When you set out to hike over 2,650 miles you start to think about what you’re going to bring with you and have strapped to your back for months on end. The weight of everything you carry becomes very important, even though a few extra ounces here and there doesn’t seem like much, it adds up fast. The idea is to have a low base weight, which is all your gear minus consumables (food, water and fuel). Some people become so focused on lowering their base weight they end up doing things like cutting the handles off their toothbrush, or so i’m told. Most hikers end up with a base weight somewhere around 15-20 lbs, I’m shooting for 10 or less. Right now my base weight is probably close to 25 lbs, which unfortunately means to lighten my base wight I’m also going to have lighten my wallet. However, the upside is that I get to nerd out over backpacking gear, which starts with this blog entry.
When thinking about backpacking gear the obvious place to start is with what will be carrying it all, your backpack. I currently have the Teton Mountain Adventurer 4000 (The 4000 is what sold me, it makes me think of Weight Gain 4000 from South Park. Beefcake!) which I love. It weighs in at 4 lbs, without the included tarp / poncho. It has a capacity of 66 liters (4000 cubic inches), which is more than I’ll need once I downsize all my gear, has a nice access panel for the main compartment on the front and another smaller access panel on the side, which makes access super easy. It also has lots of fun straps and buckles to hold gear, I don’t even know what some of them are for. It also has standard things like a hydro port and sleeve, a pouch on the waist belt and some nice mesh pockets on the sides. Plus it’s black. However, it is almost half of my desired base weight.
With that said I’m looking at a few different options for the PCT. Here is what i’m considering:
This backpack weighs in at 1.76 lbs (the black version is somehow heavier at 1.85 lbs) and has a capacity of 40 liters (2400 cubic inches), which is a great size and weight. I especially like the three large mesh pockets and the two pouches on the hip belt. It is a single compartment pack with a roll top compared to a lot of packs that have a separate compartment at the bottom for your sleeping bag, which seems like a good idea but ends up limiting the use of your space. While I really like this pack It is however pretty pricey coming in at $300.
The Crown2 comes in a little heavier at 2.12 lbs but with that comes with some added capacity coming in at 60 liters (3660 cubic inches) and still has those nice big mesh pockets I like, although I don’t like how the compression straps run across them. Like the Windrider it has o What makes the Crown2 stand out to me is that it has a removable lid compartment and a removable frame sheet which can bring the pack weight down to 1.7 lbs. It also has a removable and adjustable hip belt which should add some comfort. Paired with the added capacity, which I don’t think I’ll need but would be comforting to know i’d have it, I’m really liking the Crown2. It is also $100 cheaper than the Hyperlite coming in at $200.
The most popular pack on the PCT last year. It has a lot of capacity coming in at 68 liters (4200 cubic inches) but weighing in a bit on the heavy side around 2.6 lbs. Still a single compartment pack and a really nice big mesh pocket for randomly shoving things in. What is nice about this pack is that when ordering you can specify your torso length, hip belt size, and chose your shoulder strap style. I also like the cording that zigzags across the front. From a cost perspective it comes in in between the price of the Windrider and Crown2 at $235.
Weighing in at just 1.3 lbs with a capacity of 55 liters this pack has the best weight to capacity ratio of the packs I’m considering. A large mesh front pocket and sizable side pockets once again makes this pack appealing along with the compression cording along the sides. It also has an arc’d frame which creates an air gap between your back and the pack, which helps keep you cool and prevents clunky items from digging into your back. However, I’m a little curious about how this would feel with the weight being shifted out instead of against your back. As you may expect, the pack with the best weight to capacity ratio doesn’t come cheap, coming in at $325.
All of these packs have loads of features that I didn’t mention, I hope to be able to try each of them out and give an in-depth review of each (dependent on return policies). Luckily time is on my side as the Teton Mountain Adventurer 4000 will get the job done until I take off for the PCT next year.