Seek Outside Divide 4500 by the numbers

This is generation two of Seek Outside’s backpacking/all purpose pack, the Divide.  Specs on this one are ~4500 cubic inches.  35 inches of unrolled height along the back panel, 32 inches of effective height (shown in first photo, below) with two rolls of the roll top.  Top circumference is 40.5 inches, bottom is 36.  The bottom panel is a trapezoid, with a 14 inch side against the user, 10 inch side on the front, and six inch side sides.

This is the pack fully loaded, with a Voile XLM shovel blade in the front pocket.  Fabric is X42, in the very fetching new olive color.

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The Divide is “optimized” for a 24 inch frame, which means that the top of the cordura/hypalon pockets which hold the frame in place are 24 inches above the bottom of the pack.  I have a nearly 21 inch torso, and while the pack would settle a bit with a load heavier than the blankets I used for these photos, this length still gives me functional load lifters up to around 50 pounds.  I used this same frame at 24 inches for this trip, and only wanted a wee bit more height when we took on 8 liters of water at the start of day 4.  You can run either 2 or 4 inch extensions, but that will put the bag higher and create a bit of empty space below.

For hunting packouts, or if I need more load carriage and extra cargo space for backpacking, I’ll run four inch extensions, pictured at left.  You can install extensions with a totally loaded pack.  This puts the load lifter up by my ears, and allows for some gear to be strapped on a la an old external frame pack.  Of course this makes the side pockets mostly unreachable.  Otherwise (middle photo) they are very easy to use.

The virtue of this shorter, wider design is that you can get your capacity by making the pack taller and skinnier, or shorter and fatter.  The far right photo shows the pack rolled down to the top of the frame and not compressed at all, an ideal setup for bushwacking.

One of several “why didn’t I think of that” features on the Divide is the Horizon cross stay, which is a length of 7075 bar, in a webbing and velcro sleeve.  It attaches across and behind the frame, and is curved to prevent emphatic stuffing of the pack from pushing into ones back.  The first versions of the Unaweep and Divide were in essence frameless packs with a frame added, and having only a layer of fabric between the user and load created issue if said load wasn’t carefully put together.  I’ve been messing with a stay in this spot for a while now, with success, but this is a far simpler and cleaner way of adding it.

The side pockets have a scalloped panel in the base, and user-replacable shock cord.  Again, a very clean and simple to build design that I should have thought up years ago.  There is a drain slot in the lower corner, vital in truly waterproof fabrics like X42.

The two fixed compression straps work via aluminum “bachelor buckles” which are light and unbreakable.  They will come unhitched if they aren’t tight.  The top strap attached via the same method, as do the detachable lower lash straps.  These buckles are great here, as when not in use they leave only a loop of webbing behind.

The roll top can be clipped to itself, and the side straps normally dedicated to the roll top clipped across as a third compression strap, attached to a compression panel, or removed entirely.

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The Divide addresses a number of small quarrels I had with the original Unaweep.  The most obvious is the bottom panel, which is tapered both in and up.  This will be much less likely to snag stuff while downclimbing rock and brush.

One of the byproducts of this tapered bottom is that I’ll be running the belt in the lower grommet.  This extra slack allows for a better wrap around the user and thus better load carriage.  In spite of this I always ran the Unaweep in the upper grommet to keep snags to a minimum.  The new Divide also features a large, prominent, and bomber haul loop.

Yesterday I wrote about the potential complexities of getting stuff for free, and how it isn’t just Christmas-like days when boxes of shiny new radness appear.  I did get this pack for free, after my Unaweep (which I also got for free) developed a warranty issue.  Yesterday was absolutely like Christmas, when I busted open the cardboard box and pulled out a pretty new pack which, as I delved into the details, only became more and more awesome.  With Little Bear about, and sleep no longer something taken entirely for granted, I’m much less inclined to throw hours into sewing projects, and it’s nice to have folks down in Colorado who make the pack I wanted, and make it better in terms of features and construction than I could.

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19 thoughts on “Seek Outside Divide 4500 by the numbers

  1. Hey Dave it’s been a long time! I’m playing with a trio at Kaluspell Brewery sat night 5 to 8 come down say hi if you are around,

    Ed Stalling

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

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  4. Hey, thanks for all the info! How does this pack, and the unaweep frame in general, perform on rock hopping/ scrambling/ off trail terrain? Do you ever feel off balance? How does the frame hold up when sliding down rocks on your rear end? I would like to get the unaweep fortress 3900 or the divide, but I am wondering if I might be better served by an internal frame pack given the type of hiking I like to do.

    • When it comes to stability I’ve never used anything better (save a frameless pack when talking about very light loads), including a bunch of internals. The frame holds up fine; dig through the archives here and you can see that I’ve taken mine down plenty of technical canyons, etc. If you are doing lots of scrambling and pack hauling I would recommend the thicker walled “Guide” frame for long-term insurance. The only downside is how wide the packs are, the corners do drag more often than a pack with a 9-10 inch wide base.

