quest for a new (PCT) backpack

Discussion in 'Packs & Accessories' started by maddogs, Jan 24, 2019.

  1. maddogs

    maddogs Trail Blazer

    I've spent the last few months trying to replace my old Osprey Exos 48, simply because it's worn out, and thought it might be helpful for others to share some experiences of the packs I've tried.

    Context: I'm 170cm/68kg (on a good day). I always travel with my wife so we share the load. Base weight is roughly 5.7kg each (but often add ice gear and/or camera taking it up to max 7.5kg). In the US we almost always carry a Bearikade Expedition (included in this base weight). Usually out for either Scottish overnighters or 1 or more weeks abroad. Heading for the PCT this summer. Expected load is around 14kg with a 7 day resupply, but a recent desert trip maxed at 25kg for a water haul.

    Osprey Exos 48 - existing pack. Lasted years. Pocket mesh got torn in a few places but still worked. Hip belt foam feels like its loosing structure and thickness. Finally started to wear holes in the base fabric so now want to replace. Horizontal bar was eventually displaced to the wrong side of the vertical stay by the bear can and now won't stay back on the correct side - this makes the pack feel slightly lop-sided. The bear can does fit but obviously it's a bit tight. Weighs 1051g (size M, no compression straps). Like the mesh back; it does vent for me. Fine up to 12kg. Shoulders work hard >12kg.

    New (2018) Exos 58 - thought this would be a like-for-like replacement but... The new back panel and frame feels more springy and the pack bounces around more when walking on rougher ground; this was the deal breaker. The larger size is truly huge. Bear can fits no problem. No hip belt pockets. It is a tad heavier than the old model. Starts to struggle to keep the weight off the shoulders with >10kg. I think the frame is more flexible than the old style. Disappointing.

    Gregory Optic 48 - Exos clone? Its remarkably similar. Less curvature to the back panel so easier to fit the bear can. Load transfer to hips slightly better than the exos, presumably due to less curvature in the frame. Big pad for lower back is the deal breaker – there is a horizontal seam running across this pad which I can feel rubbing on my back. If this wasn’t there I’d have kept it.

    Z-packs arc haul - the one I thought I'd love. Great concept. Huge bag. Like the roll top. Bear can fits fine. BUT... the mesh back panel is exactly the same width as my shoulder blades and I feel the edge rubbing no matter where it was adjusted up/down. The frame with the suggested 4" {correction! 2.5"} arc doesn't transfer load to the hip belt well for me; it felt like the belt was being pulled backwards trying to cheese wire me in half, rather than being pushed down onto the hips. With no arc this was somewhat but not completely alleviated but kinda’ defeats the point of the design. Rather surprised with this as there are loads of very positive reviews. The inner weight weenie keeps wondering if I had it set up wrong and desperately wanted it to work. The rest of the body says it’s no good with >7kg.

    GG mariposa – It’s tall and thin and the bag design seems to rely on making good use of the 7 outside pockets; the main bag is quite small. I’d have to rethink my packing strategy – can’t fit an evernew 1.3L pan in the top pocket; can’t fit a zpacks duplex in the long pocket. It’s warm on the back; of course it is - it uses insulating foam as a structure! But this does save some weight as a dual-purpose bit of kit. The bear can does (just) fit. But it makes the bag very rigid and I feel the bear can rubbing on my boney spine. Load transfer to the hips is superb. Really comfy without the bear can in there. Not too keen on the robic fabric feels a bit weird. Closure being a sort of fold-over is rather odd but seems to work fine as long as the bag is full enough. If we didn’t need the bear can this would probably have been the one due to the comfortable carry. Fine up to 14kg. (I wonder if I could MYOG using the belt & alu frame...)

    Seek Outside Divide 4500 – the one I kept.

    I did try the Gila 3900 first, but the specs on the website are inaccurate. I found the top circumference is 37” and bottom circ. Is 39”. This makes the bear can very tight (it does go but I can’t even get a hand down beside it to push gear alongside). The Divide takes the can fine and weighs 58g more.

    An absolute load monster. It’s an external frame pack (the bags just slide on and off the frame, so easy to swap). The Divide 4500 bag size is very similar to the arc haul, just 8” taller, which is eliminated by simply rolling the top down more (I considered cutting it off but this would only save 32g; not worth the effort). Bear can fits no problem along with everything else. Side pockets are easily accessible and take 2x1L bottles each. It’s immensely flexible in terms of setting up fit (hip belt size, hip belt attachment height, harness height, frame height) and in terms of feel – it can be set up very tight and stable across the body or quite flexible and floating, or somewhere in-between. Load distribution is truly outstanding. The top tension straps can bring almost all the load off the shoulders to the hips, or create a more even shoulder/hip distribution. Hauling 25kg in Death Valley (3 days of food + water for 2) was eye opening in terms of “comfort”; no shoulder ache, no back ache, just very tired legs. The exos would (from experience) have been very painful.

