May 30, 20183507 views

Interest Check: Outdoors & Ultralight Backpacks

Hey guys,
We want to hear what Ultralight & Outdoors backpacks all of you are into. More specifically, what brands, types, and styles.
▶ What type of qualities do you look for in a backpack? ▶ Are there certain features that make most sense for you? ▶ What companies/brands do you think make the best products?
We’re always looking at posts and polls of suggestions, and we take this into account when we’re looking for products to put on the site. It doesn’t mean we can secure relationships with any brand of course, but it does mean we can try, and it gives us a better sense of the interests of the community. So let us know what you think and what suggestions you might have in the discussion.
See our other Interest Checks here: · Jackets: · Shoes:

We’ll be posting other Interest Checks for other categories so stay tuned. And feel free to share any polls you’ve created here so we can help more people see them.

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*▶ What type of qualities do you look for in a backpack? Lightweight, 55-60 liters

▶ Are there certain features that make most sense for you? Custom size selection, hip pockets, internal frame

▶ What companies/brands do you think make the best products? ULA, Zpacks, Gossomer Gear

I’m most interested in the ULA Circuit, regardless, I’d rather see you focus on the smaller domestic companies.

I am using the ultimate direction 45l. SO far it has been durable and comfortable. Would make small changes such as belt pouchs on each side. In fact have added two dynemma pouchs for my pack.
What I would like is a pack made by Z-Packs, that has the famous Arc panel, in a sm-mid size of about 40L or 45L.
The only other thing I would like Z-Packs to do is offer Shoulder straps in S-M-L sizes. I am a "Thick" guy and the straps are sized too short for me on their standard stuff. I wouldn't think it would add but 5 minutes to grab a specific size for a more "custom" fit.
I already have a bag that is heavy duty, and ready for heavy loads like when I carry for myself and others in a group.
To better assess the results of this poll, you probably should separate into categories - for example the backpack I want for a hunting trip is vastly different than the backpack I want for a 5-day Sierras trip with my wife. For hunting purposes, having versatile load-carrying capacity is probably the most important element, followed closely by a "No questions asked, Made in the USA lifetime warranty". I'm a fan of Mystery Ranch products and their new Pop-up series day pack looks very intriguing because of the ability to convert from small or medium day pack to a pretty serious load-hauler. For serious longer range backpacking, the Metcalf or new Marshall are fantastic.
For sure. I erred to the side of getting everyone to huddle around this 'Interest Check' on a high level, but we look forward to breaking them out into more specific areas as you say.
I think you guys should do a Massdrop made frameless pack made out of Xpac. Something in the mold of a SWD, MLD burn, simple pack or KS ultralight.
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Most people who are buying frameless packs are looking in the 35-45 liter range depending on the need for a bear canister. If you can keep it under the magic 1 pound barrier with a decent hip belt, I would think it would be successful. A KS ultralight inspired frame would be pretty cool also.
Will work on that! We've got a 45 in the works, so let me include your feature callouts to the designer so we can make sure to include! I'll look into KS ultralight frames, thanks for flagging this!
Cordura nylon fabric and carbon fiber frames seem to be the best of the best in this day and age. I like a pack that is simple and easy to use. Not too many straps and pockets. I am a backpack hunter, so an expandable meat shelf between the pack and frame for packing out meat is a necessity. Kifaru, Stone Glacier, Mystery Ranch and Outdoorsmans. All made in USA
For light weight I've seen a few Ospreys and for a lighter weight pack they are impressive, there is some great gear made in the USA. I have a 35 yr old or thereabouts 80 litre Hallmark New Zealand military pack with a sort of rubberised fabric and YES! Roll Top - really agree with other commenters how good that is - I could literally hose that pack and nothing will get wet. Commenters Vespa and BadgerKC below might like the offerings from Karrimor Special Forces (KarrimorSF) from the UK and Wisport from Poland. I have four Karrimor SF of different sizes including the Sabre 45 and a Sabre 80-130 litre which I find comfortable. The Sabre 45 and Wisport are in Pencott Badlands, the Sabre 80-130L and a couple other Karrimor SF in Multicam. The Karrimors are sewn in Vietnam but I'm a repeat customer as the quality is outstanding, they take a beating.
I am ultralight but trained as an EMT-W, so my personal needs are very lightweight to make space and weight allowances for first aid and safety gear. I appreciate a light material, so with the fabric the designer can create several interior and exterior pockets with zipper closure so contents cannot be lost. Thus far, not much luck with the "ultralight " pack manufacturers because in order to save fabric the create a stuffsack with straps instead of a well designed backpack. I've still most recently had success with the Osprey brand, whose packs are well thought-out yet made with very light, durable nylons.
-It's got to have a mesh back pocket for rain gear, footprint, etc.
-Hip belt pockets that fit more than a Clif bar.
-No hydration sleeve. I like my water bottles. That being said, the side,pockets need to be usable while pack is on.
-Attachments for ice axe, pad, etc, but I don't need 2 lbs worth of bells and whistles.
-Roll top.
-Tough fabric that means I don't have to treat it like a newborn baby.
-Decent back ventilation, though when you sweat why should by back be any different.
-Great warranty, if you aren't going to back it up, it's not worth it.

