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Backpack advice


TollerMom

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TollerMom

I have not yet backpacked on an overnighter but am planning my first trip and need to buy a pack. I looked at several brands online...Gregory, Osprey, Kelty. Any advice? What to get...what NOT to get? I am just 5'3" so I imagine I need one for a short torso. Oh, I can't afford to spend hundreds of dollars?

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Brad.Clarkston

I have not yet backpacked on an overnighter but am planning my first trip and need to buy a pack. I looked at several brands online...Gregory, Osprey, Kelty. Any advice? What to get...what NOT to get? I am just 5'3" so I imagine I need one for a short torso. Oh, I can't afford to spend hundreds of dollars?

Is your overnighter less than 10 miles from your car? If so I'd go cheap with something like a "Mini Alice Pack" it's not a real military Alice pack but I picked up one for my 11 year old son who is about the same height as you and it works great as long as you do not overfill it (no frame). The outside pockets are standard Alice sized so he can carry a 38oz SS Guyot water bottle and nesting cup in one and food in the other two. The main compartment is large enough to hold a sleeping bag and tarp or light tent easily enough.

Personally for a easy overnighter I just take my shoulder bag (Finnish Gas Mask bag) with my poncho ranger banded to the strap for quick access and my wool blanket + tarp strapped underneath.

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There are a couple of factors to consider when getting a pack. First off, you need to try and go somewhere where someone can properly measure and fit you. Although it may be true, you cannot assume that just because you are short that you have a short torso, or that tall people have long torso's. However, I understand all to well that it may be quite difficult to make it somewhere where this can be done, so I would suggest getting a partner and do it yourself. Here is an article to get you started for measuring:

http://www.rei.com/expertadvice/learn/backpacks+torso+hip+size.html

The next thing to know is how big/small of a pack do you need. Honestly, the only way that you can know this is by having everything else before you get your pack. There is nothing worse than finding out that your pack is too small to fit all of your gear in... OTOH, if you get a huge pack, you will be too tempted to want to load it up with "just-in-case" items... When I first started backpacking, I hated it when people would tell me to get the backpack last, but I can say from experience...it is great advice...

If you do not have all of your gear just yet, I would suggest borrowing or maybe even renting some gear for a while to get an idea of how it all works, and to figure out what it is that you really want in a pack. Don't fall for all the bells and whistles on many of the mainstream packs...remember K.I.S.S. All of those bells and whistles are usually overrated and add weight and complexity to something that should be simple. Plus, it is just something else that could fail...

I would also suggest getting a $20 lifetime membership at REI. This is a one time fee, but it gives you a lifetime warranty, no question asked return policy on anything that you purchase from them. For those of us that do not live close to a gear shop and have to order stuff to actually put our hands on it, this is a great option to have...

Also, I highly suggest to look into items that you feel would suit your needs, and then post those specific items here on the boards. Let us know the conditions that you will be using the item in and what you expect out of it, and most of the time others can chime in that have real experience with it...

Good luck and happy hiking!

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TollerMom

Thanks Brad. My first overnighter will be about 7 miles uphill...but maybe the Alice pack theory might be a bit bare bones for me....

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TollerMom

Stick...never occurred to me to get the sleeping bag, tent etc first before getting the pack. I do have an REI membership. There is an REI in Reno about 30 miles from here. I have thought about going there to be fitted first. I am a bit impulsive though and could see myself getting talked into making a purchase without shopping for the deal. GOLITE has a women's 65L and 85L on sale cheap.

I bought a used backpack (Hard Mountain.or something like that) at the REI garage sale and took it home. Bummer about it was the internal frame didn't belong to the pack. It was way long and stuck out of the top. I have been considering asking my neighbor to saw part of the frame off. Then we get into the mountain bike theory (that being the first mountain bike I bought was cheap and HEAVY AS A TANK)...so you do sometimes have to pay for quality gear. My husband was leery of me spending $$$ on gear only to decide I didn't like it, to which I replied if I get out and struggle with crummy gear and a too cold sleeping bag, I can be certain I'll hate it.

My friend that I'll be going with (her first overnighter too) has a 3 man tent that she said we could share but I think I prefer my own personal space...but I digress....But back to the pack...on the subject of volume would 85L be considered on the large side or not?

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But back to the pack...on the subject of volume would 85L be considered on the large side or not?

My first pack (Kelty Red Cloud 5600) was 92L and weighed 5 lb 10 oz! My gear fit in it, but it was alot of gear...my first hike with it was pushing 60 lbs...so it is a good thing that I found backpacking fun, because carrying that pack was not! And as I mentioned before, alot of it was "just-in-case" gear, however, some of my gear was also bulky. I carried a heavy, synthetic sleeping bag, a 5 lb 2 person tent and 1.8L cook pot...among lots of other things too, but I can't remember it all off the top of my head! After that hike, my desire to get back out only burned more...but I knew that I needed to do something about the gear on my back.

