Author Topic: Help me Pick a Pack  (Read 12734 times)

Offline PistolWhipped

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Help me Pick a Pack
« on: May 22, 2012, 10:51:09 PM »
Alright folks, I'm waiting a couple of weeks to see if I can finagle a packframe for my 26th. 

In the event I don't though, I'm planning on buying myself one.  Primarily for backpacking (long day hikes, odd overnighters, and the rare weekend), maybe a little scrambling or mountaineering if the bug bites.  Trouble is, my budget doesn't quite see eye to eye with my wants.

I am in love with the Gregory Z-series of packs.  Especially the Z55.  Tough, comfy, good size, etc.  But $140 is the cheapest I've found for that specific pack, which is still a tough pill to swallow.  That support system with the big lumbar pad is freaking awesome though, and it's got enough capacity for a weekend or better.  The Z45 is closer to $120, and the Z35 is more like $105.  A little easier to swallow, plus I get that that awesome Jetstream LTS, but I lose capacity.  And the older Tarne 36 with the older Fusion LTS can be found for $96.  Most will be a few liters larger since I wear a Large frame.

Then there are Kelty packs.  The Courser 40 and Redwing 50 are the two top contenders from them, at $76 and $85 respectively.  A Lakota 65 would be nice, but for 3-digits I'll spring for a Gregory.  Generally well reviewed, solid capacity, but I don't get that awesomely comfy LTS.  Trade-off is the prices are more approachable.  And I can get them in green.

And then there is the big kahuna, a surplus rucksack of some flavor.  The Large A.L.I.C.E. Pack has the equivalent of something like 101 liters of capacity.  Lots of room, I know it's durable, and it's cheap ($45 @ SG).  Probably not the comfiest pack in the world though. 

Offline TexasGirl

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Re: Help me Pick a Pack
« Reply #1 on: May 22, 2012, 11:24:50 PM »
Have you looked at the Osprey's?  I love their packs, my backpacking rig is one. Super comfortable and flexible in how I can configure it.   I've not seen one in any kind of camo, though, if that is an issue.

The best thing is to do some research, then head over to a pack store or at least an REI so you can try one out.  They will measure you and "fit" a pack.  Most will even load one up with carry weight and let you hike around the store.

Some places have closeouts on older models or store demos.  It never hurts to ask.  Also, keep an eye on CraigsList.

Have fun!!

~TG

Offline SteveandTracyinKY

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Re: Help me Pick a Pack
« Reply #2 on: May 23, 2012, 01:06:06 AM »
Mountainsmith are damn good packs, and probably one of the best I have carried. We also own a Kelty and absolutely love it. Most people I have ever hiked with that carried military packs either constantly bitch about being uncomfortable, or are in denial about it, yet adjust their pack ever 20 yards. Not saying anything bad about the packs, but that is just my experience with them.
I have also carried an Osprey and liked it well enough.

The only way you should ever buy a pack is after you have worn it. You need to put it on WITH WEIGHT and walk around for at least half an hour. Any outdoor store that will not allow this you don't need to be in. Same goes with hiking boots.

Bottom line is don't look at brands until you find a pack that is COMFORTABLE to you, WITH WEIGHT. Then do your homework on reviews and such. A little piece of advice, if you ever need a cheap pack, find a college that does those adventure themed floors in the dorms. Go there and wait till after their first trip, which is usually after the first full week. Cheap gear everywhere as they switch the gear mom and dad bought them for beer money.

Offline Samuel Fairlane

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Re: Help me Pick a Pack
« Reply #3 on: May 23, 2012, 07:41:33 AM »
I'm a 6'1'' and have a barrel shaped chest. As much as I like a military pack, a few clicks with a 40 pound pack with the hip pad on my kidneys instead of my hips had me cursing that pos. Unless your an average sized joe, make sure you get something with some adjustable hip pads.
 I almost pulled the trigger on a Kelty toddler pack last night. My little boy just turned one and I want to start taking him with me on day hikes.

