Our little day hike up Mount Baldy brought a few items to light about backpacks. I love my backpack. I have fine tuned the adjustments on the pack for years. Everything fits, I just load it up, put it on, and go. That is how I saw it anyways. The truth is that I hadn’t really used it in years. Last time was on a trip to Alaska a few years ago, and I can’t say I have really worn it much since. All of that being said, backpacking has been an idea we have been toying with for a little bit in the group; it really would help to get into some really remote areas.
The problem is, my pack is falling apart. I really do not know how old it is; it was a hand-me down when I started hiking 15 years ago. My best guess is this thing is 30-40 years old. It is a Camp Trails pack, and many of the bars I assume are supposed to be strait, aren’t; the straps are fraying, and now the clips holding pins in place are breaking off left and right.
Armed with this new fear of a catastrophic backpack failure on a trip, miles from anywhere, I went down to my local REI to see what they had to offer. Oh boy, was I in for a surprise. I expected to see lots of packs, most similar to mine, with a sales rep trying to sell me on the minute differences that make one pack 2 ounces lighter, or the super soft foam that makes a pack extra comfortable.
What I didn’t expect was the whole array of new packs. There was not anything close to what I had used for the better part of 2 decades. Gone are the days when everything was strapped to the outside of the pack. I suppose I should have realized this would be how it is from the comments I have gotten on the trail, everything from, “dang that is an OLD pack” to “how much you want for that relic? I haven’t been able to find one of those in YEARS!”
After carefully explaining that I end up carrying 45 lbs, getting a few dirty looks and a chat about how I should really be carrying only 25 lbs, we got down to business. Since I am used to carrying all of the bulky items on the outside of the pack, the first question I had to answer is how big a pack do I need? Seems that for most day hikes a 25-35 liter pack is more than sufficient, with overnight packs going up to 55 liters. Apparently, going overnight for more than one night requires a bit bigger of a pack still, but amazingly, most of the internal packs are adjustable. Meaning I could load it way up, or cinch it down for a day hike. AWESOME!
I tried on several packs, including an Arc’teryx super nice awesome pack (Altra 75). The helpful guys let me parade around the store with varying amounts of weight up to 45lbs. Shopped the store, feeling a bit silly, then went home to do my internet research. I had narrowed it down to 2 packs, partially based on price, partially on comfort (I would rather carry 3 extra pounds and be comfortable than not): The Arc’teryx and the Gregory Baltoro 75L. Both are wonderful packs (as far as I could tell) but the one I decided to go with is the Gregory Baltoro 75L. In the end I couldn’t justify the extra expense.
So far I have only taken it on two outings, one is up a local mountain (Santiago Peak) and the other is to carry camera gear up a small hill. Both times I have been pleased with the pack. It has more adjustments than I am used to, but figuring them out has been a real plus for me. Ill put an update in after a few more trips, try to get some more perspective on the packs.