Seek Outside pack buying guide

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Seek Outside doesn’t actually make that many packs, but for those who’ve never seen one getting acquainted with the options and choosing well can be daunting.  I’ve put serious miles on a Unaweep, Evolution, and Revolution, and am accumulating miles on the new Divide 4500, so I like to think I have something to offer here, beyond this product page and this video:

First; fabrics.  Alpine Gray is X21 from Dimension Polyant and suitable for everything which doesn’t involve substantial point abrasion or regularly carrying heavy sharp things.  Expedition Olive is X42, which stands up to everything but the most egregious abuse.  Guide Slate is X51, a 500/1000 denier plain weave, and when it comes to things like being drug against rocks adds quite a bit of durability compared to X42.  X33 is lighter and nearly as tough as X42, but available only in multicam.  X21 is the choice for all but the most abusive backpacker, and for hunters who are easy on gear.  X33 is a good upgrade over X21 for anyone who doesn’t mind the camo.  X42 is a great middle ground for off-trail backpacking, light canyoneering, carrying skis, and so forth.  X51 is for intensive canyoneering or other applications where hauling, dragging, and scraping your pack will be commonplace.

Second, frame height.  Depending on pack weight and personal preference there is a range of acceptable heights, depending on user torso length.  The various packs are “optimized” for a given height, which simply means that number is the distance from the pack base to the top of the frame pockets.  On the Divide, for example, this is 24 inches, but a frame nearly 2 inches taller can be used with no issue.  I have a 21 inch torso, and the 24 inch frame gives me good lift from the load lifters up to 40-50 pounds, but in the last few months I’ve taken to running 1.25 inch extensions in the Divide all the time.  This places the frame barely below the bottom of the bag (it still stands by itself when fully loaded), and gives me enough lift for almost any load I might carry.  As a rule of thumb, those carrying light loads and who prefer a frame not far above their shoulders will do well with a frame 3-4 inches taller than their torso length.  5 inches taller is a good all-around length, and 7-8 or more inches taller is the way to go for serious load hauling.

In the top photo I’m running the Osprey Poco kid carrier lashed to the Revolution frame at 28 inches, which for that awkward load is ideal.  Contrast that with the Divide at 25.25 inches, below.  Exact adjustments to frame height are easy to achieve by ordering the frame extensions and cutting them with a hacksaw or pipe cutter.

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Frame height will drive pack selection, to a limited extent.  The very long-torsoed will find the Divide a poor fit, for example.  Similarly the Exposure, which due to the zipper cannot be compressed shorter than the 26 inch ideal frame height, may be a bit taller than the shortest-torsoed will find ideal.

Beyond that desired features tell the story.  The integrated bags (Unaweep, Exposure, and Divide) are lighter, cheaper and simpler, but less versatile, than the Revolution frame and the various bags.  If you want the lightest pack possible, know you’ll only want one pack, and won’t need the cargo hauling ability of the Revolution frame, the Divide is for me the pack to get.  The features and especially tapered bag are fantastically versatile, and if you need extra capacity or the occasion ability to haul big, awkward stuff the rolltop straps and normal compression straps can be used to run a Talon compression panel.  On the other hand, the Revolution frame works exceptionally well for carrying awkward loads, and the individual bags are cheaper than Unaweep bags.

In summary:

  • Backpackers, multisport folks, and hunters wanting the lightest possible pack should get the Divide.
  • Very tall versions of the above, as well as hunters and people who will be carrying awkward things on a semi-regular basis should get the Unaweep.
  • Organizationally challenged backpackers should get a Unaweep with side-zip, or the Exposure.
  • Hunters who prefer to haul meat between the frame and the bag should get a Revolution/Fortress combo in whatever size will suit.  Ditto for backpackers who might find themselves hauling stuff like tools for trail work, inflatable kayaks, biological research gear, or a waders/Watermaster fishing rig should do the same. 
  • Organizationally challenged versions of the above should get a side zip, or even better, a Precipice bag.

I’ve gotten all my Seek Outside packs for free, but I think my enthusiasm for them in as unbiased as is reasonable to ask.  As I responded yesterday, to one of the many folks asking about the Divide for backpacking: “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.”

16 thoughts on “Seek Outside pack buying guide

  1. Helpful post, Dave. Thanks. Got a 6300 Unaweep coming in the mail for the “big” trip this summer.

  2. I have a revo + fortress bag + day talon, and I love the combo to bits. Two drawback (because nothing is ever perfect) is that the new revo encasement is more sweaty than the old evo one (BUT I could not live without the headscoop), and the whole thing is pretty strappy when empty. I can live with both things easily, though I would not reject any suggestion about taming the straps.

    1. Never used them, but the simplest strap taming system I’ve seen are short elastic loops threaded on to the webbing, like these: http://www.t3gear.com/t3-elastic-keepers-10-pack/

      Ought to be easy enough to make at home.

  3. How are you sealing your packbag seams? Diluted clear silicone from the outside according to the old Paradox video? Had some trouble with water infiltration through the bottle pocket seams in my fortress X51 last trip.

    1. I dont bother. Ive used Aquaseal in the past.

    2. I sealed mine with diluted silicone and it works well, though two parts proved more difficult to seal (on a revolution bag, an unaweep bag might not pose the problem): the seekoutside logo sawn on the bag, and the strap that goes across the top and is used to attach the bag to the top of the revo frame. Please note that even though the bag leaked at those point I was still perfectly happy with it. BTW in the seekoutside forum the latest advice is to stuff the bag as much as possible before sealing it.