Offline PistolWhipped

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Re: Help me Pick a Pack
« Reply #4 on: May 23, 2012, 08:19:20 AM »
@ TexasGirl

I love the Osprey Aethers, but those are WAY outta my price range.  The Kestrels are a little more than the Gregorys, but son't impress me as much.  Less support, just doesn't feel as sturdy.  I'd go ahead an pull the trigger on the Z55 before I spent more on a Kestrel 48.  Camo ain't an issue, I just like a more subdued color.  Grey, green, brown, maybe blue.

@ SteveandTracy

I am still kicking myself for not jumping on a 55 liter Mountainsmith pack Lightning Deal on Amazon a few weeks back.  $89 for that pack.  I've tried a few packs with weight, hence why I know my size (consistently the Large packs in Gregory, and the M/L or Large sizes in Osprey and Kelty) and found out that I love the lumbar pad on the Gregory's.

I'm not looking for cheap gear, but I am a young guy on a budget.  I shop for value more than price.  Hence why I'm trolling ebay for lightly used or older model/last years Gregory, Osprey, and Arc'teryx packs.

@95Bravo

Thanks for the heads up.  I'm built about like you are, and my kidneys just might win out over my wallet this time.

Offline Cedar

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Re: Help me Pick a Pack
« Reply #5 on: May 23, 2012, 08:28:41 AM »
I almost pulled the trigger on a Kelty toddler pack last night. My little boy just turned one and I want to start taking him with me on day hikes.

The Kelty hurts me. I am drooling over a Deuter Kid Comfort II that I have tried on at REI and added weight to it. One day I shall have one!!

I have been hiking with my baby since she was 6 weeks old and we started with a Mobi Wrap. Then the ErgoBaby. Last year we did 280 miles on the trail alone with the Ergo and we are back on the trails with it this year. She also hangs out in it for 4 hours when I am at gleaners each week and when I do interviews for the paper. We usually do 8-10 miles twice a week and I am fine with the Ergo other than towards the end of the hike I am really happy to see the vehicle. The Kelty did it's trial run with us from the house to the library one day and before we even got out of sight of the house, I was about to turn around and ditch it. It pulled on my neck and shoulders so bad it felt like I had been hit with a baseball bat. When my friend was here hiking with us, he wore it with her in it and it fit him fine.

I want the Deuter as it would be nice for her to be able to see past my shoulder without leaning out so far which she has to do with the Ergo and also be able to have a real pack section to put lunch and gear into. Currently I have a bag over my neck and shoulder to carry lunch, camera and such in. But the Ergo was the best $60 I have ever spent.

Ergo


Kelty


Deuter Kid Comfort II


Cedar
« Last Edit: May 23, 2012, 08:41:19 AM by Cedar »

Offline TexasGirl

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Re: Help me Pick a Pack
« Reply #6 on: May 23, 2012, 08:55:45 AM »
Application makes a big difference.  If you're just getting a pack for day hike use, cheaper options might be fine.  But for hiking a week in the wilderness, it makes more sense to go for premium in things like pack and boots.

Are you in an area where lots of people pack?  If so, stay networked at places where packers hang, put out the word that you are looking for a so-and-so, check online bulletin boards and swap pages often. 

I did this for a BOB and ended up with a "looked brand new" non-descript Starlite, for a song!  It's not what the Osprey is, but would take me a few days on the "trail" if need be.  And should it get stolen from the vehicle, I'm not out a $$$ investment.

~TG

Offline PistolWhipped

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Re: Help me Pick a Pack
« Reply #7 on: May 23, 2012, 10:37:45 AM »
I'm a couple hours east of the Appalachian trail, so most of the hikers are further west in the state.  There is a few REIs in the more metro areas of the state (including Raleigh, where I'll be this weekend).  If I am willing to drive a little, I can get old/used packs from the folks closer to the mountains.  I saw a like new Baltoro for $125 on Craigslist a few months back, and I'm still trying to figure out why I didn't buy it.

