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thin_air_aaron

Expedition pack recommendation

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Hi guys, just wanted to get your thoughts on this issue. Heading to Aconcagua in December and am looking for something that will hike well with decent weight and functional without being overly complicated. Ideally I'm looking to spend under $250. These are few options that I'm looking at right and would love to get your thoughts on them but am also open to other pack suggestions. Thanks in advance for the advice.

 

Aaron

 

MEC Alpinist 85 - sturdy, minimalist design, cheap

Osprey Aether 85 - typical Osprey quality design, simple design but from reviews sounds a little too light on nice features

REI Mars 85 - cheap, comfortable, but a little heavy

GoLite Odyssey - versatile, cheap, but wary of quality

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I have the 60 version of the Osprey Aether. It is by far one of the most comfortable packs I have owned. It climbs well and has all the features I need. I can understand wanting to save some coin, but quality and durability save you more in the long run. Good luck in your quest for a good pack and on Aconcagua!

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Thanks for the response. I am leaning towards the Osprey Aether 85 as I have found a few places with it on sale and can get one for about $230. Just a quick question, I'm right around the size cutoff between a medium and a large (20.5" torso length w/ 33" hip measurement). I was thinking large because if I'm wearing extra clothes or gain weight in the future it would still usable do you have any thoughts based on your use and feel of the pack?

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I would suggest trying both on with weight added and see how they feel walking around. Many stores have sand bags or something similar to put in the pack. I believe you can have the hipbelt custom fitted also.

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I'd listen to Dane about BIG packs. I climbed Aconcagua twice in the winter of 89-90 -- via the Canaleta, to acclimatize, and then via the French (original)South Face route. Most parties hire gauchos and pack animals to ferry their gear up the Rio Horcones to Plaza de Mulas ("mule park") at just over 14000'. Above that base camp, most use mid-sized packs, and make multiple carries to upper camps, to acclimatize. And if you're considering one of the technical routes, you're going to limit your load to something you can climb with - say 40lbs or so. The problem with a big pack is that most tend to fill the damn thing, then struggle with the overload. That practice can be dangerous even when you're not moving at significant altitudes...

These days, I pack for a week in a 50-60 liter pack. BD, Arcteryx, Osprey, Deuter, Gregory, Lowe Alpine Systems, all make great alpine packs in that size range. If you already own a pack in that range, I wouldn't buy a bigger one...

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Montyp is right on imo.

After seeing so many folks show up with huge packs and getting trashed on things in the Cascades or Rockies and worse yet on Denali, Rainier and Aconcagua I used this formul for guiding: clients carry no more than 25% of their body weight. You weigh 200# you can carry 50# but NO MORE! You weigh in at 100# soaking wet you never carry more than 25#. No one really liked it as I stripped their packs of personal gear but it worked long term and people got to the summit and more importantly down.

 

In the best of times I could do 50% of my own body weight (as can most everyone else and more) but it would beat me up so I could never do it day in an day out. That should tell you something. Which is why I came up with the 25% limit. Obviously less is always better. I sure as hell never try to carry more than 30#. And 40# is about all that I have ever found "comfortable" no matter what kind of shape I am in.

 

25% sounds pityful and on flat, easy ground it might well be. Head uphill and add any kind of technical difficulties or even the easy gravel trails above Plaza da Mulas and it won't seem so puny.

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Hey guys thanks for the advice. One question in response: I agree that we'll be ferrying loads so I don't expect to be carrying all of my gear at once on the way up. But on the way down after the climb, how am I supposed to carry all the gear (plastic boots, fairly large sleeping bag, etc.) down in one push with a 50L pack. Maybe I need to work on my load plan but just doesn't seem very feasible.

 

Monty, I'd also like to talk to you offline if you don't mind to get some more info on Aconcagua specifically. If you're willing, shoot me a PM with your contact info.

