the hips than is orthodox, we use the same size pack even though my torso length is almost 2″ longer.

The all pack/race pack shown above is a weight weenie winter pack and a design experiment.  It’s as light as I can make a pack of that sort right now without sacrificing either features or buying cuben fiber.  The packs are close to the same dimensions through no coincidence: that size is ideal for wilderness racing (the Jam was too big for the Classic).  Which one I’ll use for the races in 2012 will be a matter of assessment over the winter and spring.

The North Fork pack is the load hauler of the quiver, and has evolved extensively over the last 14 months of it’s existence into a form with which I’m finally happy.  The specifics will be the subject of the next post in this series.  As pictured, with a purely foam, dual density frame sheet which is over an inch think in places, it weighs in at a hefty 46 oz.  But there’s nothing I’d cut off, obviously, and no real places to shave weight without sacrificing function.  I’m especially proud of this pack, flaws and all still the best thing I’ve ever built.  I’ve yet to actually use it stuffed full as shown, but the capacity is there if I need it, and I have a few things in the works for next year where I probably will.

Please ask questions and share favorite packs below.  This is a community project which is evolving nicely.

The North Fork pack in use this past weekend.

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8 thoughts on “The Quiver Quantified (backpacks for the woods, part 2)

  1. Nice, Dave. Thanks for sharing. I actually have a nearly identical post, sitting in my drafts, from a while ago that I forgot about.
    Maybe I should get around to it, too.

  2. That X-pack “all pack” up there is awesome. Love the aesthetic.

    I plan on using four packs in 2012.

    1. A harness style packrafting pack. I built a new 24-oz harness that accommodates 35-70L dry bags, based loosely on the design of the Arctic/Epic packs, but carries weight much better and is quite a lot more durable.

    2. The Hyperlite Mountain Gear Expedition for non-packrafting trips, or packrafting trips where the pack doesn’t spend a lot of time on the boat (river crossings, etc.).

    3. The Topo Designs Klettersack for long days and quick overnights.

    4. Eric’s bike frame bags. Love’em.

    Wearing out packs is getting old. When you stuff 40lb in a pack, it does create seam stress and causes packs to fail on long trips. I’ve becoming fond of durability in the past few years.

  3. Dave the hipbelt of that North Fork Pack looks great. I feel like a wider hipbelt helps avoid some of the sag assosiated with frameless pack hipbelts. Any thoughts?
    Ryan I would have thought the seems of the HMG pack would fail over time, am I wrong?

    1. A wider, stiffer hipbelt with a good connection to the main bag makes a huge difference. This belt is a 1/8″ of very dense foam board with yoga mat sewn around it. There was actually a bit of a break in period, but once I got the angle and connection to the pack dialed it’s been awesome. The split belt, which takes pressue off my boney hips, is also key.

  4. Quick clarification. D’s around 2.5 inches taller than me. About two of those inches are in the legs (not the torso as he said), the other .5-.75 is in the torso. I can ride his bikes reasonably comfortably as long as I can drop the saddle enough (our cockpit lengths are almost identical).

    We wear packs interchangably, because with backpacking packs I wear the hip belt about a half inch lower on my hips… to avoid the additional pressure on the bony parts of my hips because I’m not as muscular (or something) as D. I also put almost all my weight on my hip belt (as D pointed out, most women do) because my collar bones stick out farther than his and get sore super quickly when carrying much weight… again a muscle thing, D was a climber and has weird shoulder muscles… I don’t even understand them, they scare me… but I presume this is similar with most women. I tend to like to move my shoulder straps over the course of the day, closer together then farther apart, so they hit different areas on my shoulder and no one area becomes too sore.

    Unfortunately the only response I’ve seen to these different fit issues with women is the really beefy, heavy packs with all kinds of crazy padding, frame sheets, etc, etc. Which, considering I’m already not carrying my fair load, I’d rather not waste precious weight carrying a heavier pack, when I could be carrying more food etc.

    There doesn’t seem to be a pack that is otherwise lightweight, but then has a super cushy hip belt. I guess that’s why D makes his own packs 🙂

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