When to Purchase
Typically packs are one of your first purchases when buying your backpacking gear. In the case of purchasing a lightweight or ultralight pack, the pack should be the last major piece of gear you buy.
Many are the cases of people striving to go ultralight by purchasing The Big Three; pack, sleeping bag and tent. Too often, too little thought is placed on the rest of the gear. Then they cram too much gear into the ultralight pack an head for the hills. If they are lucky they can limit the resulting torture to a few miles. But if you're headed out on the long trails, you may be forced to carry the weight for weeks.
When making your purchase consider the following tome. "It's far easier to carry ultralight gear in a traditional pack than to carry traditional gear in an ultralight pack."
Buying a pack that will be comfortable carrying loads long distances is dependent upon a number of factors. With traditional packs, the fit is most important. With utralight packs, fit is but one of several factors to consider. These include, fit, gear weight and volume, type of pad and how you load your pack. Making changes to any one of these factors can significantly alter the overall comfort of your pack.
- Fit - With ultralight loads of under 20 pounds, the importance of fit diminishes. At this weight many people forgo the need for a hip belt as load transfer is less important. If they use a hip belt it's primarily to stabilize the pack or utilize hip belt pockets for added storage.
- Gear Volume - Ultralight packs tend to be somewhat smaller than their traditional counterparts. You are after all supposed to be carrying less stuff. However, some gear like synthetic sleeping bags do not compress well. As a result they can take up a consider volume within your pack. By assembling all of your gear first, you'll have a good idea of the volume needs of your pack. You'll want a pack that's just large enough to accommodate your gear and food. If you've got too much extra room in your pack when your gear is loaded, you may have problems compressing the pack so it'll carry comfortably.
- Gear Weight - As we previously touched on, overall pack weight is critical to your hiking comfort.
- Pad Type - If you're buying an ultralight pack that utilizes your pad as part of your frame sheet, the selection of pad makes a significant difference in pack comfort. See below for a discussion of pads.
- Load Options - Just how you place your gear in the pack can significantly effect comfort. We do provide some general guidelines below. However, you may need to try several configurations to find works best for you.
What is True Suspension?
All of Six Moon Designs packs integrate your existent sleeping pad into the frame system. The Starlite and Traveler and Swift packs have pad pockets designed to constrict the movement of your pad.
By locking the pad into place, it retains its natural rigidity. This forms a suspension system that both effectively transfers the weight from shoulders to hips and isolates you from the load. As such, it acts much like a the True Suspension found in packs with frames.
The Starlite's and Traveler's pad pocket is so effective it's been independently rated at 35 pounds. With the Swift Pack, access to the pad pocket is from the interior of the pack.
To Stay or Not To Stay
Both the Starlite and Traveler packs provide the option to add stays to assist with load transfer. The choice to use stays or leave them at home depends upon a number of factors. If you're consistently pushing the listed weight limit for the pack, you may wish to add the stays. Also stays add the extra support that's lacking when using inflatable pads.
If you need to use load lifters, you should also use stays. Without stays, the load lifters have nothing to pull against. As a result the lifters don't really offer any additional support.
If you do use the stays, you should take some time to make the conform to your back. The stays can be easily bent to so that the arch conforms to your particular profile.
"No-Sweat" Back Panel
All of Six Moon Designs packs have integrated our No-Sweat back panel. Typically the back panels on frameless packs are constructed from the same waterproof pack cloth as the rest of the pack. This material is not designed to handle the excess moisture from the build up of sweat. As a result your back stays wet and you end up with that distinctively uncomfortable clammy back.
Our back panels are constructed with our Driglide (tm) fabric. This fabric has been engineered to both wick away moisture and reduce friction. This makes the pack much more comfortable to carry in hot weather.
You can take steps to further enhance the effectiveness of our No-Sweat back panel, by your choice of pads. Sculptured pads such as the Z-Lite or Ridge Rest pads, have ridges designed to make you sleep more comfortable. These ridges create air pockets when the pad is placed against your back. Sweat laden air flows through these channels and evaporate faster. By incorporating one of these types of pads as your framesheet, you can make your pack carry more comfortable.