I'll be doing more day-hikes with it, just due to my busy work schedule.  But I'd like to know if I want to go out in the backcountry for a few days, I'm not coming out with back problems.  That's why I haven't just bought a cheap-ass pack and rolled with it.  I understand investing in comfort. I tracked down an amazing deal on my last pair of hiking boots.  Merrell Outland Mid Waterproofs, clearanced to $50 for a $140 pair of boots.  Best shoes I ever bought.

Offline PistolWhipped

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Re: Help me Pick a Pack
« Reply #8 on: June 26, 2012, 08:17:52 PM »
I've noticed a few things.  Most commercial packs in my price range don't offer the capacity/durability I want.  The durable, supportive, high capacity packs all look to run a couple bones.

So I'm looking at a lot so surplus type rigs.  They look to offer much more durability and capacity for the price when compared to stuff like High Sierra and Keltys.  Up in the air between a few.  Anyone with experience feel free to chime in.

The Combat Field Pack 90, roughly 80L/5000 CI with day pack, about $98.

http://tonystactical.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=2&products_id=115&zenid=m55hc58ctv1fhkfsto1bbifgq5

A British DPM Rucksack, if my math is right it has a 45L/2750 CI main compartment, with 2 10L/610 CI side pouches, 65L total, $55.

http://www.sportsmansguide.com/net/cb/used-british-military-rucksack-disruptive-pattern-material.aspx?a=961646

A MOLLE/A.L.I.C.E. "Hellcat" hybrid built on a Large Alice frame (~8000 CI/130L pack, $65)  A Large ALICE would be half the price for the same capacity, but these are supposed to be MUCH more comfortable and adjustable.

http://tonystactical.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=2&products_id=3&zenid=m55hc58ctv1fhkfsto1bbifgq5

MOLLE Rifleman pack, Excellent condition.  No exact numbers in front of me, but I'd estimate they're 4500+CI, and $75 for one in great condition.  $49 for a pack with a little more wear.

http://tonystactical.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=2&products_id=9&zenid=m55hc58ctv1fhkfsto1bbifgq5

A Surplus British DPM 120L SAS/Para Bergen.  Shipped in from Canada, I'm looking at $119. Kinda hard to swallow.  And I'm thinking that particular pack would focus more weight in the shoulders.  Still, the more I read of the SAS, the more I want their gear.  It's a well though out rig with capacity for weeks.

http://www.ebay.com/itm/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=150521850443+&item=150521850443&vectorid=229466#shId

I've pretty much nixed the USMC ILBE, unless someone here has a glowing review.  Full Gen. 1 ILBE Rig in my size would run me $135 for 4500CI/73L.  Same as a Gregory, but the pack was designed by Arc'teryx, and is the best price I'll get on a pack of that level.

http://wardenssupplyco.com/cart/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=20&products_id=1016

I recognize these will be heavier than the Gregory I was originally eye-balling, but I'm capable of handling that.  Being 6'1" and built like a brick shithouse has it's advantages.  I'm take-it-or-leave-it on the camo/military look.  I don't care much either way.

Offline joeinwv

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Re: Help me Pick a Pack
« Reply #9 on: June 26, 2012, 08:34:12 PM »
I have a High Sierra internal frame 65 that I bought new for under $100 at campmor online. Comfortable bag for me, I'm 5'8" and 200#. Used it a few weeks back for a 17 mile 3 day trip. My load with food and water is between 35 and 40#.

For what you are looking to do, could probably get by with a 35L. Remember, you get a big bag you will want to pack stuff you don't need.

Offline PistolWhipped

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Re: Help me Pick a Pack
« Reply #10 on: June 26, 2012, 09:41:58 PM »
I'm quite sure could manage a with a 30 if I lashed my sleeping bag to the outside and/or went with a tent/hammock combo for my primary shelter. 

I like capacity because it gives me options. 

If I'm solo, I can lash it down and blitz.  Hell, a daypack, good sized hydration bladder, tarp, and hexi-stove could keep me fine 10 months of the year around here.  That reminds me, I need to replace the daypack I busted.

But, say hypothetically I have a companion along, I can pack more creature comforts to make the trip more enjoyable for them(read "her").  I can handle roughing it and survival camping, but it'll be more approachable to ease others into it if I have stuff like a warm and roomy tent and decent cook set on hand.

