Besides your footwear, your backpack is the most important choice you will make since it will be on your back for 6-8 hours every day.
I have a couple of old school backpacks including an Arcteryx Bora 80 (80 liters) which is built like a tank… and weighs about the same (like 8 pounds!) Obviously, this is not an option as its too big and tooooo heavy. Something like this 🙂 :
So I headed out to my local REI store and tried on about 10 different packs. NOTE: everyone is different and just because one pack fits me perfectly doesn’t mean it will work for you. That is why you need to try on lots of packs to find the one that fits you best. The good thing about REI is they have a great selection PLUS they have sandbags to load-up the pack so you can feel how the pack rides when loaded.
I ended up buying the Osprey Atmos 50 (50 liters) for the following reasons:
- This was the most comfortable pack I tried on. It has a mesh trampoline-like suspension system they call “Anti-Gravity” (I wish this were true, but I think Mr. Einstein would have a problem with this 🙂 ) The suspension system keeps the pack off your back and it distributes the weight evenly across your back PLUS it helps keep your back cool since air can circulate. Here is a quick video on the pack:
- The pack weighs 4.2 LBS (1.9 kg) empty. Some packs are lighter like the Osprey Exos 48 which weighs 2.6 lbs (1.18 kg) which is 1.6 lbs lighter. However, it was not nearly as comfortable as the heavier Atmos pack.
- Beside the “anti-gravity” suspension system, the good amount of adjustability helps to add to the comfort of this pack. (see the video for details)
- Since I will be using trekking poles, I also like their “Stow on the go” solution for carrying trekking poles. I have tested this feature out and it works great. (see the video for details)
- In the end, I decided that the extra weight was worth it for the extra comfort… especially since I will be wearing it for 6-8 hours a day for 35 days.
- I have loaded up the Atmos with ~23 lbs for my training hikes and now have ~60 miles on the pack (including a couple 15-mile hikes) and I’m thrilled with the pack.
Osprey is an AWESOME Company!
After doing several training hikes with my Atmos 50, I began to notice a soft creaking noise coming from the pack. I was concerned about this since I would be walking for 35 days & if got any louder, it would probably drive me crazy. So I went to the Osprey website for some help and I noticed that they have an “All Mighty Guarantee”:
Yeah, right. I’m sure there are a lot of conditions. So I read the fine print… expecting to see 12 million exceptions. Well, I was wrong, here is their “fine print”:
“Osprey will repair any damage or defect for any reason free of charge – whether it was purchased in 1974 or yesterday. If we are unable to perform a functional repair on your pack, we will happily replace it. We proudly stand behind this guarantee, so much so that it bears the signature of company founder and head designer, Mike Pfotenhauer.”
WOW! So I called the company and spoke with Christopher Horne at Osprey and I explained my situation. He said that ~1-2% of the Atmos packs suffer from this creaking sound and said “No problem. We will replace your pack. What color do you want?” NOTE: he sent me the new, upgraded model (which addresses this noise) for no extra charge!
For all his efforts in helping me out, Christopher Horne wins my prestigious “Righteous Dude Award”:
Pouch Add-on and Hack
Although most modern backpacks have pockets on the waist belt (including my Atmos), they are all quite small and not the easiest to open/close. The pockets on my Atmos are not quite big enough for my camera or phone, so I decided to add a pouch to the waist belt.
After much research, I settled on the Fox First Responder Active Field Pouch. Here are some details and some hacks I did (I think a video would be best):
Here are some details:
- The pouch can “tear-away” from the backpack via a velcro panel (the part still on the waist belt of the backpack). This is a handy feature since I plan on keeps my valuable in the pouch. Here is better photo:
- I added a “drawbridge” to the pouch (the tan cord) so when I unzip the pouch, it will only open half way and my stuff won’t fall out.
- The part that flips out is also velcroed so I can quickly remove it. I plan on using this as a makeshift wallet to hold my passport, money, credit cards…
- I plan on storing stuff I want to have easy access to like my camera, sunscreen, phone, swiss army knife, mini-first aid kit… in this pouch.