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  6. Hi Dave,

    Thanks for a wonderful review—one of the few out there on this pack. I’m a thru-hiker looking to lighten my load from an old 5 pound Osprey Pack I’ve been using for years. I am not a hunter, and so wonder if the internet chatter on this pack is filtered through the lens of someone who prioritizes hunting. Do you happen to have any experience with the ULA Catalyst pack? I am deciding between the Divide and the Catalyst for my next big hike, and after hours and hours of research I am looking for anything that might sway me one way or another. I apologize if this comparison is a little apples to oranges—I just thought I’d reach out.

    Thanks for any advice!

    • Graham, I’ve seen a number of Catalysts in action, but never done more than try one on myself. So read the following with that in mind.

      The Catalyst suspension is a variation on the classic dual stays and framesheet. The hipbelt runs behind the stays, and it is in the bend in the stays (and foam in the lumbar) which must match the curve of your lower back to anchor the pack and not slip at heavier weights. I’ve never found this suspension style to work all that well for me, the curve always seems to be a just a bit off at different weights. For me, the Seek Outside suspension immediately worked, and requires zero futzing or thought at any weight. My impression is that folks with a pronounced butt/lumbar curve like the former, and folks like me with fairly straight hips like the later. I don’t have enough of a sample size to say that with any sort of authority, its just an impression which might help your choice. The only fit issues I’ve seen with Seek Outside packs are folks whose back and butt profile is quite different than the stock one.

      The association between Seek Outside and hunting is understandable, but I don’t see anything about the suspension itself which is anything other than ideally suited to hiking. Lumbar pad packs like the Catalyst which are designed for (by hunting standards) light loads can themselves be fairly light because sag and compression within the belt/stay/user interface is not a huge concern. Take a lumbar pad pack designed for 60+ pounds (Kifaru, old Dana Designs) and shit has to get heavy to fight said sag. The Seek Outside suspension is just a simpler and better design. Only place for sag/compression is the webbing between the belt and frame (non-issue) and the padding in the belt itself. The only way to make the package hiking specific is with a lighter frame (now available) and a lighter belt (the 2-3 oz of savings prob not worth the added production complication. In short, buying a pack capable of hauling 100+ pounds is deceptive; you’re not giving anything up or adding anything superfluous to have it.

      Read Phil Werner’s review if you haven’t: http://sectionhiker.com/seek-outside-divide-external-frame-backpack-review/ His background is quite different than mine and I think he articulates things well from a backpacker-only perspective.

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  8. Dave,

    Thanks for the detailed response! I went ahead and took the plunge, and received my pack this week. I’ve never wanted to like something so much in my life. So many great qualities in the pack, just as you described. After so much anticipation, however, it pains me to say I think I’m going to have to return it. After hours and hours of tinkering, I just cannot ameliorate the bottom of the frame pressing right into my tail bone. Any suggestion for how I might be able to fix this? I tried changing grommets, packing the bag countless ways, and what feels like a thousand other iterations. Thanks for any advice!

    • Graham, if you haven’t contacted Kevin Timm I’d encourage you to do so (kevint at seekoutside dot com). While the stock frame bend works for most, you’re not the first to have this issue. One solution they’ve used is running the hipbelt strap around the bottom of the frame and bolting them to the “back”. Another, which partially drove the lighter gauge frame, is bending things a bit. In either case, Kevin is your man.

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  10. Hi, thanks for all the reviews on the Seek Outside packs. I’m terribly torn between the Unaweep 4800 and 6300. I’ve been using a Dana Designs Terraplane which I don’t love. I like to go out for 7-10 days at a time either canoeing or backpacking and I don’t try to be super light but rather safe and comfortable. Any thoughts would be appreciated. Thank you, Jerod.

    • Jerod, it will really come down to home much space you need. My imperfect recollection (of my Arcflex Alpine, same main bag as the Terraplane) is that the main bag is the same size as a Unaweep 4800. Maybe even a hair smaller (thinner). The 6300 is only a bit taller than the 4800 bag, but quite a bit larger in circumference. If you need regularly max out the Terra including the lid and front pockets, you either want the 6300, or the 4800 with full compliment of accessories (lid and Day Talon).

      • Dave, thanks for replying. One further question. Having never used the talon compression system it appears that there is a good amount of usable space between it and the main pack. Am I correct? If so, how much do you reckon could be stuffed there and do large amounts affect the carry in any way. Thanks again, Jerod.

        • The sky is the limit in terms of bulk; I’ve carried a bunch of 8 foot long pieces of firewood under the Talon. The practical limitation is that the Talon panel is fairly narrow, and unconstrained things (like a tent not in a stuff sack) tend to sneak out the edges. Snowboards, PFDs, inflatable boats, big stuff sacks, foam sleeping pads, are all things that go under the Talon well.

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