Or, as I'm becoming more and more into fitness, say I want to do some hiking/training with a heavy pack.  Blasphemy, I know.  But that's how I managed to kill my last daypack, putting some weight in there (a kettlebell and some loaded AK magazines) to up the calorie burn on a hike.  Ended up walking back holding it shut with my hands.  Hence my want for bombproof durability.

Offline SA Friday

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Re: Help me Pick a Pack
« Reply #11 on: July 01, 2012, 03:52:52 PM »
I have one of the very first Dana Design packs.  Then don't make the model anymore, but it's light, strong, and built to take on long distance weight, and I've used it hiking through the mountains and find it effortless to carry short of the weight.  They are now being made by Marmot, unfortunately.  If you come across an old original Dana Design pack in good condition, don't overlook it.

Offline TexasGirl

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Re: Help me Pick a Pack
« Reply #12 on: July 02, 2012, 08:17:46 AM »
Generally the military surplus packs will weigh more and be more durable than a commercial pack.  That mostly boils down to application, and what you feel is important.  Keep in mind that some commercial packs now use high-tech fiber materials, while they may look thin and flimsy, they could actually be more durable than an old military surplus pack with twice the bulk.  Of course there will be a big price tag on a high tech commercial if you buy new.  In all the packs I have looked at over the years, there appears to be more thought towards comfort on the quality commercial packs as compared to military.  More adjustments and load tightening straps, etc.

This isn't just a girl's fashion comment, but reflecting on the BOB thread, "what will you look like" carrying either type of bag?  Is there an image you are trying to project, or trying not to project?

~TG

Offline PistolWhipped

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Re: Help me Pick a Pack
« Reply #13 on: July 02, 2012, 07:21:09 PM »
I have no opinion on "Image".  Except the "NO COLORS I CAN SEE FOR 40 MILES." rule.  Trail fashion means nada to me.  As long as the color/pattern is fairly subdued, I'm good.  I hate hiking and seeing little blots of eye-melting orange or day-glo yellow all over the place. Not my style.

I'm a 26 year old guy with short hair, a goatee, and a frame like a 1950s fridge.  I look intimidating anyway.  A green pack makes almost no difference.  Add to that I live near Ft. Bragg.  There are dozens of surplus shops, so old military gear doesn't draw a hell of a lot of attention.

As for adjustment/comfort/etc the USMC ILBE is, for all intents, the Arc'teryx Bora 80 in made of MARPAT Cordura.  The Hellcat uses the MOLLE straps/belt to create an an adjustable suspension yoke.  The British rucksack looks to basically be a Snugpak RocketPak in DPM for $55.  The Bergen on ebay is something of a bigger version of the Snugpak Bergen offering, and what the Brit SAS & Paras use.

The MOLLE & CFP-90 are probably nixxed.  The MOLLE has a plastic frame (and I'm not a big ACU fan, looks bright grey if you aren't on gravel).  The CFP-90 has a reputation for blowing out seams and the plastic "duck foot" giving out.  That's a deal breaker for me.

Offline danzak44

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Re: Help me Pick a Pack
« Reply #14 on: July 02, 2012, 09:58:02 PM »
I know they're a bit on the expensive side, but have you checked out eberlestock packs? They are built like a tank, many are made for long range, mountain hunters and are very adjustable, especially for larger framed folks.

endurance

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Re: Help me Pick a Pack
« Reply #15 on: July 03, 2012, 06:54:08 AM »
I've had a Bora 70 since the mid90s.  When I bought it I was bagging the Grand Canyon and sections of the PCT.  At the time it was the most comfortable, well designed suspension system I found.  Since then a lot of competitors have caught up so there's more choices in that market.  I've since gone ultralight and prefer my Osprey Exos 34 but that's not what you're looking for.  Osprey does have some more traditional packs worth a look for what you want.

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Re: Help me Pick a Pack
« Reply #16 on: July 05, 2012, 10:24:53 AM »
I know they're a bit on the expensive side, but have you checked out eberlestock packs? They are built like a tank, many are made for long range, mountain hunters and are very adjustable, especially for larger framed folks.