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A great pack that hasn't been mentioned yet is the

 

http://cilogear.com/60lws.html

 

I just picked mine up. With the expansion it'll fit 90L, caries VERY well. Supports local business. When I went in to pick it up I spoke to the guy who built my exact pack. I've had about 45# of gear in it quite comfortably.

 

I never thought I would buy a pack that wasn't TNF or MH, but it carries so well, fits so much, so versatile, I'm going to buy a 40L next.

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the best pack is the pack that fits you best. So you gotta try on lots of packs before finding the right one.

 

You are right though that a med pack won't cut it on aconcagua due to the need to haul everything in one load on the way down. The advice on limiting the gear you haul up is good, just fit everything in a big pack and resist the temptation to bring everything like a camp chair and such.

 

I used a old terraplane way back when on acon-choss-ua. It was a good sized pack. I like the MEC packs as they are cheap and built pretty good. I would think 5000 cubic inches is a good volume. 4000+ is also good. You probably won't need to haul boots in your pack as you should have them on from where the mules drop you off and pick up for way out.

 

enjoy teh mtn!

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If you go with the Aether, consider upgrading to the belt that comes with the Argon/Xenon packs (I think it's called Bioform rather than Isoform) for an extra $30-40 it will definitely increase the comfort of carrying 45+ lbs, but as Dane and montypiton said first try to minimize weight.

 

Bulk is understandable due to the need for a warm bag and parka but if you can keep the weight lower consider something like a Cilo 60L or BD Quantum 65 that will extend large enough to fit everything bulk-wise but will perform better with smaller/lighter loads.

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One nice thing about a large(ish) pack is that, if you're disciplined and don't fill it, it can be much easier to pack, unpack and dig out things from the middle. It also gives you more options for exchanging some weight around in the party if someone ends up lightly injured or overloaded and for distributing communal items at the trail head.

 

If you pack with a scale then you won't over load it. I'm not saying that a huge pack is the best pack but that pushing a small pack too far is no better. You really need to know the volume and weight of your own gear to decide the best pack size.

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As an ectomorph, was never able to carry much weight without greatest horror and misery.

 

But one nice thing, somethimes, about a big pack is, you don't need to fuss so much with packing.

 

Of course for climbing, they're basically useless.

 

But one can stuff a couple of foam pads and sub-zero synthetic sleeping bag in there for skiiing without getting too fancy.

 

Or one can take girlfriend's kit, her water filter, vitamin pills, cosmetics, dog food, etc..........without being too fussy about things.

 

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Looks like aaron wants to be done with the subject :) Josh and I were tossing the idea around on the drive to Rainier and back this morning. Of course we solved the problem! Or maybe it was just Collin ;)

 

25.JPG

 

"Japanese climbers Genki Narumi and Katsutaka "Jumbo" Yokoyama made an attempt on the Wall of Shadows to the top of buttress. From the bergschrund to their highpoint they took NO BACKPACKS(!), just a small waist pack each."

 

http://colinhaley.blogspot.com/2009_05_01_archive.html

 

Or maybe it was Jon and Will with their kit ...after another 4000' monster and two nights out.

 

MG_8017.jpg

 

http://www.alpineexposures.com/blogs/chamonix-conditions

 

What occurs to me is that most people worry a bunch about what they are going to carry and want to make it as simple as possible. Good idea if you are a back packer.

 

If you are a climber I would think the better thought process might be to worry about and figure out how to not carry anything, ideally.

 

You use the smallest pack that will do the job....4000cu in packs will generally extend to carry more shit than you'll ever be able to haul down hill. And you never bring down everything you carry up no matter how green you are.

 

Ideally you carry the least amount of gear/food to go up and come down safely, nothing more.

 

If you are back packing...things can be more luxurious. Climbers are more frugal....successful climbers extremely frugal, obviously.

 

As Twight said, "open your mind".

