The tale of two packs!

I’m only two trips into backpacking and have had the great fortune (insert sarcastic tone) of using a different pack for each trip. I guess in a sense that has given me a bit more “wisdom” in regards to how much the right pack can make a world of difference…and I know now, it is like night and day!!

Slimms’ research led me to two options…the “best bang for my buck” choices. The Gregory Deva and the Osprey Ariel 65. It was love at first sight with the Ariel. Beautiful pack…and IN RED!! My mind was set…like a first love, no one was gonna make me change my mind whether or not the pack was “right” for me!! That being said, I did go to REI and try on both packs. The Deva felt clunky to me…bulky is a word that fits better. It is packed full of features, lots of pockets for storage…don’t get me wrong…a great pack I’m sure. Just felt awkward to me. I wanted something a bit more streamlined.

Now the Osprey Ariel..the girl in me took over and I didn’t care…I like how it fit but I will say, the padding was lacking and I should have known then that I might have an issue. I never thought it would be the way it turned out to be. The pack is rather minimalistic compared to the Deva, but I didn’t mind. It had a huge front entrance that I loved. The sleeping bag compartment was quite ample compared to what I have seen with a Gregory. Lots of straps for compression. I did like the trekking pole storage location. They are stowed under the left arm for easy access. The side pockets left a lot to be desired. Hard to get my nalgene bottle in and out of. My biggest complaint (it was listed as a con on several REI reviews) was the skimpy padding of the hip belt and shoulder straps. Compared to other packs, it could be said to be non-existent. For me, they didn’t work and cause a tremendous amount of pain during the first overnight.

So with a sad heart, I went to REI to see what could possibly be the issue. First off, wrong size pack. WTH?!?!?! I purchased a medium on the recommendation of one of the guys there. When I went back, another guy measured me and I should have been in a small. I’m not even 17 inches in my torso. I’m 5’9″ though…all legs apparently. Ok..small pack it is. So I try on a small Ariel. Blah! Lack of padding still regardless of fit was forcing me to return my beloved pack and surrender my dream of the color red. The new Osprey Aura had just come out…I was excited to try it on…but no luck…still didn’t fit right. I tried on every other darn pack with the same capacity size. The closest I got to fitting right and feeling comfortable was a Deuter. I wore it around awhile and decided to no go that option as well. Apparently I am a freak of nature and all the packs do not sit properly on me or against my back. Huge gaping issue. 😦

The guy was a trooper and stayed late for me but had to finally leave me…alone…no pack…no idea what to do. I retried on the packs I had done before. I was beyond disheartened. There I was in REI…a scrawny freak with no hope. Finally I guess my sad face lead another guy who had been helping another customer to come and give me a recommendation (he had been around while the other guy was helping). He suggested I try on a youth pack.

A youth pack??? I’m a full grown, taller than average size woman!!! Hmmmm…this just made me feel even more annoyed. The word “freak” kept running through my mind. I know I said it to the guy a few times…perturbed at the whole situation. But I took his advice…I had nothing else left to try. They had one pack…the REI Passage 65. All the other youth packs are smaller in capacity and I did not want to sacrifice that. So..I put it on. HELLO WORLD! You have got to be kidding me.

It fit amazingly well against me. It has extra padding in the back compared to the adult packs…and with 30 pounds in it, did not hurt my contact spots. Since it’s made for 11-17 year old children (le sigh), it is almost fully adjustable…and easily done so. It’s minimalistic, not bulky..pluses for sure. It does not have a front loading option but the side panel entrance is large enough to allow easy access to the pack. Large sleeping bag compartment.The padding on the hip belt is just right and caused me ZERO issues. It also comes with little storage pouches on the belt that the Ariel lacked. Unfortunately there is no real suspension system like the adult packs have. I noticed the difference with that feature, but not enough right now to make me rethink this choice. It is green…blah…but I decided to sacrifice fashion for comfort. I honestly could not be any happier with the pack. Plus, I saved $120 bucks πŸ™‚ Win, win all around.

I continue to learn with each trip, which makes each trip that much more exciting. I am now a happy “backpacker” as far as my pack is concerned. The difference was incredible and my trip, after the first few sickly hours of puking (do not drink and backpack 8 hours later), was better for the change πŸ™‚

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14 thoughts on “The tale of two packs!