I have an Eberlestock Gunslinger II.  I bought it last winter, after elk season ended, so I don't have a lot of experience with it on my back yet.  I did a ton of research before buying this pack.  These packs are hell bent for stout.

http://eberlestock.com/Tactical%20Master.htm

A good pack is not going to be cheap but if you've ever gone on an extended hike (even a full one day hike) with a cheap pack then you know it can really sour your interest in packing.  The best advice I can offer is do your research to buy the right pack for your applications AND DON'T BUY ANYTHING WITHOUT TRYING IT ON FIRST.  I would suggest loading it up in the store (weight it down) to see how it rides (center of gravity) and if it will adjust well to fit your frame.  Walk around the store with the pack on your back for as long as you need to.

Also, I suggest something with MOLLE.  My reason for this is so that you can buy a somewhat smaller, lighter, and compact pack for shorter outings and attach additional bags to to the main pack when you need to carry more equipment.

Save your money and increase your budget to buy a good pack one time.  You'll waste more time, money, and energy buying the wrong pack.

Offline PistolWhipped

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Re: Help me Pick a Pack
« Reply #17 on: July 05, 2012, 09:52:15 PM »
I did buy the wrong pack once.  It was a couple miles back to the house, holing the busted pack shut at the zipper.  That was the aforementioned cheap daypack. 

But there is a trade-off.  If I'm always saving to buy the best stuff, I'll never get around to actually using it.  I'm a young guy on a fairly tight budget. I can only work so many extra hours.  At a certain point, there needs to be some "it'll do."

I could save 6 months and get a top of the line Arc'teryx or Gregory or Kifaru or Mystery Ranch pack.  The same for a premium shelter.  2 more for a great sleep system.  Another two for expensive backpacking clothes.  I'll be coming up on 30 before I have the all gear to actually go DO it though.  You're talking to a guy who throws the equivalent of a messenger bag on for 10 mile long day hikes.

I can justify up to $100 on a pack.  It'd take some real serious convincing to go higher.  But I do have a knack for tracking down great prices online, so that $100 online is closer to $150-200 in a retail store.
« Last Edit: July 05, 2012, 10:00:30 PM by PistolWhipped »

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Re: Help me Pick a Pack
« Reply #18 on: July 05, 2012, 10:49:34 PM »
But there is a trade-off.  If I'm always saving to buy the best stuff, I'll never get around to actually using it.  I'm a young guy on a fairly tight budget. I can only work so many extra hours.  At a certain point, there needs to be some "it'll do."

Been their bud.  Good luck to ya.

Offline PistolWhipped

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Re: Help me Pick a Pack
« Reply #19 on: July 05, 2012, 11:29:35 PM »
Thanks man.  Seems like the 100+ hour checks get the boss' bosses bitching. 

I can't imagine why.


endurance

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Re: Help me Pick a Pack
« Reply #20 on: July 06, 2012, 08:46:06 AM »
You might want to see what kind of deal you can find on an Osprey Aether 85.  It's probably one of the lightest packs with that kind of capacity.  I love my Exos, but it's no where near your size requirement.  On that note, if you're interested in a 70L Arc'teryx, I could make you a good deal.  I just can't picture myself using a pack that big ever again (I'm too damn old to carry 40+ pounds on my back for any kind of distance ;)).

nelson96

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Re: Help me Pick a Pack
« Reply #21 on: July 06, 2012, 09:10:17 AM »
Still maybe a wee bit out of your price range, but I will also recommend Tactical Tailor for the reason that they have a custom shop and will make and/or adapt any of their products to fit your specific needs.  Given your size, this could be a good option to get a pack that fits perfectly.

I have an advantage, I drive by their facility every other week, but these guys are pro's and I'm betting that they know the right questions to ask to meet your specific needs.

Their items are made in USA (just outside of Tacoma, WA) using rugged materials.

