Griping about packs

It has served me well

In preparation for my soon-to-begin 2018 season, I went shopping for a new pack, as my trusty old REI Stoke 18 is on its last legs. I found something that will do the job, but was surprised at how difficult it is to find a pack that meets my simple needs:

15-20 liter main compartment

This is enough space for a normal winter day or an epic summer one.

2 tool attachments

I don’t do too many things that require two tools, but when I do, it’s nice to be able to strap them to my pack.

Stash pockets

I need to be able to get to food and store small items without taking my pack off, or having stuff in my pants pockets bumping against my leg. Why do no mountaineering packs have stash pockets? Even people doing “Extreme Alpine Assaults” need to eat and store things.

External attachment points

Sometimes I can fit crampons inside my pack, but sometimes I can’t or don’t want to.

Sternum strap and waist belt

They don’t need to be super-substantial, but the pack needs to not flop around while jogging.

Reasonable durability for the cost

If it costs $100+, it had better last at least a few years.

Nothing else

Many packs have all sorts of weird straps and doodads that catch on things and add weight. Sometimes simplicity is best.

Some companies come sooo close:

Gregory Verte 15, discontinued (image: REI)

Take a Gregory Verte 15, add a couple of side stash pockets, and you’d have a condender.

BD Blitz 20 (image: Black Diamond)

The BD Blitz 20 is similar (and no, a “waterproof zip pocket on lid” is not “easily accessible” for anyone with normal shoulder flexibility, as the pack still needs to come off).

UD PB Adventure Vest 3.0 (image: Ultimate Direction)

The Ultimate Direction PB Adventure Vest 3.0 looks decent, but I’m not sold on vests for everyday scrambling, it goes a bit overboards on bits and bobs, and its 13.3-oz weight suggests that it’s made of tissue paper. I’d happily carry 1/2 pound more (and probably save 30% in material cost) for something that lasted longer.

Anyways, I found something that cost less than $100, and should serve me well for at least a couple of seasons. It has some obvious shortcomings

5 responses to “Griping about packs

  1. Shane says:

    I hear ya. Vests are weird for scrambling. I tried a skimo pack but it was weird and wouldn’t last long due to the super lightweight fabrics but did have some super cool features. It was one the the UD ones I’m not sure which model and its currently in storage in Canada. Another option that I haven’t actually tried myself but might in the future is to attach a removable water bottle holder to either the should strap or waist strap to give you front mounted stash pockets.

    Happy trails!

    1. drdirtbag says:

      Back in the day (2009-2012) I used a Franken-pack that started out as a Camelbak Blowfish (10-15 liter). Then I added two tool loops to it with a grommet kit and a bit of accessory cord. Finally, I attached a small bike saddlebag to one shoulder strap to hold food, while my camera case was on the other. That thing lasted me for years; maybe I should revert to my old ways.

  2. Pam Fabricius-Olsen says:

    Hi Sean! I have noticed your concerns/lack thereof, on alpine packs. Glad you’ll be making your way to the Ranch. See ya soon.

  3. Alex says:

    I completely agree. I’ve liked the Ultimate Direction Fastpacks, they also have a little bit more room than the vests in case I’m bringing a harness and rap rope or light overnight gear or whatever. But I can totally get the durability concern there.

    I’d be interested to hear what you settled on!

    1. drdirtbag says:

      I went with an REI Trail 25, which has tool attachments, stash pockets, and external attachment points, and looks like it will last long enough to be worth its $70 price. It’s a bit of an odd choice for me: it’s bigger than I normally carry, and it has all sorts of things I don’t need (I wish REI had stopped with a good thing, rather than gilding the lily). However, it makes sense for me now, since I already have both a tiny running pack and my 45-liter overnight/trad pack, and my plans for the season include numerous outings requiring more space than usual for warm clothes and gear. (Stay tuned!)

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