First: what the hell is happening with those packs, maan?
A lot. Unfortunately, almost none of that is helping to get you a pack faster. While the pandemic hasn’t impacted our family as directly or egregiously as it could, or still might, it has made the world more complicated. I’ve been and remain on a slightly reduced salary, and our decision in early April for M to go back to work has been wise, in that any financial concerns have been well preempted. What that has meant day to day is that we juggle our schedules, and that my time has been full enough that choices must be made: kid time, spouse time, meals, work, fun and exercise, yes. Much else (e.g. cleaning, and sewing), no.
And I am ok with that.
Hopefully one of the things we, as a society, get out of the pandemic is an easier time admitting that doing it all, especially as parents, is neither possible nor desirable.
One of the benefits of such mandatory emphatic choices, and of the necessity of managing creeping universal anxiety, has been lots of time in the woods, both on my own and with the little people. The prototype Tamarisk has been used almost daily, even if that is only to transport rafting gear 200 yards from car to lake, or on a pint sized bikerafting trip (top photo, 5 miles on gravel, 10 miles of twisty and fast class I+). I am more confident than ever in the design and size, and embracing the extended and indefinite timeline to tweak a few things (the belt could be a bit better, improved attachment points for a PFD).
After 6 months of use I remain exceedingly pleased with the shoulder straps, which in packland present a problem whose answer is difficult to properly balance. Too much padding is certainly a thing, as is too little, too stiff, and too supple. My old Dana always chafed a little, and never really broke in enough (even after 200+ days) to conform to clavicle and armpit. The 2012 Gorilla did almost everything right, with the thin foam being a little too stiff, and certainly far too ready to pack out. The HPG shoulder harness was a study in how far one could get in patterning and conformity, but the Cordura facing against the user chafed and held sweat, and the thin and relatively supple foam let the webbing strap dig in once the load was big enough to stretch the Cordura.
With these three examples as limit posts, I set out a couple years ago to find something well in between them. Most combinations of foam and materials have worked decently enough, and there is a case to be made for shoulder straps being an ancillary detail to things like the hipbelt and frame, so long as they are good enough. But the whole point of the Tamarisk is to not just be good enough, and it is easy to recall trips like this one where anything with the least potential for discomfort will sing out to that effect, and loudly.
My current layup for the Tamarisk shoulder straps is a 5mm layer of fairly stiff EVA foam, 5mm 3D mesh turned inside out, and 500D Cordura, with a length of 3/4″ webbing bartacked every 3 inches the whole length. The result is quite pliable, due to being well under 1/2 an inch thick, yet rigid, due to the EVA. The thick 3D mesh makes things feel cushy, and wicks sweat (see above), both of which fight chafing during hot 12+ hour days. Keeping the mesh inside out eliminates the traditional bane of that material, namely the extent to which it traps pine needles and debris, which build up over time no matter the cleaning efforts, eventually becoming abrasive to both clothing and skin. The greatest cause for celebration is that testing the inverted mesh over the past two years, and this particular foam since January, has revealed no concerns with longevity whatsoever.
The packs will come, eventually, but in this age of uncertainty I’m not making any specific promises.