Offline Appalachia

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Re: Help me Pick a Pack
« Reply #22 on: July 06, 2012, 09:29:12 AM »
I understand the mentioned budget issues.  You may want to look around for a Maxpedition pack.  I got my Condor II from Amazon last year for 89.00 and I absolutely love it.  It has been drug around the woods of and mountains of Appalachia more miles than I care to think about.  It gets thrown in the truck every weekend for some reason or other.  I even pack it for my out of town work trips.  It has held up phenomenally!

You can also find some decent deals on the SnugPack rocket packs which are pretty good sized.  I think mine was about 110.00 a couple years back.  This is my current get-home bag that stays in my truck.  I like it but it's just not as comfortable as the maxpedition.

There are things you can skimp on and things you can't.  I would by a cheaper sleep system, clothing, and misc gear and spend most of my money on a good pack and footwear.  Those are vital and good ones will save you a lot on money in the long run.

-- Eric

Offline snickers

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Re: Help me Pick a Pack
« Reply #23 on: July 13, 2012, 10:27:01 PM »
I got a sweet deal ($89!) on the ladies version of this pack last summer when they came out with the new version and the previous years version went on clearance: http://www.rei.com/product/795513/rei-mars-80-pack

Here is the ladies version for anyone interested: http://www.rei.com/product/795519/rei-venus-70-pack-womens

What I really like about it is that it's a top loading pack but you can also lay it on it's side and unzip it and use it as a duffel bag, that makes the heavy stuff at the bottom of your bag easy to get to. REI also sells replacement hip belts and shoulder straps. The only think I didn't like is that I had to do some major adjusting to get the pack to fit properly, I'm 5'11" and I think it was made more for a thinner gal that's about 5'6" in mind. But I don't think that's typically a problem with men's bags.

Have you tried used gear sales, garage sales, ebay or craigslist? Tell us if you end up getting something you like!

Offline snickers

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Re: Help me Pick a Pack
« Reply #24 on: July 15, 2012, 11:57:31 AM »
Don't know if anyone is still in the market but I just saw this today: http://sport.woot.com/plus/kelty-backpacks

$60-$80 for a Kelty backpack. Pretty darn good deal.

Offline PistolWhipped

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Re: Help me Pick a Pack
« Reply #25 on: July 15, 2012, 03:32:36 PM »
It WOULD happen a week after I ordered a pack.  I was seriously eye-humping a Courser 40 too.  Doom on me, eh?

Guy I know finally talked me into the "Hellcat"  ALICE/MOLLE hybrid.  Got it the other day.  Loaded some stuff up and took it on a hike.  Even threw 2 40lb bags of pool salt in there to get the weight up to nearly 100# and did a mile down the road and back through the woods.

The Good

-Fairly comfy.  The MOLLE straps and belt beat the heck out of a basic ALICE setup.

-Swallows a metric f*** ton  of stuff. The Czech sleeping bag was a snug fit in the sleeping bag compartment, but the pack itself holds everything I'll need and then some. And then some more.

- Bombproof Durable.  Once I had the adjustments right, it handled the heavy load pretty darn well.

- Lets some air flow, so my back doesn't get too sweaty. I like that

- Sister said "you look homeless".  Since she loathes anything "survival" related, I'll take that as a compliment.

- Stable.  When I cinched it down, bending and leaning didn't throw me off balance.

The Bad

- Pack itself is heavy.  Not so heavy as to be uncomfortable, but noticeably weighty.  That's the price you pay for durability.  I plan to mitigate this with lighter weight contents, like a poncho/tarp for shelter and an ENO hammock.

- Lots of straps.  I plan to roll up the excess webbing and electrical tape them into manageable tabs.

- I would like a carry strap on top.  Plan to fix this with some paracord.

The Ugly

- It'll never win any beauty pageants.  That's okay though, neither will I.

- Not Waterproof.  I'll waterproof it myself and probably line the main pockets with contractor bags.  Old trick soldiers used to use as I hear it.  And Ziplocs will be my friend.

Current Impressions - Probably the most durable pack I could get for the money.  Uncle Sam over-engineered this thing, but a little creativity made it into a pretty comfortable expedition class pack.