Pack Third Item of the Big Three

May 28, 2021  •  Leave a Comment

Hey everyone!  Hope you are having a great day! Today we're going to discuss the final item of the big three for backpacking, packs. Now that you have chosen your shelter and your sleep system, you can correctly choose your pack.  The pack you choose should be able to hold your sleep system and your shelter with a little space to spare. Everything else you will need is small and should be able to fit into all the nooks and crannies of the pack. If you have a super big pack, you will want to put everything including the kitchen sink in it, and it will be super heavy. Remember, weight matters. You will want an internal frame pack. Packs used to come with big aluminum racks on the outside of the pack, but now most packs with an internal frame are either made of aluminum rods or some sort of composite rods to keep the weight down. The frames help support the pack and make it more comfortable when hauling loads.  Packs are sized in liters. Common sizes are 35, 40, 50, 55, 60 and 70 liters. They even come in larger sizes, but those are for expeditions where you need the kitchen sink. In backpacking, you don't need those.  Your longest stretch out in the wilderness will only be a week or so and then you can re-supply. My suggestion is 55-liter or lower. My first pack was an old army pack that I had acquired and it was big. I put so much stuff in it that, after a mile with it on my back, I thought I would die. I made a lot of mistakes. First, I had a pack too large and thought I just had to fill it with stuff. Second, I didn't have it fitted to me, so it was uncomfortable. Besides the size of the pack, the pack fitting your body is probably the most important. The pack should fit you. There are measurements that you take. One is of your torso length from a bone just below your hair line to your lower back. You can go online to YouTube or REI, and they will show you how to get properly fitted.  You will also need your waist size. With a properly fitted pack, you can hike miles with weight and not feel it on your shoulders because all the weight goes to your hips, and your legs do all of the work, not your shoulders. I went to REI for my first properly fitted pack. The people there are trained on fitting a pack for you. I got an Osprey 70-liter pack (still too many liters) that was fitted to me. They even put some weight in it, and I walked around the store to make sure it fit well. I used this pack for a while until it was just too big for the things I was carrying. This Osprey pack came with a little weight also at 7 lbs empty. My suggestion is to get one as light as you can. The one I have now is just a little over 2 lbs. Base weight is a term that backpackers talk a lot about, especially on YouTube gear channels. Base weight is everything you're going to carry on your trip except for expendables, things like water, food, and fuel. In our last two blogs, we talked about trying to get your tent to 2 lbs and your sleep system to 2 lbs. So now,  if you get your pack at 2 lbs, you're already at 6 lbs and things add up quickly. Let's think about a basic overnight backpacking trip and what you'll bring.  Let's say you did well but didn't quite get your big three to 2 lbs. Let's say you're at 3 lbs for each, which would make 9 lbs altogether. This is just a guess at what your total will be.

Big three -  9 lb: Water, 2 liters - 4.4 lb (2.2 lb per liter); Food for one night - 1.5 lb (1.5 per day); Cooking Kit - 1 lb (includes fuel and pot stove); First-Aid Kit and accessories - 1lb (includes headlamp). So this is what I would call the essentials, and it comes to 16.9 lbs. But what have we forgotten? Clothes. It's always good to have a rain jacket or puffy jacket and extra socks. And what about a good book to read, your phone and an extra battery to charge it, camera, toiletries, matches, lighter, water filter, knife, maybe even a camp chair?  As you can see, the weight adds up quickly. My goal is to keep it to around 25 lbs total weight or less, or around 20 lbs for base weight. In the winter, it will be heavier than in the summer because you carry more layers. You can easily get up to 40 lbs if you're not careful, and there is a big difference between 20 lbs and 40 lbs!

  Many packs can be customizable so you can add a pouch on your shoulder strap to hold a phone or a bottle of water for easy access.  Most of them will accommodate a water bladder with a hose so you can drink on the fly and not have to stop. The hip belt usually has pockets so you can carry snacks or whatever in them. They usually have a big mesh pocket on the outside so when you get something wet you can put it in there and it won't get all your stuff wet inside of the pack. Pack material will vary also from heavy-duty nylon to Dyneema. Some will be water repellent, and others you will have to have a pack cover when it rains to protect your stuff.  And of course, they come in all kinds of colors. Choosing the right pack is a big choice, so do a lot of research and try on as many as you can to make sure you're sized correctly for the most comfortable hike.  As I said earlier, I started with an Osprey 70-liter bag that I got from REI. I next went to a 40-liter bag that I got off of Amazon. And now I use a Zpacks Arch Haul 50-liter bag. The one I use now is water-resistant and can be adjusted in many different ways. You can check out my gear by following this link Lighter Pack. You can see my gear loadout and how much it weighs between tent and hammock and summer and winter by clicking on the list on the left. So choose wisely, and until next week safe travels and get outside.


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