DSC02656Gossamer Gear Gorilla, Red Eagle Meadows.  M photo.

I have a large pile of packs in the closet right now.  The taint of this excess is blunted somewhat by the fact that M and I can wear almost identically sized packs, but the redundancy still gets under my skin.  However, given the huge steps in knowledge I took in the last year, I’m prepared to forgive myself.

Things got kickstarted when I saw the Gossamer Gear Trail Ambassador application and thought, why the hell not?  On the surface their packs didn’t hold too much appeal, but I thought that a company with such an illustrious and well respected history was probably deserving of less cynicism.  This was correct.  There’s plenty I don’t like about the Gorilla, and the pack shown above took quite a beating back in October, but it also provided un-noticed service on a bunch of heavily loaded trips.  I’m thinking of the trip above, where I had six liters of water and most of our food at the start of the second day, or the Yellowstone trip where I had a solid week of food on board.  Or even the Tobacco Root trip where I hauled four days of food and a ~27 pound bike up and down mildly technical snow fields.  The Gorilla showed me a new benchmark for load carrying with a 1.5 pound pack, and gave me lots of ideas for how minimal materials can be made to do a lot of work.

The last two packs I’ve built (see below) are breathtakingly better than anything I’ve made previously, and the Gorilla was hugely influential in their design.

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The next big step in my thinking came courtesy of Paradox Packs.  My review of the Evolution frame and 4800 bag was just published yesterday.  It was the most complex such project I’ve yet tackled, and the most satisfying, because of the depth of research I had to do into big load hauling backpacks, as subject I only started to put thought into this year.  I had run several, rather ineffectual experiments in building  load hauler, beginning early in 2013, learning just enough to realize why my designs weren’t working, but not enough to see a solution to the problems.  The Paradox frame showed me answers to almost everything in one broad gesture, and the performance of the pack itself surpassed my expectations considerably.  I’m still processing the lessons, and need more field time before I formulate meaningful conclusions.  As you can imagine, I’m looking forward to it.  There’s little as fun as being back on the sharp end of the learning curve.