The Backpack? Not quite

It started as it always does: with an idea. I wanted to lighten my pack for the 2022 iteration of the Bob Marshall Wilderness open. I didn’t want to spend $400+ on a very nice backpack from any number of excellent small, cottage pack-makers. I did want it to be lighter and smaller than my granite gear crown 60, which is an excellent pack that lacks a few features I’d really like in a light and fast pack for 3+ season use.

My Crown 60 is a little too big. Invariably, as I approach the end of a trip and my food supply dwindles, the pack becomes tough to fill and compress properly. This is not usually a problem, as the load is light enough that a floppy bag doesn’t hurt anybody for the last couple days. When I’m on a trip in variable terrain, I sometimes need to lash my snowshoes, skis, sleeping pad, etc. to the outside of the pack, and having them flop around as I work through log jams and deadfall is both annoying and a little dangerous, given the number of times I’ve been clocked on the back of the head by shifting snowshoes.

I intended for this pack to be a first draft. I’d finish it, take it into the field for a few weekends to see what worked and what didn’t, and then implement those changes on version 2 to take to Montana with me. Unfortunately, the most use this pack saw was being loaded up for the 6-mile round trip to work a few times a week. I liked the way it carried, but knew the pockets weren’t big or accessible enough and I didn’t love the overall shape. In the pictures, you can easily see how the pack body pulls away from my back at the top, as most frameless packs with straight side panels tend to. 

  • Key features:
    • Removable pad sleeve for providing padding and structure
    • Shoulder straps following pattern by Wes from OlympicUL
    • Straps that provided both horizontal and vertical compression when roll top was cinched down
    • Large front stretch pocket
    • Y strap over the top for carrying snowshoes or sleeping pad or extra goodies.
  • Lessons learned:
    • Straight side panels aren’t great for pack fit
    • Confirmed that a hipbelt is not needed for light loads, but may be useful for stability
    • KAM snaps were not beefy enough to snap the roll top closed or hold the pad sleeve closed reliably
    • Side pockets should be bigger and more accessible
    • 1 layer of blue pad foam in back panel does not prevent barreling very well
Close up shot of the external pad sleeve top opening. With robin’s egg blue KAM snaps.

Pictures of the brown paper prototype pack I made featuring my dog Gus and my crocs. The last picture shows the movable suspension harness I used to determine the ideal height for attachment of the shoulder straps.

2 thoughts on “The Backpack? Not quite

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