We also use our Driglide (tm) fabric on the backs of our shoulder straps and most of our hip belts to help regulate moisture.
What is the difference between Base and Max Weight?
In most literature the maximum pack weights are listed without regards to what's actually carried inside of the packs. We've decided to change that by publishing both Max and Base weight numbers. But what are the number and what do they mean?
Max weight is pretty obvious. It's the maximum recommend weight you carry in the pack. In general it's based upon what we expect will be a reasonably comfortable load. However you should note that comfort varies widely from person to person. So a pack loaded with forty pounds may be comfortable to one person and the same pack with twenty five pounds would be a nightmare to someone else.
The other factor we take into consideration is pack durability. Our packs are designed so that the average load is far lighter than the max or peak load. We take this into consideration when selecting fabrics and foam used in shoulder straps and hip belts.
If we expected that the max weight would be more of the normal weight carried then we'd need to use stiffer and heavier foam to stand the added stress. While you can push our pack up to max weight and beyond, if you do so regularly you'll reduce the service life of the pack.
Base weight is the weight of your pack with out food and water. It's the weight you're pack should be near when getting back to town. To get the most benefit from our packs we recommend your Base Weight at or below the published Base Weight.
How do different sleeping pads effect load transfer?
Needless to say all pads aren't created equal. Clearly the more rigid the pad the more effective the load transfer. Personally I use a solid closed cell foam pad that I've cut into sections and taped back together like the popular Z-Lite® pads. I find this configuration provides the greatest load transfer at the least weight. Pads like the Z-Lite are the next best choice of pad support.
The Ridge Rest is also a popular pad, but it must also be cut into sections in order to fit within the pockets.
Many people enjoy using the ultralight inflatable pads such as the ProLite series from Therm-A-Rest. However, inflatable pads have one draw back, like the air in a balloon, it with shift when pressure is applied. So inflatable's will not transfer as much load.
What kinds of sleeping pads can I use?
The Pad Pocket is large enough to accommodate most light or ultralight sleeping pads. We've used both 3/4 and full length inflatable ® as the primary suspension. Simply deflate the pad and place in the Pad Pocket so the valve is positioned at the end of the pocket zipper. Close the pocket and inflate the pad to the desired firmness.
Z-Lite® up to 3/4 length fit well in the Pad Pocket are another popular sleeping pad. Closed cell foam pads such as Blue Foam or EVA Foam may also be used. Thickness of 3/8th inch and 50 inches in length will work ok. For these types of pads, I generally section them into 10 inch sections. They are then rejoined with duck tape or similar tape. This forms a wider Z-Rest type pad that will fold reasonably flat.
How do I pack my ultralight pack?
As with all packs, the positions of items in your pack will effect the comfort of the pack. Heavier items, such as food and water, should be packed higher and closer to the back. This keeps the center of balance of the pack closer to your spine.
The diagram at the right provides the recommended layout of gear that I've found works best when packing.
Where's my water bladder pocket?
While common to many packs, you won't find a water bladder pocket in our packs. We try to keep our packs as simple and light as possible. This means avoiding adding parts that will increase weight and cost.
Pros and Cons to water bladder pockets:
Bladder pockets are designed to keep the water near your center of balance. One of the downsizes of bladder pockets is that they are traditionally buried deep in the pack. This requires unloading half your pack when removing the water bladder for refill. Maybe it's not a problem for a short day hike, but it's a pain over a long hike. In addition the drinking tube can easily be kinked. This makes it difficult to get all of your water.
I recommend storing your bladder horizontally at the top of your pack. Preferably wrapped in a fleece jacket. The jacket will serve to keep your water cooler for a longer period of time. Which is perfect when freshly filled from an icy mountain stream.
How durable is my pack?
With all of our packs we strive to achieve a good balance between weight and durability. We select fabrics that are designed to hold up over the long run with a minimum of care. Still it is important to handle your pack with care. If you feel the need to toss your pack over cliff faces or drag it over boulders, perhaps an ultralight pack isn't for you.
Last Updated on Thursday, 17 March 2011 09:05