I love my I osprey, but the roll top has become a must for me. Most of these a simple, but it seems that companies miss some of these when they try and be unique.

I'm looking at the ULA catalyst and the Granite Gear crown 2. I love what the recent Granite Gear drop looks like. Unfortunately I'm nit ready to make my decision.
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I'm also looking at Superior Wilderness Designs. I'm hearing some bad things lately about Z-Packs. Mainly their customer service. I like SWD right now for the options and you can make one bomb proof with the material options. Only things I don't like are the price and they don't seam seal. But I've heard they are super open to working with a customer. I emailed them recently and will follow up soon.
Yes, ZPacks customer service caused me to buy a different pack. I found I could not get a shoulder strap for someone that does not wear "skinny jeans". That said, I love the design. I don't like a pack riding directly on my back due to schweddy back. The pack I bought was an REI Traverse 70 and it rode perfectly. However, it is very large, and for a weekend too big. I am going to go look at the REI Flash 45 to use as my weekend pack. If they had a roll top it would probably be a slam dunk.
I literally cannot own any bag without a fully ventilated back, such as on the Osprey Atmos/Aether ('Anti-Gravity'), or on the Gregory Optic.

I also always looks for hydration compatible, organisation, good HIP BELT POCKETS, and a large torso size (to suit 6'4").

Osprey almost hits it, with the exception of the hip belt pockets that barely fit a set of keys.
Agreed - but not a problem on the Exos anymore, the newer models don't have them!

I just need Osprey to bring out a hybrid between the Aether and the Exos, 3.3lbs/1.5KG with hip belt pockets. At the moment that seems like the holy grail to me.

In the meantime, I think I'll pick up the Gregory Optic on the next drop, the weight is unbeatable, and has all the features I like, maybe lacking a bit of organisation.
▶ What type of qualities do you look for in a backpack? Affordability, simple to use, durable, water resistant or rainfly included.
▶ Are there certain features that make most sense for you? side pockets that angle for quick easy access that securely hold a variety of bottle sizes. Large hip pocket for bigger items or a way to quickly access a cell phone. Versatile in a range of temperatures and conditions. Reflective markers on the sides, back and front. Breathability.
▶ What companies/brands do you think make the best products?
Domestic manufactured would be good to see. Gregory, Osprey, Mystery Ranch
▶ What type of qualities do you look for in a backpack? durability, simplicity of design, quality, affordability.

▶ Are there certain features that make most sense for you? I'm very fond of panel loaders. I wish someone made an affordable lightweight external frame panel loader- on some trips I take my old external frame Kelty (over 40 years old) and it's comfortable and performs well- particularly when the temp is high I appreciate the ventilation and the way it carries. Super-ultra-lightweight isn't as important as function to me- I don't want to haul around 7 pounds of pack, but since I'm not skinny a pound on the back doesn't make or break things.
▶ What companies/brands do you think make the best products? To my knowledge, most packs are now made in Asia by factories contracted by brands- few of the brands we're all familiar with actually manufacture anything themselves. The domestic, high quality manufacturers are pretty small scale and cater to higher end buyers. For this reason, I don't associate many large brands with particularly high quality anymore.
I love the Z-Packs, but they miss your mark on a couple items.
They are not cheap, rather pretty spendy
They are US made
If you are "Thick" like me (6' 230pounds) the shoulder straps are going to be short.