  4. We are planning a longer family trip this summer and everyone is really excited for it. Kids are 4 and 6.

    To keep everyone comfortable and happy, we invested in a Hilleberg Nallo 4 GT. I’ve been using MYOG tarps and mids for the last ten years, but in this case, I believe the chances for continued trips are higher with a comfortable, practical, safer no bug (as in development phase) shelter. As time goes by, we can go adventurous again, but for now, enjoyment is the end goal.

    As soon as the shelter arrives, I will pack my bag with shelter, 3x sleeping system, clothes, gear, food…
    I’ve been using the same MYOG bag for the same ten years now, it’s a hair under 70 liters, removable SMD/GG aluminium stay. I will strap the shelter on top and then carry an old thin backpack in front (Fjällräven Kånken 16 liter) for added access, volume and balance distribution.

    But I have a feeling the weight and specifically the volume might be too much.

    Then, the other day, I noticed you can buy Seek Outside packs from a store in Sweden. That changes everything. I’ve only looked at them as a reference, but now there’s a real possibility to buy them. (Wealthy enough and too little time to embark on a major backpack project at the moment.)

    My (backup) alternative is a Osprey Xenith 105.
    Just top reviews, cheaper, looks smart and Osprey knows that they are doing. Seeing videos and pictures, the Ospreys are space-ship manufactured compared to Seek Outsides more Cottage-styled design and manufacturing.
    Having made bags, I know I don’t make a lot of advanced curves because it adds a moment for error, increases repair difficulty and probably serves little value besides looks. Bioform hipbelts, no knowhow for that here…

    Seek Outside Unaweep 6300+Talon or Osprey Xenith 105?
    It’s the old garage vs Tesla contest?

    I want to go for the Unaweep, it’s exciting compared to the mainstream packs. I also imagine it has a wider span of use, ultimately lowering the cost per use.

    1. “space ship manufactured is exactly right. Just looking at the pocket and side zip config of the Xenith is a bit dizzying. Some crazy patterning going on there. Osprey packs are perfectly functional, but I think shelf appeal and useability for the novice are the driving factors for them these days. As an experienced backpacker you’d be able to manage with the minimal features of the Unaweep just fine, and I do think the simpler design would give more durability long term.

      But what it really comes down to is load carry, and I’ve never had an Osprey (or Gregory, or Dana Design, or anything in the traditional internal mold) carry as well as the Seek Outside stuff. Just based on that I think the Unaweep 6300 is the clear choice.

      And good call on and Nallo. Everyone in one tent is mandatory, and while we’ve spent much less than Hille cost cumulatively on a few family tents in the last few years, I keep wondering if we’d be better served with a Nallo 4 for simplicity and peace of mind. (I wish they made an Anjan 4). Our four year old has done well recently sleeping under a tarp, but younger than that and the added bug proofing and resistance against squirming is important.

      1. +1 on the Anjan 4. I would’ve leaned towards the lighter weight, I don’t see any long winter trips on the horizon, but that would be covered with the Nallo. Anything more bomber though, would be unnecessary.
        On shelters reasoning. The mids and tarps for the solo trips are covered by the shadow MYOG budget. :) Our first and so far only family shelter is a Halti Laavo Pro. Single-wall lean-to, bugproof, cheap. I have been very pleased with it, it’s really all you need in nordic forests. It has dealt with mosquitoes and rain, low condensation. Wind is avoided with site selection. We rarely have threatening snow loads.
        So in my opinion that 100€ shelter covers 80% of normal family trips. A 500€ shelter on the other hand, really is a compromise; not really coping with winter storms nor lightweight. The Hilleberg checks those boxes, and if I don’t need it, they have excellent second hand value. The GT version is a luxus thing for cooking, gear sorting and storm days.
        Plus I’ve always seen buying one’s first Hilleberg a rite of passage into adulthood. Then having slept in all models by retirement. :)

        Thank you for echoing my conclusion on the Osprey vs Seek Outsdide pack question. Just from seeing the pictures I know how to fix any damages on the seek outside, and X-pack is a joy to work with. The Osprey on the other hand, not so much, though it’s covered by warranty.. In the end that would just be a confidence thing. I contacted Seek Outside to ask for how they calculate the 6300 cubic inches and if they have any pictures 4800 vs 6300. I want the pack to be considerably bigger than my current 60 liter. Have you touched the 6300? At some point though, the volume requirement of +100 liters should be a warning sign. :)

        I was really a bit disappointed the other day when I loaded my current pack with day trip essentials, including a 16kg Kettlebell and went for a day hike with the kids. I don’t think it would be a pleasure anymore at 20kg+ for a week. The pack has never failed before, but I guess that means it’s really optimized for 15kg, which is 80% of my solo trips. :)

        1. The 6300 used to be undersized. I used that pack and it didn’t get the job done. Looking at the current specs it seems that in the past few years they bumped up the upper circ and overall height up a good bit. Anything more than 48 and 44 inches (respectively) gets tough to manage on their frame (or almost any frame).

      2. Got my Unaweep 6300 yesterday. =)

        1. And the Nallo 4 GT.
          What a day.

          And a rather large hole in my bank account.

  5. thechrislundy July.21.2020 — 07:30

    Hey Dave, do you have experience fitting a Divide pack into an Alpacka boat? Wondering if the width of the frame would prevent it from fitting inside? Thanks!

    1. You have to separate the frame, for sure.

      Pack long hard things like the frame, trekking poles, etc carefully. I’ve run into trouble in thin, steeper rapids with the boat flexing and hard objects in the tubes rubbing and causing a hole.

      1. thechrislundy July.21.2020 — 09:13

        Awesome, thanks for the reply. That video couldn’t have explained it better! Cheers

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