 

 

 

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Hey Dane, no I'm still interested in discussing and hearing people's thoughts, I just think I need to take people's suggestions and a) identify my load and think of ways to decrease it and still be functional and b) try on packs to find one that fits me well and is comfortable with about 50 lb. I'll likely try to identify a pack that carries well with a medium load at around 4,500-5,000 cu inches but can extend to accommodate an increased load of say 5,500-6,000 for the hike down. I'm leaning towards the one of the Osprey packs but am going to hit up some shops this weekend to see other options.

 

For this trip it's going to be mostly hiking and gear hauling with the last section being glacier travel and some moderate ice climbing (with a sized down load on summit day) on the Polish Direct route. Yes if I were going to the South Face and doing extended vertical ice/mixed climbing I would likely error on the side of less than more. As others have stated, I think it depends on the type of "climbing" you're doing.

Edited by thin_air_aaron

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I have used several of the packs mentioned above BD, Osprey, Art, MH, Cilo, etc....and then tried/switched to these packs.

 

http://www.mchalepacks.com/ultralight/index.htm

 

After switching I found that whatever weight I was carrying, whether training with 80 pounds plus or climbing, it felt as half. Much better by 50% than any pack I had ever used, hands down without question, not even close. In addition, the pack can be made to convert or strip down to usually three different sizes ranging from an ultra-light small under 3 pound/3000 alpine pack to a huge 7000 plus/Denali size Xped pack to take more than I can carry. It always fits perfect and is the most comfortable as it is custom fitted and has features not found in any other pack made, plus I can add or subtract features to build it exactly for what I want. Every person that I have ever stopped in the field and let them wear my pack, even though it does not fit them remarked that it felt much better than their own, regardless. Every climber or hiker that I have had the pleasure of speaking with that owns one of these (in one form or the other) have all told me that they would never consider using any other pack.

 

Here is my pack for big trips.

http://www.mchalepacks.com/ultralight/detail/UnLtd.htm

 

At 5 pounds it holds over 7000 and with just a few items removed down to 4 pounds and it still will hold over 70 pounds and I can still get it down to 3 pounds for a alpine/day pack. Need more room just add removable side pockets, shovel pockets, wand/ski pockets, bear canisters, etc.... you get my point.

 

I would highly suggest anyone even considering a new pack will be doing themselves an injustice if they do not seriously consider and try one. It will simply change your entire climbing, packing, and trekking experience 100%. Why compromise and settle for less?

Edited by ASmith

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When shopping for a pack I take a duffle bag full of my own crap into the store to stuff in the packs. For me, gear carries differently than sand bags.

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I don't like Osprey packs, due to minimal experience with a companion.

 

She was using a mid-sized osprey pack that was needlessly fiddly and complex and there was some annoying difficulty, which I took to be due to its aimless complexity.

 

My only experience with expedition sized pack is my 1990ish Frostfire/Smith pack which I find to be lousy, but functional.

 

On the other hand, idea of "comfort" with truly heavy pack seems chimerical. Big sack is big. A source of unhappiness.

 

Is going to be misery.

 

A small pack is small.

Bag with straps.

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With this though, you get what you pay for in spades! Well worth it, no, more than well worth it. You can demo one, call Dan Mchale and talk to him.

 

The three most important things, pack, boots, and bag. Don't cheap on these or you'll always wish you hadn't.

Edited by ASmith

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Asmith.

What McHale pack do you have? I am possibly looking at McHales Large load packs, (90lb+ range) The Critical Mass packs, Though Holy cow their prices. Can buy 2 Gregory Denali Pros for their price. Sheesh.

 

Currently I use a Denali Pro by Gregory, which isn't bad, but it doesn't compress smaller for summiting anything and is a royal pain that way. Yea, yea top pocket comes off but has a gigantic buckle on it that I strip off on long trips for weight cutting considerations. And it becomes a "waist" pack which is ... ug

 

Even with my complaints the Gregory Pro is better than the Dana Designs giant packs or the Osprey Packs. Arc Tyrx doesn't have a giant pack that actually works so...

 

Brian

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