Backpacks are a big part of my life, so I seek to have ones that are the best for my needs. This is an account of all packs I've had, and my thoughts on them. By having a lot of different packs, I've learned a lot about them and what they should be. This journey has closely mimicked the experience of Ben Kilbourne, and I've learned a lot from him.
2013 - Dad's old Jansport external frame
Took this out 1 mile into the desert a few times with weights up to 70 pounds. Brought all sorts of stupid shit like a full size camp chair.
2014 - Gregory 38 something
-First modern backpack of my own. In hindsight, I was thinking well. Lightish weight and it had good weather resistance
-ultimately, ended up feeling like I needed a bigger one
2015 - Deuter ACT 75+10
-big, durable, and light considering those things. -That's what I thought at the time anyway. Wrong.
2016 - Osprey Atmos 50
-I basically got this because I thought it was the ultimate backpack
-I didn't get the 65 because I wanted to be LW, in hindsight this was the right decision because the packs suspension is really comfortable, but crumples over 40 pounds, so a 65 would be silly. The inability of a heavy-ish pack to carry heavy weight is what ultimately prompted me to change.
-I also started seeing feature sets that were both minimalist and better on other packs.
-But I loved the Atmos for years.
2018 - Osprey Mutant 38
-this came into my life accidentally but I ended up loving it for all the technical things I was doing at the time, and as a beater daypack and work pack. I took it on a few overnights and liked the minimalism, but was annoyed with the lack of exterior pockets.
2020 - Kelty Coyote 80
-Got this super cheap to try it out. Same weight as my Atmos, but stiffer suspension and more capacity. At the time I saw this as my hauler or "Basecamp" pack and the Mutant as my UL pack.
-so many problems with that strategy. The Kelty had silly features, was too short, and the Mutant lacks hiking-friendly features
-in reality, I knew the whole time that this wasn't the end goal
2020 - Hyperlite Southwest 3400
-when I started noticing things wrong with my Atmos, this is what I was destined to evolve into.
-I was looking at a few different options, but this was available used for cheapish
-I wanted to love it. Loved the feature set and materials. Loved the look.
-ultimately, it hurt my shoulders a lot over 30 pounds. So really, it served me well-ish but wasn't versatile enough. Tried to improvise load lifters with the Y strap, which didn't help enough because the torso length was actually okay, the narrowness between straps was the problem.
-for a long time I couldn't see how people like these with the lack of load lifters. Now I can understand, it just didn't work for me.
2020 - ULA Epic
-came up, and I bought it used with hopes of better weight hauling and ULTIMATE versatility. Theoretically, both would've been very true. -However, the torso size I got did not fit me like it should have. This began the journey of cool UL packs being too short for me.
-also, the amazing versatility came with a direct tradeoff of "fussiness". Fine, but annoying to my minimalist mind.
-also, barrelling was a small problem. Could've used a horizontal stay
2020 - REI Flash 55
-I was working at REI. It was literally the only pack in the store I liked, and I loved the design
-I didn't love the materials, but it was 50% off
-Much more comfortable than anything ever before at ANY weight. The hipbelt is extraordinarily comfortable
-still though, barely tall enough for me. And at heavy weights, the frame sagged a bit making it worse.
-yeah, didn't like the materials. Not weather resistant and I got a lot of rips quickly
2021 - Patagonia Descensionist 40
-basically I bought it because I wanted a pack with a "wet room"/avy pocket
-havent used it much.
-pretty dope. Similar suspension ability to the Mutant. Which for both is very good for the purpose.
-not sure if I'm sold on the roll top actually for this purpose. I like the idea of a backpanel zip for such a pack. A zipper, I know. Yikes. and I usually love roll tops. But this pack already has a side zipper that's fairly weak and just generally worse.
-still contemplating if I could think of a solution to be able to ski with a less specific pack. I don't even ski super much. Do I even need this?
*Ordered SO Divide*
-started guiding, thought I would need a giant pack so I ordered this asap and planned to suffer using Wildland packs until it arrived
-I hated the WTC Deuter's enough that I tried cramming everything into my Flash. And it worked, barely. I was happy about that, but I wasn't going to cancel my Divide order
2021 - Durston 40
-If I was going to move to a Divide, I wanted to have a nice small pack too. This would've been perfect. Bought it spontaneously. I really wanted to love it, just like the HMG. Arrived next day.
-Way too short to be comfy with medium weight
-Not versatile, returned next day
2021 - Hanchor Marl
-Came up used, decent deal. Not sure how it would fit in, but I basically saw it as a perfected version of the Flash. Taller, stiffer, and Xpac.
--Could this be my *only* pack??
-Freaking loved it. Like a HMG or Durston, but it actually fit me. Like a Flash, but bomber.
-Romped around Wyoming with it. Used it on 1 guide backpacking trip, but I had a coguide.
-Only possible complaints: small external pockets, and it seems to end up being full to the max quite often
2021 - Seek Outside Divide
-pretty freaking cool no doubt. Huge, bomber.
-a little less clean, and heavier. But not bad.
-took it on one guide trip. Had a coguide, but we packed a good bit of stuff in for 3 nights in the same camp. I wanted to try it. I expected the comfort to blow my mind after all the hype. Long story short, it didn't. It's definitely comfy, but not sure I love all the fuss going on against my back. Just generally not distinctly better than the Marl at 40-50 pound weights. Maybe hipbelt is better?
*8/7/2021 - Hanchor Marl update*
*-I have now put 30 days on the Marl, guiding and otherwise
-I tried it with the Divide hipbelt and had enormous sag. Very bad.
-I was actually stoked that the stock hipbelt was better - because it's lighter and simpler. So I put it back on, expecting the same excellent pack that I'd had before.
-Then, I started noticing some sag at ~40 pounds
-this ultimately lowers the entire pack body, making the base hit my butt and the pack rest on my shoulders
--originally, I was excited that the top of the frame was at the bottom of my ears - a perfect fit. Now with the sag, the top of the frame is at the top of my shoulders, so it fits similarly to the Flash. The only advantage now is materials
-it definitely took this sag 30 days to develop. The flimsy foam in the hipbelt has broken down.
-can the hipbelt be modified to work? Or will this cause me to move onto a different pack?
2021 - YAR 34L prototype frameless
-surprisingly comfortable up to 25 pounds using the webbing hipbelt, even though 19" torso is significantly too short
-a pretty cool excercise in minimalism. Do I really need hipbelt pockets? Perhaps all I actually need accessible is phone and water? The bottom pocket gives reasonable access to a smart bottle, but I'm not sure it's my favorite.
-I like the size and main pocket great. The outer mesh kinda sucks. It's great material, but feels really tight/small. The sides of it aren't realistically accessible while walking.
2021 - Superior Wilderness Designs Rugged Big Wild 70L
-this is it. This pack is rugged, comfortable to 55lbs, has the features I want and nothing more, and weighs 42oz. My search is over.