    It has far too many compression straps (top Y, 6 side, 2 bottom) which add up to 120g! I’ll be removing and using perhaps 4 straps of 2mm cord and line locks. It doesn’t come with hip belt pockets (boo! I used a zpacks pocket). The hip belt straps and shoulder straps are supplied far too long – I cut 8” off each (-24g ;) ). The removable anti-barrel bar (77g) was unnecessary. Weight as used 1366g so perhaps 250g more than the exos and 400g more than the mariposa. Well worth the trade off in comfort for me. My inner weight weenie cries every time I pick up the empty bag. The rest of the body overrules every time I put the full bag on my back :biggrin:.

    Seek Outside Divide 4500 is a great bag for big loads.

    Last edited: Jan 24, 2019
    WilliamC, Arne L., edh and 2 others like this.
  2. edh

    edh Thru Hiker

    Interesting; I used a Prophet (Klymit frame) on PCT sections last I needed to take the can.

    With a few work bits and bobs I was around 10Kgs with 5 days food (don't eat much at altitude).

    Huge packs seem the norm for most US hikers (JMTers etc); I guess you did not see any of them in Colorado last year :D

    Which bits are you doing: whole thing?
  3. maddogs

    maddogs Trail Blazer

    Wow 10kg incl 5 days food in a can is impressive! no wonder you're OK with an ubelight bag.
    We work on 5-600g pppd so around 7-8kg for 2 of us for a week. I'm terrified of bears so we carry the can pretty much everywhere except the desert. ultralight fail. :sorry:

    I don't like that "leaning in to it" weight on the shoulders feeling of the uberlight bags I've tried. Just not man enough for it I guess. So for the extra 1kg over e.g. the prophet I'm happy enough. 4500CI (73L) is a bit big I admit, but the top just rolls down to the frame, which I think brings it to around 50L; the circumference is almost identical to the Z-packs Arch Haul. The exos 48 was plenty large enough though.

    Trying to persuade SWMBO to drop 2.5kg of SLR but...well, it's only a total of 14kg each after resupply which isn't too bad.

    Yep, going for the whole thing. SOBO starting mid July (snow allowing). Dehydrator is running 24/7 at the moment for mailing Washington resupplies :). Did I miss your trip report on that somewhere...?
    Enzo and edh like this.
  4. DuneElliot

    DuneElliot Section Hiker

    You arced the frame on an Arc Haul 4"? wonder it didn't fit right...surprised it didn't break. It's only supposed to be 2- 2 1/2". I found the sweet spot was right at 2"
  5. maddogs

    maddogs Trail Blazer

    oops typo! Yes I believe zpacks said 2-2.5" which is the kind of range I tried. I fiddled with that bag for aaaages as I really wanted it to work.:( but even with no bend it was still trying to cut me in half with 14kg
  6. DuneElliot

    DuneElliot Section Hiker

    Did you use the lumbar pad? I actually had to make one as the ZPacks one wasn't good enough for me. And 14kg is more than pushing it for the pack. I know they say 40lbs, but I think over 30lbs is where it stops being comfortable.
  7. maddogs

    maddogs Trail Blazer

    Yes, I tried the lumbar pad. No help. The issue was the front of the belt cutting into my stomach. I now wonder if this is because the back of the belt has a horizontal aluminum bar that was acting as a spring opening the belt. Maybe if I'd bent it, it wouldn't be trying to pull the belt open? Too late now as I sent it back.
    It's frustrating trying to work out if manufacturer load rating's are realistic or not. Same with sleeping bags I suppose...
  8. dovidola

    dovidola Thru Hiker

    @FOX160 will suggest you take a look at the Hyberg Attila...(I thought I'd get in there first).

    For my part, I'm still pleased with my Nigor Zero-G, a 53L framed Dyneema pack which at around 1kg (depending on size) still delivers a lot and holds its own against more modern competition imo. I think there are still some available. It's the 'spiritual successor' to the Golite Jam, something of a classic favourite.
    FOX160, maddogs and Baldy like this.
  9. FOX160

    FOX160 Thru Hiker

    Has @dovidola says I’ll recommend the hyberg, they say it can hold up to 14kg but only had 12kg but felt more comfortable than the Exped Lightning 45l it replaced. Found this on the Cuben version but the chap gives a great review and that it applies to the XPac version too which is my version.
    Last edited: Jan 25, 2019
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  10. edh

    edh Thru Hiker

    My Prophet has an air mat frame which really works; otherwise with UL frameless packs...I'm similar, don't think the -vs outweigh the +vs

    I hate carrying a can, but one must. FWIW the only bears I met ran like ****; but that does not alter how you feel about them :bear:

    Cool going SOBO; its what I would do if on the PCT again. I only did SoCal into NoCal then Oregon flip-flop (hung food there easily enough); no write-up as it was a 'work' trip...I'll get it blogged after I've published the research work (dragging heels on that :shamefullyembarrased:)
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  11. Clare

    Clare Thru Hiker

    What is SOBO?
  12. Arne L.

    Arne L. Section Hiker

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  13. Clare

    Clare Thru Hiker

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  14. edh

    edh Thru Hiker

    There's so much more...

    Zero, nero, flip-flop, yo-yo... and so it goes
    maddogs likes this.
  15. FOX160

    FOX160 Thru Hiker

    No No : )
    maddogs and edh like this.

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