Since then I have purchased 4 other packs (not counting day packs or provided packs). And for the record, I have only been backpacking 3 years... Anyway, I kept my Kelty (since it was my first), sold one, and still have 3 other ones. I now have multiple set-ups for different situations/conditions.

My ULA Circuit (68L, 2.5 lbs) is now my load hauler that I use in colder conditions when I have to carry extra gear (when my son/wife come along with me).

My ZPacks Blast 30 (50L, 8.6 oz) is now my go-to pack for solo trips and in all but the hottest months.

My ZPacks Zero pack (24.5L, 4 oz) is my go-to pack for solo trips when the temps are warm to hot.

Each of these packs will hold my gear plus 5 days of food for me, with a little extra room, however, this extra room is for extra water or food rather than just-in-case items. I have spent a lot of time with all of my gear, and a few different versions to get these packs the way I want them...but in the mist of it all, I did learn that I need to get my pack based on my gear.

If you are close enough to an REI, and don't mind the drive, I suggest you to take off for a day. If you don't want to be suckered into a purchase, leave any method of purchasing one behind. But, let me remind you, REI has a no questions asked return policy (and I am not saying to abuse this, but it is a handy thing to have...)

Also, take the gear that you do have with you. They don't mind people bringing in their gear and loading up a pack with it. If you don't have the gear, go "shopping" around the store and pick out gear to load up a pack, then put it on and walk around the store with it on for at least 30 minutes. Note the way it feels on your shoulders and the way that the pack rest on your hips. Most of the weight should rest on your hips, not your shoulders. With a framed pack, you should actually be able to pull your arms out of the shoulder straps and almost not realize any difference. And while you are there, try more than one pack on.

I really wish I could tell you one way or the other, but honestly, this is only something that you can decide for yourself through use. And trust me, take your time, don't get in a rush. The more you put into this, the happier you will be in the long run. There are a couple of things I say don't skimp on: 1. Good footwear (fit is key), 2. A good comfortable, warm sleeping bag, and 3. A backpack that fits you and hold's your gear appropriately. The rest of the items can be a bit less than ideal if needed, save a well insulated pad for winter use.

I know what you mean though about wanting your own stuff, and wanting it now so that you can get out there! But, unless you have money that you can just go and get what you want right now, borrowing and even renting may be what it takes. Or as you mentioned, sharing.

Either way, I hope this helps and good luck with your decisions!

Edited by Stick
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Aaron Zagrodnick

Personally, I would think that an 85L pack would be a bit overkill for your normal overnight trip. I pack on the lighter side, but 30L gets me by just fine for an overnighter, and my ULA Circuit (Which is almost 70 liters including all storage) can get me by for 10+ days out at a time. But this is using a lightweight and compact down sleeping bag and a single-walled shelter, etc.

Stick has some really great advice concerning pack selection, it's usually best to assemble all of the other gear you'll be taking first, then decide on the pack based upon the weight and volume of that assembled gear. REI would definitely be a good starting point as Stick relayed.

As far as specific suggestions go, there are a lot of great packs from some great manufacturers like ULA or Gossamer Gear in the ~$200 range that I think would be great to start out with, but it sounds like you might want to keep the price lower - One pack I can think of would be the Osprey Exos series, which can usually be found a little cheaper. However, when I first started out on overnighters I was heading out with a duffel bag over one shoulder, which worked fine - Though it wasn't always that comfortable. :D What does the rest of your gear look like?

Edited by Aaron
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TollerMom

More great suggestions. What does the rest of my gear look like? Uh, I have a compass and a bit of stubborn will power and a sense of adventure. I think my husband has a tent from his wild land firefighting days and he also says he has a sleeping bag I could use but I know it's been rolled up for 15 years and probably smells like forest fire smoke. Both are probably not the lightest. I'll dig around the garage today to see what I can find

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Aaron Zagrodnick

If you're able to get the rest of your gear down to a reasonable level of both weight and volume, I would suggest looking for a pack that's under 3lbs or so, above that weight I haven't seen much benefit unless you'll be carrying really heavy loads. (Like climbing gear, etc.) Especially if your target trip length is in the overnight or weekender range. However, opinions will definitely vary. :)

Until you have an idea about the rest of your gear, we are still a bit ahead of ourselves here, but since you said you wanted to keep the price low, the old / discontinued versions of the Flash 50 & Flash 65 packs (Women's & Men's versions) are on sale over at the REI Outlet for about $100 which might be worth a look.

Edited by Aaron
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