  1. Lesson learned….the right pack is absolutly essential, dont get caught up in cool pockets and fancy colors!

    Although my RED Baltoro is pretty sexy! LOL

  2. I’m glad you found a solution! I have the Deva — it is my first pack, and it is on its third year of use. It is very heavy, but I bought it because I wanted the padding. I agree it has too many ‘features’ though. I usually weigh in at around 30-32 pounds for 2-3 nights, which is a bit much for my tastes. I’m interested in a few different lightweight/ultralight style packs, but am nervous about that since those styles don’t have the same type of support/stays as a Deva-type. Maybe I can convince myself to buy one around Christmas πŸ˜‰

    • Hi πŸ™‚ I’m glad the Deva works well for you. Another member of our group has one and she loves it as well. My pack is definitely lighter empty now which helps. I have been at 28-30 lbs just for an overnight. Wow…guess the extra years of experience make a difference packing and weight apparently. Any suggestions on cutting more weight? Do you pack water full water or filter on trail?

      Good luck with your search of lightweight pack πŸ™‚ I would like to try that someday as well.

      • I use a 3 liter bladder and fill it up as needed, so I’ve usually got between 1-3 liters. In hot weather I bring more. One thing that helps with weight is that my husband and I split the gear. He takes the tent and water filter and I take the cooking stuff (msr whisperlight, pot, measuring cup, fuel). I also don’t bring extra changes of clothes — I usually have long underwear (or something lighter in warmer weather, this is what I sleep in), one or two extra pairs of socks and one or two extra pairs of underwear, both depending on the length of the trip (longest trip for me so far is 3 nights/4 days). Oh and the necessary warm layers. Sometimes I bring an extra shirt. Also, our dinners are usually dehydrated, so that helps. Otherwise I just try to buy the lightest option in every new piece of gear I get. My overnight weight is still nearly 30 (guess I like to bring a lot of food??), though we did a cold weather overnight trip and it was 35 😦 I’d like to come down to 28 pounds fully loaded for a 3 night trip, but the main obstacle to that is my 5+ pound pack! I can’t really figure out where else I can loose the weight.

      • But now that I wrote all that I realize I must be mistaken — my 2 night weight is usually around 32, and my last 3 night weight was 35 (i eat a lot of food, and we had to take extra water) — which felt awfully heavy for me.

      • As Slimms said, we share our load as well. The food and water are our biggest weight issues so far. We have been using our bear canister even though we do not really need to just to prepare us for our trip in Yosemite. That adds about 2 lbs to the food weight. We thought I would be carrying the food and he would carry the gear but it seems to have flip flopped. I will only be packing one pair of pants, 2 pairs of socks, 2 sock liners, 2 panties, base layer pants and shirt (sleeping in these as well), an outer layer, camp shirt, and 2 jackets as far as clothes. Sounds like a lot but I’ve cut my list down tremendously. My pack weigh 4 lbs 9 oz I believe…not so bad. Tags have been removed…we have cut as much weight as we can.

      • We share our gear as well, I would say that for a 2 day to a 5 day trip in most environments the base weight will not change much. The real difference is exactly like OverlyAmbitious said food! We also dehydrate our meals so we have been cutting weight like crazy! Being in AZ water is not always availibe to filter so that is another hurdle we have to deal with.

        For your ultralight pack, check out http://www.zpacks.com I do not have any personal experience with them, but they are very popular in the ulra light world. The great part about them is they are made to order and fully customizable to meet your needs!

  3. The biggest bang for reducing your total weight is by addressing the Big Three: pack, shelter and sleeping system (bag, quilt, etc.). Over the next months or years, you’ll probably want to replace what you have now with lighter weight options. But that can be pricey, so you’ll probably choose to do so an item at a time.
    And you’ll find that when the total pack weight goes down, you won’t need a bomber proof pack with all of the suspension and padding. (I’ve had a Gregory and they tend to be bulky & heavy.)
    Maybe you can reduce the weight of your food by making different choices but maybe not.
    When y’all get a chance, post whatcha have been taking with you.
    Do you have another trip
    scheduled before Yosemite?

    Marty

    • Hey Marty, thanks for the feedback. I will be posting a complete gear list soon, we have a few more things we are tweaking for the trip but look for it soon. As for trips pror to Yosemite, we have done 2 so far and we have 2 more scheduled. The next once comes up ths weekend actually!!!

    • Right now I carry for the Big Three: a Kelty Cosmic Down +20 sleeping bag which is 40 oz, the pack is 73 oz, and an REI Half Dome 2 Plus tent that is 94.9 oz. I also carry the footprint for the tent…9 oz. That totals 13.5 lbs. I believe my pack will weigh in around 30-32 pounds which I feel is quite doable now because of this new pack.

      Thanks for your input πŸ™‚

  4. Thanks for the info. Backpack shopping. I have a torso length of 14 to 14.5″ and the Ariel 65 XS is the only pack that looks promising – I am going to return and give it a second look. The REI Cresttrail 65 is a tad too long, but the youth Passage might be the ticket, with torso length range starting at 14″. I am only 5’6″, though.

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